Are essential oils really essential?

Damage repair, naturally, is one of the most common claims made about essential oils.

Published: 26th January 2022 04:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th January 2022 04:38 AM   |  A+A-

Image used for representational purpose.

By Express News Service

HYDERABAD:  Essential oils are the latest favourites among skincare junkies -- thanks to influencers promoting the use of these ‘magic’ oils on Instagram and YouTube.

Many of them claim that these oils can do wonders for the skin, hair and other parts of the body. Damage repair, naturally, is one of the most common claims made about these. The emergence of this trend has left many confused about essential oils. Are they really that beneficial? How potent are they and what are the risks these oils bring with them? Dermatologists in the city help us understand the advantages and risks associated with essential oils.

What exactly are essential oils? “They are high concentrated plant extracts. They are extracted using various techniques, including the cold-pressed method and steam distillation, from the leaves, flowers, stems and even fruits,” informs Dr Grace Swarupa Charles, a senior dermatologist at Kamineni Hospital, King Koti. 

Essential oils are said to have numerous benefits. “These are commonly used in cosmetics and fragrances for their smell. There are different kinds of essential oils, some of which are beneficial for better skin and hair health -- such as rosemary for hair growth and tea tree for dandruff. A few studies have been carried out to prove the efficacy of these two oils,” shares Dr Namratha Damera, a dermatologist who runs her own skin clinic at DK Road.

Influencers have been sharing videos of the multiple benefits -- including clearer skin, aromatherapy and better hair, among others. But sadly, there are actually no studies supporting the benefits of essential oils other than rosemary and tea tree. You read that right! So, while these potent oils have several benefits, not all of them have proven to be safe for an adult, forget a child.

“A lot of risks are involved when these oils are rubbed directly onto the skin. These are known to cause adverse reactions as they can contain allergens that trigger irreparable skin issues,” says Dr Grace. She adds that before investing in these oils, it is important to know if one has any predisposed skin condition. “It is important to keep certain things in mind when using these oils.

After having used oils from oranges, lemons and grapefruit, if one venture out into the sun, photo-toxic reactions can cause hyperpigmentation. Applying these oils directly to the skin can cause inflammation. This is because the skin’s barrier is compromised. Oils of peppermint, clove and jasmine are known to cause altered skin reaction, resulting in irritant contact dermatitis,” she adds. 

Some essential oils are also known to cause hormone disruption if not used correctly. Lavender and tea tree oils are known to pose such potential hazards, the doc says. “I’ve noticed many influencers push for tea tree oil to counter acne, but not many realise that if not used properly, it could in turn aggravate the condition. It could result in eczema, photosensitivity rosacea and what not.”

These oils are better to be used in wash-off products such as a face wash, rather than leave-ons like a serum or moisturiser, she adds. However, doctors say that aromatherapy is a less harmful way of using essential oils. “These oils when used for better breathing, healing anxiety, depression and insomnia pose the least risk. 

These can also be used to generate fragrance and in household cleaning products. Remember to use good quality diffusers whose micro-droplets are safe for the eyes,” Dr Grace says.  

Another point to bear in mind is that essential oils need to be diluted in carrier oils such as almond or coconut. Otherwise, they could cause allergies in some people. “To avoid this, always do a patch test before using any essential oil for the first time. The neck and the inside of the elbow are safe places to try them,” says Dr Namratha. 

All in all, the doctors believe that essential oils bring with them more risks than benefits, but the latter come out very well if used properly. 

Bear in mind

  • Always use a carrier oil with an essential oil 
  • Almond and coconut oils act as great carrier oils 
  • Always do a patch test before use 

Benefits of essential oils 

  • Tea tree can work wonders for acne 
  • Lavender can help with itchy scalp
  • French Cypress is great for aromatherapy
  • Lemongrass helps heal wounds 
  • Cinnamon is know to treat skin diseases 
  • Peppermint has antiseptic benefits 
  • Chamomile is a great moisturiser 
  • Rosemary keeps sebum at bay 
  • Frankincense is known to delay signs of aging


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