Sandalwood Oil: Why This Expensive Oil Is Really Worth It [History, Uses and Skin Benefits]

By Elaine

Sandalwood oil is one of the most well-known essential oils out there, especially for fragrance purposes. Its woody-floral scent is a classic and makes this oil sought-after.

But sandalwood's value doesn't end with its scent.

Today, we will put sandalwood in the spotlight. Read on to learn what this oil can do for our skins, and why it's worth it despite the higher than average price tag!


What Is Sandalwood Oil?

Sandalwood album oil (SAO) is also known as East Indian sandalwood oil (EISO). There are other types of this oil, but we are going to discuss SAO specifically throughout this post.

SAO is an essential oil, steam distilled from the Santalum album tree — making use of the entire tree, including stumps and roots. Every bit counts, and you will understand why, later in this post.

The oil appears as a colorless to a pale yellow clear thick liquid, carrying a rich woody-floral scent.

There are more than a dozen species of sandalwood worldwide, serving mostly as sources of essential oil. But among them, only two have standards issued by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO): Santalum album and Santalum spicatum (West Australian sandalwood).

Of the two species, S. album produces oil with much higher concentrations of alpha- and beta-santalol.

Alpha- and beta- santalol are the free alcohols that give sandalwood its scent and effect. Santalum album comprises of 20-25% beta-santalol and about 50-60% of alpha-santalol.

Because of these free alcohols, sandalwood oil has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-microbial properties. Good news for our skin! These properties mean that SAO can: reduce inflamed and irritated skin; give a youthful glow; and, fight-off infection-causing bacteria! 

Along with these, people also grab SAO for their potential anti-cancer and anti-proliferative properties. In English, SAO can stop the growth of tumors and attack cancer cells.

Sandalwood Oil: Why This Expensive Oil Is Really Worth It [History, Uses and Skin Benefits] - Pretty Blooming

History of Sandalwood Oil: Why It's So Expensive

An essential part of the culture and heritage of India is the sandalwood tree. It is one of the most valuable trees in the world — even referred to as "the royal tree." It owes its value to a demand based on ritual, fashion, and scarcity.

In rituals, as a part of religion, specific Hindu communities put a piece of sandalwood in the funeral pyre. Vaishnavites apply the beige-colored paste of sandalwood on the forehead and other body parts. Also, the ritual bathing of Hindu gods uses the paste of sandalwood.

For more than 5000 yearsIndia has been the conventional leader of sandalwood oil production for perfumery and pharmaceuticals. 

Later on, the ancient Egyptians imported the wood and used it in medicine, for embalming the dead and in the ritual burning to worship the gods.

In medicine, Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine utilized sandalwood album oil for centuries.

With how high the demand for this oil is, Santalum album trees are on the brink of extinction in their native habitats because of over-harvesting and poaching.

In fact, since 1998, sandalwood trees are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of NatureFurthermore, the harvesting and export of wild-grown Indian trees are highly restricted.

On top of the limitations in harvest and export, the trees need to be at least 27 to 30 years to become profitable. 

Demand from various industries plus growing restrictions​ plus  time  equals  expensive oil! So now you see why sandalwood oil is more costly than your typical essential oils. When you get your hands on this precious oil, be sure to make every drop count!

Sandalwood Oil: Why This Expensive Oil Is Really Worth It [History, Uses and Skin Benefits] - Pretty Blooming

Different Uses of Sandalwood Oil

Thousands of years in use means this brilliant oil has a lot of various applications under its belt. Here are the traditional uses of sandalwood oil, observed mainly in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine:

  • the common cold
  • urinary tract infections
  • liver and gallbladder problems
  • digestive problems
  • muscle problems
  • mental disorders
  • hemorrhoids
  • scabies

Apart from its medicinal use, sandalwood oil is amongst the favorite scents in the perfume industry. SAO is believed to create a sensual and exotic mood. Body care products also utilize this oil for its fragrance.

