Does Evening Primrose Oil Work For Hormonal Acne? What MDs Say
Even the name of this oil elicits coos and awes: Evening primrose oil just sounds like it will make your skin glow and hair feel lush, no? The oil is found in beauty staples ranging from hand creams and hair serums to oil face cleansers; it’s also a favorite skin care supplement, usually suggested for those with oily, acne-prone or congested skin.
So what gives evening primrose it’s skin-healing powers, and should you fold it into your routine? All this and more, dear readers.
What is evening primrose?
Evening primrose oil is extracted from the seeds of the evening primrose flower, which is high in omega-6s. All oils, however, come packed with fatty acids. So what makes this plant, and its extracted oil, so special? “The oil derived from the evening primrose plant is one of the most potent sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential omega-6 fatty acid with significant anti-inflammatory properties,” says Ilene Ruhoy, M.D., Ph.D., a board-certified neurologist. Essentially: Evening primrose oil is going to be the best source of GLA you’re going to find in your diet, and GLA has a host of skin-supporting qualities.
Does it help with acne-prone and oily skin?
The GLA is really the hero here when it comes to breakouts, especially hormonal breakouts. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)1 has major anti-inflammatory properties and does wonders for hormone regulation. Research shows that GLA helps to balance hormone levels by regulating the production of prostaglandins2, which are hormone-like chemical messengers involved in supporting hormonal balance management 3and impacting the body's inflammatory processes.
How does this translate to skin? One study found that taking 3 soft gel capsules at 500 mg for 12 weeks improved the appearance of the participants’ elasticity, moisture, fatigue resistance, and even firmness. Not only do these contribute to a better appearance overall, but they can also mitigate acne as often breakouts, oil, and inflammation come because of skin fatigue and moisture loss. Not to mention enhanced elasticity and firmness means improved texture, a common complaint for those with acne.
Experts agree: “This is the one omega-6 fatty acid that could specifically promote skin health. This fat is primarily found in the seeds of evening primrose. Topical and dietary supplementation4 of GLA oils has been studied for inflammatory skin conditions, and one intervention study in healthy women found that both intake of GLA-rich borage oil and flaxseed oil (rich in the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid) experienced benefits to skin health including decreased reddening and improved hydration5,” says explains Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN is a registered dietician nutritionist. “And, as you may know, hydration is crucial when it comes to oil production—in fact, dehydrated skin may overproduce oil to compensate for a lack of moisture.”
One reason people benefit from ingesting evening primrose oil is that our bodies cannot produce GLA on their own. So supplementing with it is really the only way to get your skin-supporting benefits.
How can you use it?
Well, as we’ve mentioned it’s popular as both a supplement and topical. If you decide to take it orally, look for organic, cold pressed oil capsules.
For topical uses, really, the uses abound in skin care products. You’ll find in the likes of hand creams and hair oils. Others fancy it a solid option as an oil cleanser for acne-prone skin (we know that oil cleansing can actually help keep breakouts at bay, but this one even goes a step further thanks to major anti-inflammatory properties.) It’s also a popular addition to luxe face oils, again specifically for those with blemishes.
The oil garners significant praise for those dealing with hormonal acne—and pretty good praise for just skin health in general. Not to mention, it’s a great addition topically. Consider adding it to your routine.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.