4 Essential Oils for Acne

Ready to take the plunge into natural skincare but concerned about changing products? Read this article about essential oils for acne.

In this article, you will learn about:

  1. What Causes Acne
  2. 4 Essential Oils for Acne Relief
  3. Acne Killing Applications

A prominent component to natural skincare is eliminating harmful products and toxic ingredients. In the beginning, most of us find ourselves getting rid of dozens of products as we find item after item with toxic ingredients we never knew were problematic. But what if you struggle with a specific skin condition – like acne?

Acne-sufferers know that you stick to what works. If you're ready to take the plunge into natural skincare but are concerned about moving away from your trusted acne products, this article may have just the information you're looking for!

What Causes Acne?

Remember that choosing natural products doesn't mean simply replacing your current products. This is about a way of life – Abundant Life! So take a step back and see if you can pinpoint what's causing your acne.

If you're out of the teenage years, when hormonal changes are rampant and acne is expected, you have to really look at what might cause acne. For many, diet is a major culprit. Greasy foods, something you're allergic to, and carbs are all potential causes of breakouts. In 2014, the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology suggested that doctors should advise patients with acne to limit their refined carb intake. (1)

Other researchers suggest a more complicated set of causes to be attuned to – with the article in question simply referring to it as “modern life”! (2) Simply leading a stressful life could be triggering signals in your body that erupt on your skin.

What's the common denominator? It could simply be the gut. (3)

With the way that the gut interacts with signals of stress from the brain, is affected by what we eat, and in turn affects hormone signals and other functions – this isn't a big surprise. Start with a healthy gut and the rest of the body will soon follow!

4 Essential Oils for Acne Relief

Once you've got a handle on preventive strategies and are moving toward a healthier lifestyle, you should start to see some acne relief. When you really need to make some changes in the products you use on your skin, though, check out these essential oils for acne relief.

1. Tea Tree

Hailing as the key oil used for acne, tea tree oil (Melaleuca) is used for its antiseptic and antimicrobial abilities that help to cleanse the skin. It's also an incredibly gentle oil that can be used easily on acne breakouts.

To test the claims about tea tree and acne, a full clinical trial was conducted using tea tree gel and a placebo. After ten days, then forty-five days, the results were in: “…tea tree oil gel was 3.55 times and 5.75 times more effective than placebo respectively.” (4) Confirmed!

Application: The study in question used tea tree oil in a 5% dilution. Use tea tree oil in your DIY cleansing soaps or directly diluted into a carrier and applied to breakouts.

2. Lavender

A soothing and healing essential oil, lavender essential oil is a good choice for acne formulations. It is also gentle for skin that is already on alert.

One of the best actions that lavender has when it comes to acne and skin irritation is that it's an anti-inflammatory substance. Joining a list of anti-inflammatory herbs and oils, lavender can help to soothe skin that's inflamed during or after an acne attack. (5)

Application: Use lavender essential oil as part of a soothing spot treatment or in a moisturizing carrier oil as a daily, healing application.

3. Orange

Really, citrus oils in general are useful for treating acne with essential oils. They are loaded with cleansing, antimicrobial and antiseptic actions, which is vital when tackling acne as a bacterial issue.

Sweet orange oil in particular is a good choice because it's not quite as harsh as some of the other citrus oils. Perhaps this is why a clinical trial chose it to test alongside basil oil and some other treatment methods. Orange oil held its own, helping to significantly reduce acne breakouts with minimal side effects or irritation. (6)

Application: Orange oil is an excellent choice for cleansing formulations.

4. Rosemary

Known for its skin and hair health applications, rosemary essential oil is another great oil to have on hand for DIY acne skincare preparations. While its studies aren't as detailed as the other clinical tests and randomized comparisons, rosemary has its own supporting evidence to bring to the table.

As part of a lab test, rosemary essential oil was observed as easily overpowering bacteria that's at the heart of acne woes. (7) This gives it an edge over generalized antibacterial oils, since we know that it's directly effective against that nasty strain.

Application: Rosemary essential oil is a good addition to toning spritzes and other regular prevention products..

