One of the most appealing aspects of essential oils for a lot of people is the fact that they have been around in some form or another for thousands of years.
That said, there are tons of claims out there made about essential oils on the basis of their age, and it can be hard to tell what’s legit and what’s a millennia-old myth.
Take sandalwood oil. It’s been around and has been used by people for thousands of years, but what can it really do for your skin and hair? Let’s take a closer look.
The History of Sandalwood Essential Oil
The Sandalwood tree and plant used in essential oils can be traced back thousands of years. Sandalwood goes all the way back to at least 3100 BC in Egypt.
The sandalwood tree has been used for a variety of purposes, including as an incense to mask unpleasant smells and in religious ceremonies. The oil from the tree has also found its way into perfumes and other cosmetics.
It was likewise a fixture in ceremonies involving incense in China, Japan, and India in both Hinduism and Buddhism. In addition to its use as incense, sandalwood was used as a soft wooden material from which to make carvings.
Sandalwood oil was used previously in Ayurvedic medicine to treat skin conditions, wounds, and leprosy. It was also used in Chinese medicine for the same purposes.
Egyptians used it for medicine, while Buddhists later used it alongside cloves and aloeswood as the main incense used in Buddhist ceremonies, especially those relating to death. Sandalwood has also, at times been incorporated into Zoroastrian and Sufi traditions.
The name “sandalwood” was coined around the 1500s, with an earlier iteration, “sandell,” being used around 1400.
This word is thought to have stemmed from the Old French word “sandale,” which in turn is thought to have come from “sandalum” in Medieval Latin, “santalon” in Late Greek, and “čandana-m” in Sanskrit.
That last word is thought to have been a cognate with the Latin “candere,” meaning “to glow” or “to shine.”
As for the plant itself, there are over 100 species of sandalwood worldwide, with them being most common in India, Australia, and Hawaii. Depending on the variation and location, these plants can grow anywhere from 10 to 30 ft tall.
They tend to be found in dry, poor, clay, or sandy-based soils, while the climate of these places tend to be hot and are often beset by wind, droughts, or salty sprays.
Although they grow well in the sun, they need shade as well. The trees are actually somewhat parasitic, sending out roots that can attach themselves to host plants to suck xylem from them.
What Are the Benefits of Sandalwood Essential Oil?
In places where sandalwood is native, it has often become a part of local folk medicinal traditions. In particular, it is often used to treat aches and wounds or for cleaning oneself.
Common conditions that folk medicine traditions have attempted to treat with sandalwood include the common cold, scabies, hemorrhoids, muscle problems, liver and gallbladder issues, and urinary tract infections.
However, it is worth noting that there isn’t too much modern scientific research that has been done to evaluate these claims, so take them with a grain of salt.
However, that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been many scientific studies or clinical trialson sandalwood.
A 2006 study in Planta Medica found that aromatherapy conducted with sandalwood resulted in increased perspiration and blood pressure, which the researchers saw as indicating increased alertness.
One of the most common reasons aromatherapy is used to treat anxiety and stress. While this does not work for everyone, for those who are receptive to the treatment, it can be effective, and sandalwood oil is no exception.
Another 2006 study reported in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice suggested that sandalwood oil, when used in aromatherapy, can indeed help reduce anxiety.
Sandalwood oil’s potential as a wound-healing agent has been investigated. A 2014 study conducted by researchers at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, indicated that skin cells have olfactory receptors that can detect and accept sandalwood oil, and when they do this, it can potentially spur skin cell growth.
There are other possible ways in which sandalwood oil may be able to help your skin. A study in the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, published in 2014, found that sandalwood oil might actually be able to help combat skin cancer thanks to a compound known as alpha-santalol, which other studies have indicated may help kill cancerous cells.
Sanatols are also responsible for the nice aroma and soothing effects of sandalwood oil.
Previous studies published in the Journal of Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgery in 2009, pointed to sandalwood having antimicrobial, astringent, and antibacterial properties.
