Aromatherapy and Skins Types

The purpose of this article is to help professional aromatherapists, especially when they are newly qualified to use the right base oils and essential oils when treating and it is important to factor this into the consultation.

What is skin type?

The four most common skin types are:

  1. Normal (no apparent signs of oily or dry areas)

  2. Oily (shine appears on skin, no dry areas at all)

  3. Dry (flaking can appear, no oily areas at all)

  4. Combination (oily and dry or normal areas)

There is also sensitive skin that can be easily irritated. Typical reactions are itching, burning, chafing and stinging. Clients often state that after a wash it feels dry and itchy in places and by midday there are flaky patches and some redness. Occasionally it will break out in spots. When treating sensitive skin with aromatherapy, you should avoid all rubefacient oils that are known skin irritants and sensitizers such as Angelica, Black pepper, Rosemary, Clove, Peppermint etc. as these can make the skin react.

What influences skin type?

Outside factors can and do influence the way the skin looks and feels. To effectively evaluate the skin and determine the correct base oils/essential oils to choose, the following factors need to be considered:

  • Internal factors: such as hormonal changes (pregnancy, menopause, menstrual cycle, etc.) , health problems (rosacea, psoriasis, thyroid disorders, etc.). There may be genetic predisposition of skin type (oily versus dry, prone to breakouts, or sensitive skin). The skin can be affected by smoking and of course any medication the client may be taking.

  • External factors: such as climate/weather (cold, warm, moist, dry). Sometimes as aromatherapists we need to discuss client’s skin-care routine as there may be a case of over-moisturizing or exfoliating, or using irritating or drying products. Another important factor externally is sun exposure, which can damage the skin.

Is skin type determined by age?

It is indisputable that older skin is different to younger skin, and we all experience those changes as we age. In aromatherapy, when treating older or younger skin with blends we do not aim at dealing with specific age ranges as this would not make sense as not everyone with “older” or “younger” skin has the same needs, yet it’s a trap many women (especially older women) fall into when buying cosmetics. It seems that everyone is afraid of growing old, but using essential oils on your skin diluted in various carrier media may just be the answer and it can be blended especially to suit your own skin type and any internal or external factors as mentioned above.

For example, an older person may still have acne, blackheads, eczema, rosacea, sensitive skin, or oily skin, while a younger person may have dry, freckled, or obviously sun-damaged skin. The key issue with skin type needs to be the actual condition of the skin, not age. Everyone, regardless of age, need sun protection and antioxidants, and possibly treatment of skin discolorations (either potential or existing), dry or oily skin, or breakouts. Wrinkles may tend to separate younger from older skin, but the care you give the skin doesn’t necessarily differ. Not everyone in their 40’s and older has the same skin care needs. In a way it’s simple: You need to pay attention to what is taking place on the skin, and that varies from person to person.

What about skin colour?

When blending for any skin with essential oils, absolutes and resins, you review all the factors that make the presenting skin what it is. All skin has the same possible range of problems, no matter what the colour is. According to an article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (February 2002, pages 41–62) “There is not a wealth of data on racial and ethnic differences in skin and hair structure, physiology, and function. What studies do exist involves small patient populations and often has methodological flaws. Consequently, few definitive conclusions can be made. The literature does support a racial differential in epidermal melanin [pigment] content and melanosome dispersion in people of colour compared with fair-skinned persons…. These differences could at least in part account for the lower incidence of skin cancer in certain people of colour compared with fair-skinned persons; a lower incidence and different presentation of photo aging; pigmentation disorders in people with skin of colour; and a higher incidence of certain types of alopecia [loss of hair] in Africans and African Americans compared with those of other ancestry.”