Do Essential Oils Actually Lighten Skin?

FDA recently warned consumers of harmful side effects from using over-the-counter skin lightening products containing hydroquinone. Hydroquinone limits the production of melanin, which is responsible for hyperpigmentation. Prolonged use of such products lead to a buildup of hydroquinone in the body, causing conditions such as rashes and facial swelling.

News like this is what prompts an increasing number of people to seek alternative remedies to get rid of dark spots and treat pigmented skin. Naturally, many turn to essential oils such as:

  1. Sandalwood essential oil, which inhibits an enzyme (tyrosinase) that catalyzes the production of melanin;
  2. Frankincense essential oil, a powerful anti-inflammatory that reduces blemishes;
  3. Lemon essential oil, which contains vitamin C that protects the skin from melanin-forming free radicals; and
  4. Tea Tree essential oil, which reduces post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation on acne-prone skin.

Essential oils, which are highly concentrated liquids containing volatile aroma compounds obtained through steam distillation, should not be applied to your skin directly. They should be diluted using a suitable carrier oil. What is a suitable carrier oil that may be used to create an effective face and/or body oil for reducing dark spots?

Carrier oils often play second fiddle to the highly-prized (as well as highly-priced) essential oils. While essential oils are extracted from plants by steam distillation, carrier oils are extracted usually from seeds, nuts and kernel by cold press.

Carrier oils do so much more than simply ‘carrying’ essential oils to our skin. Rosehip oil, carrot seed oil and tamanu oil all have skin lightening abilities in their own rights. In fact we would argue that the addition of essential oil is only necessary if you would like the carrier oil to be scented.

An oily base that reduces melanin production by 47% after 4 doses (efficacy tests on reconstructed human epidermis) has already been formulated by Vantage. It comprises oily extracts from aloe vera, rhapontic rhubarb, licorice and sunflower.

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