Want To Try Lemon Oil For Skin? Here's What You Need To Know

Want To Try Lemon Oil For Skin? Here's What You Need To Know

November 27, 2023

Zesty, bright and uplifting, Lemon oil is sunshine in liquid form. Like many other essential oils, lemon oil has been celebrated as a natural health remedy, with many people claiming it’s the secret to glowing skin. But does it really work?

From aromatherapy anecdotes to scientific studies, here’s everything you need to know about lemon oil for skin.



What is lemon oil?

Lemon oil is extracted from fresh lemon peel. At The Soapery, we source lemon essential oil that is cold pressed, originating from Spain.

Lemons have been used in traditional medicine for many years. They are native to Asia and were brought to Europe in the Middle Ages.

While it was traditionally the fruit or juice that was used, lemon essential oil has become increasingly popular in aromatherapy, largely for its mood-boosting and energising properties.

You can use lemon essential oil in a diffuser, room spray or natural cleaning products. But what about on the skin?

Lemon essential oil

Is lemon oil safe for skin?

First things first, if you’re going to use lemon oil on the skin, make sure you use it safely. Like all essential oils, it must be diluted, for example in a carrier oil

Cold-pressed lemon oil shouldn’t be used at any more than a 2% dilution for skin products, apart from soap and other wash-off products.

Citrus oils can be phototoxic and our lemon oil is no different. It contains tiny amounts of bergapten, which causes sensitivity. However, if you stick to a maximum 2% dilution, it shouldn't be a problem.

Lemon essential oil has been found to have a low risk of skin irritation. Even if your skin is sensitive to fragrances, a 2% dilution of lemon oil is likely to be safe – just do a patch test first if you’re unsure.

If you do come into contact with lemon essential oil at a greater strength than 2%, you've got to avoid sun exposure for 12 hours. Definitely no sun beds!

Lemon oil for skin claims vs. evidence

You can find anecdotal use of lemon oil for everything from banishing wrinkles and brightening the complexion, to treating warts and tackling fungal infections.

In The Practice of Aromatherapy, for example, Jean Valnet recommends lemon oil as:

      • An antiseptic

      • An insect repellant

      • A treatment for verrucae and warts

      • A herpes treatment

      • Wrinkle prevention

In The Fragrant Pharmacy 1991, another classic text in aromatherapy, Valerie Ann Worwood adds chapped skin to the list of skin ailments lemon oil can treat.

There are even claims that lemon oil can lighten the skin by reducing hyperpigmentation and acting as a natural skin-bleaching agent.

Of course, to sort fact from fiction we need to take a closer look at some common claims and corresponding studies.

Lemon oil contains vitamin C

1.  Lemon oil contains vitamin C

You often find Vitamin C on the label of skin care products that aim to brighten the complexion, which may be why lemon oil is thought to brighten (and even lighten) the skin.

This myth is easy to bust. Vitamin C is water soluble so it can’t dissolve in essential oils. In short, there’s no vitamin C in lemon essential oil.

Onto the next claim!

Lemon oil for skin diseases

2.   Lemon oil can treat skin diseases

This review paper looks at the potential of essential oils, particularly lemon essential oil, for treating skin diseases like:

      • Abscesses

      • Acne

      • Athlete's foot

      • Blisters

      • Boils

      • Cellulite

      • Corns

      • Cuts

      • Grazes

      • Greasy and oily conditions

      • Mouth ulcers

      • Rosacea

      • Sores

      • Viral infections (cold sores, herpes, verrucae, and warts)

Basically, everything you don’t want on your skin.

How many people took part in the study?

None, it’s a review paper.

Which oil did they use?

A wide range of plant essential oils were reviewed, including lemon essential oil

Did they give a treatment recipe?


How much treatment was applied?

It isn’t mentioned.

KEY TAKEAWAY: The antimicrobial properties of lemon essential oil make it a potential candidate for the treatment of skin diseases.

However, most of the sources of this review paper are actually aromatherapy books.

We have a great deal of respect for aromatherapy, however this review seems to package up aromatherapy claims and present them as scientific facts.

