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When the world feels overwhelming, a few drops of essential oils can do the trick to relieve some stress (and make any room smell wonderful). We already can’t get enough of tea tree, rosemary and peppermint oil, so it’s no shocker that lavender oil ranks high among these popular beauty go-tos. But how well do you know this beloved multipurpose oil?

What is lavender oil?

Lavender oil is distilled from the plant lavender (lavandula angustifolia). It has become one of the most popular forms of aromatherapy, touting a long list of properties such as anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial and antimicrobial, to name a few.

What are the benefits of using lavender oil?

Lavender oil has both beauty and medical benefits to soothe, relieve and treat the skin, hair and body. A few drops can help anxiety and insomnia while also having the ability to treat allergies, sunburns and dark spots. The herb alone contains components like linalool and linalyl that contribute to some of the benefits you’ll find below.

Now that the important details are out of the way, let’s get to the 16 lavender oil uses that go way beyond your diffuser.

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1. Alleviating anxiety

While there are limited studies and trials that prove lavender oil soothes anxiety for good, a 2005 study tested patients at a dental office and found that it improved their moods and reduced some of their stress while they waited for dental treatment. Another study determined the oil even had a hand in reducing anxiety especially for women with postpartum. This is likely because the oil can have an impact on the limbic system (which is a part of the brain that controls emotion) in a positive, anxiety-reducing way.

To try it for yourself, mix a few drops with a carrier oil (like coconut, jojoba or olive oil), apply it to your skin (like the temple, behind your ears, forehead or wrists, to name a few), and settle into a cozy spot for a much-need break. (It’s important to note that lavender oil shouldn’t replace any treatment for any type of anxiety disorder and you should consult with your health provider for medical help.)

2. Treating insomnia

Having trouble sleeping? According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), studies show the lavender oil’s odor improved the quality of sleep in their participants, while another study from NCBI found that inhaling the oil can soothe the nervous system.

Simply apply a mixture of lavender oil and a carrier oil of your choosing (equal parts for both) onto your wrists, palms or soles of your feet before bed to relax your body for sleep. You can also add a few drops into your diffuser or spray some onto your pillow to keep the soothing scent lingering around you for the rest of the night.

3. Improving acne

Lavender oil’s antibacterial and antimicrobial properties help soothe and heal acne, especially unwanted breakouts. Just a mix of the oil with a carrier (like argan or coconut oil) can work to unclog pores, reduce any redness and soothe irritations. Apply the combo after cleansing your face to kill any leftover bacteria or excess oil buildup.

4. Reducing the appearance of dark spots and scarring

Speaking of acne, the essential oil can also improve skin conditions. A component found in lavender—linalyl acetate—can reduce hyperpigmentation and discoloration. Dermatologist Dr. Jaggi Rao states that using the oil topically can also speed up the wound healing process.

Just mix two drops of lavender oil and a carrier oil (like pomegranate) before using a cotton pad to pat the product onto the dark spots or irritated areas.

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5. Smoothing wrinkles and fine lines

Let the antioxidant properties work to fade fine lines and wrinkles over time. Just a few drops with coconut oil can be your new daily moisturizer. While it won’t completely change your skin’s appearance overnight, it can be a great addition to your skincare routine.

6. Relieving sunburns

We already know lavender oil’s anti-inflammatory benefits work to reduce redness and irritation, but you can finally say goodbye to the sunburn you just got from a day at the beach too. After a refreshing shower, apply a combination of three drops of lavender oil and two teaspoons of coconut oil to the irritated area.

Consider making a sunburn remedy spray by mixing ¼ cup of aloe vera, two tablespoons of distilled water, 10 to 12 drops of lavender oil and a carrier oil together. Just spray the mixture two to three times a day to relieve any discomfort or pain.

7. Healing wounds

While there’s limited evidence of this (aside from a 2016 study done on rats), lavender oil potentially hosts a few properties that suggest it can boost the healing process, calm the skin and encourage tissue growth for minor scars, scrapes and wounds. If the wound is not sever and you’re not sensitive to lavender (always do a test patch on your skin to find out), use three to four drops of lavender oil and a two to three drops of coconut oil combined and apply on the wound a few times a week for better results.

8. Making a homemade deodorant

Fresh out of your usual stick? No problem. Consider a natural alternative by dabbing a few drops under your pits.

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9. Improving digestion

The aromatherapy oil is known for relaxing and calming the body, so adding a small amount to your tea, water or coffee can improve any digestion issues you may be experiencing (i.e. stomach pain, constipation, etc).

