Happiness in a bottle, physically and psychologically. Lemon essential oil is one of the best examples of how just one ingredient has the power to improve your entire terrain in a holistic skincare routine.
Lemon essential oil is the most well-known in skin care for its effective use on acne and blemishes, but this is only the beginning of its overall health benefits that can make you glow from the inside out.
Also used as an immune-booster, stress-buster, and cognition-enhancer, lemon essential oil has so much potential for use in handmade skincare products.
Hold on tight as this article walks you through everything you need to know about this must-have oil, along with all-natural recipes that you can make at home in your own kitchen 🍋!
This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links (at no cost to you). Please read the disclosure for more information.
Lemon Essential Oil Profile
- Latin name: Citrus limon
- Botanical family: Rutaceae
- Plant part: Fresh fruit rind
- Countries of origin: Spain, Italy, France, South Africa
- Extraction method: Cold-pressed
- Aroma descriptors: Fresh, sharp, sweet, zesty
What is Lemon Essential Oil?
Lemon essential oil is an extremely concentrated oil that comes from *cold pressing the peel of the fruit.
Note that lemon essential oil is incredibly different than the lemon juice that comes from the actual fruit itself.
Because it is so concentrated, lemon essential oil needs to be diluted before use on the skin at a maximum of 1-2% to avoid irritation and sensitivities (read more on that below in the safety section!).
*Cold pressing is a common extraction method for citrus essential oils, whereas steam distillation is a more common method to obtain oils from leaves, roots, and botanicals (see this video explanation on cold pressing vs. steam distillation).
What Gives an Essential Oil its ‘Personality’?
Essential oils are made up of around 200+ tiny molecules, and the variations are what make one oil different from another in terms of aroma, use, and safety precautions.
Some of these molecules are in very small amounts, whereas some are so significant in number that they dominate the overall behavior (or ‘personality’) of the oil.
Is the oil heavy? Light? Thin? Thick? Absorbed easily? Slowly? Toxic? Non-toxic?
All of this is crucial information to know before using an essential oil for any reason, but especially for use in skin care.
Most Prominent Component in Lemon EO
Organic lemon essential oil (Citrus limon) is highest in a component called ‘limonene’ (at 67.41%, as can be seen in the red box illustration below), which is in the monoterpene chemical family.
This percentage is *significant when compared to other constituents present in lemon essential oil.
*The chart above is taken from a GC/MS report for a batch of Citrus limon (organic) on July 22, 2020 Lot #: Lemon Organic L70108 – however, most lemon essential oil is rich in the same component.
Limonene (in the Monoterpene Chemical Family)
In vitro research supports that in general, oils in the monoterpene chemical family have the following therapeutic activity:
antiseptic, reduces stagnation, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, penetrates bodily tissues easily, airborne deodorizers
D-Limonene in particular (a component found in many citrus peels, not just lemon!) has been found to activate white blood cells and is immune supportive.
Why Does this Chemistry of Lemon EO Matter?
To be forthright, you don’t need to memorize or fully digest the meanings of the chemistry notes above.
This quick peek simply gives you the science-backed WHY behind using lemon essential oil for HOLISTIC skincare.
In the descriptions of monoterpene components above, notice the range of observed therapeutic activity:
- antiseptic (prevents the growth of disease-causing organisms)
- anti-inflammatory (can help alleviate inflammation)
- penetration enhancer (helps to promote skin absorption and decrease barrier resistance)
- analgesic (helps to relieve pain)
Lemon essential oil has its OWN specific list of therapeutic properties that are useful for holistic skincare:
- anti-depressant & anxiolytic (can decrease both physical and psychological stresses)
- astringent (contracts and tightens tissues)
- cooling (evaporates quickly to cool the skin and reduce heat in the tissues)
Safety Information for Using Lemon Essential Oil
As strange as it sounds, there is quite a bit to take into consideration when using lemon essential oil for skincare.
Essential oils are incredibly concentrated, and using them directly out of the bottle without doing your homework can cause skin reactions from as minor as a rash to as painful as a real-deal chemical burn.
No essential oil lasts forever, and citrus oils in particular have the shortest shelf life of all EOs due to their chemical makeup.
Monoterpenes, which is the prominent chemical family of lemon, oxidize easily (this means the chemical bonds of the oil break down and change when exposed to heat, air, and light). Oxidized oils high in monoterpenes are very damaging to skin.
Lemon essential oil has a shelf life of 1-2 years, and that is assuming the bottle has been tightly sealed, stored in a cold environment, and away from direct sunlight.
If an oxidized lemon essential oil (one that is used past its shelf life or has been improperly stored) is used in a skin care formulation, it could lead to skin irritation or skin sensitization, which you would never want for yourself or your customers.
Lemon essential oil is phototoxic, which means that when the oil is used on the skin without proper dilution rates (see chart below) and then exposed to sunlight, a painful reaction could occur in the form of blistering, sunburn, or other skin irritations.
Lemon Essential Oil Dilution Rates
Since lemon essential oil is phototoxic, it MUST be used at proper dilution rates.
When used on the skin, you must stick to a 1-2% dilution to avoid skin irritation (this means 5-12 drops per fluid ounce, as outlined in the chart below).
Simply add the appropriate number of drops of essential oil to a carrier oil (such as jojoba or sweet almond oil) and/or a thick (melted) butter such as shea butter or cocoa butter with the help of a stove.
