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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"The Organic Omega Booster 30th Anniversary Limited Edition consists of organic linseed oil blended with frankincense, Moroccan rose, Judean orange flower, Egyptian geranium, and Tunisian jasmine," Dakar says — so yeah, in addition to making skin super-soft and clear, it smells *amazing.*
"Beyond just chilling you out for a post-yoga meditation glow, frankincense essential oil also has great topical benefits for the skin," Panton says. Add a few drops of this to your usual eye cream to brighten dark circles, or add it to an essential oil diffuser to reap the aromatherapy rewards.
Marie Veronique's serum includes frankincense and vitamin C — so if you're looking for bright, even skin tone, look no further.
While frankincense helps balance oil production, willow bark (a natural source of salicylic acid) fights blemishes.
With 190 near-perfect reviews, True Botanicals' Pure Radiance Oil was shown to "outperform Creme de La Mer in independent clinical trials," the brand says on its site. Maybe because of the frankincense inside?
Ayurveda-inspired brand Uma Oils relies on firming frankincense in its Absolute Anti-Aging Rose Honey Cleanser.
This all-over balm can be used anywhere skin needs a little extra hydration and glow, from under-eyes to cuticles.
Formulated to prevent and reverse fine lines, Tammy Fender's serum features a lineup of potent naturals — including frankincense, carrot seed oil (full of antioxidants), and rosehip oil (to promote cellular turnover).
Dealing with hyperpigmentation? Reach for this frankincense- and sandalwood-spiked serum.
Blue tansy essential oil calms irritated skin, while frankincense essential oil calms anxiety.