Asked via the FutureDerm.com Facebook page:
Is sunflower oil good for the skin?
With the whole natural/organic skin care movement still ongoing in the U.S., sunflower seed oil (Helianthus annum) is one of those ingredients we are sure to keep on seeing. Sunflower seed oil is an emollient and occlusive agent commonly found in cosmetics, cleansing products, and hair conditioners. The secret to its efficacy is that sunflower seed oil contains about 60% linoleic acid, which hydrates as it is both incorporated into skin lipids and prevents water loss from the hair. Sunflower seed oil has been shown to be even more effective in hydrating than olive oil: According to a very small study (3 individuals!), application of sunflower seed oil to the individuals’ right forearms for 2 weeks markedly increased the amount of lecithin in the patients’ skin. In addition, the rate of transepidermal water loss was significantly lowered, and the patients’ scaly skin lesions disappeared – results not found with olive oil (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 1974). The authors speculate that the reason is that sunflower seed oil is a natural source of linoleic acid, whereas olive oil is a source of oleic acid.
Sunflower seed oil also has antibacterial properties, as infants receiving a daily skin treatment of sunflower oil were found to be 41% less likely to develop infections in one small study (The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, 2004). Lastly, sunflower seed oil is a source of vitamin E (Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, 2006).
Keep in mind that the type of sunflower seed oil used in cooking is not the same as organic, cold-pressed sunflower oil. Cooking sunflower seed oil should never be applied to the skin (Aromatherapy for the Healthy Child, 2000). Even with organic, cold-pressed sunflower oil, such as Flora Organic Sunflower Oil, I would be careful and speak to my dermatologist first, and begin with a patch test on a very small patch of skin. Although there are no documented instances of allergic reactions from sunflower oil to date, I personally have very sensitive skin that has had so many allergic reactions I like to advise my readers to be extra cautious as well! 🙂