The study found that essential oils such as sandalwood oil may be effective against certain infections such as Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is a staph infection that can be resistant to some antibiotics.
That said, an MRSA infection can be serious, especially if you let it fester and spread, so you shouldn’t be content with simply sprinkling sandalwood oil on the site of the infection and calling it a day. If you have MRSA, see a doctor immediately.
What Are the Benefits of Sandalwood Oil for Hair?
1. Anti-Inflammatory Properties
To keep your hair healthy, you first need to turn your attention to your scalp. Just as a flower bed cannot grow in soil that has become dried out and lacks nutrients, your hair will have a hard time growing in a scalp that’s the same.
For that reason, you need to do everything you can to stop your skin from becoming inflamed. Thankfully, as established above, sandalwood oil has anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe your skin and rid it of rough patches.
When you have conditions like acne, psoriasis, eczema, or dandruff on your scalp and the skin around it, sandalwood oil can help by reducing the inflammation and redness that come with these conditions.
2. Antiseptic and Antimicrobial Properties
Few things can pose a greater danger to the health of your hair and scalp than a bacterial infection. For example, alopecia is a condition that causes the hair to fall out in small patches.
While sandalwood is not tested for alopecia, it may be able to help prevent the spotty hair and baldness that alopecia may cause.
Just as important as its ability to combat baldness stemming from bacterial infections is its efficacy in treating dandruff. While it is also caused by dry scalp, bacterial infections can also be a potential cause of dandruff — and nobody wants to have to deal with that.
Applying some sandalwood oil to your scalp as a preemptive antimicrobial agent can be greatly helpful in combating bacterially-induced dandruff.
Then there are its antiseptic properties. You may not think your scalp will ever be scratched or otherwise wounded, but if it is, you’ll need to treat it as soon as possible lest a bacterial infection takes root.
Since sandalwood oil is already a natural topical choice for scalp and hair care, using it as both an antimicrobial and antiseptic agent gives you two important hair care features for the price of one.
3. Woody Sweet Fragrance
As mentioned above, one of the primary qualities for which sandalwood has been valued throughout the ages is its fine aroma.
It’s an aromatic oil that has woody sweet notes that can imbue your hair with a unique chic feeling when added in the course of your hair treatment routine.
This aromatic oil stimulates the senses, so it can enhance your mood as well. The scent of sandalwood also creates a calming effect.
4. Combats Acne
Scratches and scars aren’t the only blemishes that can give you a hard time when it comes to skin and hair care. Acne can also be a sign of another major problem that can plague human skin cells.
This is tricky because you need to strike a very careful balance when managing the oil content of your hair and scalp.
Acne is an indication that you could have a problem, and sandalwood oil helps combat acne. It can help rid your skin of acne without drying it out, a win-win as far as your scalp’s health is concerned.
Although, if you have sensitive skin and you are using sandalwood oil for acne, it’s important to either consult a dermatologist (preferred) or do a patch test with the oil before applying it all over your face or scalp.
5. Moisturizes Dry Skin
As established above, it is incredibly important to make sure you do whatever you can to prevent your scalp from drying out. The same holds true for your hair.
If you allow your hair to become dry, it can start to frizz or even break off, causing it to appear scraggly and unkempt.
That’s why you’ll want to make sure you get a moisturizing agent to help with this, and sandalwood can be a great choice given its all-natural nature and the other hair-healing properties it possesses.
If you have some extra time, try applying the oil directly onto your scalp and then draping a microfiber towel over your head for 30 minutes while watching TV or reading a book. This process promotes blood circulation in the scalp and can help with dryness that occurs due to a lack of moisture.
However, the human scalp tissue is very sensitive, and it is crucial to use oils that are easy on the skin.
6. Can Help with Eczema
Another skin condition that can pose problems for the long-term health of your scalp is eczema. This can turn your skin into a cracked, scaly mess, and if that happens to your scalp, it can lead to serious problems for your hair.
Studies suggest that exposing human skin cells to the combination of sandalwood oil’s anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and moisturizing nature can make a big difference in combating eczema.
