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Essential oils for sensitive skin: How to use plant oils in skincare

Essential oils for sensitive skin - the pros and cons revealed

The benefits of essential oils are impressive, but are they safe for sensitive skin? Here’s your need-to-know guide

Essential oils are a hotly debated topic when it comes to sensitive skin and the potential benefits or issues come down to what you’re looking for in your skincare products and whether your skin reacts to essential oils.

Essential oils are the volatile essences of plants, which are responsible for all those beautiful scents in your natural skincare and natural fragrances. The concentrated essential oils can be extracted from any part of the plant, but the complexity lies in the fact that they contain many different naturally occurring compounds - and while many essential oils have skincare benefits beyond simply smelling great, some may irritate delicate skin.

The benefits of essential oils for sensitive skin

Essential oils are used within skincare in tiny amounts - at Willowberry we use it at just 1% in our formulations (undiluted essential oils should never be applied directly to the skin), which is enough to deliver their skin benefits and beautiful scents. (Essential oils are not to be confused with standard natural plant oils, which are used in abundance within natural skincare).

Essential oils have plenty of skin benefits; for example jasmine and frankincense suit dry and mature skin, neroli and sandalwood are anti-inflammatory making them helpful for sensitive and redness-prone skin types; and chamomile is said to be effective in soothing eczema.

At Willowberry we have carefully selected a combination of two essential oils for use in our products which combine to create a beautiful spa-like scent: geranium, which benefits all skin types - for dry skin it helps to nourish and moisturise and for oily or combination skin it helps to balance sebum production. For overall wellbeing, geranium is said to help calm the mind and ease irritability. This is combined with coriander seed, which is said to help cleanse the skin for a clearer complexion, while from a wellbeing point of view it helps to refresh and uplift.

Of course, the most obvious benefits of essential oils are the scents themselves; whether you’re looking for a natural fragrance or you want to reap the rewards of aromatherapy to de-stress, the options are endless. From soothing lavender to help you sleep, to a citrus oil to perk you up, to the spa-like scent of our Willowberry natural skincare, scent can have a powerful effect on body and mind.

What’s more, stress is a known factor in causing skin conditions and sensitivity to flare, so incorporating soothing scents into your daily habits can be beneficial, be it in a scented candle, diffuser or your skincare - so long as your skin isn’t allergic to essential oils.

When to avoid essential oils

While essential oils can be beneficial for the skin, some people can react to the complex compounds that occur naturally within the essential oils, if they have hypersensitive skin or a specific allergy to one of these compounds. So how will you know if you’ve had a reaction? “The most common signs are itching, redness and scaling,” explains Consultant Dermatologist Dr Anastasia Therianou.

If you’re worried about sensitivity, it’s always best to do a patch test of a new product. Simply apply a small amount to your wrist or inner elbow, in the same spot for at least three consecutive days, to see how your skin handles it - you’ll soon know if it’s not going to suit you. Plus, if you find you’re your skin reactions are becoming all too common, you can book in for patch tests with a professional to find out exactly what you’re allergic to and learn what to avoid.

As well as for hypersensitive types, there are some warnings around pregnancy and essential oils; the most common advice is to avoid them for the first twelve weeks, and to use caution for the remaining six months to be safe, steering clear of any undiluted oils.

At Willowberry, we have had many rave reviews of our natural skincare products (which contain essential oils) from people with sensitive skin, rosacea and eczema. But over the 3 years since we launched, we have also had many people with these skin conditions looking for a product that doesn’t contain any essential oils, and we wanted to cater for this need.

So we created the new Willowberry Sensitive Face Oil, containing all the skin-boosting goodness of our best-selling Willowberry Nutrient Boost Face Oil, but without any essential oils. 100% natural and containing just four ingredients - grapeseed oil, rosehip oil, chia seed and vitamin E - it’s our simplest formulation yet and promises all the nourishing skincare benefits in an even more gentle package. Best of all, the lightweight, antioxidant-rich formula nurtures skin’s delicate barrier and soothes skin, while helping to reduce redness, irritation and inflammation if you’re already struggling with sensitivity – so it’s a win-win.

And for those of you who love essential oils, you can opt for our hero Willowberry Nutrient Boost Face Oil, which is also 100% natural and contains the same ingredients and benefits as the Willowberry Sensitive Face Oil, with the addition of geranium and coriander seed essential oils, for a beautiful spa-like scent.

Willowberry is 'Nutritious Natural' skincare for grown-ups for your best skin. Launched in 2017, Willowberry is an award-winning independent British brand that has gained a cult following. Loved by top make-up artists, the streamlined, highly effective range protects skin’s natural barrier function to nourish and transform grown-up skin, with indulgent formulas that feed the skin and soul.

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