Essential Oils to Avoid if you have Sensitive or Reactive Skin

Essential Oils to Avoid if you have Sensitive or Reactive Skin

Posted by Kiri Yanchenko on

*Disclaimer - Not all synthetic ingredients in products are harmful and not all ‘natural’ ingredients in products are safe.

Through my entire health journey, I have spent years figuring out what ingredients don’t agree with my sensitive and reactive skin. I started a skin blog which helped me identify what was causing my skin to react to certain foods, products, or ingredients. And I spent a lot of time researching ingredients and connecting with people in forums who suffered from the same skin concerns as I did like pustular acne and perioral dermatitis.

This cross-section of findings would lead me on to my next chapter; to create AMPERNA® skincare. I worked with one of Australia’s leading chemists with over 20 years’ experience formulating skincare and haircare products.

Skin health is so crucial. The great thing about the AMPERNA® products are that they have been specially formulated to serve a purpose or skin condition. All the ingredients have been chosen to work synergistically for great skin health.” Rita, AMPERNA®’s head chemist.

 AMPERNA® Essential Oils to Avoid

Though essential oils smell sweet and sound innocent, they are highly concentrated essences that can cause skin damage and irritation.

But before I start, I’d like to make this very clear, I strongly suggest if you’re suffering from any skin concerns, to start your own skin journal to work out your triggers, first and foremost. And, what I’m sensitive to doesn’t necessarily mean you will be sensitive to as well.

In saying that, skincare is a science. The wellness trend is still going strong, and more and more brands are jumping on the ‘natural’ or ‘clean’ bandwagon. So please use caution and do your research before investing in a product as not all ingredients deemed ‘natural’ are necessarily safe for your skin.

AMPERNA® Essential Oils to Avoid

What are Essential oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts obtained from flowers, stems, bark, leaves, roots and selected fruits through mechanical pressing or distillation. This retains the natural smell and/or flavour of the plant source.

Essential oils are mostly used in aromatherapy for their reported mental and physical wellbeing benefits. They are also added to an array of everyday products for their appealing aroma or antibacterial properties. But it's the volatile fragrance that can be problematic for your skin.

A good rule of thumb is if it smells heavily fragranced in the bottle it will rarely be good for your skin.

Quick Facts

Did you know essential oils will break down in plastic? So, they need to be stored in dark-coloured glass bottles to preserve their quality. They are also light sensitive which means they will break down over time when exposed to light.

Why Essential Oils are Bad for Your Skin

Certain essential oils can cause irritation on the skin, particularly if the concentration is too high. Some oils are known to be riskier than others, including:

  • Citrus Oils (lemon, orange, and bergamot) These can be phototoxic, meaning they react to UV light and can cause skin to burn and blister
  • Cinnamon bark
  • Clove
  • Lemongrass
  • Lavender
  • Oregano
  • Peppermint
  • Jasmine
  • Tee Tree Oil

These are all known to cause irritation and are oils I avoid using in any of my day-to-day products.

AMPERNA® Essential Oils to Avoid

People with underlying skin conditions like psoriasis, rosacea or eczema should be particularly cautious with using essential oils. 

If you have sensitive or reactive skin like I do, and are considering essential oils for skin conditions, then the oils mentioned above found in products (from your toothpaste to shampoo and conditioner to body moisturizers and laundry powder) may wreak havoc on your skin.

The most common side effects include redness, chemical burns, headaches, swelling and blisters. Although many brands also claim that the antibacterial properties of essential oils (like tea tree oil) help fight acne, they can make breakouts even worse.

Our skin, the largest organ of the body, is very sensitive and can be easily irritated by the wrong products for you. Even if you don’t see a reaction to a product immediately it may also be occurring beneath the surface of the skin, cumulatively leading to problems later down the track.

CASE POINT: Just recently I was contacted by a woman who was suffering from constant breakouts and she couldn't pinpoint exactly why or where it was stemming from. After we dissected her entire skin-diary, lifestyle and dietary habits, as well as her stress management she informed me she used essential oils as part of her mental and physical wellbeing. Every day she would drop essential oils into her hands for a deep breathing exercise as well as drop some in the crown of her head to calm her nervous system...

BINGO! There was her culprit! Her skin was not liking these essential oils and she is now more conscious about what she's using on and near her skin.

Everyone’s reactions to essential oils will be different, you just need to be skin-aware, patch test and pay attention to any side effects.

