Vanilla in Skincare and As an Insect Repellent

October 16, 2019

Vanilla in Skincare and As an Insect Repellent

Vanilla is the oldest and most valuable of all spices; it has been used for centuries in cooking and for medicinal purposes. Mayans and Aztecs used vanilla along with cocoa beans, warm water, and other spices to make a delicious drink that also had aphrodisiacal properties. The scent of vanilla is intoxicating, refreshing, and it also works wonders in repelling bugs like mosquitoes, bed bugs, roaches, gnats, chiggers, and ants.

Let us study the uses of vanilla, particularly in skin care and as an insect repellent.

History of Vanilla

When Captain Cortez and his men entered Mexico in the 16th Century, the Aztec Emperor offered them a vanilla flavored drink and vanilla extracts as tribute. This led to the spread of Vanilla beans around the world. Soon, men started carrying vanilla in their pockets while women kept vanilla pods in their bras. Today, vanilla is cultivated in Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Guatemala, Brazil, Madagascar, and other countries. 

Vanilla beans available from different parts of the world have different flavors and colors. For example: Mexican vanilla is softer and fresher while Tahitian vanilla is rather rare and expensive owing to its delicious floral flavor and fragrance like no other. Likewise, the vanilla from Madagascar has the most intensive and dark, yet balanced, flavor and color. Today, there are more than 150 types of vanilla orchids available worldwide, but only a few varieties are used commercially.

Let us move on to the benefits of vanilla in skincare.

Benefits of Vanilla in Beauty, Skincare and Repelling Bugs

Vanilla in Perfume

Vanilla is an extremely popular fragrance; rarely will you find anyone disliking it. The essential oil of vanilla blends well with all other oils in Aromatherapy without overpowering or interfering.  The warm, spicy scent of vanilla is often reminiscent of the Holidays when aromas of baking fill up the air. It is no wonder that vanilla scent became popular even during the Great Depression; it actually helped boost people’s morale and added cheer to otherwise dreary lives. Today, many people find the scent of vanilla extremely relaxing.

Vanilla in Insect Repellence

Not many know that vanilla extract (the alcoholic extract of vanilla beans), on its own and when combined with certain essential oils, is great at repelling bugs. The scent of vanilla that is so alluring to humans is repulsive to bugs like mosquitoes, chiggers, gnats, bed bugs, and other insects that feed on human blood. The primary compound in vanilla that has the insect-repellent property is vanillin aldehyde. It is what imparts a rich fragrance to vanilla and also confers mild-to-moderate insect repellent properties. Here are some ways to use vanilla as a bug repellent:

  • Saturate a handkerchief in vanilla extract and let it dry. Place the handkerchief around your neck or in your pocket when outdoors. This will repel all kinds of bugs like fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, etc.
  • Mix a few drops of pure vanilla oil with some distilled water. Spray the mixture around your beds to repel insects like bed bugs and mosquitoes. Re-use every few hours.
  • Add pure vanilla beans to a pot of boiling water. Your home will smell fantastic and the aroma will also repel all kinds of bugs.

Vanilla as an Aphrodisiac

Vanilla has been used as an aphrodisiac for decades. It has helped men with erectile dysfunction and boosted libido in women. Because of its calming and mood enhancing properties, it is one of the best fragrances in night creams and lotions as well as in sensual perfumes and colognes. The fragrance of vanilla removes negativity and anxiety and helps in boosting and uplifting the mood. This property is what leads to an aphrodisiacal effect.

Vanilla as an Anti-inflammatory

Vanilla is a known anti-inflammatory herb. The eugenol compounds found in vanilla help fight fever. You can use vanilla essential oil to massage your temples, back, and base of the neck to relieve migraines. Diffusing vanilla oil instantly relaxes and refreshes the mind and body and can be an uplifting and mood-enhancing oil to diffuse in a patient’s room.

Vanilla as an Anti-Oxidant

Vanilla has anti-oxidant properties. Vanilla bean’s ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) value (that measures a food’s antioxidant capacity) is nearly 12240. This shows that it is highly antioxidant. When used in skincare products, it helps fight the free radical damage caused by sun, wind, and environmental pollutants.  Research is also being conducted on vanilla’s possible anti-carcinogenic effects.

