Frankincense, quite literally, is a skincare ingredient of mythical proportions. The substance has been a ceremonial staple in Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and spiritual communities for centuries; it’s cited in the Bible as one of three “gifts of the magi” presented at the birth of Jesus; and Cleopatra is said to have incorporated it into her (very famous) beauty regimen. Today, frankincense is experiencing something of a rebirth in the skincare space, and after speaking with dermatologists and experts, I’m convinced: You might want to start putting frankincense oil on your face.
Sonya Dakar, iconic celebrity aesthetician and founder of her namesake skincare line, agrees. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of her Organic Omega Booster, she’s updated the cult-favorite botanical blend with a new ingredient: frankincense. “I wanted to take my most prized possession in my range, my liquid gold, and elevate it,” Dakar tells The Zoe Report. “Frankincense was a natural choice, as it has been used in anointing ceremonies since ancient biblical times.” She’s aptly named this limited anniversary edition the Anointing Oil, since “the anointing of royalty is the perfect blend of spirituality, luxury, and something so sacred.”
Frankincense doesn’t just stand on ceremony, though — the essential oil has plenty of practical beauty benefits. “It has natural astringent properties,” Dr. Rita Linkner, a board-certified dermatologist with New York City’s Spring Street Dermatology, tells TZR; meaning it balances oil production while “tightening” the skin. “Frankincense benefits include the ability to strengthen skin and improve its tone, elasticity, and defense mechanisms against bacteria or blemishes,” Dakar adds. Studies have shown frankincense to have anti-inflammatory and “tissue remodeling” properties, too. For these reasons, it’s often added to acne treatments (like Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum), anti-aging products (UMA Oils Absolute Anti-Aging Rose Honey Cleanser), and formulas for hyperpigmentation (Marie Veronique Lightening Serum, Kahina Giving Beauty Brightening Serum).
As an essential oil, frankincense also lends itself well to skincare DIYs. All you need is a few drops of the pure stuff, like vitruvi’s pure Frankincense Essential Oil, available at Sephora. “For a DIY eye oil, add two drops of frankincense to two tablespoons of your existing eye cream, or vitruvi Plum Oil, and massage in at night to naturally prevent signs of aging,” Sara Panton, the CEO and co-founder of vitruvi, tells The Zoe Report. (I personally do this with frankincense and coconut oil, and it’s divine.) “Or, add three drops of frankincense essential oil and two drops of geranium essential oil to a warm face cloth for a quick facial steam on the go,” she says. “Press the warm cloth of your face for a few seconds, then wipe your face clean.”
In addition to tightening and brightening your skin, frankincense products deliver a dose of aromatherapy: Its scent — an earthy, spiced incense — is said to lower stress levels, calm anxiety, and promote sleep. (So these products are the perfect addition to your nighttime skincare routine.)
There are a few risks to note. Essential oils are extremely potent, so if you’re DIYing with pure frankincense (as opposed to using a pre-made product), always dilute it in a carrier oil — like jojoba, coconut, or olive oil — first. “All essential oils are best diluted, especially on sensitive skin or on dry or cracked skin,” Panton says, noting the ideal ratio is two drops of essential oil to two tablespoons of carrier oil. “Pregnant or nursing women and children should consult their health care provider before using any products with essential oils,” Dakar adds.
Ahead, 11 ways to anoint your skin with the legendary oil-balancing, blemish-clearing, skin-brightening power of frankincense oil.
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