Summary Background Essential oils are widely used, for example in aromatherapy and aroma massage. In aroma massage, essential oil, diluted with vegetable oil, is rubbed onto the skin. Components of essential oil penetrate into the skin and have an influence on the dermis. Elastase is an enzyme which degenerates dermal elastin. Elastase activity is believed to contribute to cutaneous wrinkling and ageing.
Aim To investigate the inhibitory effect of essential oils on elastase activity.
Methods Inhibition of elastase activity by various essential oils was assessed using two elastase enzymes: porcine pancreatic elastase (PPE) and human neutrophil elastase (HNE).
Results Elastase activity was inhibited by various essential oils, especially by those oils derived from lemons, juniper and grapefruit. Although the specific inhibitory component was not determined, lemon oil had the greatest inhibitory effect on PPE. Some essential oils also inhibited HNE.
Conclusions These studies demonstrate a possible rationale for the use of essential oil massage as a preventive treatment for cutaneous wrinkling and ageing.