Sunflower oil is great for cooking. But did you know you can use it as a carrier oil too? It is a nice, light oil that absorbs quickly and does not leave you with a greasy feeling.
Properties of Sunflower Oil
The botanical name for sunflower is Helianthus annuus.
Color and Smell
Unrefined sunflower oil is golden yellow to amber and its smell is mild. The refined oil is pale yellow color and typically odorless.
The oil is light and wonderful. It soaks into your skin quickly and won’t leave a greasy feeling.
The comedogenic rating for sunflower oil is 2. That means it has a low to moderate chance of causing acne, especially for acne-prone skin. So as with all oils, patch test first before adding it to your skincare regime.
What is in the oil?
Linoleic acid is the main fatty acid in sunflower oil and makes up about 60% of it. Oleic acid makes up about 30%. But there are some sunflower oils with higher oleic acid levels.
Other fatty acids include palmitic acid (5%), stearic acid (5%), behenic acid, arachic acid, and linolenic acid.
Sunflower oil also has high amounts of alpha-tocopherol (Vitamin E compound) and sterols. The sterols here include beta-sitosterol, delta-stigmasterol and delta-avenasterol. Other compounds in the oil include carotenoids, lecithin, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid and minerals (like zinc and iron).
Sunflower Oil Benefits
The benefits of sunflower oil for skin show the oil:
- may improve skin barrier function
- may reduce hospital-related infections in postnatal babies
- has moderate antibacterial and antifungal benefits
- may heal wounds
Here’s more about sunflower oil benefits for skin and hair.
Sunflower oil may (or may not) improve skin barrier function
There is some debate on whether or not oils aid or harm the skin barrier.
This 2017 study compared sunflower oil and baby lotion on the skin of 50 newborns. The researchers checked the barrier function using four noninvasive assessments. After 5 weeks, the researchers showed both baby lotion and the oil caused a drop in skin pH and water loss. And both caused an increase in hydration in the newborns. So both skin care regimes did not harm the skin barrier function.
Another study from 2014 had different results. It tested sunflower oil on the skin development of 22 premature newborns. The results showed that skin pH decreased and sebum was stable. But skin water loss increased a lot until day 11. And skin hydration decreased until day 21. So the study suggested sunflower oil may slow down the maturity of a baby’s skin.
There are a few takeaways here. Sunflower oil is not occlusive. But the oil may affect skin development in newborns. You can see these results are different to the 2017 study.
Here is a study published in 2013. It explored the effects of olive oil and sunflower oil on the skin of 19 adults. It found sunflower did not cause redness and improved skin hydration. The researchers also believed the oil maintained the integrity of the skin.
They went on to note olive oil damaged the skin barrier, reduced its integrity and caused redness. As such they challenged the belief that all natural oils were beneficial for skin.
So what are the takeaways here? More research is needed. And the skin of a newborn is far more sensitive so I believe sunflower oil may improve the skin. If you are not convinced, then try other amazing oils like tamanu oil, safflower oil or avocado oil.
Sunflower oil can reduce infections in postnatal babies
A 2004 study tested sunflower oil on the skin of premature babies to see if it affected skin condition, nosocomial infections or death.
Side note: nosocomial infections means infections acquired while at a hospital.
These are real possibilities in premature babies, since their skin barriers are compromised. And, in developing countries with lower standards of healthcare, these possibilities are even higher.
The study showed babies treated with sunflower had far less rates of infection. And their skin were much better. With this low-cost oil, the researchers believe it may help to reduce infections and save lives of newborns in the developing world.
It has moderate antibacterial benefits
Take a look at this 2012 study from the International Journal of Science and Technology. It looked at the antibacterial effects of sunflower oil on three strains. They were Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis.
The study found the oil had some antibacterial activity. And it may be suitable as an antibacterial agent. But, the study found streptomycin, a commercial antibiotic, had far better antimicrobial effects.
It has moderate antifungal benefits too
The same study mentioned above also tested the oil on the fungi Candida albicans. And just as before, the oil had moderate antifungal activity. Again, it did not compare to the effects of the commercial antibiotic.
These antimicrobial benefits of sunflower oil could be the reason why the premature babies had lower rates of nosocomial infections!
It has wound healing benefits
Two animal studies suggest sunflower oil has wound healing benefits.
One from 2004 treated wounds on lambs with sunflower oil and Vaseline. The study found the oil caused healing to speed up and reduced the size of the wound faster.
Another study from 2012 looked at the wound healing benefits of this oil on horses. And the study did show the oil helped in the healing process.
So sunflower oil can help with wound healing.
Where to buy sunflower oil?
You can get this oil anywhere like your supermarket or online. You can also try any of these brands.
The typical shelf life can range from one to two years.
Uses of Sunflower Oil
Remember this oil has a comedogenic rating of 2. That means it may cause acne (but isn’t likely to). So patch test the oil before using it.
Once you are not sensitive to the oil then you can follow any of these sunflower oil uses:
For hair: The oil is light and non-greasy, so you can use sunflower in your hair. Massage a few drops into your wet hair after taking a shower. You’ll be left with sleek, shiny, beautiful hair.
For oil cleansing: You can use this oil for oil cleansing because it’s a nice, light, linoleic-rich oil. Add a few drops of the oil onto your fingers and massage it in for about ten to fifteen minutes.
Then use a warm wet microfiber cloth to wipe away all the grease, dirt and bacteria. You can also mix the oil with other great oils like jojoba, prickly pear, cucumber seed, watermelon seed and more.
For massaging: You can use the oil in your massage blends – just be cautious about using it on newborns. For your own blends, try zhushing it up with an essential oil like rosemary, bergamot, lavender or ylang ylang.
What other ways do you use sunflower oil for skin? Share your story right here.