Sunflowers have a lot going for them. They light up the landscape with their golden-yellow petals, bringing instant cheer. Of course, they also produce edible seeds and sunflower oil that has significant benefits for your skin.
When it comes to skincare, sunflower oil is typically considered an “ordinary” oil. It doesn’t have the attraction of coming from an exotic plant and typically flies under the radar.
However, you shouldn’t underestimate what sunflower oil can do for your skin. It’s been a staple skincare ingredient for a long time— and with good reason. It hydrates, softens, nourishes, and protects skin all while being gentle enough for any skin type.
Here’s what you need to know about this beneficial oil and what it can do for your complexion.
Sunflowers for Skincare: A Rich History & A Bright Future
Sunflowers aren’t new to the skincare world.
These plants were first cultivated by Native Americans, perhaps as far back as 3000 BC. Wild sunflowers are native to several areas in North America but had to be domesticated to become the large, single-headed varieties we see today.
Various Native American tribes grew sunflowers as a crop. According to the National Sunflower Foundation, they harvested the seeds for food and pressed them to extract the oil.
Sunflower oil was used both for cooking and for skincare. It had medicinal applications as part of a remedy for snakebites as well as more “cosmetic” uses in body ointments and hair care. The oil was also used to make bread, while the seeds were eaten as a snack or ground into flour.
Sunflowers eventually spread to other parts of the world, mainly as an ornamental plant.
It took until the 19th and 20th centuries for the value of sunflower oil to become widely known. This led to the commercialization of sunflower production. Today, it’s a very valuable crop (as well as an ornamental plant) with many culinary and skincare uses for the oil.
Top Benefits of Sunflower Oil for Skin
Hydrates and Nourishes Skin
Sunflower oil is rich in several fatty acids that deeply hydrate skin.
If you could see a greatly magnified picture of your skin, you would find that the outer layer is made up of dead skin cells known as corneocytes and lipids, which are natural fats. The lipids are extremely important because they fill in the spaces between the corneocytes, almost like mortar in between bricks.
Without a healthy lipid layer, your skin easily becomes dry and flaky. This can happen from harsh weather, over-exfoliation, chemicals, etc. Lipid production also declines with age.
One way to restore hydration to skin is by applying fatty acids, which are a natural component of the lipids found in your skin.
Linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid are all fatty acids in sunflower oil that work to moisturize skin. They also give the oil emollient properties, which means it helps to fill in between skin cells, giving your complexion a smooth and well-hydrated look.
Enhances Skin Barrier Integrity
Research has shown that there are significant benefits of sunflower oil for skin barrier integrity— even more so than other plant-based oils.
Essentially, your skin’s barrier is the outermost layer of skin known as the epidermis. As we just discussed, it’s made up of skin cells bound together with lipids to form a “wall”. This wall is critical for keeping moisture in your skin and preventing damage to the deeper layers.
Linoleic acid— one of the main fatty acids in sunflower oil— is particularly known for aiding skin barrier integrity. Some small studies also confirm that sunflower oil itself supports your skin barrier.
In one study, 4 weeks of using sunflower oil topically improved hydration and skin barrier integrity. Interestingly, olive oil had the opposite effect, perhaps because it’s much lower in linoleic acid.
In another study, sunflower oil improved skin barrier integrity in infants and reduced their risk of sepsis (an infection that can enter through the skin). It was even powerful enough to reduce mortality rates by 25%!
Helps Rejuvenate Damaged Skin
Restoring your skin’s natural barrier is one way to help damaged skin heal. When this very important barrier starts degrading, it won’t be long before irritation, redness, and even skin conditions like dermatitis show up. This makes repairing it key to reversing- and preventing- damage to all layers of skin.
Of course, we already know that there are benefits of sunflower oil for skin barrier renewal.
However, it may go even further than this for damaged skin, since at least one study has shown that it speeds wound healing. Once again, this benefit was largely attributed to the high amount of linoleic acid present in the oil. (Linoleic acid is known to aid wound recovery.)
