Safflower Oil for Acne: Benefits and How to Use

We know what you're thinking: Oil? As an acne-fighter? Sure, a plant-based oil is great for moisturizing, but how can it help combat blemishes? Here, Dr. Alicia Zalka, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based and Kim Walls, a product formulator, explain how safflower oil can do exactly that—and much more.

Safflower Oil

Type of ingredient: Plant-based oil

Main benefits: Moisturizes the skin and is rich in protective antioxidants. It also has anti-inflammatory effects and helps promote wound healing says Zalka, who adds that it can help reduce the size of blackheads and whiteheads as well.

Who should use it: It's very well-tolerated and non-comedogenic, so pretty much anyone can use it.

How often can you use it: You can use safflower oil up to twice a day.

Works well with: Zalka says it pairs especially well with vitamin C, another potent antioxidant.

Don't use with: There are no known interactions; Walls says it works well with nearly every other skincare ingredient.

What Is Safflower Oil?

"Safflower, aka Carthamus tinctorius, is a flowering plant known as the '4,000- year-old herb,'" says Zalka. It has a long history of varied uses, including for culinary purposes (safflower oil is widely considered to be one of the healthiest oils you can cook with), as a dye for textiles (thanks to the oil's rich, yellow-orange-red tone), and skincare. Safflower oil specifically is made from cold-pressing the seeds of the flower, she says.

Side Effects of Safflower Oil

Both experts underscore the fact that safflower oil is generally very well- tolerated. That being said, an allergic reaction is always possible. Walls suggests avoiding it if you have an allergy to chrysanthemum, marigold, daisies, or related plants, as you might also have an allergy to safflower. When in doubt, Zalka says you can always do a patch test: Apply a dime-sized amount to the inside of your wrist and monitor the skin for any signs of reaction for 24 to 48 hours. It also bears mentioning that safflower oil may reduce clotting in some individuals, likely due to the high vitamin E content, says Zalka. As such, anyone with a known clotting disorder or who is taking anticoagulants should use it with caution.

How to Use Safflower Oil

The big caveat with safflower oil is that the quality matters—a lot. As Walls mentioned, it needs to be in the purest form possible, meaning cold-processed and minimally-processed. "The key to getting the most benefit from safflower oil is to ensure it isn’t processed into something that nature never intended it be," she says, adding that seeking out organic safflower oil is also a good idea.

To that point, both experts we spoke with suggest looking for straight-up safflower oil and applying two to three drops directly to the skin (versus using skincare products where it's mixed with other ingredients). It does tend to be fairly inexpensive and easily accessible, notes Zalka, which is always a win. Ideally, safflower oil should be stored in a dark, opaque bottle to ward off light-induced degradation.

The Best Products with Safflower Oil

Our experts recommend using pure, cold-pressed safflower oil, and this affordable option fits the bill. Not only can you use it on your face, but you can add a few drops to your body lotion or hair conditioner for an extra moisture boost.

This lush cleansing oil is formulated with a blend of eight (yes, eight!) different oils, including safflower, jojoba, sea buckthorn, and camellia, to effectively remove makeup without stripping the skin. And since it doesn't have any emulsifiers, it can go triple-duty as a body, face, and hair oil.

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