This Natural Oil Protects Your Skin Against Sun Damage and Much More

Dr. Janet Zand

January 24, 2020

 

 
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Flowers and beauty go hand-in-hand, and for good reason. They’re beautiful to look at. They smell beautiful. We often use them to mark occasions of great beauty, like weddings. But did you know that flowers themselves can actually help you look more beautiful?

Sure, you’ve probably carried a bouquet or worn a flower crown or corsage. But you can go a step further and use the oils contained within many flowers to soften, nourish, and protect your skin. In fact, here’s how you can use them to help keep your skin fresh and youthful looking.

When we expose our skin to hard work, the weather, ultraviolet radiation, pollution, and even dry air, our skin ages. It's impossible to avoid this skin aging altogether. However, you can certainly take steps to minimize the damage exposure to these factors causes. Doing so via natural ingredients, including those derived from flowers, has been gaining attention over the past few years. That’s because natural ingredients work. Even better, they often do so more effectively than manmade ingredients and with fewer harmful side effects. After all, the plants we derive these ingredients from are used to dealing with UV radiation all day every day.

Researchers have been working hard to keep up with this spike in interest, seeking to evaluate natural ingredients and determine if they truly do work and for what purposes they're best suited. In one such study, researchers looked at a number of natural products purported to have anti-aging effects. In all, they evaluated plants from a total of 35 families. They found that phytomolecules from polyphenols, triterpenes, and sterols are very promising when it comes to fighting aging.

These molecules are particularly great at blocking agents that can harm the skin, such as free radicals. And they're good at preventing trans-epidermal water loss. By keeping collagen healthy and skin hydrated, they help prevent wrinkles and keep skin looking its best. The researchers were really interested in extracts and compounds from the Fabaceae, Asperaceae, and Zingiberaceae families. These include legumes, peas, beans, asters, daisies, sunflowers, and ginger.

The Power of Sunflowers

That’s a lot of flower power. But let’s focus our attention on the sunflowers. These bright beauties can also help your skin look bright and beautiful thanks to the oil contained in their seeds.

You may have heard of sunflower seed oil before. In fact, you may have encountered sunflower oil at the grocery store. That’s because you can use it as a cooking oil, although it isn’t as well-known as olive oil. Both are natural oils known for having healing benefits. And sunflower oil has some distinct advantages for cooking. It has a much higher smoke point than olive oil. It can go up to about 450 degrees F. Some extra virgin olive oils start to smoke at 350. This can affect both the taste and the health of your food. So sunflower oil can be a good option for frying. (Although you’ll still want to do so sparingly.)

Sunflower oil definitely deserves a place in your pantry alongside olive oil. But which is better for the skin? The journal Pediatric Dermatology published a study comparing the two.

The researchers started by placing 19 adults into two groups. One group applied six drops of olive oil to one forearm twice a day for five weeks. The other group did the same for four weeks, with the addition of applying six drops of sunflower seed oil to the other forearm. The researchers then evaluated the skin of the participants.

Those who used the olive oil actually experienced a reduction in stratum corneum integrity and an increase in mild erythema, or redness of the skin. Erythema is often a sign of inflammation. Those using the sunflower seed oil, however, experienced stratum corneum integrity, no erythema, and improved hydration.

The researchers concluded that repetitive use of topical olive oil actually damages the skin barrier and can cause or exacerbate atopic dermatitis. They recommended that people avoid olive oil as a skin treatment product. Sunflower seed oil, however, was not harmful and was actually beneficial. It will help keep your skin barrier intact while locking in the moisture you need to maintain a youthful, healthy glow.

Gentle Enough for Children’s Skin

A pediatric journal published this study. But the people who participated in the study were adults. Does that mean sunflower seed oil isn’t gentle enough for children’s delicate skin? Not at all.

In fact, according to a study done in Egypt on preterm infants, sunflower seed oil can prevent invasive bacterial infections. Preterm infants often have compromised skin barriers, and sunflower seed oil helps strengthen and reinforce that barrier. The infants who received topical treatment with sunflower seed oil three times daily showed a significant improvement in skin condition. They also had a highly significant reduction in the incidence of hospital-acquired infections.

Other research has indicated that topical application of sunflower oil can reduce fungal infections on the feet. If you spend a lot of time in gym locker rooms or at public pools, you might want to apply sunflower oil to your feet regularly to ward off such an infection. Just rub the oil on after you shower and slip some socks on to keep it off your floors.

If sunflower seed oil can help make the skin strong enough to keep infections out, it can certainly help the skin keep moisture in. In fact, using sunflower oil on its own can often help you protect your skin better than reaching for a drugstore brand of moisturizer. That's because some ingredients commonly found in moisturizers can actually make your dry skin worse.

When you use many skin creams and lotions, the emulsifiers that keep the oil and water mixed in the product get applied to your skin along with everything else. But these emulsifiers can create a residue that interferes with your skin's lipid barrier. This will let water evaporate more quickly from your skin. As water evaporates, your skin feels drier, so you reach for additional lotion, starting the cycle over again.

This is great news for the manufacturers. They want you to use their products constantly. It’s not great news for your skin or your pocketbook though. But if you use sunflower seed oil on its own, you won’t have to worry about these emulsifiers. So the moisture won’t evaporate. The oil will provide a seal, locking it in.

Of course, many people fear that a layer of oil sealing the skin will lead to breakouts. But you won’t have to worry about this either. That’s because sunflower seed oil is full of oleic acid; vitamins A, D, and E; lecithin; and unsaturated fatty acids, so it nourishes the skin without clogging pores.

I recently reminded you about how good vitamin E in particular is for your skin. This oil can be a great source of this potent antioxidant.

Don’t Just Use Sunflower Oil Topically

Of course, you’ll get these benefits internally if you ingest sunflower seed oil. It’s worth having a bottle in your kitchen to cook with. And if you notice your hands are getting particularly dry, you can apply some of the oil directly before bed. Then cover your hands with cotton gloves to lock the moisture in and protect your sheets.

You can even get some of the internal benefits by snacking on sunflower seeds. True, you can’t rub them onto your skin. But they are a nutritious snack, which benefits your skin. And they can be especially good if they satisfy your craving for something crunchy without you turning to chips or other skin-wrecking snacks. Plus, they can help protect your heart by reducing cholesterol in the bloodstream. You can also use them to add crunch to a salad instead of croutons or bacon. And the more colorful vegetables you eat, the better your skin will look.

You can find sunflower seed oil in the cooking oil of most grocery stores. You can use it straight from the bottle on your body if you like. Just make sure you store it in a cool, dry place. Even if you plan to use it topically most of the time, the bathroom it’s the best place to store it. Too much air, heat, or light will cause it to spoil quickly.

Some of my favorite fatty acid blends, like Udo’s 3.6.9 contain sunflower oil as well. You can look for capsules or liquid products if you like the idea of taking sunflower oil internally but prefer to cook with something else. And of course, you can look for skincare products that contain natural sunflower seed oil.

Natural sunflower seed oils shouldn’t make you break out. Instead, they’ll help lock moisture into your skin while keeping out pathogens. Plus, they’ll do that while supplying a variety of nutrients to your skin. Altogether, they’ll help you have a healthy glow. In fact, your skin might look so good you’ll want to schedule a photo shoot – in a field full of sunflowers, of course.

Sources:

Tundis R1, Loizzo MR, Bonesi M, Menichini F. “Potential Role of Natural Compounds against Skin Aging.” Curr Med Chem. 2015 Feb 27. [Epub ahead of print].

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22995032

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2004 Aug;23(8):719-25.

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/oils/sunflower-oil.html

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