Using Lemon Essential Oil When Pregnant or Nursing
Lemon essential oil can be used during pregnancy or nursing, but the basic essential oil safety during these times should still be followed:
- Avoid essential oils during the first trimester.
- During second and third trimesters, pregnancy-safe essential oils may be used for support at a 1% dilution.
- Avoid using essential oils on a daily basis while pregnant.
- Use essential oils under the guidance of an aromatherapist or midwife.
Lemon Essential Oil and Children
Likewise, lemon essential oil can be used on/around children, but the following safety parameters with all essential oils should be followed:
- No essential oils applied to skin on children under the age of 5 years old.
- Keep to a 1% dilution for topical use on children 5-12 years old.
- Gentle essential oils can be diffused around babies and younger children in ten-minute increments (use half the amount of drops in the diffuser than used with adults).
Grab a FREE copy of this essential oil dilution chart here: Skin Care Maker’s Reference Pack
Why Organic Lemon Essential Oil is Preferred
Citrus fruits tend to be heavily sprayed with pesticides, and fungicides (such as imazalil and thiabendazole) are found in significant amounts in cold-pressed essential oils when not organic.
As a general rule, purchase the organic version of lemon essential oil, even if you don’t normally have an organic line.
Lemon Essential Oil and Holistic Skincare
In ‘holistic health’, you consider the treatment of the whole person, taking into account any mental, social, and physical factors rather than just the immediate symptom(s) at hand.
From the view of a holistic skincare entrepreneur, you’ll want to communicate to your customer that all of the details below contribute to the health and appearance of their skin:
- Hydration throughout the day
- Getting enough sleep
- Managing stress appropriately
- Eating healthfully
- Exercising regularly
- Addressing any physical pain or discomfort
- Breathwork (taking deep belly breaths vs. short/shallow breaths)
Mental Wellness and Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil is an uplifting, antidepressant oil known to reduce physical and psychological stress.
This power to improve mindset shows through on the skin, as less stress helps your immune system to work its best.
A more relaxed mental state also helps individuals sleep better, be more inclined to exercise, and also make more mindful dietary decisions – all of which impact skin significantly.
The two lemon-inspired recipes below are fabulous ways to reap the benefits of this uplifting essential oil on the daily:
Balancing Body Oil (2% Dilution)
Pro Tip: When creating body oils, organic jojoba oil is a great carrier to consider (or to use as part of a multi-carrier blend) because it is so similar to the oils our body naturally makes.
This similarity makes it quick to absorb. It’s also non-allergenic, great for sensitive skin, high in Vitamin E and antioxidants, and incredibly healing to the skin.
Uplifting Diffuser Blend
Pro Tip: When purchasing a diffuser, make sure you get one that has an intermittent option and a timer to get the most of your oil time.
Also, pay attention to the size and the size of the diffuser reservoir and the square footage of the room you intend to use it in. Love this Deluxe Diffuser from Plant Therapy that covers 430 square feet.
Pain Management and Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil is also helpful in recipes formulated to help with pain and inflammation due to the high antinociceptive activity in d-limonene.
Though surprising, pain does play a factor in skin health and appearance.
Pain puts stress on the body, especially severe pain, which increases cortisol levels – and in turn, the classic ‘fight or flight’ response (which your body reads as ’emergency’ state).
When our pain and stress levels are high, our immune systems are focused on immediate ’emergency’ issues…not so much on cell regeneration and turnover.
Pain also tends to create shallow breathing, less restorative sleep, and limited exercise (if any) – all of which decrease the number of resources your body is able to provide to your skin.
The two formulas below help to manage the pain of common discomforts with the help of lemon essential oil:
Tension Headache Oil (3% Dilution)
Pro Tip: This headache oil recipe is super versatile – keep it as 1 oz for a shoulder and neck massage product, or break it down into smaller 10mL rollerballs.
Fractionated Coconut Oil is a popular rollerball carrier that can easily be blended with other vegetable oils for a proprietary recipe.
Sore Muscle Massage Oil (2% Dilution)
Benefits of Lemon Essential Oil for Skin
When used safely, lemon is one of the top 27 best essential oils for topical skin care recipes.
Since lemon essential oil is a smaller molecule with high amounts of d-Limonene, it is particularly useful for acne and blemish skin care formulations (thanks to its astringent, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties).
Lemon essential oil blends well with other citruses (such as bergamot and sweet orange), florals (such as lavender and neroli), and woods (such as sandalwood and cedarwood).
Need expertly formulated recipes for your shop? The Natural Skin Care Recipe Ebook includes 50 retail-ready formulations for your handmade skincare line, several of which include lemon essential oil.
Lemon EO is included in the following skin care recipes included in the ebook:
- Normal Skin Facial Serum
- Rejuvenating Laundry Powder
- Chamomile Lemon Organic Lip Balm
The Natural Skin Care Recipe (e)Book
The Best Place to Buy Lemon Essential Oil
As a certified aromatherapist, Plant Therapy is my go-to essential oil distributor.
You can buy organic lemon essential oil in 10, 30, and 100 mL sizes, as well as bulk sizes (lemon, in particular, is a heck of a deal in the large 1 kg size!).
Plant Therapy also carries tons of lemon essential oil blends and pre-made lemon essential oil products if you’re not ready to make your own yet.
Enjoy the journey of using lemon essential oil for holistic skincare – formulating with a lens of complete body and mind wellness is a gamechanger.
I hope you’ll join us in our private FB Group at DIY Skin Care Biz Community to let us know what you create for yourself and/or your handmade business!