Lets study the evidence in a bit more detail, and find out what the benefits of lemon oil for skin are.

Lemon oil for fungal infections

3. Lemon oil can treat fungal infections

This study addresses the claim that lemon essential oil can treat fungal infections.

It looks at different lemon essential oils and their antifungal potential against Candida strains, a type of fungus which can infect the skin, mouth, and genitals (commonly known as thrush).

From the six tested oils, only four showed antifungal potential against 3 of the Candida species.

How many people took part in this study?

None, this study explored lemon essential oils against five Candida yeast strains in the lab.

Which oil did they use?

Lemon essential oil from various countries including Poland, Germany, and Italy.

Did they give a treatment recipe?

The essential oils were diluted in water and polysorbate 80 (an emulsifier often used in pharmaceuticals), and tested at the concentrations of 0.6, 1.0, 1.6, 2.0, 2.6, and 3.0 %.

How much treatment was applied?

The essential oils solutions were tested using a range of lab equipment and the analysis was repeated three times for each sample.

KEY TAKEAWAY: This lab study showed that lemon oil can be antifungal, but that not all types of lemon oil kill all types of yeast. It also didn’t use people, so can’t tell us a lot about whether lemon essential oil works well for human skin.

Lemon oil antibacterial properties

4. Lemon oil is antibacterial

Next up, it’s the claim that lemon essential oil has antibacterial properties, which make for an effective ingredient in a skin cleanser.

This study looked at 21 essential oils and found that lemon essential oil exhibited moderate activity against the selected bacterial strains. Other oils, like cinnamon oil, were more effective.

How many people took part in the study?

No people. The study used six bacterial species in a lab setting.

Which oil did they use? 

The lemon oil used was Citrus Limon (Rutaceae).

Did they give a treatment recipe?

The selected essential oils were screened at four different concentrations (1:1, 1:5, 1:10 and 1:20) using a disc diffusion method.

How much treatment was applied?

The active essential oils were tested at concentrations ranging from 0.2 to 25.6 mg/ml, to find the lowest concentration that inhibited bacteria growth.

Key Takeaway: Although the study shows lemon oil can be antibacterial, it wasn’t as effective as other oils. The study wasn’t done on humans, so again, can’t tell us a lot about lemon essential oil benefits for skin.

Lemon oil for acne

5. Lemon oil can treat acne

Acne is one of the most common skin complaints. This study looks at the activity of 10 essential oils toward Propionibacterium acnes (P.acnes)  an acne-causing bacteria.

It found that lemon oil can kill the P acnes bacteria in a lab, after 30 minutes of contact. Rose, cinnamon, thyme, and lavender were more effective.

How many people took part in the study?

None, lab setting.

Which oil did they use?

The lemon oil used was Citrus limon (Burm,f, Rutaceae). 

Did they give a treatment recipe? 

They tested the essential oils at concentrations ranging from 0.016 to 0.250.

How much treatment was applied?

The antibacterial activity of the essential oil was measured over time, from 0-120 minutes.

Key takeaway: The study shows it might be worth studying lemon essential oil treatments for acne, but it isn’t the most effective essential oil from this study. 

We've studied the evidence behind tea tree oil for acne, which is more promising than the evidence behind lemon essential oil.

Lemon oil for skin

Lemon essential oil for skin: does it work?

There’s some evidence that lemon essential oil has benefits for the skin, for example treating acne, but much more research needs to be done.

Most claims are based on anecdotes, not evidence, and studies are largely carried out in labs, not on humans. In short, we can’t know whether or not it’ll work for you!

If you’d like to test out the skincare benefits of lemon oil for yourself, remember the zesty oil has a sting.  Dilute the essential oil with carrier oils, such as the ones we use in this face treatment recipe.

If you’re now doubting its skin benefits, please don’t be put off using the essential oil for other purposes. Lemon oil is a proven mood booster that can relieve stress and promote relaxation. We recommend using it in a room spray to liven up your home.

Continue reading

Now that you've learned about lemon essential oil benefits for skin, why not continue reading?

What’s your favourite essential oil for skin? Let us know in the comments!

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