Quick, what are essential oils?

Your first assumption might be that they're just like any other oil you're used to avoiding (hello fried food, I'm looking at you). But don't fret, essential oils are the physically isolated oils of plants and flowers. As a result — because nature is amazing — these oils are chock full of nutrients that are integral to our health and therefore have immense medicinal merit. So, for the purposes of this article, I'm discussing the use of essential oils on skin and their value as skin-perfecting secret weapons.  

But before I bestow upon you the gloriousness that are essential oils, you must answer one question first:  

Do you feel like you're doing this. . .

. . . to your face? Don't worry, I can relate and I can help.  

At the dawn of my tweenage years, I developed a therapeutic ritual of rebirth every six months — perusing the beauty product aisles of my local superstore Fred Meyer. Sleek, shining bottles peppered the shelves as their bright plastic coats shouted unfettered claims that they were the potion that would finally make me beautiful. Sure, I was only prepubescent when I started this habit and I had perfectly supple, clear skin. But that salicylic acid? That benzoyl peroxide? It felt like a rite of passage. By the time I was in seventh grade, I had a very specific skin routine: scrub my face raw with a salicylic acid based cleanser, pile on globs of moisturizer (oil-free of course, because the concept of essential oils never occurred to me as being beneficial) with an ingredients list I could not begin to pronounce, and then finish off with a thick slathering of a salicylic acid/benzoyl peroxide cocktail “spot treatment”. Within a few years, the acne began to rear its ugly head (pun intended) and I finally entered my coveted teenagerdom.

The big "Ah-ha!"

However, the longer my blemishes stuck around, the quicker I discovered that acne sucked. Like, a lot. By mid-high school I began covering up my embarrassment by caking on mismatched foundation and chalky concealer, and my problem got consequently worse. After graduation, my sister pulled me aside and unleashed a massive wisdom bomb — I was poisoning my skin.

Now, I want you to do me a favor and pick out the products you use for your daily face routine. Read the ingredients list — how many words do you recognize? Are there parabens? Synthetic colors or fragrances? Sulfates? Now do the same for your makeup products? Are you scared yet? 

So, what in the world is safe to use?!

This, my friend, is where I formally introduce you to essential oils. While this seems counterintuitive (oil on an acne prone face — whaat!?), it's not what you might expect. I think of essential oils as Mother Nature's way of telling us "I told you so." This lady has had the natural solution to all of our skin problems long before man started playing around with chemicals, and now's the time to reap the benefits. 

Since I'm just a beginner, here's what has saved my skin thus far: 

Jojoba Oil: I swear by this stuff — it was my first foray into essential oils and I am never going back! Jojoba is so magical because it's lightweight and mimics your skin's own natural sebum (read: the good oil). With that said, it is best to apply jojoba after mixing it with an oil diffuser such as rose water with glycerin (see below). 

Rose Water with Glycerin: C'mon, rose has got to be the most classic scent there is. So, why not use it everyday? With glycerin added to it, which acts to restore the skin's own natural moisture, this combo is perfect for diffusing oils. 

Hemp Seed Oil: This one is fun for two reasons: one, it smells real nice and nutty; two, it has to be refrigerated so it feels super cooling. Hemp seed oil is said to help reduce the size of pores by eliminating blackheads and acne, and that's no lie. Within two weeks of incorporating this into my routine in conjunction with jojoba, my perpetual problem of blackheads on my nose definitely wound down. Buh-bye pore strips.

Tea Tree Oil: Now this is what I call a "spot treatment." Tea tree oil has saved my butt numerous times when my nose piercing has gotten infected, and when I feel a zit brewing. Why? Because tea tree has antibacterial properties and will kill whatever bad bacteria is trying to wreak havoc on your face! That said, tea tree can be drying — so a little goes a long way (especially for sensitive skin). 

Lavender Oil: Guys, I just want to bathe myself in lavender 24/7. For those of you who know me, I have lavender incorporated into every part of my life (from my lotion to my dorm decor). I use this oil sparingly, however, because I have a sensitivity to it in high concentrations. For most of the people that I know who use essential oils, lavender oil is king for ameliorating dark spots/acne scars. However, I can only use the product on my temples and under my nose for some calming, zen action. 

Tamanu Oil: This is going to be more of a disclaimer rather than a recommendation, but it's still good information all the same. I started using tamanu early on when I was only using jojoba. My sister loves it, and it is known to work as a sort of natural retinoid (repairing/regenerating skin cells) and anti-inflammatory properties. But my sensitive skin struck again, and it turns out that I am allergic to the oil. Tamanu is related to nuts, so maybe I have some deeply hidden nut allergy? Bottom line, I recommend patch testing this oil first before using it. 

Rosehip Oil: This stuff is essentially liquid gold (get it?). Rosehip oil is made out of the little "hip" or fruits of roses, so it doesn't actually smell sweet and fragrant. But that's okay, because the oil packs more of a beneficial punch than any old perfume could. Rosehip contains vitamins A, C, and E as well as some super rad fatty acids (linolenic, linoleic, and oleic acid), stearic acid and palmitic acid. What do these acids mean? Fatty acids are emollients, which make your skin's surface look smoother (aka they help repair skin barrier function and prevent that pesky acne or eczema from forming). This isn't a gimmick — almost as soon as I put the oil on, my skin's redness calms right down!

Cypress Oil: If you're sensitive to tea tree oil (like me!), then cypress oil is your best friend. Coming from a type of deciduous evergreen tree, the piney scent is subtle but automatically calming. As soon as you put this oil on your spots (especially if they're a just forming, zit-to-be), the size and severity of the redness begins to shrink! Is this magic? Yeah, if you call nature magical (I do)! Cypress oil is an astringent and serves to constrict blood vessels and tighten tissues, so you could even use this oil on your stretch marks or varicose veins. 

Borage Oil: I just started using borage oil once a day at night time (I recommend doing this when testing out and incorporating a new oil into your routine). Thus far, the benefits have been good. Borage oil smells a bit like wet dog to me, but other than that the oil lives up to its reputation as a moisturizing and anti-inflammatory giant (it shares those same vitamins and fatty acids as rosehip oil). I use a few drops of borage in conjunction with hemp seed oil, rosehip oil, and rose water at night. 

So, contrary to what I expected, I don't have "model off duty," blemish-less skin.

And you know what? 

Essential oils have certainly made my skin smoother, my skin tone more even, and even given me an unexplainable "lit from within glow". . . but it's winter and I still have dry skin sometimes. I still get stress breakouts, but the oils have saved me from having to experience the impending nasty bumps and spots at their fullest extent.

And I am so happy with that. 

Seeing my skin when it's naked and at its healthiest (completely free from makeup) is when I feel the most beautiful. I'm finally out of my head, constantly worrying if someone can see that little insignificant imperfection. I finally don't give a sh**, even on the days that I want to impress people. Makeup isn't out of the equation, but I use it when I want to enhance the beauty that's already there.

And you can too. 

For more info. . . check out this girl's blog and feel free to branch out to more fun and unique essential oils with me on my journey.