Sandalwood essential oil may be a favorite scent to put in your diffuser, but it’s also a potent skin care ingredient. We use it in our Facial Recovery Elixir, where it works double-duty for its marvelous natural scent and anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties.
Let’s dive deep on this therapeutic oil in today’s ingredient spotlight.
Sandalwood oil comes from the plant of the same name, which is a slow-growing tree of the genus Santalum. trees are native to warm places of the Southern Hemisphere, including India and Africa. Sandalwood is a hardwood tree (like the oak tree common in North America), and is actually genetically related to the European mistletoe, despite being native to the other side of the globe.
Putting aside the oil, the wood itself has a yellow tint to it, is fine-grained, and dense. Unlike other aromatic woods, sandalwood can keep its scent for years, if not decades.
Most of the time, the sandalwood essential oil you buy in stores is from the Santalum Album species, known commonly as Indian sandalwood. However, Western Australia is actually the number one producer of sandalwood oil, where they’re grown in large plantations.
When it comes to harvesting sandalwood, ethical, sustainable sourcing is a must. Sandalwood trees grow very slowly, and they must be round fifteen years of age in order to produce a viable amount of oil. In India, the growing and harvesting of the tree is controlled by the government, and they even use microchips to track them, but illegal “poaching” of trees still occurs.
Like many essential oils, sandalwood oil is produced through either a cold press system or through extraction with alcohol or water. Due to the value of the plant, the entire tree, from leaves to the stump and root, are processed to maximize the yield.
Sandalwood has long been used in traditional and religious practices. The Indian species (S. album) has been used in Ayurvedic medicine practices for centuries.
In Hindu practices, the wood is made into a paste, a task only performed by priests. It is then applied to the religious icons—Sandalwood has a special connection to the gods Shiva and Lakshmi—or onto the neck, chest, and forehead of worshipers.
The reasons sandalwood is used in traditional medicine is the same as the benefits of it as an essential oil or skincare ingredient—it acts as a soothing coolant and as a disinfectant. Sandalwood is also very soothing and promotes a calm mind when burned (or these days, vaporized) in aromatherapy.
Sandalwood is also the most popular incense scent in various religious traditions across East Asia, including in China, Korea, and Japan. There’s both a ritual and medicinal use in these cases. The incense is used during ceremonies and to aid with meditation.
Although sandalwood oil as an ingredient doesn’t carry this sacred weight, it’s still valuable to know the history of what we use on our body.
Benefits of sandalwood essential oil
Sandalwood has many aromatic benefits, and is often compared to a different ingredient we’ve talked about here, chamomile. It is said to improve mental clarity, and has long been used to treat anxiety and calm the nervous system, which may be linked to its anti-inflammatory properties, which also comes in handy with your skin.
Like all essential oils, sandalwood oil shouldn’t be applied directly on the skin without being diluted with a carrier oil (Jojoba oil, which mimics the skin’s natural sebum, is one of our favorites). As an ingredient in skincare products, sandalwood is diluted to a point to be safe.
Sandalwood oil benefits for the skin are rooted in its anti-aging properties. The oil is high in antioxidants, which help fight damaging free radicals—these are unstable molecules that are missing electrons, so they then grab another electron from other sources in your body, in turn making them unstable. The theory follows that when free radicals disrupt atoms in your skin cells it accelerates aging by damaging cell DNA.
Whew. That’s pretty dense, isn’t it? Fortunately, the answer to free radicals are simple—antioxidants like sandalwood oil! These are compounds that have the ability to donate an electron to the free radicals so they stop causing havoc.
On top of that, sandalwood oil may also inhibit the excess production of melanin, the skin pigment that causes dark spots.
Applied to the skin, sandalwood oil has shown to be anti-inflammatory, helping to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory signal proteins (chemokines and cytokines), along with soothing spots of irritation on the skin.
Finally, studies have shown that sandalwood oil is also strongly anti-bacterial, which means it helps prevent bacteria-based acne, on top of soothing other acne-related irritation. Sandalwood has even shown potential health benefits in defending against strong and dangerous forms of bacteria (that can be resistant to chemical antibiotics), staph and strep. While there’s still a lot of research to be done here, researchers initially believe essential oils can disrupt bacteria membranes.
Sandalwood essential oil is a vital part of our Facial Recovery Elixir, and it works together with the other clean ingredients to be a potent skincare oil. It’s especially good during the summer right now, and can help treat multiple signs of aging. Pair with some light moisturizer for a simple, no-frills but all the benefits routine.