Acne Killing Applications

Making your own skincare applications is exciting and rewarding. Something that YOU made, with natural, God-given ingredients, that actually brings results just can't be beat! Here are some things to consider:

  • Give it time. When a skin condition comes into play, though, you should give yourself some time to work out the best ingredients and ratios for your skin.
  • Don't fear oils! Something that may be difficult to get used to is the way natural products rely on oils. If you have oily skin, this can be scary! Many people find that using oils actually helps to balance the skin's oil production and reduce breakouts.
  • Take it holistically. This isn't just about what you put on your skin – what goes into your body and how you live your life play a role in acne trouble, too!

Oil Cleanser

Many people like to clean their face with coconut oil. Add a drop of tea tree and a drop of orange to enhance the cleansing benefits.

Essential Toner

Some call toner the most important part of a skincare routine. Make a quick but effective DIY toner by diluting a few drops of rosemary and a few of lavender into a spritzer half filled with witch hazel. Shake, fill with distilled water. Spritz onto clean skin daily.

Safety & Contraindications

Are you sure you're using essential oils safely and effectively? Are you confused by dilutions and conversions?

 Let me help take out the guesswork and download my FREE roller bottle guide HERE.

Essential Oil Roller Bottle Dilution Guide

When it comes to drug interactions and contraindications, there are literally textbooks devoted to the study of essential oil safety and, as a trained researcher and doctor, I think it’s important to note that there is virtually no research out there discussing how essential oils interact with drugs in human clinical trials. This means that essential oil safety is still a wild frontier in the science community and no one really knows (for certain) how essential oils will interact with drugs or your body.

Nonetheless, properly diluting your essential oils is fundamental to safety and effectiveness because they are highly concentrated plant compounds. To help you along your journey, I have a created an easy-to-use dilution guide that you can download for FREE to make sure that all of your topical applications are safe and effective for the entire family. 

CLICK HERE to download my free EO Roller Bottle Dilution Chart! 

As with as medicine and natural therapies, this is only a guide and be sure to discontinue use if any adverse reactions occur and consult your physician immediately.


  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24719062
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24952024
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23886975
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17314442
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15173991
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23235794
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17893831

This post currently has 26 comments.

  1. Tim
    July 31, 2017

    Never thought i’d ever use essential oils but my girlfriend recommended using essential oils for my acne and my face has never been clearer.

    Thanks for the list and the clear skin!

  2. Melissa
    May 20, 2017

    How about cystic acne? I’ve been told that only antibiotics help clear it up because it is so deep in the skin. What are your thoughts?

    • Dr. Z
      May 20, 2017

      Antibiotics are never the solution. They can help mask the problem, but there’s always a root cause that they cannot address.

  3. Emma Clark
    February 1, 2017

    I think Argan oil is best option for acne. Have anyone used this oil??

  4. Christine
    October 8, 2016

    Hello Dr.Z

    My 12 year old son sweats a lot more then the average, his hands and feet are often litterally wet with sweat and this has been the case since he was a baby.
    Unfortunately he sometimes gets athletes feet, othertimes he gets little itchy bumps on his hands or feet which spread and get infected and we use a prescrition antibacterial/cortisone cream to stop it. Now he has developed a rash under his arm pits, torso and around the waist for the past week.
    I am pretty sure this is all interconnected and has the same root.
    Do you have any recommendation of EO?

    • Dr. Z
      October 11, 2016

      Hi Christine,

      Sounds like his gut health is destroyed. Unfortunately all the EOs in the world won’t help until the root cause is address. I’d recommend visiting a trained functional medical practitioner to get to the bottom of this.

      In the meantime, this recipe may help soothe his skin –> http://drericz.com/healing-skin-serum/

      Praying for COMPLETE healing!

      Keep us posted!

  5. Kim
    August 27, 2016

    I use oils regularly and I have heard of these but also cedar wood oil for acne. Has antibacterial properties.

    • Dr. Z
      August 27, 2016

      Yes, good point!

  6. Kelly
    August 23, 2016

    I make an olive oil soap with activated charcoal in it and tea tree. It’s awesome for acne and my teenage son uses it. I think I will add some lavender as well to the next batch!! Love my oils.

    • Dr. Z
      August 24, 2016

      That’s awesome, thanks for sharing!

    • Teresa
      September 21, 2016

      Would you mind sharing the recipe?

    • Kathy
      October 22, 2016

      If you could share the recipe please and where to get the activated charcoal? That was new for me.

