Safflower oil is generally available in two kinds – with a high content of oleic acid or of linoleic acid. While oleic-acid rich safflower works well for dry skin, most other skin benefits are attributed to linoleic-rich safflower oil.
Safflower oil gets a lot of good press as a healthy cooking oil thanks to its many benefits for the body. But if skin health, in particular, is a top priority for you, a dose of safflower oil is just what the doctor ordered! Extracted from the seeds of the safflower, a thistle-like annual plant, safflower oil can do wonders for your skin when it has a high content of linoleic acid.1 2 Read on to find out what exactly safflower oil has lined up for your skin.
1. Fights Acne
Safflower oil rich in linoleic acid, which accounts for about 70% of its composition, is just what your skin needs if you are grappling with acne.3 Poor levels of linoleic acid can lead to hyperkeratinization, a condition where you see increased levels of keratin, which is a protein present in your skin, hair, and nails. This causes dead skin cells to stick together rather than sloughing off, leading in turn to clogged skin pores and pimples. According to a study, the topical application of linoleic acid for a month made plugged skin pores or microcomedones smaller by about 25%. So dab on some safflower oil to nip pimples in the bud and tackle microcomedones before they turn into blackheads or whiteheads.4 It also helps that safflower oil is non-greasy and light.
2. Lightens A Tan
Your skin increases levels of a natural pigment known as melanin when it’s exposed to sunlight. Melanin protects the skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays and also makes your skin darker – that’s why skin tans in the sun. But research shows that linoleic acid has skin-lightening properties. It can suppress the production of melanin and decrease hyperpigmentation caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation. It also speeds up the turnover of the outermost layer of skin or the stratum corneum which results in the removal of melanin.5 Vitamin E in safflower oil also helps protect the skin from the ravages of the sun thanks to its ability to counter oxidative stress.
Linoleic acid has also been used to successfully treat melasma, a hyperpigmentation disorder where you get dark patches of skin.6 So applying safflower oil can help you get rid of a stubborn sun tan and even out your skin tone.
3. Fights Wrinkles And Dry Skin
Could the safflower oil hold the secret to young and supple skin? Research seems to suggest so. One study found that middle-aged American women whose diets included higher amounts of linoleic acid had better skin which was less dry and had fewer wrinkles. So adding safflower oil to your cooking may translate to younger skin. Of course, linoleic acid isn’t the only ingredient that goes into the making of great skin. The study also found that a lower intake of carbohydrates and fats and a higher intake of vitamin C had beneficial effects.7
It also helps that safflower oil is rich in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that fights accelerated aging and wrinkling of your skin. A 100 gm of safflower oil has about 34 mg of vitamin E, meeting over 200% of your daily value requirement.8 Incorporate safflower into your cooking as well your weekly skincare routine. For instance, add in some safflower oil whenever you make a face pack to rejuvenate the skin. It also works as a light moisturizer for your skin.
4. Helps Heal Wounds
Research indicates that both topical application and oral administration of linoleic acid can help with wound healing. One animal study found that applying linoleic acid increased the wound healing mass, as well as total DNA and protein content of wounds. Meanwhile, another study looked at the effect of oral administration of linoleic acid on wound healing in diabetic rats. It was found that consuming linoleic acid induced the formation of new blood vessels and improved wound healing. Linoleic acid may have a pro‐inflammatory effect which could speed up the wound-healing process.9 10
5. Improves Skin Barrier Function
The outermost layer of your skin performs an important role – it acts as a barrier between your body and the environment and not only prevents allergens, irritants, and harmful germs from entering your body but also limits the loss of water from your body.11 However, if you are deficient in essential fatty acids, it can compromise the barrier function of your skin. Studies show that applying or consuming linoleic acid can correct this and restore the normal barrier function of the skin.12
Incidentally, an essential fatty acid imbalance doesn’t just compromise the barrier function of your skin, it can have other effects also – graying of hair, baldness, and scaly red patches on your scalp (scalp dermatitis), for instance. And as one case study discovered, topical application of safflower oil was able to reverse these symptoms in a person suffering from this deficiency.13
If you have an allergy to ragweed or other plants in the Asteraceae family, safflower may be out of bounds. Experiment with a small quantity in food before you start using it regularly. Make sure you do an allergy patch test before using it on the skin as well.
|↑1||A dose of safflower oil each day might help keep heart disease at bay. The Ohio State University.|
|↑2||Goldstein, Myrna Chandler, and Mark A. Goldstein. Healthy Oils: Fact versus Fiction: Fact Versus Fiction. ABC-CLIO, 2014.|
|↑3||Lin, Tzu-Kai, Lily Zhong, and Juan Luis Santiago. “Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils.” International journal of molecular sciences 19, no. 1 (2017): 70.|
|↑4||Letawe, C., M. Boone, and G. E. Pierard. “Digital image analysis of the effect of topically applied linoleic acid on acne microcomedones.” Clinical and experimental dermatology 23, no. 2 (1998): 56-58.|
|↑5||Ando, Hideya, Atsuko Ryu, Akira Hashimoto, Masahiro Oka, and Masamitsu Ichihashi. “Linoleic acid and α-linolenic acid lightens ultraviolet-induced hyperpigmentation of the skin.” Archives of dermatological research 290, no. 7 (1998): 375-381.|
|↑6||Lee, Mu-Hyoung, Hyun-Jin Kim, Dong-Ju Ha, Jong-Hyun Paik, and Hong-Yong Kim. “Therapeutic effect of topical application of linoleic acid and lincomycin in combination with betamethasone valerate in melasma patients.” Journal of Korean medical science 17, no. 4 (2002): 518.|
|↑7||Cosgrove, Maeve C., Oscar H. Franco, Stewart P. Granger, Peter G. Murray, and Andrew E. Mayes. “Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 86, no. 4 (2007): 1225-1231.|
|↑8||Safflower oil. USDA.|
|↑9||Pereira, Leonardo M., Elaine Hatanaka, Edgair F. Martins, Flávia Oliveira, Edson A. Liberti, Sandra H. Farsky, Rui Curi, and Tania C. Pithon‐Curi. “Effect of oleic and linoleic acids on the inflammatory phase of wound healing in rats.” Cell biochemistry and function 26, no. 2 (2008): 197-204.|
|↑10||Rodrigues, Hosana G., Marco AR Vinolo, Fabio T. Sato, Juliana Magdalon, Carolina MC Kuhl, Ana S. Yamagata, Ana Flávia M. Pessoa et al. “Oral Administration of Linoleic Acid Induces New Vessel Formation and Improves Skin Wound Healing in Diabetic Rats.” PloS one 11, no. 10 (2016): e0165115.|
|↑11||The Skin Barrier Facility. University of Sheffield.|
|↑12||Elias, Peter M., Barbara E. Brown, and Vincent A. Ziboh. “The permeability barrier in essential fatty acid deficiency: evidence for a direct role for linoleic acid in barrier function.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology 74, no. 4 (1980): 230-233.|
|↑13||Skolnik, Phyllis, William H. Eaglstein, and Vincent A. Ziboh. “Human essential fatty acid deficiency: treatment by topical application of linoleic acid.” Archives of Dermatology 113, no. 7 (1977): 939-941.|