The Benefits of Seeds Containing Oil

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By Pam Teel

Ever have a prickly pear? Me neither, but I’m about to try one. Inside the delicious fruits of the prickly pear are seeds that contain oil carrying different types of fatty acids, phenols, and nutrients such as vitamin E, phytosterols, and antioxidants. Prickly pear oil is not an essential oil. Instead, it’s commonly used as a carrier oil to dilute more potent essential oils, or simply on its own to boost skin health.

Prickly pear cacti, also known as nopal and opuntia, grows across the United States, Australia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean islands. People have eaten the sweet pink fruits of this cactus for hundreds of years, but only recently has it made it to the Superfoods list. Health benefits from eating the prickly pear include reduced inflammation and reduced blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.

Several companies now extract prickly pear oil and sell it as skin care products suitable for all skin types, including acne-prone and dry skin. You should look for products labeled “100% pure prickly pear oil.” Products labeled “unrefined,” “cold-pressed,” “virgin,” and “organic” may be of higher quality than those that are not.  Research has shown that prickly pear oil contains high levels of antioxidants and has antibacterial properties. Some of the better-studied benefits of prickly pear oil include antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Antioxidants are well known to prevent skin damage from sunlight, aging, and other stressors. Antibacterial substances are known to cleanse skin and stop acne breakouts.

In one study, scientists combined prickly pear oil with vitamin A and applied the mixture to human and rat skin samples. They found that the fat content of prickly pear oil was highly effective at delivering vitamin A into the skin samples. Vitamin A has well-studied skin benefits, but when used alone, it often causes skin irritation. The research concluded that prickly pear oil is a suitable and safe carrier for delivering other nutrients that can’t be directly applied to the skin, including vitamin A.

Research on the chemical properties of prickly pear oil also reveals that it contains a high content of linoleic acid. Linoleic acid helps the skin retain water, keeping it hydrated.

If you have sensitive skin, do a patch test by applying a small amount of undiluted prickly pear oil to your wrist, then wait 24 hours. If you have a bad reaction within this time frame, don’t use this oil. If you’ve browsed the selection of prickly pear oils that are available, you might have noticed their high price point. It takes a lot of prickly pear seeds to produce prickly pear oil, so it tends to be on the pricier side. That’s one consideration to make before incorporating it into your daily skin care regimen. If you’ve decided prickly pear oil isn’t for you and you’d like to find a natural oil with some of the same properties, here are some less expensive alternates to prickly pear oil:

•  coconut oil, which is antibacterial and ultra-hydrating

•  Argan oil, which is a great everyday moisturizer, even for those with acne-prone skin

•  rosehip seed oil, which is hydrating and prevents skin damage

•  marula oil, which is antibacterial and prevents skin damage while hydrating the skin

•  jojoba oil, which helps fight acne, moisturizes and protects the skin from sun damage

What’s good about sunflower oil for your skin

Sunflower oil is extracted from the seeds of the sunflower plant. There are many varieties of sunflowers. Most sunflower oil comes from the common sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Sunflowers are native to North and South America and have been used as a food and ornamental source for centuries. Sunflower oil is usually obtained via cold-press extraction. It’s also acquired in mass quantities through a variety of seed pressing and crude oil refining techniques. Sunflower oil ranks as the fourth largest oil crop in worldwide industrial production today. Sunflower oil is also referred to as sunflower seed oil. It can range in color from clear to amber-yellow.

Today, sunflower oil is used worldwide for cooking and can be found in many commercially prepared and processed foods. It is also used in paint and as an ingredient in skin care products. A small animal study also found that topical use of sunflower oil was beneficial for healing wounds faster. This may be due to its oleic acid content, which can be beneficial for wound care. An animal study done in 2004 found that sesame oil and its component, sesamol, had chemo-preventive properties in mice with skin cancer, but also indicated that more study is needed to ascertain their full potential.

Non-comedogenic sunflower oil won’t clog your pores and it contains antioxidants, making it a good carrier oil for the skin. Those with ragweed allergies should avoid it. Sunflower oil contains several compounds that have benefits for the skin. They include oleic acid, vitamin E, sesamol, and linoleic acid.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help protect skin from free radicals and from adverse effects of the sun, such as premature aging and wrinkles. Using a skincare product formulated with sunflower oil is a good way to obtain vitamin E’s benefits for the skin. Eating foods prepared with sunflower oil is another way, although there are other plant oils, such as olive oil, that may be more beneficial nutritionally.

Linoleic acid helps to maintain the skin’s natural barrier, supporting its ability to retain moisture. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect when used topically. This makes it beneficial for dry skin and for conditions, such as eczema. The linoleic acid in sunflower oil makes it effective for protecting the skin against bacteria and germs. There are many ways you can use sunflower oil on your skin. These include the application of creams and lotions that contain sunflower oil as an ingredient. You can also use organic, cold-pressed sunflower oil on your face and body for moisturizing or for massage:  Pour a small amount of sunflower oil directly into your palm. Massage gently into the skin until it is completely absorbed. (If you use sunflower oil on your face, try to avoid getting it into your eyes, as it may cause temporarily blurred vision.) Since sunflower oil is a carrier oil, you can mix a small amount of any essential oil you choose into it, for added skin benefits or for an enhanced scent. If you are planning on using sunflower oil for your skin, it may make sense to opt for an organic, cold-pressed variety.