In aromatherapy, ​SAO is used to create a sense of harmony of body and mind — promoting mental and physical health outcomes. Using a diffuser for this oil evenly disperses the vapors so that it can enter the respiratory system more gently.

Skin Benefits of Sandalwood Oil

With how widely-used this oil is, there is no wonder that our skin can also benefit from this oil!

Sandalwood Oil: Why This Expensive Oil Is Really Worth It [History, Uses and Skin Benefits] - Pretty Blooming

​​If you are a fan of this scent, it's a win-win situation. Promoting benefits to your skin while having a quick sesh of aromatherapy. That is what you will feel while using sandalwood oil.

Now, here are the skin benefits you can gather from S. album oil, which, if you observe, really make this oh so expensive oil worth it!

​Reduces Skin Inflammation

If you suffer from facial inflammation like rosacea, you will definitely find sandalwood a woah for your woes. According to this study, sandalwood oil can downregulate skin inflammation while also reducing irritant dermatitis.

​Keeps Skin Youthful-looking

Free radicals play a large part in damaging and aging our skin. Luckily, to combat these, nature gave us anti-oxidants!

Anti-oxidant properties can be found in many essential oils, and sandalwood oil is one of them. In this study, ​S. album oil was able to protect mouse livers from damage resulting from oxidative stress and the formation of reactive oxygen species. 

These big words simply mean that because of SAO, the destructive force of oxidation was put to a halt. SAO's anti-oxidant properties were like oh-no you don't with a big stop sign to the damage-causing oxidation. And our skin and its youthful look definitely loved that.

​Fights Skin Infection

Anti-bacterial and anti-microbial can be confusing properties, so here is a short distinguishment of the two. Anti-bacterial properties refer to preventing the development of bacteria, while anti-microbial properties prevent the spread of bacteria, fungi, and some viruses.

For sandalwood oil, it has anti-microbial properties. In this study, ​this oil, along with other essential oils, exhibited the ability to disrupt the membrane integrity of potential bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Same with anti-bacterial, this is incredibly useful for those who suffer from acne and acne-prone skin.

To put it in simpler terms, the anti-microbial properties of SAO are like tiny needles puncturing a balloon. The balloon represents the bacteria, fungi, and virus cells that want to wreak havoc on our skin. With SAO, these balloons go pop pop popping, as the tiny needles bore into their latex surface (membrane integrity). Bye-bye acne-causing bacteria, and hello healthy, acne-free skin!

​​Lowers Risk Of Cancer

Our skin is the largest organ of our body, which is why it's a no-brainer to take care of it. Among all the properties found in sandalwood, its anti-proliferative (inhibition of cell-growth) and anti-cancer properties are the most sought-after. These properties point to SAO's ability to stop tumors from growing and attack cancer cells.

Various studies compiled in this one show the advancement of knowledge regarding this property of sandalwood oil, which all skin-types are sure to benefit from.

How to Use Sandalwood Oil

Sandalwood Oil: Why This Expensive Oil Is Really Worth It [History, Uses and Skin Benefits] - Pretty Blooming

As with other aromatic essential oils, using sandalwood oil may be a challenge if you are quite sensitive to heavy fragrances. Incorporating ​this oil sparingly into your routine can be a remedy.

Since this oil comes in a thick consistency, just a drop or two can give you the effect you need. So, ​yes, sandalwood is expensive compared to other oils. ​But using a few drops is enough for you to reap its benefits.

You can mix it with your moisturizer, toner, serums, or facial wash. DIY recipes can benefit from this oil, too.

Need inspiration? Here is a recipe for you!

​​DIY Moisturizer With Sandalwood Oil

  • coffee grinder
  • small saucepan
  • mesh cloth
  • small heatproof glass bowl
  • small glass jar

How To Prepare and Use It?

