Vetiver Essential Oil and Skincare Featured Image

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Thick, grounding, and healing, vetiver is on our list of top essential oils for holistic skincare and overall wellness.

A lesser-known oil that could be grouped aromatically with other earthy base notes such as cedarwood and sandalwood, yet has a unique damp and mossy aroma that sets it apart.

Vetiver essential oil is an unsung HERO in the skin care world, powerful enough to be effective in eczema salves, and gentle enough to be used in daily blends for acne and other epithelial inflammations.

Also used as a sedative, immunity enhancer, and tension-buster, vetiver essential oil has so much potential for use in wellness products.

Get ready to add a new essential oil to your library and learn a handful of holistic skin care blends that you can make with vetiver and a few other simple ingredients!

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Vetiver Essential Oil Profile

  • Latin name: Vetiveria zizanioides
  • Botanical family: Poaceae (Gramineae)
  • Plant part: Roots
  • Countries of origin: Reunion, Comoro, Java, India
  • Extraction method: Steam distilled
  • Aroma descriptors: Strong, rich, earthy, woody, musty

What is Vetiver Essential Oil?

Vetiver essential oil is a root oil because it comes from the actual roots of a perennial grass also known as ‘khus’.

These roots are incredibly aromatic and reach impressive depths – between ten and thirteen feet in the first year. See the accompanied photo to give yourself a shocking visual reference (this picture is showing just part of the root length)!

The essential oil is removed from the roots via steam distillation and is most popularly used as a base fixative in perfume blends.

Vetiver roots that are used to make essential oil
Vetiver roots before being steam-distilled to make essential oil.

Steam distillation is a common method to obtain oils from leaves, roots, and botanicals (see below for a step-by-step video of the steam distillation process):

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 essential oil for any reason, but especially for use in skin care.

Woman using vetiver to create window coverings and roofing for house
Woman making window coverings and roofing out of the top grass portion of vetiver.

Most Prominent Components in Vetiver EO

Vetiver(Vetiveria zizanioides) is highest in components khusimol at 9.52% and (E)-Isovalencenol at 10.32% (view in the red box illustration below), which are both in the sesquiterpenol chemical family.

These percentages are significant* when compared to other constituents present in vetiver essential oil.

Two types of sesquiterpenes found in vetiver essential oil
*This chart is taken from a GC/MS report for a batch of Vetiveria zizanioides ct. Haiti on April 7, 2021 Lot #: Vetiver V30109 – however, most vetiver essential oil is rich in the same components.

The Sesquiterpenol Chemical Family

In vitro research supports that in general, oils in the sesquiterpenol chemical family have the following therapeutic activity:

antifungal, anti-inflammatory, cooling (some), grounding, sedative, immune stimulant, and skin-healing

Cutting vetiver roots off of the top grass portion
Separating the grass (top portion) from the roots (bottom portion) of the vetiver plant.

Why Does this Chemistry of Vetiver EO Matter?

To be forthright, you don’t need to memorize the chemistry notes above to formulate blends with vetiver.

This quick peek simply gives you the science-backed WHY behind using vetiver essential oil for HOLISTIC skincare.

In the descriptions of sesquiterpenol components above, notice the range of observed therapeutic activity:

  • anti-inflammatory (can help alleviate inflammation)
  • grounding (helps individual to remain present; mentally and emotionally rooted)
  • sedative (promoting calm and/or sleep)
  • skin-healing (most specifically for eczema and acne)

We will use these characteristics to help guide our formulations for holistic skincare in the next section!

Safety Information for Using Vetiver Essential Oil

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.

Shelf Life

No essential oil lasts forever, but vetiver has a pretty long shelf life, especially when compared to the ever-popular citrus essential oils.

Sesquiterpenol-rich oils (the prominent chemical family of vetiver) are made up of 15 total carbon atoms. Compared to the 10 carbon atoms in citrus oils, this is much bigger.

This larger size means that sesquiterpenol essential oils evaporate slower, have longer-lasting aromas, and have a longer shelf life.

Vetiver essential oil has a shelf life of 6-8 years, assuming your bottle has been tightly sealed, stored in a cold environment, and away from direct sunlight.

Vetiver grasses growing for fragrance and essential oils
Vetiver growing in its native tropical region; top producing countries are Haiti, India, Indonesia, and Réunion.

Vetiver Essential Oil Dilution Rates

Vetiver is a non-toxic, non-irritating essential oil, yet it still must be used safely to avoid skin reactions.

The safety information from Tisserand quotes a 15% maximum topical use (due to the isoeugenol content), but you still need to consider where on the body you are placing it, as well as the specific individual you are using it on.

To safely dilute it to the percentages noted below, simply add the appropriate number of drops of vetiver essential oil to a carrier oil (such as jojoba or sweet almond oil) and/or a thick (melted) unrefined butter such as shea butter or cocoa butter.

Using Vetiver Essential Oil When Pregnant or Nursing

Vetiver 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 the 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.

Vetiver Essential Oil and Children

Likewise, vetiver 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 the skin of children under the age of 5 years old.
  • Keep to a 1% dilution for topical use on children 5-12 years old.
Essential oil dilution chart

Vetiver 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)

Sleep and Vetiver Essential Oil

Vetiver essential oil is a calming, grounding oil known to relax and cool the mind.

These characteristics, coupled with the sedative properties of vetiver, make it a perfect oil to include in a bedtime aromatherapy roller.

Wondering what sleep has to do with holistic skincare?

While you sleep, your body produces new collagen. Collagen is what prevents age spots, wrinkles, and sagging. Sleep is also when your body repairs any cells damaged by UV exposure.

Bedtime Aromatherapy Roller Recipe

Pro Tip: When creating aromatherapy rollers, 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, and helps to lengthen the shelf life of the product.

Pain Management and Vetiver Essential Oil

Vetiver essential oil is also helpful in recipes formulated to help with arthritis, rheumatism, sore muscles, and muscle tension.

Wondering what pain has to do with skincare?

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.

Tension Massage Oil

Pro Tip: When creating full-body massage blends, grapeseed carrier oil is a great option as its astringent properties make it absorb quickly (your sheets will thank you!).

Skin Care and Vetiver Essential Oil

When used safely, vetiver is one of the top 27 best essential oils for topical skin care recipes.

Since vetiver essential oil is a large molecule with high amounts of sesquiterpenols, it is particularly useful for acne and eczema care formulations (thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties).

Facial Serum for Acne

Bonus Blend: Add this same combination of essential oils to a base of beeswax, shea butter, rosehip, and coconut oil for an incredibly moisturizing and effective eczema salve.

A Note About Diffusing Vetiver Essential Oil

While diffusing essential oils can offer many wellness benefits, it is important to note that not all oils can be diffused equally.

Due to the large molecular size of vetiver essential oil, it can easily clog diffusers and is not recommended.

The Best Place to Buy Vetiver Essential Oil

As a certified aromatherapist, Plant Therapy is my go-to essential oil distributor.

You can buy vetiver essential oil in 10, 30, and 100 mL sizes, as well as in bulk sizes at 0.5 kg, 1 kg, and 5 kg.

Plant Therapy also carries several pre-made products that contain vetiver essential oil if you’re not ready to formulate yet but want to experience the benefits of vetiver.

Enjoy the journey of using vetiver essential oil for holistic skincare – formulating with a lens of complete body and mind wellness is a game-changer.

Join us in our private FB Group at DIY Skin Care Biz Community to let us know what you formulate for yourself and/or your handmade business!

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