These days, I keep a vial of lavender essential oil stashed in my desk drawer. Whenever stress starts mounting, I give it a nice, long whiff. In that moment, peace seems briefly restored. And while aromatherapists have touted lavender’s calming effects for decades, more recently, the scientific community seems to have taken an interest, too.
“A growing body of scientific evidence supports [aromatherapists’] beliefs with clinical data,” notes Paula Provenzano, National Education Manager for Jurlique® Organic Skincare. Lavender is ubiquitous in sleep-inducing and/or calming products, including bath soaks, pillows, and sleep mists. Yet another area lavender has sprouted up in is skincare — but perhaps not for the reason you’d imagine.
Sure, slathering on a lavender-scented moisturizer before bed can cue your brain to chill (try Milk Makeup’sTM new nighttime serum, $36, starring English lavender oil and melatonin). More interestingly, though, lavender also touts a range of targeted skincare benefits, including anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant effects. These come from lavender’s more than 100 naturally-occurring chemicals, explains Provenzano, who calls the plant a “phytochemical powerhouse.” (Phytochemicals are simply chemicals that occur naturally in plants. Flavonoids and limonene are two familiar phytochemicals found in lavender; both are rich in antioxidants.) For this reason, many natural skincare brands formulate with lavender extract, often in lieu of synthetic chemicals.
True lavender aficionados may be thinking, “Wait, there are multiple types of lavender,” which is true — just as there are different varieties of apples. Two of the four main types are English lavender and French lavender, which are named after the countries in which they originated. Today, both types are grown in numerous countries around the world, Provenzano notes.) “Lavandula Angustifolia (English lavender) has a sweeter, slightly less camphor-like, or medicinal aroma, than Lavandula [dentata] (French lavender or lavandin),” says Provenzano. The former seems to be more popular in skincare formulas — though, personally, I prefer the smell of French lavender. Find it in 100% PureTM French Lavender Shower Gel, $20, or mingling with ylang ylang in the Diptyque® Softening Hand Wash, $42. Provenzano notes that, while chemical composition differs slightly, the two primarily-used kinds of lavender offer the same therapeutic value in skincare.
Kat Burki, founder of the eponymous skincare line, uses cold-pressed English lavender in all of her product formulations. “Lavender is packed with powerful antioxidants and free-radical scavengers, [which] protect the skin from harsh elements, pollutants, and other aggressors,” she confirms, adding, “lavender has soothing, anti-inflammatory, and healing properties.” Because of its calming effect on the skin (and the mind, lest we forget!), Burki says lavender is ideal for mature and/or sensitive skin types. (Try it in the Naturopathica® Lavender Protective Moisturizer SPF 17, $64, which contains English lavender and anti-inflammatory turmeric.)
Interestingly, Burki also recommends lavender for oily, “over-functioning” skin. Here’s why: “It has antibacterial, anti-microbial, as well as anti-fungal properties,” she explains. For these reasons, you’ll find it in pore-clearing products like Odacité® Jo + LTM Clogged Pores Facial Serum Concentrate ($36), which contains English lavender and non-comedogenic jojoba oil.
Historically, lavender has been used as an antiseptic ingredient and wound healer. Though most of us wouldn’t think of applying lavender on our wounds these days, Provenzano brings up an interesting point as it relates to modern-day skincare: “Even in an age where cosmetic chemistry has the capability to create so many new ingredients, we still find some of the very best ones blooming in the garden!”
Learn more about beneficial botanicals in skincare:
- Blue Tansy is Ideal For Redness-Prone, Winter-Worn Skin
- Olive Oil, Face Cupping, and More Skin and Beauty Secrets Acupuncturists Love
- What You Need to Know Before Trying Organic Skincare — and 7 Formulas You’ll Love
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