Benefits and Uses of Chia Seed Oil
Thanks to chia seedsâ€™ high nutritional value and skin-boosting benefits, theyâ€™ve grown in popularity in recent years.
Derived from the plant Salvia hispanica L., chia seeds are rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, and some vitamins and minerals. The seeds can then be pressed to extract a nutritious oil known as chia seed oil (1).
Chia seed oil is a versatile ingredient thatâ€™s used in the skin care industry as a potent anti-aging ingredient, as well as an edible and delicious alternative to olive oil in kitchens worldwide.
Here are 6 benefits and uses of chia seed oil.
1. May prevent premature skin aging
Chia seed oil is a popular ingredient in skin care products due to its high fatty acid content. The oil is particularly rich in omega-3 in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), omega-6, and smaller amounts of other healthy fats, such as oleic acid and stearic acid (1, 2, 3).
Along with its topical application, a diet high in these fats is linked to a healthier skin membrane, protection against ultraviolet (UV) rays, and better skin hydration, which reduces the appearance of fine lines (4, 5, 6).
Therefore, consuming food-grade chia seed oil and using skin care products containing chia seed oil may help keep your skin looking youthful.
Though its topical application is suitable for those with dry to combination skin, it can be comedogenic, or pore clogging, for those with oily skin.
Itâ€™s best to purchase chia seed oil products that are specially formulated for use on the skin, as this may reduce the likelihood of experiencing breakouts or irritation. You can find them online or in most stores that sell skin care products.
Chia seed oil is high in omega-3 and omega-6, both of which are associated with a healthier skin membrane, more hydrated skin, and protection against UV damage.
2. May relieve dry skin
Healthy, hydrated skin has a rich layer of lipids (fat) to help seal in moisture. Yet, when this layer has been compromised or is low in fat, moisture can leave the skin and result in dryness (7, 8, 9).
Chia seed oil is rich in the omega-3 fatty acid ALA and omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid. These two healthy fats have been shown to help restore the skinâ€™s moisture barrier, especially in those with dry skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis (9, 10, 11, 12).
In one small randomized controlled study, two groups of participants with dry skin â€” five healthy and five with itchy skin due to end-stage kidney disease or diabetes â€” applied 4% chia seed oil topically to their dry skin for 8 weeks (13).
At the end of the study, both groups experienced significant improvements in dry skin, skin irritation, perceived itchiness, and overall skin hydration. Though small, this study showed the potential benefits of chia seed oil on dry skin (13).
For best results, apply chia seed oil to your skin immediately after showering or bathing, as this is when your skin absorbs water best (14).
Using chia seed oil on your skin may reduce dryness by restoring its moisture barrier and preventing water from leaving it. Apply the oil directly to moist skin after showering or bathing for best results.
3. Reduces frizzy hair
Frizzy hair is the result of a lack of moisture in the outer layer of the hair, which is known as the cuticle. When hair is very dry, the cuticle becomes rough and swells, resulting in a frizzy appearance (15, 16, 17).
Chia seed oil is rich in various fatty acids that can penetrate the hair shaft to seal in moisture. This results in softer, smoother, and more hydrated hair (17).
Moreover, keeping the hair shaft strong and hydrated can help prevent further breakage to help your hair stay longer and healthier. For best results, apply a small amount to slightly damp hair or as a touch-up to dry hair (15, 16, 17).
Though some websites claim that chia seed oil can promote hair growth due to its high protein content, this is not the case. Considering itâ€™s an oil, its protein content is extremely low. Opt for eating chia seeds and other protein-rich foods to support hair growth (18, 19).
To reduce frizz, apply chia seed oil to your hair to seal in moisture and keep it hydrated.
4. Promotes shiny hair
Healthy hair is usually shiny and smooth, although the extent to which this is the case may depend on your hairâ€™s natural texture.
When hair is damaged and dry, light is unable to bounce off it, resulting in a dull appearance. To achieve a healthy shine, itâ€™s important to make sure your hair is well hydrated and free of breakage or damage (15, 17, 20).
Chia seed oil is used in many cultures as a natural hair product. Its high fatty acid content can penetrate the hair shaft, allowing the hair to stay hydrated and bring out its natural shine (15, 17, 20).
Chia seed oil is rich in healthy fats that can keep hair looking hydrated and healthy to reveal its natural shine.
5. May improve heart health
Chia seed oil is rich in ALA, a plant-based omega-3 fat that your body doesnâ€™t make and must obtain through food (21).
ALA helps create two other omega-3s known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are associated with improved heart health (21).
Considering the most popular salad oils include olive and vegetable oil â€” both of which are low in omega-3s â€” you may benefit from switching to chia seed oil if you want to increase your omega-3 intake. Still, it has a low smoke point and isnâ€™t well suited for cooking (22, 23).
While some studies have found eating chia seeds may reduce cholesterol, waist circumference, and heart disease risk, itâ€™s unknown whether chia seed oil has the same effects. Thatâ€™s because its fiber, which also benefits heart health and weight management, has been removed (24).
Also, note that oils, including chia seed oil, are highly concentrated sources of calories, making it important to be mindful of your portion size.
Despite this, increasing your intake of omega-3s from a variety of food sources can be a great way to support your heart health.
Chia seed oil is rich in an omega-3 fatty acid known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which can support heart health. Try adding it to your salad if youâ€™re looking to add more omega-3s to your diet.
6. May support brain health
Due to its high omega-3 content, chia seed oil may help support brain health.
Numerous studies have shown that all forms of omega-3 â€” ALA, EPA, and DHA â€” may have positive and neuroprotective effects on the brain, which may lead to a reduced risk of stroke, Alzheimerâ€™s disease, depression, and other neurological disorders (26, 27, 28).
Though no studies directly tie chia seed oil to improved brain health and more research is needed, increasing your omega-3 intake from a variety of food sources may help keep your brain healthy.
A diet rich in omega-3s, which are found in high amounts in chia seed oil, is associated with improved brain health and a lower risk of neurological disorders like stroke, Alzheimerâ€™s disease, and depression.
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