Food for thought

There’s research showing that small amounts of essential oils in products (such as 0.5% - 1%) are found to be non-irritating, but this research doesn’t consider exactly how many different oils are used in one product alone. And what concentrations the other essential oils used are.

Think about that across the multiple products you use daily that contain essential oils… and how the mash-up of these may be contributing to poor skin health. Since many brands don’t list the concentration details it's best to trust your nose; if it smells too good to be true it’s more likely to irritate your skin.

Essential Oils and Eczema

If you suffer from eczema it is advised to stay away from using essential oils.

Overall, research to support tea tree oil use as a topical eczema treatment is limited, with some research showing that tea tree oil can cause allergic dermatitis.

AMPERNA® Essential Oils to Avoid

You can read why from the Eczema Foundation page linked here Eczema and essential oils | Eczema Foundation (

If you suffer from eczema here are some tips to help treat this skin condition:

  • Work out your triggers (through your skin journal)
  • Moisturise (your face) – The AMPERNA® Lightweight Soothing+ Emulsion [HYDRATE] contains a ground-breaking probiotic formula, along with ceramides, hyaluronic acid and emollients to help nourish the skin and protect it from free radical damage. This lightweight cationic moisturiser is non-irritating, won’t clog pores and is packed full of antioxidants.
  • Moisturise (your body) -  AMPERNA® BODY CARE Hydrating Gentle Lotion with Ceramides [HYDRALACTIC] is a light fragrance free easy to wear body moisturiser. It is a fast absorbing, non-greasy formula that leaves your skin feeling hydrated. It contains silverion which has antibacterial properties, salicylic acid, lactic acid, pentavitin & colloidal oatmeal. 
  • Hygiene – using products that have a pump avoids leaving any unwanted germs/bacteria that could cause infection.
  • Lukewarm water is best for bathing.
  • Avoid using a harsh loofah or washcloth.
  • Gently cleanse (your face) - AMPERNA® Ultra Gentle Soothing Cleanser [BALANCE] is a light gel cleanser that helps remove makeup while balancing the skin. This ultra-gentle formulation rinses clean without leaving an irritating residue or upsetting pH levels. It contains an infusion of sage and cucumber extracts to help cool, soothe and nourish skin.
  • Gently cleanse (your body) - AMPERNA® BODY CARE Hydrating Gentle Wash with Ceramides [CERALACTIC] is a light fragrance-free body cleanser that gently cleans while balancing the skin. This ultra-gentle formulation rinses clean without leaving an irritating residue or upsetting pH levels. It contains silverion which has antibacterial properties, salicylic acid & colloidal oatmeal. Our Hydrating Gentle Wash is free from soap, is fragrance free & can be used by people of all ages. 
  • Boost your baths – try these options to soothe your eczema:
    Baking soda (quarter cup) or ground oatmeal helps with itching
    Salt (a cup) when you have flare-ups
    Bleach (half a cup to a full standard size tub) helps reduce swelling and skin bacteria. Soak for 10 minutes, 2-3 times pr week.
  • Use mild laundry detergent and skip the fabric softener.
  • Wear soft and breathable fabrics
  • Avoid itching as much as possible


Related articles on Eczema

Infections and Eczema | National Eczema Society 

How to Treat and Prevent Eczema ( 

Essential oils and eczema: Effectiveness, side effects and more ( 

Synthetic Ingredients aren’t all bad

Just because something is made in a lab doesn’t mean it is toxic. And just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe.

Synthetic ingredients used in skincare are based on natural compounds synthesising them in a lab, making them at times more effective as well as controlling their consistent composition.

Natural only ingredients don’t come with a long shelf life, so by adding the correct synthetic ingredients in enables products to last longer.

Most brands list their ingredients on their packaging or website, so it’s always a good idea to do your own research before investing in a product.




The dangers of essential oils: Why natural isn't always safe - CNET

Essential Oils (

Essential Oils May Be Wreaking Havoc on Your Skin - The New York Times ( 

Essential Oils for Skin | Paula's Choice (

Blog article author

Written By Kiri Yanchenko

Kiri Yanchenko is the founder and CEO of AMPERNA®. Having had severe pustular acne and perioral dermatitis herself, she has a deep personal understanding of the challenges faced by having problem skin. She has over 10 years of experience in skincare and holistic skin coaching and is passionate about helping everyone feel comfortable in their own skin.

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