Eczema and Essential Oils
I have worked in the salon industry for over 30 years, and from time to time I have a client who is struggling with a skin disorder such as dermatitis, also known as eczema. Through self diagnosis I discovered that I have personally been affected by this as well. During my research on this topic, I have discovered that it is very important to know about the different types of eczema and it’s causes, before it can properly be treated.
For example, in my particular situation, for the past few years I have had inflamed, red itchy hands, especially in between my fingers. After doing some research, I concluded that this case of eczema was due to frequently washing hair every day for so many years. This can break down the skin’s natural protective barrier, and it can become more sensitive to certain conditions. At times, the itching would become so intense that I would scratch until it would bleed. This caused me a great deal of stress, to the point where it would affect my sleep and I would need to wear gloves at work during shampoo sessions. At one point, I began to purchase over the counter ointments which gave me temporary relief, but when I stopped using the products, the eczema would return. It has been very frustrating, but throughout the course of the experience, I have learned a lot. Here, I will be sharing some of what I learned, including what eczema is, the most common types of eczema, and the ways it can be treated, with a focus on using essential oils to alleviate some of the symptoms.
Eczema, is otherwise known as Dermatitis. Symptoms can vary from case to case and it does not spread from person to person. In moderate cases of eczema, the skin can be itchy and dry, In more serious cases there may be oozing and blood present. Frequent scratching can make the skin break open and bleed which makes it vulnerable to infection. The two most common types of eczema/dermatitis are atopic eczema and contact eczema. It is a mystery as to why some people develop atopic eczema. Research has shown that genetics and environmental factors play a role. For some reason, the body’s immune system overreacts to harmless things which causes the skin to become itchy and sensitive. As mentioned earlier, scratching makes the condition worse. Contact eczema, like in my case, is brought on by frequently coming in contact with a substance to which the skin becomes sensitive and reacts by itching and becoming inflamed.
This is an example of atopic dermatitis
I personally did not get a diagnosis from a dermatologist, but this is usually recommended before using any form of treatment.
Conventional medicine usually entails using a steroid cream which is very successful at reducing symptoms, but can have a high risk of side effects including adrenal problems and other glandular issues, including cancer. If it is at all possible to get symptoms to subside without using this drug, I would highly suggest trying that first.
Another method of treatment is through nutrition. Eating a plant-based, whole food diet and eliminating allergens can be helpful, as processed foods can cause inflammation in the body. This is vital in keeping the body in balance and should be a lifestyle we all strive for in keeping our skin clear and healthy.
There are also holistic approaches that can be helpful, such as herbal therapy, homeopathy, ayurvedic medicine, and mind-body therapy, all of which can be used in combination with essential oils, by way of topical treatment and also as stress management. In both atopic and contact eczema, stress can be a major factor in worsening symptoms or even causing an outbreak, so it important to reduce as much stress as possible in your daily life.
Since taking the Aromatherapy Certification Level 1 course at Aroma Hut Institute, I have tried a topical application of a few Essential Oil blends to reduce symptoms such as itching and swelling, as well as diffused and inhaled oils to help reduce mental stress.
Upon learning that “Essential oils are acidic in nature and can contribute to the skin’s protective barrier function.” (Totilo, 2013), I became inspired to work on creating a healing and protective barrier on the skin using Essential Oils.
Here I will share the essential oils blends that I used topically and aromatically, how successful the treatment was, and some other therapeutic and aromatic blends to try.
For DRY Eczema:
- 1oz carrier oil (I used Sweet Almond Oil)
- 4 drops Lavender
- 4 drops Geranium
- 3 drops Juniper Berry
- 1 drop Sandalwood (Price, 1991)
(For weeping or wet Eczema use the same formula with a carrier lotion instead of oil but without the Sandalwood). I applied the mixture morning and night for about 2 weeks.
For Stress Management:
During this 2 week time period, I added the following to my diffuser:
- 2 drops Lavender
- 2 drops Roman Chamomile
- 1 drop Neroli (Price, 1991)
Throughout the workday, I sprinkled 4 drops of lavender onto a tissue and inhaled whenever I needed to reduce my stress.
Before using essential oils
Another option for topical treatment :
- 4 tsp Aloe Vera gel
- 4 drops Yarrow,
- 4 drops Neroli,
- 2 drops Patchouli (Harding, 2008).
- 1 oz Apricot kernel oil
- 3 drops Helichrysum
- 5 drops Chamomile
- 8 drops Sage (Totilo, 2013)
Stress Relief Blend:
- Add to bath
- 2 drops Rose Otto
- 4 drops Cistus (Harding, 2008)
Since contact dermatitis/eczema is technically an allergic reaction, it is also good to focus on strengthening and balancing the immune system. Along with clean nutrition and regular exercise, immune supporting essential oils may also be helpful.
Immune Boosting Blend for massage:
- 4 tsp carrier oil
- 4 drops Linaloe Wood
- 4 drops Cardamom
- 2 drops Bergomot
There are many different essential oil combinations that can be used depending on the type of dermatitis/eczema that you are treating. I chose certain combinations, because I prefer those aromas and feel it is always better to choose oils that you would normally gravitate towards, if they also have the therapeutic properties that you need.
After using Essential Oils
I did get positive results from the essential oil treatments that I performed on myself, but it will be an ongoing journey as long as I continue to immerse my hands in water daily for my job. In closing, this was a very beneficial experience overall, and with continued use over time, I am certain I will see consistent improvements in my physical and mental well being.
Harding, Jennie. The Essential Oils Handbook: All the Oils You Will Ever Need for Health,Vitality and Well-being. London: Duncan Baird, 2008.
Price, Shirley. Aromatherapy for Common Ailments. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.
Totilo, Rebecca Park. Therapeutic Blending with Essential Oil: Decoding the Healing Matrix of Aromatherapy. Petersburg, FL: Rebecca at the Well Foundation, 2013.