Whether it’s an allergic reaction, your clothes are too tight, or even an unknown cause, dealing with a rash is never a pleasant experience. Burning, inflammation, itchiness and rough patches are some of the most obnoxious skin conditions we can experience. For those not keen on dousing their skin with chemicals and artificial ingredients found in most over-the-counter skin products, essential oils are a soothing, natural option.
There are endless types of rashes, ranging from those developed as an allergic reaction, to chronic skin conditions. Any change in color, texture, inflamed, or irritated skin can be defined as a rash. What pops into your head when you hear the word rash? Maybe poison ivy? How about diaper rash? Razor burn, perhaps? While these are extremely common and will fade after a few days of treatment, many people suffer from chronic skin conditions such as eczema and rosacea. Such conditions can make activities of daily living both painful and embarrassing, affecting sufferers on not only a physical level but an emotional one as well. So how do you know what type of rash you may be suffering from? Below are several symptoms and causes of the most common types of rashes.
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Different Types of Rashes
Eczema (Atopic dermatitis)
Eczema is a chronic skin condition in which sufferers experience dry, itchy red skin. Often, sufferers will experience flare-ups in localized parts of the body such as arms and legs, hands, feet and upper body. Medical experts are unaware of what causes this condition but have made an association between family allergy history and an individual’s eczema development. Flare-ups can be caused by skin care products, certain fabrics, stress and environment.
Allergic reaction (contact dermatitis)
When we think of poison ivy or chemical reactions, contact dermatitis is the technical name for the resultant rash. This type of rash occurs following exposure to a skin irritant. These irritants will cause a reaction on the skin of anyone exposed to them, but certain individuals may be particularly sensitive. Contact dermatitis produces a red rash that may be extremely itchy and accompanied by bumps or even blisters.
Friction rash (Intertrigo)
Intertrigo is caused by skin-to-skin friction. It occurs most frequently in moist, warm areas of the body that experience friction with other body parts. Chafing between the thighs, under the breasts and even between folds of skin is the cause of this rash, resulting in painful, red skin and sometimes bleeding.
Psoriasis is caused by a rapid increase in the skin cell life cycle. Due to this increase, a buildup of rough, scaly skin develops on the affected area. This build-up creates patches of thick, dry, itchy and scaly skin that may even be painful. Most often, it flares up from time to time and diminishes over days or weeks.
Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that presents on facial skin of those affected. Generally, sufferers will experience breakouts due to an increase in blood flow to the skin. This can be triggered by skin care products, sun exposure, stress and even certain foods. The resultant rash creates redness of the face and may include small bumps.
Other types of rashes include heat rash, chicken pox, hives, stress rash and sun rash. No matter the size or type of rash, treating the condition as quickly and diligently as possible is essential. While most over-the-counter skin treatments contain artificial ingredients and harmful chemicals, essential oils are simply plant extracts. Our skin is the largest organ of our body and we should treat it as such. What we place on our skin is absorbed directly into our bodies; if you wouldn’t squeeze hydrocortisone cream right onto your kidneys, why would you put it on your skin?
Why Essential Oils?
Essential oils are extracted from plants through one of two processes: distillation, or expression. Distillation uses water and steam to extract plant oil, while expression extracts oil through cold pressing. These methods allow the oils to retain the properties of the plant from which they originate, creating a therapeutic modality that existed long before the invention of the chemicals we now consider “treatment.” Many essential oils contain powerful antiseptic, antimicrobial, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that make them a perfect choice for the treatment of rashes. An essential component of rash treatment is the maintenance of clean skin. To avoid infection in an already vulnerable area, keeping skin free from bacteria is crucial to healing and recovery. Because essential oils fight off unwanted bacteria, they provide a barrier from harsh environmental conditions. In addition, due to the moisturizing nature of essential oils, affected skin is kept hydrated, soothing dryness and irritation and enhancing the healing process.
There are several essential oils used for the treatment of rashes, many having results superior to over-the-counter medications. Not only are these a better option for overall health, they have stood the test of time, having been used by some of the oldest and most well-known cultures in the world.
The Best Essential Oils for Rash Treatment
1. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is extracted from the Australian plant Melaleuca alternifolia. It has incredible antiseptic properties and has been proven to kill fungi, viruses and bacteria. It has been tested in hundreds of studies and has been deemed an effective treatment for a variety of skin conditions including:
- Insect bites
- Skin sores
- Fungal infections such as candida and jock itch
- Skin conditions caused by staph infections
Often times, physicians may actually prescribe tea tree oil over conventional medication for several skin conditions because of its lack of harmful side effects. Because of their powerful antiviral and antimicrobial properties, it is just as effective as over-the-counter treatments. For treatment of skin conditions, mix one teaspoon carrier oil with five drops tea tree oil and apply to skin.
