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Lavender Oil in Skin Care

Lavender oil in skin care

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has been grown and processed for its oil for centuries across the globe because it has potent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Today, lavender oil remains one of the most popular ingredients in skin care for more than just its soothing aroma.

It does not contain any moisturizing fatty acids, but it is rich in natural compounds which serve many functions in skin care.

This blog is all about the benefits, side effects, and uses of lavender oil in skin care. You can find out if lavender oil is right for your skin by taking the Baumann Skin Type quiz for free today!

What is lavender oil

What is lavender oil?

Lavender oil is an essential oil commonly used across the skin care and fragrance industries for its pleasant aroma and antimicrobial benefits.

It is loved by many sensitive skin types and is considered one of the mildest known essential oils. (5)

It contains no fats, which means it is not technically a "true oil."

It is extracted from lavender flowers grown primarily in France, but with various species naturally present across the Mediterranean and the globe.

It has a thin, almost watery texture and can be found in dozens of products from soaps to sunscreens. Here are a few of my favorite products with lavender oil:

What are the active compounds?

The most significant active compound in lavender oil is the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial terpene called linalool. (6,53)

Linalool is a compound derived from linalyl acetate, which is even more common in lavender oil than linalool, but less active. (4,5,17,18)

There is no notable fatty acid content in lavender oil.

Lavender oil is composed of many different natural plant compounds like:

  • Tannins
  • Coumarins
  • Flavonoids
  • Triterpenoids

And compounds which are highly prized in essential oils such as:

  • Sesquiterpenoid alcohols
  • Esters
  • Ketones
  • Oxides
benefits of lavender oil

Lavender oil benefits

The active compounds in lavender contribute to an oil with great antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and skin-lightening capabilities.

It is commonly used to perfume skin care products because it has such a desirable fragrance.

As an antioxidant, it is good at treating sun damage by binding free radicals on the skin. (53)

It has been found to treat many kinds of skin infections, inflammation conditions, and even hair loss concerns. (8,22)

Studies have found that lavender and tea tree oil are both effective at eliminating head lice. (23)

In humans and many other animal species, lavender has been shown to work well as a sedative when inhaled (3), and even as a decent short term pain-killer after surgeries.(25)

Is it safe?

Topically applied lavender oil is considered safe besides the chances of having an allergic reaction.

Most resources including the EWG consider lavender oil safe, with the EWG rating being "2," with only allergens and oral ingestion being considered as concerns.

Lavender is not recommended for use orally while pregnant because of some cytotoxicity claims.

Outside of these concerns, it is still a well regarded anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant used in many skin care products.

There are also no signs that lavender interacts with other drugs in the body. (7)

Side-effects

Some studies support the claim that lavender oil should not be consumed orally (7) because some research has suggested that lavender oil has cytotoxic effects when consumed orally. (5)

That being said, it has not been demonstrated that lavender oil is dangerous in topical cosmetic products or aromatherapeutic purposes.

If you have extremely dry skin, lavender oil can contribute to skin dehydration because it does not contain hydrating fatty acids.

Allergic reactions are fairly common to detergents or air fresheners made with lavender oil. (31)

As lavender oil sits out in the air, it oxidizes which makes it into a more potent allergen. (33,34) For this reason, older products are more likely to cause an allergic reaction than newly opened lavender products.

Allergic reactions to lavender can include itchiness, redness, and other kinds of mild inflammation.

These same studies also found that the two primary compounds in lavender oil, linalool and linalyl acetate, are usually not the compounds that trigger an allergy.

This means that products containing linalool or linalyl acetate are less likely to be allergenic than plain lavender oil. (5,33)

side-effects of lavender oil

Uses in skin care

Lavender oil can be found in many kinds of skin care products such as bath gels, conditioners, shampoos, lip balms, sunscreens, moisturizers, and dark spot treatments, to name a few.

Because it lacks hydrating fatty acids, it is not great for dry skin types or conditions.

Shop by your Baumann Skin Type to make sure you only buy the right products for your skin!

Dark spots

Some evidence suggests that lavender oil is a weak tyrosinase inhibitor, meaning it helps stop the production of melanin. (52)

It is a natural way to treat skin hyperpigmentation. However, like other natural skin lightening compounds, lavender oil is only really effective in combination with other skin lightening ingredients like PAR-2 blockers or other tyrosinase inhibitors.

Some of the most common skin lightening ingredients that can be used with lavender to lighten skin are:

Hair care 

Lavender oil contains significant antioxidant properties through its various active compounds. (53)

Antioxidants are important for hair care because they help protect your hair from sun damage and eliminate free radicals on your scalp and follicles.

It is a super common additive in many hair care products like shampoos because it doesn't contain oils and eliminates bacteria.

Acne

Lavender oil contains no fatty acids and is not comedogenic, meaning it does not cause clogged pores.

It might be used in combination with ingredients like retinoids or other acne treating compounds like salicylic acid, depending on your custom skin care regimen.

It also contains potent antibacterial properties through its active compounds like linalool which eliminate acne causing bacteria.

