Lemon Essential Oil For Acne
Good Idea or Bad?
In doing research for this article I ran across a lot of websites suggesting that using lemon essential oil for acne skin care is a good idea. But is it really?
Lemon essential oil is obtained by the cold press method from the skin of the fruit. The fruit skin is first punctured by hundreds of tiny pins and then pressed between steel rollers to squeeze out the oil. Then the whole mash is spun in a centrifuge to separate the oil from the solids.
Lemon essential oil has a lot of effective constituents that would seem to make it a good choice for treating and preventing acne.
After all, it is effective as an antimicrobial which could help kill the bacteria that causes acne. It also has astringent properties which could help with toning and tightening the skin. It could also help to clean excess sebum from the skin, which is responsible for blocking the pores and contributing to outbreaks.
So why wouldn’t you want to use something like this, with all these useful properties, to help you get rid of and prevent embarrising acne outbreaks?
I have one word for you: Furocoumarin. Furocoumarins are found in all citrus essential oils expressed from the peels of the fruit in varying degrees. These substances cause what is known as phototoxicity. Phototoxicity results when an oil containing furocoumarins are applied to the skin and then the skin is exposed to UV light from the sun or in a tanning bed. The result is a burn similar to a severe sunburn. It can also lead to the formation of skin cancers in rare cases due to damage to DNA. (1)
Lemon essential oil contains two Furocoumarins, Bergapten and Bergamottin. The common caution is that if you are going to dilute and apply any citrus essential oil to the skin, you should avoid sunlight exposure for at least 6 hours after application. A better safety period is 12-24 hours.
This is why I don’t suggest using lemon essential oil for home acne treatment. Unless you are a bank robber I think we can safely assume that you don’t go around wearing a ski mask all day. So if you leave the house your face will be exposed to UV rays, even if it’s a cloudy day.
Don’t believe me? Well, I can assure you if you go to the beach on a cloudy day and forget to put on sunscreen you can still get a sunburn. It may take longer but it can still happen. This CNN report states that up to 80% of UV rays can penetrate the cloud cover.
This begs the question why these sites would suggest that you use lemon essential oil for acne. Are they just trying to sell you essential oils? I’m not sure, but there are essential oils that are safer than lemon essential oil for acne, and just as, if not more, effective.
Safe & Effective Alternative Essential Oils For Acne
There are better options for treating acne with essential oils that have antimicrobial properties. The following oils do not contain furocoumarins so they don’t have the risk of skin issues with sun exposure.
Tea tree oil is a great alternative. It has powerful antibacterial properties and has been shown in lab tests to kill the bacteria that causes acne. This would be my number one recommended oil. This study published in 2015 looked at the mechanisms of tea tree essential oil for the treatment of acne. Another study published in 2007 found a 5% solution of tea tree oil effective against acne as well.
Juniper Berry oil also has antibacterial properties. It is gentle enough to apply undiluted directly to the pimple. If you have sensitive skin you may want to dilute it with a light carrier oil such as coconut or jojoba oils, which also have advantages for your skin health. A study from 2005 looked at the antibacterial and antifungal properties of juniper berry essential oil and showed positive results.
Lavender oil is another better alternative essential oil for acne. It is believed there is a connection between stress and acne breakouts. A 2003 study found a connection between stress and skin disease, including acne. Lavender essential oil has soothing and calming effects that can reduce your stress levels. Lavender essential oil also has antibacterial properties and it can be used on the face to help kill the bacteria that causes acne.
Clary Sage oil also has antibacterial properties which make it a good choice for fighting acne. You can apply Clary Sage diluted in a carrier oil directly to the pimple to help clear it up by killing the bacteria in the skin. Clary Sage oil is also useful to reduce stress and anxiety. Diffuse Clary Sage oil to inhale the aroma and it will help you relieve stress and decrease the release of the stress hormone Cortisol.
When you consider all of the above it just doesn’t make sense to take the risk of using lemon essential oil for acne. The safer alternative oils do not carry with them the risk of a severe and possibly disfiguring burn from the sun. It also must be noted that you should avoid tanning beds if you use oils which have furocoumarins on your skin as well.
If you want to learn more about the safe use of essential oils please take a moment to visit Gary Davis Aromatherapy. You will find articles all about aromatherapy and the safe and effective use of essential oils.