More than three million people a year suffer from an outbreak of eczema, a skin condition marked by dry, itchy patches caused by an inflammatory response.
Some of the triggers of an eczema outbreak include allergic reactions, especially to skin-care products and harsh detergents, stress, dust mites, animal dander, and the consumption of a diet that is missing key nutrients. According to the Mayo Clinic, the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus is also a possible trigger.1
Eczema symptoms include:
- Dry skin
- Severe itching
- Discolored patches of skin, most commonly on the hands and feet, ankles and wrists, inside of the knees and elbows, on the chest and neck, or on the eyelids.
- Thick, cracked, or scaly skin or small, red bumps that may leak fluid.
The skin problem can be painful, embarrassing, and frustrating, especially when over-the-counter remedies only treat some of the symptoms, and don’t always offer long-term healing. Here’s where essential oils can make a major difference.
Essential Oils Offer Natural Healing
The beauty of essential oils is that they draw in the best nutrients the natural world has to offer. The active compounds in essentials are diverse in their benefits, and the ability of essential oils to naturally improve the appearance of skin is only one of the many appeals.
Essential oils are packed with nutrients that help ease inflammation, provide lasting moisture, and create an environment that encourages healing. While inflammation is considered one of the causes of atopic dermatitis, other studies have linked eczema outbreaks to a lack of certain key nutrients.
Essential oils and carrier oils that are best suited for remedying eczema are those packed with those skin-friendly nutrients. For eczema sufferers, essential oils can ease insufferable itching, speed up healing, and potentially prevent outbreaks.
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Because each case of eczema is likely to react differently to essential oils, however, you may have to try a couple of essential oils when an eczema outbreak occurs to find the one that works best for you. Highlighted below are some of the best options.
Essential Oils for Eczema
In 2000, researchers from South Bank University in London used a blend of essential oils including marjoram, frankincense, German chamomile, myrrh, thyme, benzoin, lavender, and Litsea cubeba to help treat eczema outbreaks in children. Children were massaged daily by the parents as part of the study. The control group performed this massage without essential oils, while the other group used essential oils. Both groups showed marked improvement.2
While the study was small and the results were unable to determine if the massage or the essential oils were responsible for improved symptoms, it did reflect a growing mainstream interest in the use of essential oils to treat a wide range of skin conditions such as eczema. Other studies had more conclusive results.
Lavender Essential Oil
This powerhouse of an essential oil is a favorite for good reason. It can help encourage a good night’s sleep by easing symptoms of stress, but it can also create a healing environment for skin.
In addition to anti-aging benefits, lavender essential oil has been shown to ease both pain and inflammation, both of which are part of an eczema flareup.
A 2003 study appearing in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology from researchers at the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Iran found that lavender acted as an analgesic when applied to the skin and also reduced the redness of inflammation.3
Lavender’s high linalool content makes it an especially skin-friendly oil, as it can hydrate dry, flaking skin associated with eczema and create an environment that is more conducive to healing.
Chamomile Essential Oil
The compounds found in chamomile, including alpha-bisabolol and chamazulene, make it an especially beneficial essential oil for remedying symptoms of eczema. Additionally, chamomile is known for its versatility and for being one of the gentlest essential oils. it soothes dry skin associated with eczema and is as effective as a hydrocortisone cream at easing the itching and redness of the skin condition.4
A 1994 study from Italian researchers found that chamomile helped relieve inflammation when applied topically, making it an essential oil that could provide relief for the symptoms associated with eczema.5
Later research, this time a 2000 study that appeared in the European Journal of Medical Research found that a chamomile essential oil-based cream provided superior treatment than hydrocortisone, suggesting that ditching the steroid-based cream in favor of a natural remedy may be a better option.6
Frankincense Essential Oil
The health benefits of this ancient essential oil, which range from stress relief to the ability to improve inflammation, make it one of the most versatile oils available. Because it is able to address so many different conditions, it should come as no surprise that it can also ease the symptoms associated with eczema, especially the itching and irritation.
A deep dive into the benefits of frankincense that appeared in a 2013 issue of the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine found that frankincense was beneficial for easing irritated skin associated with eczema due to the boswellic acid that is one of the essential oil’s volatile compounds.7
A Carrier Oil for Pairing
Evening primrose oil is rich in the fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and is approved in Great Britain for the treatment of eczema. Eczema is believed to be triggered by of low levels of gamma-linolenic acid, and the topical application of evening primrose oil, along with other essential oils, provides an extra element of skin-friendly, natural nutrients.
A 1991 study from Swedish researchers found that supplementing with evening primrose oil helped ease symptoms of eczema from within by boosting levels of GLA. Supplementing yielded favorable changes of the skin’s epidermis by normalizing fatty acid levels, therefore improving the nutrient makeup of the skin’s surface layer where eczema usually occurs.9
Evening primrose oil also improves the symptoms of other skin conditions such as psoriasis naturally. Other carrier oils that offer restorative skin benefits for eczema include sweet almond, coconut, olive, avocado, and argan oils.
Eczema is a condition that can be particularly difficult to manage simply because of the discomfort associated with the condition. Additionally, because eczema is different for everyone, it can be difficult to find an over-the-counter steroid cream that works for everyone without drying out or irritating the skin. The benefit of essential oils is that they have been shown to effectively remedy the inflammation and itchiness associated with eczema without drying out the skin. They are also very versatile, so it’s much easier to search the world of essential oils to find one that best suits your needs.
Once you’ve selected an essential oil and carrier oil from the list above, try them out to see what works best for you and hopefully you’ll find welcome relief to your eczema symptoms.
Photo credits: TernavskaiaOlgaAlibec/shutterstock.com, OrawanPattarawimonchai/shutterstock.com