Lavender has a relaxing effect and reduces stress; stress can worsen acne.

If you are not allergic to lavender oil, it can be a great addition to your acne treatment routine.

Infections

Many kinds of skin infections from bacterial to fungal can be treated with different products containing lavender oil. It is often combined with tea tree oil to naturally treat infections on the skin.

Lavender oil can be found in many disinfectant creams for its antimicrobial benefits which have been shown to treat conditions like staph infections. (8)

If you have a bacterial or fungal skin infection, the products you use might already contain lavender oil!

Level up your skin care knowledge with medical advice from dermatologists

Here are some of the best references on lavender oil in skin care:

  1. Baumann LS. Less-known botanical cosmeceuticals. Dermatol Ther. 20:330, 2007.
  2. Mills S, Bone K. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. London, Churchill Livingstone, 2000, pp. 29-30.
  3. Cavanagh HM, Wilkinson JM. Biological activities of lavender essential oil. Phytother Res. 16:301, 2002.
  4. Lis-Balchin M, Hart S. Studies on the mode of action of the essential oil of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia P. Miller). Phytother Res. 13:540, 1999.
  5. Prashar A, Locke IC, Evans CS. Cytotoxicity of lavender oil and its major components to human skin cells. Cell Prolif. 37:221, 2004.
  6. Woronuk G, Demissie Z, Rheault M, et al. Biosynthesis and therapeutic properties of Lavandula essential oil constituents. Planta Med. 77:7, 2011.
  7. Hoffmann D. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT, Healing Arts Press, 2003, pp. 489, 561-2.
  8. Roller S, Ernest N, Buckle J. The antimicrobial activity of high-necrodane and other lavender oils on methicillin-sensitive and –resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA and MRSA). J Altern Complement Med. 15:275, 2009.
  9. Ben Salah M, Abderraba M, Tarhouni MR, et al. Effects of ultraviolet radiation on the kinetics of in vitro percutaneous absorption of lavender oil. Int J Pharm. 382:33, 2009.
  10. Denner SS. Lavandula angustifolia Miller: English lavender. Holist Nurs Pract. 23:57, 2009.
  11. Basch E, Foppa I, Liebowitz R, et al. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia Miller). J Herb Pharmacother. 4:63, 2004.
  12. Wu J. Treatment of rosacea with herbal ingredients. J Drugs Dermatol. 5:29, 2006.
  13. Aburjai T, Natsheh FM. Plants used in cosmetics. Phytother Res. 17:987, 2003.
  14. Evandri MG, Battinelli L, Daniele C, et al. The antimutagenic activity of Lavandula angustifolia (lavender) essential oil in the bacterial reverse mutation assay. Food Chem Toxicol. 43:1381, 2005.
  15. Hajhashemi V, Ghannadi A, Sharif B. Anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of the leaf extracts and essential oil of Lavandula angustifolia Mill. J Ethnopharmacol. 89:67, 2003.
  16. Akhondzadeh S, Kashani L, Fotouhi A, et al. Comparison of Lavandula angustifolia Mill. Tincture and imipramine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized trial. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 27:123, 2003.
  17. Bickers D, Calow P, Greim H, et al. A toxicologic and dermatologic assessment of linalool and related esters when used as fragrance ingredients. Food Chem Toxicol. 41:919, 2003.
  18. Di Sotto A, Mazzanti G, Carbone F. Genotoxicity of lavender oil, linalyl acetate, and linalool on human lymphocytes in vitro. Environ Mol Mutagen. 52:69, 2011.
  19. Bradley BF, Brown SL, Chu S, et al. Effects of orally administered lavender essential oil on responses to anxiety-provoking film clips. Hum Psychopharmacol. 24:319, 2009.
  20. Cornwell S, Dale A. Lavender oil and perineal repair. Mod Midwife. 5:31, 1995.
  21. Hay IC, Jamieson M, Ormerod AD. Randomized trial of aromatherapy. Successful treatment for alopecia areata. Arch Dermatol. 134:1349, 1998.
  22. Sosa S, Altinier G, Politi M, et al. Extracts and constituents of Lavandula multifada with topical anti-inflammatory activity. Phytomedicine. 12:271, 2005.
  23. Barker SC, Altman PM. A randomized, assessor blind, parallel group comparative efficacy trial of three products for the treatment of head lice in children—melaleuca oil and lavender oil, pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide, and a “suffocation” product. BMC Dermatol. 10:6, 2010.
  24. Sheikhan F, Jahdi F, Khoei EM, et al. Episiotomy pain relief: Use of Lavender oil essence in primiparous Iranian women. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 18:66, 2012.
  25. Vakilian K, Atarha M, Bekradi R, et al. Healing advantages of lavender essential oil during episiotomy recovery: a clinical trial. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 17:50, 2011.
  26. Jones C. The efficacy of lavender oil on perineal trauma: a review of the evidence. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 17:215, 2011.