Hopefully, you won’t be dealing with any skin wounds, but you can use sunflower oil to help rejuvenate skin that has been stressed by heat, cold, wind, chemicals, etc.
Soothing for Inflamed-Looking Skin
Along with wound healing properties, sunflower seed oil also has an anti-inflammatory effect on skin. This means that it can decrease the appearance of redness and inflammation, effectively calming sensitive or irritated skin.
Not only is this useful for occasional skin issues, it may also be helpful for more serious ones like atopic dermatitis or eczema.
A few small studies have already been conducted using sunflower oil because of its ability to help repair the skin barrier. The findings so far have been positive and indicate that the oil helps to moisturize skin and relieves some symptoms of dermatitis.
Has Protective + Anti-Aging Antioxidant Properties
Sunflower oil is rich in vitamin E, which happens to be a powerful antioxidant.
Antioxidants in general are essential for healthy skin. They fight free radical damage that causes your skin to age and degrade. They also help to protect collagen and elastin (two very important anti-aging skin proteins), keeping your skin looking younger for longer.
Vitamin E specifically has these benefits and helps to protect your skin from photodamage as well. Photodamage is the term used to describe signs of aging in the skin (wrinkles, dark spots, etc.) caused by UV damage from the sun.
This gives sunflower oil potential benefits for fending off wrinkles and fine lines and keeping your skin young-looking. By providing hydration, it may also make existing wrinkles less noticeable.
Lightweight Texture that Absorbs Quickly
Plant-based oils have become very popular in skincare, but no one wants their skin to feel greasy after applying one.
Thankfully, this isn’t something you have to worry about with sunflower oil. It feels light on the skin and absorbs quickly (and deeply). It’s also suitable for any skin type: dry, oily, normal, mature.
Another point in favor of sunflower oil is the fact that it’s non-comedogenic.
This means it won’t clog pores and can be used on acne-prone skin. The linoleic acid in sunflower oil may also be beneficial for those prone to breakouts. Researchers have discovered that acne sufferers are often low on this specific fatty acid that may help prevent pores from being blocked with sebum.
You still may not want to apply pure sunflower oil to your skin if you deal with acne regularly. But it’s an excellent choice as one of the main oils in a facial cream.
Not only are there benefits of sunflower oil for all skin types, it’s also very good for sensitive skin. Studies have shown that it’s gentle enough to use on an infant’s skin, and allergic reactions to it are incredibly rare.
That being said, if you have an allergy to sunflower seeds or ragweed, you may want to go slowly with sunflower oil. Even those who are allergic to the seeds can use the oil in many cases, but a little caution never hurts!
What to Look for in Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil gets pressed from the seeds of the plant (which is why it also goes by the name of sunflower seed oil). It should be clear to light yellow with little to no smell.
As with any other plant-based oil, make sure you choose a cold-pressed option. This ensures that as many beneficial compounds as possible are kept intact. Also, choose one that is clearly labeled ‘unrefined’ to make sure it hasn’t undergone processing post-harvest.
Another important consideration is using organic sunflower oil whenever possible. Like any other crop, sunflowers can be grown with harmful pesticides and chemical fertilizers. You do not want these toxins on your skin, and buying organic is the best way to avoid them.
Of course, buying pure sunflower oil is not the only way to use this natural ingredient. You can also look for it as a protective moisturizer in creams, lotions, serums, etc.
Sunflower Oil for Younger-Looking Skin
If you are interested in the anti-aging benefits of sunflower oil for skin, look into the Age-Defying Dream Cream from Purity Woods.
This deeply nourishing cream includes organic sunflower seed oil as one of its carefully chosen natural moisturizers. It pairs with other antioxidant-packed hydrators, like mango seed butter and cacao seed butter, to improve the appearance of dry, dull, and old-looking skin.
The Age-Defying Dream Cream also contains over 20 other USDA Certified Organic plant extracts. Together, they quickly diminish signs of aging like wrinkles, dark spots, saggy-looking skin, etc.
Learn more about the Age-Defying Dream Cream here and brighten your skincare routine with sunflowers!