1. Measure out the hibiscus tea and use a coffee grinder to crush it into a fine powder.
2. Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat to low and warm the shea butter oil in a small heatproof glass bowl in the pan.
3. Stir in the hibiscus powder with a spoon, then cover and simmer on the lowest heat setting for 1 hour.
4. Use cheesecloth to strain the tea out of the oil over a medium bowl.
5. Add the almond oil and 20 drops of essential oils. Mix well.
6. Let the oil cool until it’s almost solid.
7. Whip the mixture - 5-6 minutes on high if you use a stand mixer, or until smooth when whipping by hand. It should look like foam and form peaks.
8. Store the moisturizer in a glass jar at room temperature. If stored in the fridge, the cream will harden and will be more like a butter.
9. Use on clean face, after applying toner and serum. You can use this moisturizer with essential oils and hibiscus both mornings and evenings.

​Is Sandalwood Oil Safe?

Sandalwood oil has a very long history of topical use, in both medicine and personal care products. However, we must always take precautions when using essential oils.

As with all essential oils, you must dilute sandalwood oil in a carrier oil. There is no other way around it. Read this guide on dilution so you can be sure to dilute your essential oil adequately.

​​Always perform a patch test when using a new oil. Dilute a small amount of the ​EO in a carrier oil and ​place a drop of it on the inner ​area of your ​elbow. Leave it on for 24 hours and observe the skin for any reactions.

For safety purposes, it is not advised for pregnant and breastfeeding women to use essential oils without consulting medical professionals.

For children and the elderly, it is highly advised to contact your physician or doctor before using oils. Self-treatment of chronic diseases by applying ​this oil may also hold serious consequences without professional advice.

​How to Choose Sandalwood Oil

There are various types of sandalwood oil available in the market. As mentioned above, only two of the species are ISO standardized — Santalum album (East Indian sandalwood) and Santalum spicatum (West Australian sandalwood).

Between these two, the Santalum album is the extensively researched one. Also, as mentioned above, this particular species of the wood carries a more significant amount of the combined free alcohols alpha- and beta-santalol.

So, in choosing your sandalwood oil, look for those labeled as Santalum album.

Some will be marketed as pure sandalwood oil but not with this specific species. Others may come with a label that says scented oil or perfume oil, which points toward those being synthetic versions of ​S. album oil. Do not buy those for topical use!

Another thing you should keep in mind is the price. Sandalwood oil is also available in diluted form in the market.

Did you encounter SAO in a too good to be true, low price? Triple check the manufacturer's credentials and the reviews of the product! You might be getting a heavily diluted and compromised oil.  

Yes, this is cheaper, BUT you only get 20 to 30 percent ​the oil. You will have limited use with these compared to choosing 100% sandalwood oil.

As with all essential oils, remember not to buy sandalwood oil from food stores. Apart from these reminders, here are the things you should look for when choosing your sandalwood oil:

  1. 100% essential oil
  2. Therapeutic grade
  3. Steam-distilled
  4. Undiluted
  5. Unadulterated​

​I highly recommend ​Plant Theraphy's sand​​​​alwood oil. Their sandalwood oil is distilled from the Santalum album tree and is undiluted, 100% pure therapeutic grade and organic. For its reasonable price, you get the classic woody-floral smelling oil with all its highly sought-after beneficial properties.

Sandalwood Oil: Why This Expensive Oil Is Really Worth It [History, Uses and Skin Benefits] - Pretty Blooming

​Final Thoughts

​Don't let a heftier tag turn you off! If you compare the price to the mileage and benefits you will obtain from sandalwood oil, this essential oil proves to be worth its price tag.

There are other cosmetic products with a heftier price tag that doesn't even come close to the benefits offered by sandalwood oil. The best part is that you can mix and match with other oils.

So with sandalwood oil, you can be sure that you are getting your money's worth and treating your skin the best you can!

Thank you for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed reading about sandalwood oil!

Have you used sandalwood oil before? What do you like best about it? Share in the comments below!

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