Vanilla’s Role in Wound Healing

Vanilla may have wound healing capacity thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. When applied to cuts, wounds, burns, insect bites/stings, and other skin problems, vanilla extracts help speed up healing. However, you must not apply concentrated vanilla extract or its essential oil directly onto the wound. Dilute the oil first with carrier oil and then apply it to the skin. Always test a small area of the skin to ensure that you are not allergic to the extract or oil.

Vanilla in Anti-Aging

Mature skin can benefit from vanilla’s healing and anti-aging properties. The cosmetic industry uses vanilla not just for its fragrance but also because of its anti-oxidant property. This property helps in fighting free radicals and keeps the skin younger and blemish free. Topical and internal use of vanilla may slow down the signs of aging.

Vanilla for Pain Relief

The vanilloid compounds found in vanilla are quite similar to capsaicin found in cayenne pepper, chili peppers, and cinnamon. These compounds are known to relieve pain and inflammation. Vanilloids also act as a topical anesthetic to relieve painful skin problems.

Vanilla as an Anti-Acnegenic

Acne is a common skin issue that affects teens and adults alike. Vanilla can help combat acne thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It works by facilitating skin healing and fighting P.acnes bacterium that causes acne. Vanilla also soothes blemishes and fights redness.

Vanilla Provides B-Vitamins

Vanilla contains a host of B vitamins like vitamin B6 and niacin. Both these are known to benefit the skin. You can also find riboflavin, thiamin, and pantothenic acid. All these B vitamins support healthy maintenance of the skin.

Let us now study ways to use vanilla in a home skin care regime.

How to Use Vanilla Essential Oil or Vanilla Extract

Vanilla essential oil is dark brown in color and highly concentrated. It is used extensively in Aromatherapy. This strong fragrant oil should always be used sparingly. Never use vanilla undiluted on the skin; always dilute it first using carriers such as coconut, almond, olive, or jojoba oils. Also, conduct a patch test prior to use. Here are some ways to use vanilla essential oil:

Vanilla In Your Bath Water

Add a quarter cup of vanilla or whole vanilla bean to warm bath water. You can also add a few drops to your bath bombs. This vanilla-scented bath will surely make you feel like a King or Queen! The scent will also prevent insect bites at night.

Vanilla As a Hair Rinse or Conditioner

Mix 10 drops of vanilla essential oil with a teaspoon of warm coconut oil. Massage throughout the hair. Cover up with hot, steaming towel and leave it in for 30 minutes. Shampoo and rinse off to get smoother, silkier, and fresh-smelling hair.

Vanilla In a Diffuser

Add 5-10 drops of essential oil of vanilla to the diffuser. Inhale the scent to relieve anxiety and stress. The scent will also repel common household bugs.

Vanilla in Massage Oil

Add a few drops of vanilla oil to massage oil and massage the body to relieve aches and pains. The scent of vanilla will also repel bugs.

Vanilla as a Sleep Aid

Soak a few cotton balls in vanilla and place them near your pillow to get a restful sleep. The tranquilizing effect of vanilla can curb insomnia and sleep issues. The refreshing scent will also keep bugs away from your bed.

Vanilla in Your Day or Night Creams

Add a few drops of the oil to you lotion or cream and apply to the face and neck. This will reduce wrinkles and fine lines for a younger looking skin. It also helps repel bugs.


Prized world-wide for its culinary uses, vanilla is a great addition to skincare as well. The vanillin aldehyde compound in vanilla has mild to moderate bug repellent properties. You can also use the oil or extracts to curb anxiety, nausea, insomnia, skin issues, and aches and pains. This essential oil with its warm, sultry aroma and bug-repelling properties is definitely a must-have in your cabinet!

Our products that contain vanilla extract:

Deliciously Aromatic Natural Perfume & Insect Repellent Spray

Deliciously Aromatic Natural Perfume & Insect Repellent Roll On

Deliciously Aromatic Natural Perfume & Insect Repellent Salve




Naturally Bug-Free: 75 Nontoxic Recipes for Repelling Mosquitoes, Ticks By Stephanie L. Tourles

Medical Disclaimer

The content found on this website is for informational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Information and statements regarding health related benefits of certain ingredients are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information provided is not meant to substitute the advice provided by your personal physician or other medical professional. Do not use the information found within this website to self-diagnose any medical conditions or treat any health problems or diseases. The information provided is not intended to prescribe or be taken as medical advice.

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