How Does Aromatherapy Affect the Skin?

When essential oils are applied to the skin, in addition to their effect on the skin, they are also taken into the body by inhalation and create different effects. Aromatherapy can thus affect a person simultaneously through many different mechanisms.

There are three main ways essential oil molecules enter the body and act. 

  • By inhalation; When we inhale essential oils, they are absorbed in the respiratory tract. 

  • When applied topically; through skin absorption,

  • As a tablet or capsule; They can enter the bloodstream by oral ingestion.

In general, aromatherapy helps regenerate cells by increasing blood flow and lymphatic circulation in tissues. When it is on the skin surface, the effect of essential oils can be easily observed. But most essential oils enter the body through inhalation. Once in the systemic circulation, it acts on hormones and nerves and develops different effects mentally and emotionally. 

Aromatherapy is called holistic therapy because it can affect a person in many different ways at once.

Structure of the skin

The skin consists of several layers and is located above a muscle layer covered with subcutaneous fat. This fat layer contains blood vessels, hair follicles and sweat glands. The epidermis is the tough outer layer of the skin. The cells of the epidermis are in a continuous process of change and renewal, which lasts about 28 days. 

The dermis is the inner thicker layer of living skin. It is made of connective tissue filled with nerves and other cells. Passing through the dermis are blood capillaries, hair follicles, sebaceous glands, sweat glands and nerves. Transdermal application (patches) are used by drug manufacturers by being adhered to the skin as they can pass through the skin and into the underlying blood vessels. Nicotine patches are perhaps the best-known example of this drug delivery system. 

Essential oils are thought to penetrate the skin in several ways. They can enter through hair follicles or sweat glands, and pass into the systemic circulation through capillaries. They are thought to pass through tissue very efficiently, as they can penetrate the fatty layers (lipophilically) and pass through the interstitial fluid. The ability of essential oils to circulate in body tissue has been well reported, and it has been shown that massaged essential oil components can be detected in bodily wastes such as urine, faeces and sweat, and outward breath. 

Effects on the Endocrine System

Many mechanisms in the body are largely regulated by hormones. It is produced by many hormone glands, endocrine system, including the pituitary gland, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal cortex, ovaries, testicles, and pancreas. Some essential oils are known as ‘phytohormones’ indicating that these plant substances (phyto-) can in some respects mimic the activity of human hormones. For example (phyto-estrogens). 

The skin is affected by hormonal activity. Some women find that their skin condition changes at different times of the menstrual cycle or during menopause; The onset of puberty, an exceptional period of hormonal activity, can cause blemishes or acne. 

The use of certain essential oils in beauty therapy can act as a harmonizing of hormones and lead to improved skin condition. For example, some oils are: sage, fennel, geranium and ylang-ylang.