Though you may not know it by name, this oil from the Cananga tree reduces stress, treats pains, and is in some of our most beloved beauty products.

By Jennifer Aldrich
January 02, 2020
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We love experimenting with new beauty trends, so when we saw searches for ylang-ylang (EE-lahng-EE-lahng) oil increase 91% on Pinterest in the past year, we were intrigued. Although it's currently seeing an uptick in interest, ylang-ylang oil has been used in beauty products for decades because of its sweet and exotic floral scent that's slightly fruity. (It's even an ingredient in Chanel's iconic N°5 perfume, which launched back in 1921.) To help you take advantage of the benefits of ylang-ylang, which extends beyond fragrance, we've broken down everything you need to know about the essential oil, plus five ylang-ylang beauty products to try.

What Is Ylang-Ylang Oil?

Ylang-ylang oil is found in the flowers of the Cananga tree (Cananga odorata). The tropical tree is native to southern India, Malaysia, the Philippines, and other islands, according to the University of Wisconsin master gardener program. Each tree can grow up to 60 feet tall, and its yellow flowers grow up to six inches long. The university's website explains the flowers are first picked, then steam distilled to gather the oil. Although the plant only grows in Zone 10, it can also survive in a greenhouse. (The dwarf variety called Cordyline fruticosa that only grows to about 6 feet tall is more sensible for this.)

Health Benefits of Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil

The oil has long been used in the beauty industry, but a 2015 review titled "Traditional Uses, Phytochemistry, and Bioactivities of Cananga odorata" points out it's also "a prospective useful plant to agriculture and medicine." The researchers state that ylang-ylang oil has anti-inflammatory properties that are used to treat body pains, fevers, and asthma. The paper also cites several studies that note ylang-ylang oil possesses "sedative, relaxing, and also harmonization effects" and can relieve stress and depression. And when mixed with soybean oil, it can even act as a natural insect repellant against mosquitos.

Of course, one of our favorite characteristics of ylang-ylang is its sweet floral fragrance. We found a few ylang-ylang-infused must-haves, including lotion, perfume, and body oil, to add to your vanity.

Credit: Courtesy of Ulta

The super-affordable price point of this vial of the essential oil—in its purest form—makes it a great first product for newbies. To boost your mood, add a few drops in a bath or in a diffuser, which Target sells for just $19.99. (Make sure you never apply the oil directly to the skin as it could cause irritation.)

Buy It: Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil, $9, Ulta

Credit: Courtesy of Neiman Marcus

Lather up every inch of your body with Molton Brown's lotion that's described as "rich, peaceful, and harmonious." According to the London-based beauty brand, the moisturizer is best for those with dry skin. It has a strong fragrance thanks to ylang-ylang, cardamom, and vanilla.

Buy It: Molton Brown Ylang-Ylang Body Lotion, $42, Neiman Marcus

Credit: Courtesy of Diptyque

Don't be fooled by the name—this formula won't leave a greasy residue. It can be applied from head to toe, whether you want to smooth skin or nourish hair. The best-seller from the French brand is considered a "summer essential," but can certainly be used year-round.

Buy It: Diptyque Satin Oil Spray for Body and Hair, $60, Nordstrom

Credit: Courtesy of Sephora

Coffee isn't a typical scent we spritz ourselves with, but when it's mixed with ylang-ylang, it produces a deliciously cozy aroma. The fragrance is warm and spicy and is a blend of rose, jasmine, and a surprising hint of Sichuan pepper. The brand Floral Street is vegan and uses reusable, recyclable, and biodegradable products, which makes it a great eco-friendly choice.

Buy It: Floral Street Ylang-Ylang Espresso Eau De Parfum, $75, Sephora

Credit: Courtesy of DermStore

Think of this serum as an anti-aging hero—or as one five-star reviewer calls it, "liquid gold." The mix of organic oils reduces the look of fine lines and wrinkles for a more youthful appearance. It soothes and moisturizes the face while also combatting oils and is safe for sensitive skin.

Buy It: Eminence Facial Recovery Oil, $76, DermStore


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