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7 min read / 30 December 2023 / yasmin sharp

Essential Oils for Eczema

Explore the benefits of using essential oils to alleviate eczema symptoms and improve your skin's health while ensuring safe and effective application.

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Using essential oils for eczema could be an option if your skin is not responding to the current course of treatment.

Whilst essential oils should only be used to complement rather than replace prescribed medication, they can offer a natural alternative that can help to soothe and ease some of the symptoms.

Here we look at the best oils for eczema and how they may be able to help you improve the condition of your skin.

Can I use essential oils for eczema?

Whilst there are some specific essential oils you can use for eczema, there are others that should be avoided.

Certain types of essential oils have higher concentration levels, which can cause irritation or even allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin.

On the other hand, certain essential oils that contain the right chemical properties can help you to manage the condition and ease some of the symptoms.

Before applying an essential oil to any part of your skin it should first be diluted with a carrier oil (such as jojoba oil or coconut oil).

Another option is to intake the benefits via aromatherapy or inhalation using a diffuser, which can help to ease some of the associated anxiety and stress.

Woman scratching her back that is red

What are the best essential oils for eczema?

Here are a few suggestions on the best essential oils for eczema:

Tea tree essential oil contains anti-inflammatory properties

Tea tree oil is extracted from the leaves of the tea tree plant and can be used to treat a variety of conditions including insect bites, nail fungus, athlete’s foot and head lice.

Research into the oil has found that it contains anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial compounds, although it is one of the strongest essential oils available, so must be used carefully.

Another study, published in 2010, found that when tea tree oil was compared to various other minerals for the treatment of dermatitis, it proved to be the most effective. 

It is also important to note that a 2016 review of studies stated that when undiluted tea tree oil was applied to the skin it caused contact dermatitis in some participants who were allergic to certain components.

As is the case with all essential oils, if you want to use tea tree essential oil to treat eczema, you should first complete a patch test (you can read more about that below) to ensure it is compatible with your skin.

Ease eczema symptoms with borage essential oil

Borage essential oil is something of a lesser-known oil that is extracted from the borage plant, which is native to the Mediterranean.

Researchers have learned that borage oil contains a fatty acid that once inside the body can be converted into a substance that offers anti-inflammatory activity.

When used to soothe eczema-prone skin, it is believed that it can help to reduce skin inflammation, although study results have been mixed, so further research is required to determine how effective the oil is at calming the appearance of eczema.

Peppermint essential oil can offer skin calming abilities

Many people use peppermint oil to calm nausea and to ease indigestion, whilst others dilute it with a carrier oil and use it to reduce itching on the skin.

Like tea tree oil, peppermint oil is particularly potent, so if you are using it to treat sensitive areas of skin, you may want to increase the dilution ratio to reduce any risk of irritation.

Research on the effectiveness of peppermint oil on eczema is limited, although one 2016 study did make the claim that it could help to reduce the severity of pruritus (itchy skin).

If you are interested in trying peppermint essential oil to treat eczema, you should first speak with a doctor before proceeding.

Woman in a bath towel, with her hair also in a towel, sat on the edge of her bath rubbing cream into her arm

Can I use carrier oils to treat eczema?

If you are concerned that using essential oil for eczema may cause irritation or an allergic reaction, you could use a carrier oil as an alternative.

Apply jojoba oil direct to your skin to ease eczema

Many people find that jojoba oil is the best oil for eczema, as it is much kinder to skin.

This partially explains why it is often used as an ingredient in a wide range of shampoos, body care products and facial cleansers.

When applied to the skin, jojoba oil works in a similar way to human sebum, the natural substance produced by skin and hair, helping to keep skin soft and moisturised.

And, according to a study published in 2018, jojoba oil may also contain anti-inflammatory properties that could help to calm and soothe skin. 

Coconut oil can work as an effective moisturiser

If you are not comfortable using essential oils for eczema, you may want to give coconut oil a try.

The oil contains a fatty acid that can be used to develop monolaurin, an antimicrobial agent that can be effective against certain types of bacteria, yeast, fungi and other pathogens.

In 2013, the results of a study involving 117 children with eczema were published, with researchers finding that the condition of their skin improved after the topical application of virgin coconut oil for 8 weeks.

People who have an allergy to coconut oil will need to use an alternative. Jojoba oil could be an option, although you may want to speak with your doctor first.

The vitamin E properties of sunflower may ease inflammation

Sunflower oil is rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that can help to keep skin moisturised, so it doesn’t become dry and itchy.

A study published in 2021 stated that vitamin E may also be able to work as an anti-inflammatory agent, which could also help to ease eczema symptoms, although further research is needed to cement this claim.

Anecdotally, some have said that sunflower oil also contains anti-inflammatory properties, although research has not yet been able to prove this.

Woman rubbing cream onto her hand

How do I complete a patch test?

Before using essential oils for eczema, you should complete a patch test to ensure your skin is compatible with the oil.

You can do this by following the steps below:

  • Mix a small amount of the essential oil with a carrier oil of choice.
  • Apply the mixture to the inside of your elbow.
  • Cover the patch of skin with a plaster and leave for 24 hours.
  • If there are no signs of irritation after you remove the plaster, it should be okay to use.

The usual dilution ratio is 1-2 drops of essential oil per teaspoon (5ml) of carrier oil.

However, you may want to further dilute the essential oil to treat eczema symptoms, to further reduce the risk of skin irritation.

Black and white botanical illustration

Depending on the sensitivity of your skin, finding the best oil for eczema may not be a straightforward task.

If you are concerned about an essential oil causing irritation, the first thing to do is to complete a patch test to check the compatibility.

It’s also a good idea to speak with your doctor before beginning any course of unprescribed treatment for a skin condition.

Alternatively, you could try a carrier oil, which is milder and more gentle to the skin, and does not carry the same potential health risks.

 


 

References

[1] C. F. Carson et al. (2006) Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360273/

[2] Anton C. de Groot et al. (2016) Tea tree oil: contact allergy and chemical composition https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/cod.12591

[3] Rachel H. Foster B.Pharm. Et al. (2010) Borage oil in the treatment of atopic dermatitis https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0899900709004468?via%3Dihub

[4] Lotfy T Elsaie et al. (2016) Effectiveness of topical peppermint oil on symptomatic treatment of chronic pruritus https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5066694/

[5] Tzu-Kai Lin et al. (2018) Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796020/

[6] Laurene Boateng et al. (2016) Coconut oil and palm oil's role in nutrition, health and national development: A review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5044790/

[7] Mara Therese Padilla Evangelista MD et al. (2013) The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijd.12339

[8] Anca Ungurianu et al. (2021) Vitamin E beyond Its Antioxidant Label https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8143145/

[9] Anton C de Groot et al. (2016) Tea tree oil: contact allergy and chemical composition https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27173437/

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Medical Disclaimer

The content in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of medical advice. Please consult your personal physician for any advice or treatment regarding specific health questions. Neither the article editor, writer, nor the organisation of Nikura takes any responsibility for possible health consequences following the information given in any article. All readers should consult their physician before taking any advice given within these articles.

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