Frankincense, a Sanctuary for the Skin and Soul

Frankincense light

Uplifting, clarifying and protective, Frankincense is a powerful botanical ally with a rich history. Used as a spiritual tool, entwined with meditation and ritual for centuries, it is a time honored medicine and treasure, however, not many know that it is a dream ingredient for the skin. 

Frankincense resin comes to us from a scraggly desert tree native to eastern North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and parts of northern India. What we call resin is actually the dried sap tears the tree produces when wounded in order to protect and heal. This seemingly simple plant material has connected humans across cultures and geographical regions throughout history.

Humans have been in a relationship with frankincense for thousands of years. And through all that time it has been considered sacred to every culture that encountered it. It’s been found in beauty balms in the tombs of Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, burned as incense in innumerable temples and churches to sanctify the space, act as an offering, or to summon Divine presence. It’s been used as a tool in meditation, prayer and purification rituals. In the ancient world, entire pathways were forged in the desert to circulate this sacred plant through the spice trade — the Frankincense Trail — and at that time, it was worth more than its weight in gold.

It is protective, purifying, and fortifying for all skin and spirits. 

Like many desert plants, Frankincense is a powerful skin ally. It has an amazing ability to deeply beautify, fortify, and rejuvenate the skin. It is helpful in all its forms: essential oil, hydrosol, infused oil, and pure resin.

There are many varieties of frankincense, all of which fall into the boswellia family — carteri,sacra,serrata, and frereana being the most common. We use two types of frankincense resin in our infusion: Boswellia carteri and Boswellia frereana. We chose to use a frankincense resin infusion in our Sanctuary Butter instead of frankincense essential oil for a few reasons. First, because at the present time we want to keep our Sanctuary Collection free of essential oils, so that they can be comforting allies to even the most sensitive skin. Second because we love infused oils and find them to be deeply supportive to the skin and also to a beautifully ancient way to honor the history and legacy of this special plant. Third, we chose to utilize and infused frankincense oil to tap into the powers of boswellic acid.

 Sanctuary Butter

Sanctuary Butter


One of the most active compounds in frankincense is called boswellic acid, and it is lauded for its profound and powerful activity in relation to the human body, chiefly in its anti-inflammatory effects. It is often taken internally to address issues of gut health and joint care, along with numerous other systematic imbalances and disharmonies.

A simple google search will yield hundreds of thousands of results on boswellic acid, and a simple PubMed search will yield hundreds of studies conducted on its myriad benefits to human health.

Boswellic does not come through in distillation, and thus is not something we’re able to benefit from by using frankincense essential oil or frankincense hydrosol. However, it has been shown to come through in oil maceration/infusion.

If you’ve been with us a while, you already know that we prefer a non-reductionist approach to skin care, which is why we work with whole plants. When a plant is broken down to what is perceived as its solitary active force, we lose the whole matrix of therapy the plant evolved to contain. We lose all the essential cofactors, not yet identified or seen as worthy of note by modern science. Yet each compound is there for a reason, and nature has put them all together to work in perfect synergy.


frankincense bowl
Frankincense resin


Historically, what we know is this: frankincense has been revered medicinally, spiritually, cosmetically, and aroma therapeutically across cultures and across time for good reason. It has an amazing and distinctive aroma that is rich, creamy and earthy. Observationally, what we know is this: trees produce sap that dries to resin to act as a therapeutic bandage for the tree. To heal the tree’s damaged ‘tissue’, hold in moisture, and protect against pathogens when the wound is vulnerable. We recognize that we can benefit from these qualities. This is why pine pitch is recommended for emergency outdoor wound care.

To us, these are the most important and inspiring things about plant medicine. Still, we can appreciate the action of boswellic acid, and its tremendous affects the studies attest to.

We get the pure resin from our frankincense distillers: the same family-run Somali American distillery that also supplies our frankincense HydroSoul and essential oil.

These distillers are true stewards and sentinels of frankincense, both in the way they work with the Somali community and in the way they’ve perfected unique distilling methods that extract the most out of this beautiful resin. Not only do they work with researchers and multi-generation Somali harvesters to ensure ethical harvesting and long-term sustainability for the frankincense trees, they have also worked with the government of Somaliland to help establish organic standards and even their national organic certification system.

Frankincense is reparative, restorative, fortifying, beautifying, and heat pacifying for all skin. It’s a wonderful choice for skin that is dry, mature or compromised from overexposure to exfoliation and actives, or also just the elements. Frankincense resin has long been associated with the sun, and like many solar plants, has a ‘brightening’ and illuminating effect on the skin.


Frankincense Hydrosol

Hydro distilled Boswellia carteri (frankincense) resin

Frankincense Hydrosoul

Softens, hydrates and refines skin texture and smoothes the appearance of wrinkles.

    Argan Intensive Facial Serum

    Frankincense Essential oil/extract

    Argan Intensive Facial Serum

    For irritated, blemished or damaged skin it is calming and restorative,
    with soothing, regenerative and antibacterial properties.
    It combats redness, firms the skin, and infuses every skin cell with antioxidants.
    Famous for reducing the appearance of wrinkles, scars and hyperpigmentation.
    Second Ingredient in our Argan Intensive Serum

    Sanctuary Butter

    Frankincense Resin infusion

    Sanctuary Butter


    Rich with boswellic acids that have maintained integrity
    through a laborious maceration and infusion process.
    Boswellic acid is known to have anti-inflammatory effects.
    It has a rejuvenating effect, especially on mature skin.
    Minimizes the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines and reduces the appearance of scars and blemishes.
    Second ingredient in our Sanctuary Butter


    Frankincense Collection

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