Essential oils have long been used to treat health complaints, and there’s a growing body of evidence to support their effectiveness.
An essential oil is the essence of a plant. It’s extracted from the leaves, bark, stem, root, or flowers of a plant by a steam distillation process. The oil plays an important role within a plant, and not only that, it brings us some considerable health benefits too.
Insects have pollinated flowers for hundreds of millions of years. Insects are attracted to plants for a few reasons; their aroma, their color, or their structure. The aroma is the biggest attractor however, and because the oil gives plants their unique scent, it attracts insects and aids pollination.
They help plants win their evolutionary ‘competition’
Oils in plants help them to release chemicals that prevent competing plants or vegetation from growing around them. Plants will compete for soil nutrients and the ideal position to get light from the sun, so it’s about the ultimate survival of the fittest.
They help to protect them from insects and other animals
Plants need to protect themselves from predators, just like animals do. Plants use chemical compounds to deter insects and other animals from coming close to them. Many of these chemicals are natural insect repellents. The oils are useful in helping the plants to survive in a harsh environment.
To protect the plant from other organisms that may harm it
Plants release chemicals and other resins which have antimicrobial and antifungal properties. This helps to kill off any organisms which may threaten the plant’s survival, such as fungi or bacteria. The oils do a similar job, and many oils have antifungal and antimicrobial properties.
- 1 How do you use an essential oil?
- 1.1 Massage oil
- 1.2 Facial cream, body lotion, or oil
- 1.3 An addition to your bath
- 1.4 They can be used in steam inhalation treatments
- 1.5 You can use them as a spray
- 1.6 They can be added to a diffuser
- 1.7 They can be directly inhaled
- 1.8 Essential oil safety
- 1.9 Healthy skin
- 1.10 Don’t smoke
- 1.11 Be gentle with your skin
- 1.12 Eat a healthy diet
- 1.13 Manage stress
- 1.14 Protect it from the sun
- 1.15 Stretch marks
- 1.16 What causes stretch marks?
- 1.17 When do stretch marks occur?
- 1.18 Treating stretch marks
- 1.19 Preventing stretch marks
- 1.20 Essential oils for stretch marks
- 1.21 Lavender Oil
- 1.22 Lemon Oil
- 1.23 Patchouli Oil
- 1.24 Bitter Orange Oil
- 1.25 Rose Oil
- 1.26 How to use essential oils for stretch marks
How do you use an essential oil?
You can use essential oil as a:
Simply dilute it with an appropriate carrier oil such as jojoba oil or sweet almond oil. It is better to dilute oils as they are very concentrated and can cause sensitivity if they are used neat on the skin. Essential oils are easily absorbed into the skin and provide systemic or local benefits. They can be used in aromatherapy massage to ease stress and anxiety, treat headaches and migraines, to treat insomnia, pain, and muscle tension, and to boost immunity.
Facial cream, body lotion, or oil
You can add essential oils to your favorite face creams or body lotion to create a skin treatment with plenty of health benefits. Certain oils can reduce the appearance of scars and stretch marks, reduce the signs of ageing, improve skin tone and texture, and hydrate the skin.
An addition to your bath
Add some essential oil to your bath and stir well to disperse the oil. Be careful to rinse your bath afterwards though, as the oils can make your bath slippery. Adding oil to your bath can help to reduce stress, get rid of muscle aches, reduce fatigue, boost circulation, and detox the body.
They can be used in steam inhalation treatments
Place 3-7 drops of essential oil into some boiling water. Good oils to use in steam inhalation are eucalyptus, lemon, and tea tree oil. Cover your head with a towel and inhale the vapour. Keep your eyes closed throughout. This method is great for treating congestion from colds and flu, and boosting respiratory function.
You can use them as a spray
Mix 10-15 drops of essential oil with water and add it to a spray bottle. The spray makes a good room freshener and body spray. They can also be used to clean kitchen worktops, showers, and toilets when used in this way.
They can be added to a diffuser
The oil can be added to a diffuser to be dispersed through a room to reduce stress and anxiety, boost mood, and to promote a good sleep.
