Your 'Natural' Skin Routine Could Be Anything But

essential oilsFor those of us weary of checking beauty product labels for toxic ingredients, essential oils make for an appealing alternative. Not to mention those gorgeous herbal and floral scents! But don't slather yourself head-to-toe in essential oils just yet.

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They can be dangerous, too. After all, "natural" doesn't mean it's perfectly harmless. Here, more about those essences and how to use them with care.

1. Natural skin care products aren't as closely regulated. Medications have stringent guidelines and and safety tests, notes dermatologist Melanie Palm, MD, founding director of Art of Skin MD, assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Diego, and staff physician at Scripps Encinitas Memorial Hospital. Essential oils, on the other hand, aren't subjected to the same level of scrutiny. ("Therapeutic grade" is a marketing term, not a certification.) That said, a bit of research (on a site like AromaWeb, for instance) can go a long way to finding a quality oil.

2. Natural products could be adulterated with other products. "So, it's a little bit of a crap shoot what's actually in [some] essential oil products," Dr. Palm says. You'll do well to read the ingredients list of any product.

3. Essential oils used on their own can irritate skin. "Some oils are too strong or not intended to be applied directly to skin without being diluted," says Jessica Krant, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. "Since this is a relatively new area of skin care, many people are using oils without understanding them."

More from The Stir: 6 Ways Natural Oils Can Solve Your Worst Beauty Problems

4. Some oils will throw off your skin's balance. Careful use of the right, high-quality oils has been known to enhance some people's skin. However, Dr. Palm warns, "Some products could be too emollient-based, and could cause you to reproduce more sebum, or become a catalyst for demodex [skin mite] growth." Test new oils on a small patch of skin first.

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5. Coconut oil isn't for everyone. "I've had a lot of patients use coconut oil and tea tree oil," Dr. Palm says. "And whether it's the oil or something else, I've seen acne beak-outs." She says it could be excess emollients (again) or some other ingredient lurking in a product.

6. Coconut oil does not make good sunscreen. Dr. Palm says the current research shows that it gets you a 4 SPF. "That's really poor coverage," she says. She recommends a sunscreen with physical blockers like titanium oxide. "They shouldn't irritate the skin, newer products are not chalky, and they're not absorbed by your skin," Dr. Palm says. "In fact, oxide acts as an ant-inflammatory, and could aid in repairing skin."

The more you know! Ultimately, a little investigating will go a long way toward helping you get the most out of essential oils while avoiding potential unpleasant side effects.

What kinds of essential oils do you like using? Have you ever had a bad reaction?

 

Image via Olga Miltsova/shutterstock

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