  27. Altaei DT. Topical lavender oil for the treatment of recurrent aphthous ulceration. Am J Dent. 25:39, 2012.
  28. Baccaglini L. There is limited evidence that topical lavender oil is effective for palliative treatment of recurrent aphthous stomatitis. J Evid Based Dent Pract. 13:47, 2013.
  29. Tirabassi G, Giovannini L, Paggi F, et al. Possible efficacy of lavender and tea tree oils in the treatment of young women affected by mild idiopathic hirsutism. J Endocrinol Invest. 36:50, 2013.
  30. Sugiura M, Hayakawa R, Kato Y, et al. Results of patch testing with lavender oil in Japan. Contact Dermatitis. 43:157, 2000.
  31. Kim HM, Cho SH. Lavender oil inhibits immediate-type allergic reaction in mice and rats. J Pharm Pharmacol. 51:221, 1999.
  32. Sköld M, Hagvall L, Karlberg AT. Autoxidation of linalyl acetate, the main component of lavender oil, creates potent contact allergens. Contact Dermatitis. 58:9, 2008.
  33. Hagvall L, Sköld M, Bråred-Christensson J, et al. Lavender oil lacks natural protection against autoxidation, forming strong contact allergens on air exposure. Contact Dermatitis. 59:143, 2008.
  34. Goiriz R, Delgado-Jiménez Y, Sánchez-Pérez J, et al. Photoallergic contact dermatitis from lavender oil in topical ketoprofen. Contact Dermatitis. 57:381, 2007.
  35. Matthieu L, Meuleman L, Van Hecke E, et al. Contact and photocontact allergy to ketoprofen. The Belgian experience. Contact Dermatitis. 50:238, 2004.
  36. Henley DV, Lipson N, Korach KS, et al. Prepubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oils. N Engl J Med. 356:479, 2007.
  37. Francis MJ, Gulati N, Pashley RM. The dispersion of natural oils in de-gassed water. J Colloid Interface Sci. 299:673, 2006.
  38. Boehm K, Büssing A, Ostermann T. Aromatherapy as an adjuvant treatment in cancer care—a descriptive systematic review. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 9:503, 2012.
  39. Warnke PH, Becker ST, Podschun R, et al. The battle against multi-resistant strains: Renaissance of antimicrobial essential oils as a promising force to fight hospital-acquired infections. J Craniomaxillofac Surg. 37:392, 2009.
  40. Zhang Z, Chen H, Chan KK, et al. Gas chromatographic-mass spectrometric analysis of perillyl alcohol and metabolites in plasma. J Chromatogr B Biomed Sci Appl. 728:85, 1999.
  41. Loutrari H, Hatziapostolou M, Skouridou V, et al. Perillyl alcohol is an angiogenesis inhibitor. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 311:568, 2004.
  42. Saeki Y. The effect of foot-bath with or without the essential oil of lavender on the autonomic nervous system: a randomized trial. Complement Ther Med. 8:2, 2000.
  43. Morris N. The effects of lavender (Lavendula angustifolium) baths on psychological well-being: two exploratory randomized control trials. Complement Ther Med. 10:223, 2002.
  44. Holmes C, Hopkins V, Hensford C, et al. Lavender oil as a treatment for agitated behavior in severe dementia: a placebo controlled study. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 17:305, 2002.
  45. Moss M, Cook J, Wesnes K, et al. Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults. Int J Neurosci. 113:15, 2003.
  46. Xu F, Uebaba K, Ogawa H, et al. Pharmaco-physio-psychologic effect of Ayurvedic oil-dripping treatment using an essential oil from Lavandula angustifolia. J Altern Complement Med. 14:947, 2008.
  47. Howard S, Hughes BM. Expectancies, not aroma, explain impact of lavender aromatherapy on psychophysiological indices of relaxation in young healthy women. Br J Health Psychol. 13:603, 2008.
  48. Grunebaum LD, Murdock J, Castanedo-Tardan MP, et al. Effects of lavender olfactory input on cosmetic procedures. J Cosmet Dermatol. 10:89, 2011.
  49. Hongratanaworakit T. Aroma-therapeutic effects of massage blended essential oils on humans. Nat Prod Commun. 6:1199, 2011.
  50. Salido, S., Altarejos, J., Nogueras, M., Sánchez, A., & Luque, P. (2004). Chemical composition and seasonal variations of spike lavender oil from Southern Spain. Journal of Essential Oil Research, 16(3), 206-210.
  51. Bia?o?, M., Krzy?ko-?upicka, T., Nowakowska-Bogdan, E., & Wieczorek, P. P. (2019). Chemical composition of two different lavender essential oils and their effect on facial skin microbiota. Molecules, 24(18), 3270.
  52. Fiocco, D., Fiorentino, D., Frabboni, L., Benvenuti, S., Orlandini, G., Pellati, F., & Gallone, A. (2011). Lavender and peppermint essential oils as effective mushroom tyrosinase inhibitors: A basic study. Flavour and fragrance journal, 26(6), 441-446.
  53. Danh, L. T., Triet, N. D. A., Zhao, J., Mammucari, R., & Foster, N. (2012). Antioxidant activity, yield and chemical composition of lavender essential oil extracted by supercritical CO2. The Journal of Supercritical Fluids, 70, 27-34.

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