They can be directly inhaled
You can add some oil to a handkerchief or a cotton wool ball and directly inhale it or you can apply some to the palms of your hands and do the same. This can be used for respiratory and sinus problems, and to produce effects on the nervous system, for calming or relaxing you, for example. You can also inhale an oil straight from the bottle. Inhalation is very effective for affecting the mood, as the smell receptors in the nose are linked with a part of the brain which governs emotion, mood, and memory.
Essential oil safety
- Keep all essential oils out of reach of children and pets, as some of them can be very toxic.
- Be careful with some oils, especially citrus-based ones, as they can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Do not sunbathe for 24 hours after you apply these types of oils. These oils can cause sensitivity otherwise too, so check for a reaction by doing a patch test on the skin of your upper arm.
- Avoid prolonged use of the same types of essential oils as sensitivity can develop.
- Always dilute an oil with a carrier oil like sweet almond oil or coconut oil before using it on your skin.
- Always follow the instructions on usage and suggested doses.
- Always seek advice before using an oil if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. This also applies if you are taking any medication or if you have an existing medical condition.
- Keep oils away from the eyes and ears, and any areas of sensitive or broken skin.
Keeping your skin healthy doesn’t have to be arduous or expensive. Here’s how:
Smoking causes premature ageing of the skin, and along with sun exposure, is the most common cause of skin damage. Smoking narrows the blood vessels in the outer layers of skin, which decreases blood circulation. This deprives the skin of nutrients and oxygen so it tends to appear dull.
Smoking also damages the collagen and elastin in the skin, which give your skin its strength and elasticity. This is why you will notice that many smokers have heavily lined skin.
Ask your doctor about treatments that are available to help you to quit smoking. It’s the best choice you can make for your skin and overall health.
Be gentle with your skin
Don’t have hot showers or baths as they can deplete your skin of its natural oils.
Don’t use harsh cleansers or soaps for the same reason. Use a mild cleanser, which is appropriate for your skin type.
Pat your skin dry gently after you bathe or shower, and apply a moisturizer, ideally one that has an SPF. This will seal moisture in the skin.
Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet will show in your skin. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein in your diet. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water!
Learn to manage stress and to find time for things that you enjoy. Stress makes skin sensitive and prone to breakouts. Relax and your skin will thank you.
Protect it from the sun
One of the best ways you can take care of your skin is to protect it from the sun. A lifetime of exposure to the sun’s UV rays can cause wrinkles, age spots and other skin problems, as well as increasing your risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Always use sunscreen, with an SPF of at least 15. This applies even when it is cloudy, or even in the winter when the sun’s rays can be surprisingly strong. Apply sunscreen liberally, and reapply it every 2 hours, or more often than that if you are swimming or sweating heavily.
Try and avoid the sun when it’s at its hottest, between 11am and 3pm. If you must go outside, wear protective clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat.
Stretch marks are streaks or lines that occur on the surface of the skin. They are usually red or purple to start with, and with time, they fade to a silvery-white colour.
Where do stretch marks occur?
Stretch marks can occur anywhere where the skin has been stretched, but they are most common on areas of the body where fat is stored like:
- the abdomen
- the breasts
- the upper arms
- the buttocks
- the thighs
- the shoulders (this is commonly seen in bodybuilders)
What causes stretch marks?
Stretch marks are caused when the skin stretches rapidly as a result of sudden growth or weight gain. The stretching causes the middle layer of skin, known as the dermis, to tear, which allows the deeper skin layers to show through, forming stretch marks.
The dermis contains strong that allow the skin to stretch so far as your body grows. However, very rapid growth can cause the skin to over-stretch and this breaks the fibers.
The tears in the dermis allow blood vessels below to show through, which explains why stretch marks are usually red or purple when they first appear.
When the blood vessels eventually get smaller, the pale-colored fat underneath your skin will be visible, and the stretch marks will fade to a silvery-white color. This can take many years.
When do stretch marks occur?
Stretch marks often occur:
- during pregnancy
- after rapid weight gain
- during puberty
Stretch marks often occur during the later stages of pregnancy, and they affect around about 8 out of 10 women. Stretch marks are not inevitable, whether or not you get them is due to your skin type and how elastic it is.
During pregnancy, hormones are produced that soften the ligaments in the pelvis which makes it easier to give birth. These same hormones can also soften the fibres in the skin, making them more prone to stretch marks.
As your baby grows and your skin stretches, you might get stretch marks on your abdomen. You can also get them on your breasts and thighs as they increase in size.
