Derms Say Oregano Is the Anti-Inflammatory Ingredient Your Acne Routine Is Missing—Here’s How To Start Using It

Photo: Getty Images/Anastasiia Krivenok
As someone who has struggled with acne-prone skin for, well, what feels like my entire adult life, I can fervently proclaim one thing: I’ll do anything to get rid of a pimple. Swab some toothpaste on a zit? Been there. Douse my entire face in kombucha? Done that (although, regrettably). One thing I haven’t dipped my little skincare-loving paws into, however, was an herb that has been in my Croatian kitchen my entire life growing up: oregano.

Turns out, this Meditteranean herb can do more than just season your grilled foods to perfection—it has an entire slew of skincare benefits when applied topically.

Um, why should I rub oregano onto my skin?

According to Jaimie DeRosa, MD, double-board certified facial plastic surgeon and founder of DeRosa Center Plastic Surgery & Med Spa in Boston and Palm Beach, the aromatic cooking herb has a ton of chemical compounds inside like carvacrol, thymol, rosmarinic acid, phenols, terpenes, and terpenoids that are great for the skin. Here’s a breakdown.

1. It’s antiseptic

Dr. Derosa explains that due to oregano’s carvacrol content, it is antibacterial, “meaning that it has been shown to stop bacterial growth on the skin” protecting it against bacterial infections. What’s more, one 2018 study shows that oregano oil inhibited the growth of Propionibacterium acnes, meaning that it can even help clear acne that was caused by bacterial overload.

2. It contains antioxidants

“Rosmarinic acid is an antioxidant and can protect against damaging free radicals,” says Dr. Derosa. In addition, phenols, terpenes, and terpenoids (which give oregano its lovely fragrance) all have antioxidant qualities to them and can protect cell damage.

3. It can encourage collagen production

Carvacrol is the star ingredient here, as Dr. Derosa mentions that the compound “helps increase the synthesis of collagen by activation of genes within skin cells responsible for the production of collagen.”

4. It’s anti-inflammatory

Carvacrol has great anti-inflammatory benefits, which leaves no room to wonder as to why Dr. Derosa recommends it for sensitive skin types. “Oregano oil’s calming properties are great for those with skin conditions such as rosacea and hyperpigmentation," she says. "Psoriasis and eczema are also inflammatory conditions that may benefit from topical use of oregano oil.” She adds that oregano oil can even help reduce inflammation in small cuts and bruises, as well as razor burns.

5. It can stave off bug bites

“This may come as a surprise, but carvacrol and thymol may be quite an effective insect repellent,” says Dr. Derosa of two of oregano's other star compounds. She explains that there’s some evidence that ticks and mosquitoes have been effectively repelled by these compounds, so applying diluted oregano oil to the skin can serve as a natural way of repelling insects.

6. It *may* be an anti-fungal

“There is even some preliminary data indicating that oregano oil's anti-fungal properties may help with dandruff conditions,” says Dr. Derosa. Although there's some evidence that oregano can help relieve seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff, there still isn’t enough research to make any huge claims. So, proceed with caution (or, you know, just lower your expectations without giving up hope).

How to incorporate oregano your skin-care routine

Dr. Derosa recommends using a gentle oregano-based cleanser to reap the ingredient’s benefits, but there are plenty of other ways to add it into your routine (check out a whole slew of options below). “If you want to use oregano essential oil itself, mix one or two drops of the oil with a ‘carrier’ oil—or water if your skin trends on the oily side—and apply after cleansing,” she says.

As with any new addition to your skincare regime, Dr. Derosa notes that consistency is king when dabbling in oregano. “Delivering those beneficial ingredients to the skin continually night and day will keep the skin appropriately nourished and will provide benefits on a round-the-clock basis," she says.

6 oregano skin-care products to try

Aromavita, Acne Control Soap — $11.00

With oregano and argan oils as the main ingredients, this cleanser can help soothe inflammation while keeping moisture levels in check.

Naturopathica, Pumpkin Purifying Enzyme Peel — $62.00

Incorporating enzymes into your skin-care routine is one of the best ways to gently slough dead skin cells from the surface, without wreaking havoc on your barrier. Along with pumpkin enzymes and lactic acid, this at-home peel contains an antiseptic trinity of oregano, cinnamon bark, and rosemary extract.

Miami Beach, Bum Bum + Body Cream Orange — $45.00

Miami Beach Bum prides itself on incorporating oregano into its products for the ingredient’s calming and antibacterial qualities. With both oregano and aloe inside, this is great for calming redness on the body; boosting moisture levels with jojoba oil; and offering a bright, citrusy aroma with orange peel.

Kiehl’s, Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate — $55.00

If using a face oil seems more your speed, consider this herbal concentrate. It employs cannabis sativa seed oil derived from cold-pressed hemp seeds to reduce redness in the skin, while oregano adds anti-inflammatory benefits. Plus, it’s non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores in the process.

iNNBEAUTY PROJECT, Pimple Paste Overnight Drying Paste — $15.00

Looking to zap your zits overnight (or at least minimize them while you sleep)? This pimple paste contains tons of ingredients that will minimize breakouts, like willow bark and sulfur to rid the pores of debris and dry breakouts, zinc sulfate and oregano to help inhibit bacterial growth, and vitamin C to brighten post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (aka the scarring that’s left behind when your breakouts are gone).

Han Skincare Cosmetics, HAN Serum CC with SPF 30+ — $32.00

Oregano has great antioxidant benefits, which play well with sunscreen to add even more protection from free-radical and UV damage. This SPF-30 CC cream pairs the soothing and redness-reducing herb with jojoba, coconut, and rosehip oils to lock in moisture while providing a subtle hint of color.

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