Essential Oils and Rosacea: Not A Great Idea

Because so many people are affected by rosacea, a common inflammatory skin condition that results in red facial flushing, itching and small pimple-like bumps, there are lots of tips and tricks circulating the internet about how to alleviate symptoms. One of the most popular of these tips is to use sea buckthorn oil and other essential oils to kill a specific type of microscopic mite that has been associated with rosacea. Before you try this, however, here’s what you need to know.

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The Link between Rosacea and Demodex Mites

It is believed that mites and other micro-organisms on your skin can contribute to rosacea.  Demodex is a species of microscopic mite that is naturally present on human skin, whether you have rosacea or not. In most cases, Demodex is completely harmless and may even be beneficial. However, clinical research has shown that many people with rosacea tend to have much greater numbers of this mite living on their skin, which seems to trigger inflammation and therefore flare-ups of their symptoms (National Rosacea Society).

The reason certain essential oils have gained some spotlight as treatments for rosacea is because they may successfully reduce the number of Demodex on your skin. According to a report published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, tea tree oil, sage oil, and peppermint oil are the most effective essential oils for rapidly killing these mites. Other oils like sea buckthorn oil and aloe essential oil took more than three days to have an effect on Demodex mites. (Demodex mites can cause dry red eyes as well as red skin.)

Potential Problems

While there is evidence that tea tree, sage, and peppermint oils could effectively kill Demodex mites, there are a few notable challenges with this treatment method. First, some essential oils can cause dryness and irritation, especially for people with sensitive skin. Peppermint, oregano and sage oil are actually very irritating to most people and can worsen redness and inflammation and cause a rosacea flare.

Secondly, while there is evidence that larger amounts of Demodex mites are present on the skin of people with rosacea, this is not be the only cause of a flare-up. In fact- not all doctors agree that these mites are the cause of rosacea. Therefore, killing the mites will not completely alleviate your symptoms. In fact- no studies have shown that essential oils will improve the symptoms of rosacea.

Lastly, rosacea has been linked with a higher risk for certain health conditions, including heart disease, certain cancers, and gastrointestinal disorders (National Rosacea Foundation). Because of this, it is important to get rosacea under control with prescription medications that have been proven to work.

The Latest in Rosacea Treatments

Fortunately, there are now a number of treatment options for those with rosacea, including the prescription Rhofade™, a once-daily topical cream to help calm skin redness. Soolantra® is a topical ivermectin prescription cream that kills the mites on the skin.

Oracea® is an oral antibiotic that can treat the small acne-like bumps that are sometimes a symptom of rosacea, although this medication won’t address flushing. Metrogel® is a topical antibiotic with anti-inflammatory properties that has been shown to treat both bumps and redness. Metrogel® also contains a blend of ingredients to help enhance the absorption rate of the active ingredient, while simultaneously helping your skin to seal in moisture.

Talk to your doctor to see which is the best for you.  You can find a board certified dermatologist at

Diet, Lifestyle and Rosacea

It can also be helpful to determine and avoid the triggers that tend to cause your rosacea flare-ups. Some of the most common triggers for this condition include very hot or cold temperatures, exercise, sun exposure, spicy foods and alcohol. Adding anti-inflammatory foods like flaxseed oil, nuts, and seeds to your diet may help to calm redness and flushing.

The Bottom Line

While it can be tempting to try the latest natural remedies for conditions like rosacea, do a little research first. Before you self-treat rosacea, be sure to see your dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and professional treatment recommendations. If you are thinking about trying essential oils to help reduce inflammation caused by mites, it’s a good idea to run this by your dermatologist first. Lasers such as the VBeam laser by Syneron can also treat the redness associated with rosacea.

If you have rosacea- come and hear others with sensitive skin and rosacea talk about their skin care issues in my Skin Type Talks series on You Tube.

October 10, 2017 Rosacea