Stretch marks do usually fade and become less noticeable, but they may not disappear completely.
Rapid weight gain
You might get stretch marks if you put on a lot of weight in a short period of time. Yo Yo dieting can cause stretch marks as your weight goes up and down quickly. If you need to lose weight, lose it slowly and sensibly so that your skin isn’t stretched too much
During puberty, the body often develops very quickly in growth spurts. Boys may get stretch marks on their shoulders and back as they grow, and girls can get them on their hips, thighs and breasts.
Treating stretch marks
Most stretch marks aren’t too prominent and will fade over time.
But if your stretch marks cover a large area of your body, and they are affecting how you feel about yourself, there are treatment options available.
Cosmetic camouflage makeup is available over-the-counter at some pharmacies. It can be used for small areas of skin which are affected by stretch marks. This makeup can cover birthmarks and tattoos so it is very effective.
Creams, gels, and lotions
You will see many creams on the market where the manufacturers claim that they can remove stretch marks. This is not likely, however keeping the skin well-moisturized can help.
Laser therapy can’t completely remove stretch marks, but it can help to fade them. There are a few different types of therapy that can treat stretch marks.
Pulsed dye laser treatment is one type. It’s painless and is most effective in the early stages, when your stretch marks are still red or purple.
The energy from the laser is absorbed by the blood vessels under the stretch marks. This causes the blood vessels to collapse and so the red or purple colour either disappears or the marks turn white.
Laser therapy for stretch marks can be expensive and you’ll need quite a few treatments to see visible results. The final result will depend on your skin colour and type.
Cosmetic surgery for stretch marks is expensive and is a little extreme. However, if you have stretch marks on your abdomen and lots of loose skin, it is possible that a tummy tuck can remove this. As well as removing the excess fat and skin, it will remove stretch marks from below your belly button. Remember that surgery can be risky and it can leave scarring.
Preventing stretch marks
Stretch marks can’t always be prevented, as the skin can only stretch so far, but here are some tips to lower the chances of getting them.
Maintain a healthy body weight
Stretch marks are often caused by gaining weight rapidly over a short period of time, or dieting where you lose then gain large amounts of weight repeatedly.
If you need to lose weight, do it slowly and sensibly by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Eating a diet rich in vitamin C, E, and zinc and silicon will help to keep the skin healthy which can also reduce the risk of getting stretch marks.
Stretch marks during pregnancy are usually caused by hormonal changes that soften the fibres of the skin and by gaining weight.
During pregnancy, it’s normal to put on weight in a short period of time, but you should still eat well and avoid gaining too much weight.
Lavender essential oil can fill in stretch marks. It does this by boosting the cells the produce collagen and the skin plumps. This will make stretch marks look less noticeable.
Lemon is known for promoting clear, healthy skin, and the oil can reduce stretch marks. It boosts the absorption of antioxidants which will help the skin cells to regenerate. It can also reverse skin discolouration, so it may fade stretch marks. Mix lemon oil with a vitamin E product for the best skin results.
Patchouli oil is one of the best essential oils for stretch marks. The oil is thought to make the skin thicker, so when it is applied to stretch marks, it will tighten and strengthen the skin back up. The oil is also packed with antioxidants which boost skin health even more.
Bitter orange essential oil is a natural skin toner, and it is effective for use on old stretch marks. The oil strengthens the skin and makes it appear more plumped to make the stretch marks less visible.
A study found that rose essential oil stimulates the production of keratin, which are proteins that make up the skin’s outer layer. Keratin is essential for the strength of this outer layer, and this is where stretch marks occur. It is also very moisturizing which will help to improve the general look of skin too.
How to use essential oils for stretch marks
To treat stretch marks, use essential oils in a blend. Dilute 5 to 10 drops of your chosen essential oils in 1 tablespoon of a carrier oil. Remember, essential oils are very concentrated, so it’s sensible to dilute them. Rub the mixture onto the stretch marks until fully absorbed.
You can also exfoliate with essential oils. Exfoliating will remove dead skin and lighten any dark streaks, making stretch marks less noticeable. Mix 2 cups of sea salt or sugar with 10-15 drops of essential oils, and a cup of a carrier oil. Use it in the shower to smooth and renew the skin.