You may see the name Carthamus tinctorius on cosmetic product labels, and wonder what ingredient it represents. The common name for this botanical is safflower, and it is used fairly widely in food and supplements, and it also has a long history in cosmetic formulations. The plant goes back as far as the time of Egyptian pharaohs, and has been referenced in many Greek documents.
In the 1880s, it was known as carthamine, and today it is a major crop in India, and has many agricultural and commercial applications. In the United States it grows in the western part of the country (California produces about 50% of the plant) and it is also grown in western Canada.
Despite its long history, people didn’t start pressing safflower seeds for oil until 1925, and it become popular in the 1960s as many of the benefits of the oil and the plant were discovered.
The oil pressed from the safflower seeds is very high in vitamin E, which offers many health benefits. In addition to vitamin E, safflower oil also contains omega-6 fatty acids. The seed oil is low in saturated fat, making it a healthy choice for cooking as well as skin.
Vitamin E is recognized as a potent antioxidant and a great line of defense against free radicals, which are molecules that tend to attack collagen and help to prematurely age the skin. When the skin is expose to excessive UV radiation from sunlight, the body produces free radicals. The free radicals attack the skin at the cellular level, damaging the mitochondria within the cell and causing a loss of elasticity. This is a significant contributor to fine lines, wrinkles and the appearance of aging skin.
Because of its antioxidant properties, safflower oil has many benefits for the skin and is used in cosmetic products that are created to help reverse the damage done by free radicals. This includes rough skin, age spots, and skin irritations.
Research also shows that safflower oil works to reduce skin inflammation and plays a significant role in wound healing. Wound healing is a combination of various functions within the body that includes cellular, molecular, and other mechanisms.
Once an injury to the skin occurs, the body begins to create a wound matrix, which is an immune response that helps break down the tissue where the wound happened. Then the process of wound repair begins, allowing new cells to form and move to the wound area. The topical application of oils like safflower oil and its vitamin E component helps to expedite this process.
As we age, our skin cells begin to lose their elasticity and skin starts to sag, which produces fine lines and wrinkles giving the appearance of looking older. Topical application of nourishing oils like safflower oil can help decrease the loss of water and therefore, keep the skin hydrated. This works to minimize the appearance of wrinkles.
Safflower oil is often combined with other ingredients in many cosmetic products to reduce the telltale signs of aging and other skin maladies. These products contain moisturizing butters, hyaluronic acid and other ingredients that work with the antioxidant properties of safflower oil to restore a more youthful, radiant appearance to the skin.
Safflower oil contains a large amount of linoleic acid works as both an analgesic and antioxidant. This antioxidant property is what works to minimize the appearance of aging, as it also works to help restore the collagen that was lost due to environmental factors like UV exposure and free radicals. Linoleic acid also has a significant role in opening the skin to moisturizers. Plus, safflower oil has been shown to be a penetration enhancer, making the skin more receptive to other ingredients found in cosmetic product formulations.
The environmental aspects of skin aging can result in thinning and dryness of the skin. These environmental factors include UV sunlight, air pollution, smoking, and others. Sunlight exposure is the most impactful, and is a key reason why the skin should always be protected with sunscreen products and clothing.
This UV exposure from sunlight is what causes photo-oxidative damage to the skin, breaking down collagen and damage to skin cells, which leads to photo aging and even skin cancers. That’s why it’s critically important to use sun protection on the skin.
But perhaps the most important function of safflower oil is its assistance in battling oxidative stress - the free radicals that form after exposure to UV radiation and the environmental toxins. The high content of antioxidants like Vitamin E boosts the defenses in the skin, which helps prevent skin cell damage.
Safflower oil contains both omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are crucial to overall skin function and a healthy skin appearance. Because both essential fatty acids have a profound effect on the fatty acid composition of our skin, topically applying safflower oil can help to minimize the inflammatory response in different layers of the skin.
Essential fatty acids are also required for the optimal structural integrity of the skin. By applying the oil topically, symptoms associated with skin sensitivity and inflammatory disorders can be minimized. It is thought that supplementing the skin with specific essential fatty acids can impact the skin’s metabolites, which can have a significant influence on the skin’s appearance.
During your 20s and 30s, skin is radiant and glowing, with minimal dry patches and very few fine lines and wrinkles. Unlike heavy options like lanolin and mineral oil can irritate the skin and clog pores, whereas safflower oil soothes the skin.
Safflower oil acts the same way a lubricant does, forming a barrier, which prevents water from escaping. Because it helps skin retain water, it leaves the skin radiant, soft, and smooth. Safflower oil also helps to enhance the texture and tone of the skin.
Another benefit of safflower oil is that it has a comedogenic rating of 0! This means it has practically zero chance of clogging your skin pores. Plus, it has a much lower percentage of oleic acid than other oils, like sunflower oil, for example. Thanks to its high level of linoleic acid, it’s excellent for helping to balance the sebum levels in the skin. And with its light, non-greasy consistency, safflower oil is absorbed quickly into the skin, making it an excellent moisturizing facial oil suitable for all skin types.
Topical use of safflower oil in cosmetic products will provide healthier skin. But it goes beyond skin, because it is an excellent treatment for hair as well.
Because safflower oil can help to prevent loss of proteins, it is used for hair moisturizing and growth. As a rich source of vitamin E, safflower oil helps to keep the scalp fully hydrated, and thanks to its oleic acid content it also helps to penetrate deep into the scalp prompting increased blood flow. This works to cause widening of the smooth muscles in the scalp bringing more nutrients to the hair follicles, resulting in hair regrowth.
Thanks to components like vitamin E, powerful antioxidants to combat free radicals, and significant moisturizing capabilities, safflower oil is a smart choice for inclusion in cosmetic product formulations. Safflower seed oil benefits are numerous and this ingredient can truly handle a variety of skin problems.