Bio-Oil is a cosmetic oil designed to reduce the appearance of scars â€” including acne scars â€” and stretch marks. The term Bio-Oil refers to both the manufacturer of the oil and the product.
The oil has a long ingredient list that includes four botanical oils: calendula, lavender, rosemary, and chamomile. It also contains vitamins E and A, and other skin-enhancing ingredients like tocopheryl acetate.
Studies show that the oil can reduce acne scars, possibly due to the high vitamin E content. However, research on the effectiveness of vitamin E in treating acne and healing scars is mixed and ultimately inconclusive.
Vitamin A is known to reduce the appearance of discoloration and fine lines. The powerhouse anti-aging ingredient retinol is derived from vitamin A. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends retinol as a topical treatment for acne.
Bio-Oil benefits for the skin
Bio-Oil contains many ingredients that may benefit skin. According to certain studies, Bio-Oil has the following benefits:
Bio-Oil for acne scars
A small 2012 study examined 44 people with acne scars between the ages of 14 and 30. In the 32 study participants who received treatment with Bio-Oil, 84 percent experienced an improvement in the condition of their acne scars. Additionally, 90 percent showed an improvement in scar color.
Vitamin A can help exfoliate the skin, which accelerates the scar healing process. Calendula and chamomile oils are both anti-inflammatory, which can help heal skin.
Vitamin E has been shown in certain studies to reduce the appearance of scars, but other studies show that vitamin E has no effect â€” or can even worsen the look of scars. How scars react to vitamin E seems to vary widely from person to person and is tough to predict.
Bio-Oil moisturizes the skin, which can improve wound-healing. You may get the same scar-reducing effects from a number of other moisturizers or oils.
Bio-Oil should not be used on broken skin or open wounds.
May even skin tone and reduce fine lines
Tocopheryl acetate is an organic chemical compound closely related to vitamin E. Found in Bio-Oil, itâ€™s been shown to fight cancer-causing free radicals, which may result in fewer wrinkles and a more even skin tone.
May help treat acne
Bio-Oil is non-comedogenic, which means it wonâ€™t clog pores and is unlikely to cause acne on your face.
According to lab tests, the rosemary oil found in Bio-Oil may damage the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), which contributes to pimples. The oil also has antifungal properties.
The lavender oil found in Bio-Oil has antimicrobial properties. Some animal studies suggest it could improve skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis.
May reduce the appearance of scars and stretch marks
Bio-Oil works best on scars that are less than three years old, according to the product website. The oil is most effective when used on non-keloid scars. Keloid scars or hypertrophic scars may require a more potent treatment than Bio-Oil.
Animal studies show that lavender oil also has wound-healing properties. More research is needed in humans.
May help reduce the appearance of fine lines
Bio-Oil is said to reduce the appearance of fine lines, especially around the delicate eye area. This usage of the oil may have become popular when Kim Kardashian said she used it around her eyes during a 2013 interview.
Aside from celebrity hype, however, vitamin A can promote cell turnover, and the plant based oils used in Bio-Oil may plump the skin. This may temporarily reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
Bio-Oil side effects
Bio-Oil is generally considered safe, though there are certain risks and side effects associated with the product.
It should never be used on cracked or broken skin. The oil contains fragrance, which means itâ€™s not sterile and should not go inside the body. It also contains linalool, a known allergen for many people.
Anecdotally, some people do not like mineral oil and think it clogs pores, but as long as the mineral oil is certified â€œcosmetic grade,â€ itâ€™s designated as safe by the FDA.
If youâ€™re allergic or sensitive to essential oils, donâ€™t use Bio-Oil. Like any product, when you use it for the first time, itâ€™s best to do a skin patch test by putting a small amount of product on your forearm and waiting at least 30 minutes for signs of a reaction.
Can Bio-Oil cause acne?
Bio-Oil will not be as effective at treating acne as it is at treating scars. It may be more effective to try a home remedy designed to target acne.
While Bio-Oil is non-comedogenic, itâ€™s still an oil-based product that may worsen acne in some people.
How to use Bio-Oil for skin blemishes
Bio-Oil should be applied to clean, dry skin. Massage in circular motions until the oil has totally absorbed. It shouldnâ€™t take more than a few minutes. The manufacturer recommends using it twice a day for best results.
Alternatives to Bio-Oil
People with oily or acne-prone skin may prefer other acne remedies. Some effective acne treatments include:
- Products that contain benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, resorcinol, or salicylic acid. All four ingredients have been shown to be effective at treating acne.
- Natural remedies like aloe vera or green tea, which can help improve acne. Tea tree oil and witch hazel also are known to help clear acne.
- Certain supplements like fish oil and zinc, which can improve the skinâ€™s overall health.
- Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), which gently promotes skin turnover, helping to improve acne.
See a dermatologist or an aesthetician for more procedures like chemical peels or microdermabrasion. They also may prescribe an oral medication.
In some cases, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics or birth control pills to treat acne. Speak with a doctor about the best treatment options for you.
When to see a doctor
You should see a doctor if:
- your acne becomes painful
- your acne clears only to return again
- your acne is stopping you from doing activities you enjoy
- your scar is not improving or still feels painful after it has healed
If you have cystic acne, you may need a prescription treatment for it to clear. Speak with a doctor to discuss your options.
Bio-Oil is largely considered safe. It shows anecdotal promise in reducing the appearance of stretch marks, body scars, and scarring caused by acne. However, the oil has not been studied extensively, and most of the clinical trials were performed by the manufacturer on a small group of people.
Bio-Oil does contain vitamins A and E, and powerful botanical oils that have research supporting their efficacy. If you havenâ€™t used the oil before, itâ€™s best to try a skin patch first, and never use it on broken skin or open wounds.