10. Relieving nasal congestion

A 2016 study investigated how aromatherapy oils impacted patients dealing with allergies, the common cold and overall nasal congestion. The results? Patients using lavender aromatherapy showed significantly higher improvements.

Just add a few drops into a diffuser or four to six drops in a bowl of hot water, and let the steam help open up your airways.

11. Nourishing a dry scalp

The antifungal and antimicrobial properties of lavender oil help kill off any unwanted bacteria, dirt and product buildup. A 2014 review explains that its antimicrobial actives work to prevent any fungi or bacteria from developing, hence minimizing any scalp issues like itchiness, irritation and dandruff. Start applying two to three drops into your haircare products or creating a combination with a carrier oil, then massage the mixture onto your scalp and rinse.

12. Promoting hair growth

There’s limited research available to prove lavender oil promotes hair growth (aside from the results of a 2016 study on mice). But similar to how the antibacterial properties work to encourage tissue growth for wounds, it may also promote healthy cell growth and increase circulation to the hair follicles.

While we can’t promise it’ll get the job done, it can still be a good addition to your hair routine just for the fragrance alone. Create your very own hair mask by adding a combo of lavender oil and a carrier oil onto your hair, leaving it on for five to ten minutes and rinsing it out (or you can leave it overnight to let the benefits work while you sleep).

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13. Flavoring your meals

Whether you’re making a sweet treat like lavender shortbread cookies or a savory meal like pork chops, consider adding a few drops of lavender oil to your meal. (And yes, the FDA states lavender oil is OK for consumption.) The oil gives your dish a hint of a floral flavor that can upgrade any dish. Just make sure to read the instructions on the bottle before using and incorporate about a teaspoon of the oil.

14. Freshening your room in a spray

Speaking of laundry, keep your clothes and linens fresh all year long with a homemade room spray. To make your own, mix two tablespoons of rubbing alcohol (can swap for witch hazel), ten to twelve drops of lavender oil, and six tablespoons of distilled water together. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle, shake and start spraying it on just about anything—like linens, towels and pillows—to add a refreshing scent to your home.

15. Calming insect bites

No one enjoys being eaten alive by mosquitoes, so relieve some of the itching with a DIY repellent. Mix one cup of water and 4 drops of lavender oil into a spray bottle before spraying the mixture onto your bites. (It’s also optional to add a drop of peppermint oil for a hydrating, tingling effect.) The combo can help reduce inflammation and minimize any swelling.

16. Easing muscle soreness

After a long day, a nice bath sounds like a great idea. If you have body aches and sore muscles, just add a few drops of lavender oil to your bath. Light some candles, play some soothing music and soak in the bath for 20 minutes (because you deserve it).

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A few more things you should know...

Now that you found some helpful lavender oil uses, here are just a few more key things to know before buying and using your own:

How much should I use?

There’s actually no recommended daily use of lavender oil, but most DIY mixes call for just a few drops at a time. So be conservative with it. Shrankhla Holeck, founder and CEO of UMA oils, says: “Because they're so concentrated, essential oils must be handled with care, and in almost all circumstances, should be diluted in a carrier before being applied to your skin.” It’s important to stress that lavender oil shouldn’t replace any medical treatments, and you should always consult with a healthcare professional before attempting to use it for any serious medical needs.

Are there any possible side effects?

Lavender oil has been deemed safe. However, some people may experience skin irritation (aka redness, rashes, etc.) if it’s applied directly onto the skin without a carrier. If an allergic reaction occurs, stop using the oil immediately and consult with a medical professional. Some folks may also experience stomach discomfort, headaches or increased appetite. Again, talk to your doctor about ingesting or using lavender oil (especially when The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved it for medical use). Plus, remember that lavender oil should not replace any prescriptions and/or medicines you are using to treat any condition.

So...I shouldn’t put lavender oil directly onto my skin?

You can…but not by itself. Lavender oil is still considered an allergen and people with sensitive skin may react to it. Make sure to try a small sample on your skin beforehand and always a carrier oil (like coconut, jojoba and argan oil, to name a few) before trying any of the uses below.

Got it. What should I look for when buying lavender oil?

There are many variations of lavender oil, so it’s important to check the labels to make sure no other oils or ingredients are interfering with the pure oil you’re looking for. If a carrier oil like coconut, jojoba are listed alongside lavender, it’s most likely that it’s been diluted. Pure lavender oil is usually packaged in dark amber or cobalt bottles.

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