2. Lavender Oil
Lavender is derived from the lavender bush and is a natural antihistamine, capable of calming and soothing irritated skin. It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and is wonderful for the treatment of many skin conditions. It is also well-known for its anti-fungal, antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. It has been used for thousands of years for the treatment of various ailments and its name is actually derived from the Latin “lavare,” meaning “to wash.” Ancient Europeans regularly benefited from the use of this oil as part of their bathing routines as they believed it to purify their skin. For the treatment of skin rashes, lavender oil can be added to bathwater or diluted with a carrier oil and applied to the skin.
3. Geranium Oil
Geranium oil is derived from none other than the geranium flower and dates back to ancient Egypt where it was known for its skin healing capabilities. It has powerful antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties and also acts as an astringent, pulling water into the skin to maintain hydration. For the treatment of rashes, combine eight drops geranium oil with two drops of carrier oil and apply to clean dry skin.
4. Rosemary Oil
From the rosemary flower comes rosemary oil, an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal and analgesic powerhouse. It is wonderful for soothing pain, itching and irritation that accompanies most rashes and its anti-inflammatory benefits calm inflamed and swollen skin. It is also a powerful antioxidant, helping to protect irritated skin from further damage that may be caused by a number of factors such as sun exposure. To treat skin conditions, dilute rosemary oil in a carrier oil and apply to the affected area after washing and drying.
5. Rose Oil
Rose oil boasts a range of benefits, from its aphrodisiac properties to treatment of chronic skin conditions. It is an impressive antiviral, antiseptic, antibacterial and astringent oil, making it a wonderful treatment for irritated or infected skin. Its anti-inflammatory properties help calm redness and make it an effective treatment for eczema and dermatitis. Rose oil also boasts a cooling effect, soothing itchiness and heat that may accompany many rashes. It may be combined with a carrier oil and applied to the affected area, or added to bathwater for a total-body treatment.
6. Peppermint Oil
Peppermint oil is a powerful analgesic oil and is capable of soothing almost any itch. It possesses intense cooling properties that not only calm irritated skin but soothe inflammation as well. Peppermint is also an antiseptic and antimicrobial agent, keeping irritated skin clean and protected from further environmental irritants. Standing the test of time, this oil dates all the way back to Greek mythology and was included as part of many therapeutic remedies by the ancient Egyptians. This oil may be used alone for skin treatment or combined with lavender and a carrier oil to form a powerful anti-itch compound that may be applied via skin compress.
7. Sandalwood Oil
From the sandalwood tree comes sandalwood oil. While it is commonly known as a fragrant addition to perfumes and body care products, it also boasts many therapeutic properties. It is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent and an emollient. Sandalwood is a fantastic choice for irritated skin as it protects from infection and helps to soothe inflammation caused by eczema and psoriasis by keeping skin hydrated. To soothe inflamed skin, combine sandalwood oil with a carrier such as coconut oil and apply to affected areas as you would lotion.
8. Cedarwood Oil
Cedarwood oil is actually believed to be one of the first essential oils ever extracted. Originating in the Himalayan region, it has been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments. It has antibacterial, antifungal, astringent and pain-killing properties, making it effective against a variety of rash symptoms. It protects the skin against further infection, relieves pain caused by irritated skin and reduces inflammation to encourage the body’s natural tissue rejuvenation response.
9. Myrrh Oil
The use of myrrh oil dates back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. It has long been used for a variety of conditions, including those affecting the skin. It possesses antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making it a valuable addition to many skin care treatments. Effective in the treatment of wounds, fungal infections and dry skin, this oil has been used for thousands of years to maintain healthy skin and bolster the immune system. Myrrh oil can be applied to the affected area either undiluted or combined with carrier oils.
To create an effective treatment with any of these oils, it is best to dilute with a carrier oil prior to application. Essential oils are extremely concentrated and proper dilution ensures that application will be soothing rather than uncomfortable. Due to their extreme potency, use of these oils without the addition of a carrier may cause discomfort such as burning. Dilution also ensures that no essential oil is wasted due to over application. Despite the term “dilution,” properties of the oils are not reduced by this practice and doing so does not make them any less effective. The most popular carrier oils for use in therapeutic treatment include the following:
- Coconut oil
- Argan oil
- Almond oil
- Olive oil
- Jojoba oil
It is not recommended to use mineral oil or petroleum jelly for dilution of essential oils as they are byproducts of petroleum manufacturing and toxic to the body. Household staples such as butter or shortening should also not be used as carrier products.
While the causes and symptoms of skin rashes are many, so are effective natural remedies. Having been endorsed for thousands of years by many ancient civilizations and continuing in their popularity today, essential oils are an effective, safe and natural alternative to pharmaceutical treatments. Our skin is a delicate organ, one that protects us from harsh environmental dangers and detoxifies our bodies. Instead of bombarding it with unnatural compounds that pose a risk of unpleasant side effects, we should treat it with reverence, using nature’s own healing ingredients. The next time you find yourself suffering from a painful or irritating rash, consider treating it with a combination of these soothing and rejuvenating essential oils. Your skin will thank you.