  7. JJodyody
    April 14, 2016

    My 20 yr old daughter has had really bad breakouts and for the past month I have been applying manuka honey with tea tree. It hasn’t really done much. I’ve also mixed up ACV with oils to use as a toner on her skin but to no avail. What should I mix the above oils you mentioned with to use on her face? Mix with coconut oil, jojoba, argan, olive??? I need a recipe to use that might work for her many pimples/redness. Thanks.

    • Dr. Z
      April 27, 2016

      When it comes to acne, I have found that diet & stress is the #1 cause. Using EOs on a high-sugar, fast food diet is like taking 1 step forward and 2 steps back.

      I’d go total vegan for 1 week and see how that clears it up – lots of veggies. Consider it a detox and you may be surprised to see what triggers the blemishes once she introduces certain foods back into her diet.

    • Carolann
      August 22, 2016

      Maybe it’s an allergy. My face was really red and pimply until I stopped drinking cows milk. My ears cleared up, no more vertigo. And my allergies are almost gone. Yes I still have a little red in my face but not near what it used to be. Hope this helps.

      • Dr. Z
        August 22, 2016

        Yes, very helpful. Pasteurized cow’s milk is horribly harmful, allergenic for people…

  8. SharonSharon
    February 26, 2016

    Hi Dr. Zielinski,

    My son has a pretty severe case of seborrheic dermatitis on his scalp. Do you know of any essential oils that can help him with this condition? He has been having a lot of scaling and some hair loss.
    Thank you!

    • Dr. Z
      February 27, 2016

      Hi Sharon,

      I’d start with rubbing heavily diluted oils like lavender, sandalwood, frankincense, tea tree, myrrh and even helichrysum onto the scalp.

      Once healed, diluted peppermint and rosemary can help stimulate the hair follicles, but I’d be careful of using these before the skin integrity is restored. 🙂

      • Karen
        September 30, 2016

        I have a combination of both acne and seborrheic dermatitis on the face. Surprisingly, I don’t have it on the scalp. Is there an oil that will treat both at the same time?

        • Dr. Z
          October 3, 2016

          Not that I’ve seen in the research – but it’s quite possible. It’s a matter of finding that right blend for you.

          Praying for COMPLETE healing!

  9. Chris
    February 20, 2016

    Interesting info on acne control, BUT, I fear the use of Tea Tree and/or Lavender for women’s use as they are estrogenic….
    Uncertain about Orange or Rosemary.
    Suggestion? Opinion?

    • Dr. Z
      February 20, 2016

      Hi Chris,

      It’s not so clear-cut. According to EO expert Robert Tisserand, lavender is NOT estrogenic. http://roberttisserand.com/2013/02/lavender-oil-is-not-estrogenic/

      I can’t find evidence suggesting that tea tree is either.

    • Beckie C
      February 21, 2016

      I have been using Rosemary, Teatree oil, and lavender for face cleansing and acne for 20 years. If any of them interfered with hormones I would be the first to know for chronic illness of CFS – GWI.I have never been exposed to toxic amounts, even when I blended my own recipes, because all are diluted in face cleanser, shampoo and apple vinegar. I use full-strength orange oil from peels on my face and neck to treat acne, dry skin and to prevent “turkey neck”. I planned to dilute orange oil from peels until I realize that at full strength, orange gives me a mild, 4-hour boost of energy. I never experienced any hormonal changes.

      • Dr. Z
        February 21, 2016

        Beckie, just LOVE reading your EO testimonials! <3

  10. Debbie
    February 19, 2016

    Great tips, Dr. Z, as always. My 14 year old boy battles acne and oily hair. His acne is mostly on his face and neck and upper back… so looking at the root cause is of course of value as you point out. We give him a scrub of coconut oil with a few drops of melaleuca, coriander, and geranium – all over the face and other acne areas, and through his hair, followed by a double shampoo. We find it really calms down the acne. We’ve also just begun using an anti-acne pillowcase that is made with silver-embedded threads – good support as well.

    • Dr. Z
      February 20, 2016

      Hi Debbie,

      Nutritionally-speaking, I have found sugar, dairy and grains to be heavy triggers as well. Try a trial period of vegetarian food with no sugar, dairy and grains for 1 week and see what happens. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies. If the skin clears up – then try common “trigger foods” that are common to his diet to see if you need to cut them out for good or not.


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