7. Hair Growth
One of the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to the question of stimulating hair growth is the fact that there are few products that can actually do it on their own, especially among hair care oils.
On the other hand, those same essential oils that are so popular for hair care purposes can help promote hair growth by creating favorable conditions on your scalp.
Think about everything mentioned above regarding sandalwood oil’s capabilities. It can help soothe and moisturize dry skin, combat eczema and dandruff, and help with your scalp’s oil content. All of these benefits combined stimulate hair growth by creating the conditions for hair growth to occur.
Read this article to learn more about your hair’s primary growth factors.
Finally, hair loss is a common condition for both men and women. Hair loss can be caused by genetics, illness, injury to the scalp or hair follicles, stress, hormonal imbalance in women (especially during pregnancy), excessive styling of hair that damages it over time, and more.
While we haven’t found specific studies suggesting that sandalwood oil prevents hair loss, creating favorable conditions for hair growth is a benefit of using the oil.
If your hair growth stopped suddenly, it’s best to consult a medical professional for treatment before trying to solve the problem with hair care products.
If you’re planning to encourage faster hair growth, make sure to provide your hair with all the conditions it needs for healthy growth.
This includes a balanced diet, proper hydration, UV protection from sunlight exposure, treating any scalp problems or seborrhea, avoiding hairstyles that can cause damage over time such as frequent coloring or the use of heated tools like straightening irons, curling irons, and hair steamers.
8. Add Sheen
Everyone wants their hair to look its best, and sandalwood oil can help with that. A few drops can help imbue your hair with a little extra shine.
Some women use essential oils to add extra shine to their hair by applying a few drops to their hair before blow-drying it or spraying a bit of oil-water mixture in their hair before creating their style for the day.
What Are the Benefits of Sandalwood Oil for Hair?
If you choose to use sandalwood oil for hair care purposes, you will want to take care not to apply it undiluted directly to your scalp or hair.
Essential oils are more potent than people sometimes imagine, and so applying them undiluted can cause a chemical reaction with your skin, which could result in severe irritation if not outright burns.
Using a carrier oil or other diluents can help prevent skin irritation and also provide a moisturizing element to your hair care routine.
Some oils known for their softening or anti-inflammatory properties include sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, castor oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, and coconut oil.
When using sandalwood oil, a few drops should suffice. You’ll want to either mix it into a shampoo bottle, carrier oil or use it on its own. Each option has its pros and cons.
Using it on your by itself allows you to really rub it directly into your scalp in a safely diluted form. Rubbing sandalwood oil into your scalp also allows you to more easily use the oil for hair care treatments while on the go.
On the other hand, mixing it in with your shampoo (or other diluents) can make the process a whole lot simpler – just use it in the shower or within your normal hair care routine.
If you want to use this oil to soothe your scalp, try mixing a teaspoon of sandalwood oil with a cup of cold-pressed virgin coconut oil. Take this mixture and rub it in as needed, but take care – sometimes people can have allergic reactions to essential oils.
Alternatively, you could mix in a teaspoon of almond oil along with three to five drops of sandalwood oil.
Finally, if you want to try to really bring out the sheen in your hair, you’ll want to use a bit more – try three to seven drops (but don’t go crazy, again, you don’t want to burn your scalp) and apply it to your hair after you’ve showered.
Sandalwood oil is often paired with other hair oils, including olive oil, tea tree oil, peppermint oil, sage oil, lavender oil, rosemary oil, and argan oil. Although, you should be creative since you aren’t limited to these combinations.
There are many claims made about sandalwood, and you need to be able to separate the fact from fiction and folk medicine.
Whatever the latter may claim, and whether science ever verifies those claims, sandalwood oil has established itself as a nice moisturizing, antiseptic antimicrobial agent.
Topical applications are most popular, although the oil can even add a bit of extra sheen and a nice woody scent to your hair. The East Indian sandalwood tree produces an oil that is prized for its fragrance.
Just make sure to use it safely and responsibly, and it can make a nice addition to your skin and hair care arsenal.