Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/26/2021
Every time the topic of essential oils comes up, it seems like our first instinct is to roll our eyes.
They’re a purported cure for everything from migraines to headaches, various illnesses, cancer and just about everything in between — which is why we’re so skeptical.
So, when it comes to essential oils for wrinkles, we really wanted to feel things out. Do essentials have any scientific proof backing up their use in skincare?
Can they treat, reduce or even prevent wrinkles?
Since your skin is the largest organ you have, it may be no surprise that it’s fairly complex, and a concert of coworking blood vessels and glands.
But what we’re concerned with today are three specific proteins — collagen, elastin and keratin — which keep your skin looking youthful and ward off wrinkles.
Collagen is both the most well known and the most plentiful of the three. Collagen is an element of connective tissue, which is responsible for literally keeping your skin together, and in particular keeping it firm. Firm is good.
Meanwhile, elastin is all about flexibility (as you probably guessed) — it’s responsible for things snapping back into place, like when someone squeezes one of your cheeks.
The role of keratin is that of a barrier. Keratin is found in your hair and nails as well — it’s basically hardened armor to protect the rest of your skin from damage.
These three form the holy trinity of youth: you need them all to be functioning optimally to stay smooth and firm.
Wrinkles are what happen when your skin takes damage or degrades to the point that things aren’t running efficiently.
This is most often caused by stressors, which are things that cause it to have to heal or replenish more slowly, causing you to look, well, older.
The types of stressors can be boiled down to two theories.
Essentially, there are two source categories for damage: intrinsic and extrinsic. It’s your best bet to address both of them in treatments.
What are extrinsic sources?
Well, they might include things that happen outside of your body — smoking, sun exposure, air pollution.
They might also include bad habits like sleeping face down on your pillow, or doing things like rubbing your eyes too hard — anything that happens from outside the skin and either causes strain or produces reactive oxygen species, also known as free radicals.
Intrinsic sources tend to be things that come as you age or as the result of deficiencies, like decreased cellular function, reduced cellular lifespan and things caused by diet, age, genes, nutrition and water intake.
Free radicals get under your skin and bounce into things like pinballs, stealing electrons from whatever they touch.
Over time, this makes collagen, keratin and elastin production weaker and slower.
So where do oils come in? Well, essential oils can play a role in reducing free radicals and/or inflammation (yes, some can do both).
While we say this, it’s important to note that the evidence backing these claims is often pretty sparse, in some cases limited to just one or two studies.
That’s hardly enough for something like FDA approval, let alone our recommendation.
But as parts of a holistic skincare routine, they may have benefits for you. Here are some of the noteworthy oils, and what they claim to do for your skin health and wrinkles:
Sandalwood isn’t just a popular incense flavor. There’s some evidence that sandalwood oil may fight UV damage.
Sandalwood oil is said to inhibit an enzyme called tyrosinase, which is needed to produce melanin.
Since UV radiation is a common culprit in premature skin aging, this is a fight you might want fought.
Several promising studies have found that rosemary oil may increase skin elasticity and skin hydration when applied topically, making it good for your skin.
Use only natural rosemary to season steaks, though.
Ylang-Ylang is a tropical flower that grows near the Indian Ocean. It’s been used in aromatherapy for decades, and according to a 2015 review it boasts both antiinflammatory and antioxidative properties for skin.
A 2011 review found both antiinflammatory and antioxidative benefits to rose oil (which has been used for centuries in medicine), but, like most essential oils out there, these benefits need to be further explored for their skincare benefits before anything can be stated definitively.
According to a 1999 study lemon oil boasts some anti-inflammatory benefits and, “significantly increases the antioxidative potential of skin biosurface, thus highlighting the effectiveness of a natural antioxidant biotechnology in the antiaging management of skin.”
In other words, it could really sour free radicals.
The benefits of pomegranate oil include protection from things like cancer, photoaging and oxidative stress, according to a 2014 article.
However, it’s worth noting that this research was conducted in mice.
Further human trials and studies are necessary to understand the therapeutic potentials of pomegranate, but what we’ve seen looks pretty impressive.
Like we said, essential oils have some interesting research in the works. Most of it is potential.
However, what they don’t have is much verified support from the scientific and medical communities — at least, not the kind you should trust your skin to.
Applying rosemary every night may make you smell delicious to steak lovers, and it may even help your skin, but there are better options out there, with more proven benefits.
There are some places you should start.
One of them: Retinoids. Retinoids are synthetic vitamin A compounds that strip dead skin away and potentially aid in collagen synthesis — a double whammy of benefits.
There are prescription options, but you might want to start with something like our Anti-Aging Cream.
Speaking of vitamins, you should also check out Vitamin C. It’s a powerful antioxidant built for protecting your elastin and collagen from free radicals.
Adding a serum or topical as part of your skincare routine is a great way to supplement dietary vitamin C.
Moisture should not be overlooked, by the way.
Topical moisturizers like our Good Night Wrinkle Cream will keep your skin from looking dried out and deflated.
Moisturizers might also benefit you if they have hyaluronic acid (which helps skin retain moisture) in the formula.
Want to boost your collagen? Peptides offer an easy supplement to what your body makes.
Plenty of options are on the table if you’re ready to get serious and address skincare and aging for real.
The good news is that there are great things to be employed to notice visible improvements — the bad news is that some damage is done and irreversible without major surgery (if anything).
We’re not rubbing it in. In fact, we’re giving you the best advice we can give: don’t let this stuff go unaddressed.
The longer you wait to invest in skincare and address wrinkles, the harder they’re going to be to reverse. At a certain point, things do become permanent, too.