Frankincense is an aromatic resin that has been used for more than 6,000 years around the world in many different cultures, religions and wellness practices, from Traditional Chinese Medicine to Ayurveda.
The fragrant smoke from the smoldering resin has long been associated with sacred rituals and in daily rituals, particularly in the Middle East, where it is used to perfume homes and as a sign of hospitality.
Frankincense essential oil, which is extracted from the resin through a very slow process of hydro-distillation, is equally valued today. It’s highly prized in both perfumery and in aromatherapy for the grounding effects of its scent – warm, sweet and balsamic with hints of orange peel and spice.
As well as its heavenly fragrance, frankincense has become increasingly popular in skincare. Today, there’s no shortage of cosmetics brands touting the essential oil as something of a secret sauce to eternal youth. The independent clinical trials might be a little scant, but you only need to look at the oil’s chemical profile to understand why the essential oil has the potential to become the skincare industry’s new “it” ingredient.
While frankincense essential oil might not contain the cancer-fighting boswellic acids found in the resin, it is rich in alpha pinene, a naturally occurring chemical compound found frequently in coniferous trees and herbs like rosemary, which feature in age-old skin healing remedies around the world.
Alpha pinene is known for its regenerative, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, so adding frankincense essential oil (particularly Omani Frankincense, which has high levels of alpha pinene) to your skincare regimen could, among other things, help to diminish acne scars, improve elasticity and conditions like eczema, regulate sebum and stimulate cell regeneration.
Frankincense also contains other monoterpene compounds that are well-regarded for their antioxidant properties and ability to calm inflammation, such as d-limonene and sabinene.
As well as calming those angry blemishes, monoterpene-rich essential oils tend to be uplifting yet grounding, bringing mental clarity and meditative focus.
Frankincense can help to soothe and diminish feelings of stress and anxiety, and transform a mundane daily routine like washing your face, into a fragrant ritual. One that will help you unwind and feel relaxed, especially in the evening.
Read on for six easy ways to include frankincense essential oil as part of your daily skincare routine (and make sure to dilute – tips at the end of the article).
1. As part of a skin cleansing ritual
After cleansing, simply add a drop of frankincense essential oil to a terry towel or face washcloth. Run the cloth under hot water and wring it out before placing it over your face, allowing the heat and the fragrant steam to penetrate every pore. You can also add the essential oil to a plant-based cleansing oil to cleanse away makeup and dirt and gently exfoliate your skin, all the while enjoying a few peaceful moments of mindful inhalation.
2. In a facial massage
Facial massage does wonders for the skin’s texture and tone. It promotes lymphatic drainage, stimulating blood flow and collagen production, and it’s an incredibly easy way to experience immediate relaxation, helping the day’s stress and tensions melt away. Whether you use a tool, like a gua sha or a roller, or your fingers, simply add frankincense essential oil to your facial oil (see dilutions at the end of the article) and gently massage in light sweeping movements, upwards and outwards along the jawline, around the temples, and across your forehead.
3. In a steamy shower
It might seem terribly wasteful to drop this precious essential oil onto the floor of the shower but if the water is hot enough, one or two drops is all it takes to create a natural frankincense steam bath. Try it with any favourite oil – like eucalyptus, lavender, geranium – for an uplifting, all-too-easy moment of self-care.
4. In a warm bath
There’s nothing like soaking in a spa-like warm bath imbued with fragrant aroma of essential oils. But there’s some important safety information to cover first. Essential oils are not water soluble, which means they will not mix with water. If you add them directly to a bath, they will remain on the surface in droplets and if they come into contact with your skin, could easily cause irritation, or worse, a chemical burn. So it’s important to always dilute essential oils in a carrier oil (like jojoba, coconut or olive oil) or a liquid castille soap prior to adding them to your bath (see the end of this article for advice on dilutions). You can also mix frankincense essential oil into a carrier oil and stir it into salts. Pink Himalayan salts are ideal – they are not only skin nourishing, helping your skin to retain moisture, they also replenish your body with essential trace minerals and elements, including magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium.
5. As a cold compress
A cold compress is wonderfully refreshing, particularly on a summer’s day, to help cool down a fever, calm inflammation, or feel rejuvenated after a workout. Fill a bowl with cool water, and add a washcloth and swirl it in only a drop or two of essential oil before wringing it out and placing it over your forehead or the back of your neck.
6. A relaxing massage before bedtime
If you have trouble winding down in the evening, this nightly ritual is deeply relaxing and is sure to help you drift peacefully to sleep. Add a few drops of frankincense essential oil to a carrier oil or body butter. Smooth a bit of the oil or butter between your fingers, and massage it over your upper body, including your arms, temples and your ears. You can also nourish areas of drier skin, like the elbows and knees. Finishing by cupping your hands and inhaling the scent.