What Does Sea Buckthorn Oil Do For The Skin? 7 Benefits + How To Use It
While some skin care trends seem to stick around for a week, others become a staple in routines everywhere. Slugging is just one example—but it's important to note that the practice of lathering on petrolatum-based jelly isn't the most sustainable ritual.
However, you can take part in eco-friendly slugging by using botanicals rich in fatty acids. One example is sea buckthorn oil—a natural oil that comes from tiny orange berries. Here's why we love it for slugging, color correcting, and more.
What is sea buckthorn oil?
Sea buckthorn shrubs produce tiny, orange-yellow, citrus-like berries. These berries, also known as seaberries, have been used for centuries in the form of juice, wine, pie filling, and even liquors. The consumption of these berries is widespread but originated (and is still the most abundant) in China.
In more recent years, sea buckthorn oil has gained popularity for its skin-softening properties, though it's also been used topically for centuries. The fatty acid properties are similar to other botanical oils, but its nutrient profile is particularly rich.
There are two forms of sea buckthorn oil: One that is made from the leaves and roots of the plant and the berry oil. The latter has a distinct orange hue and is where the skin-loving properties are held. So when you're shopping for a product, be sure to look for berry oil.
7 benefits for the skin.
Now that you know what sea buckthorn oil comes from, let's dive into the lengthy list of skin benefits, from experts:
Seaberries are not only a good source but arguably one of the best sources of these nutrients. "Sea buckthorn extract has one of the highest concentrations of flavonoids and phenolic compounds," board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skintensive Anar Mikailov, M.D., FAAD, tells mbg.
As a quick refresher, antioxidants are essential to maintaining healthy skin. See, when free radicals interact with your skin, they trigger oxidative stress—something that leads to accelerated skin aging and general stressed-out skin.
Regulates oil production.
While you may immediately assume using oils on already oily skin types is unproductive, the opposite is true with certain botanical options—sea buckthorn oil included.
"Studies have shown that sea buckthorn is acne-skin friendly as it helps normalize sebaceous glands from producing excess sebum," Mikailov explains. However, you'll want to be careful when shopping for sea buckthorn products. While the oil itself may not clog your pores, other filler ingredients may.
For a quick and easy way to double-check your products, copy the full ingredient list (generally found online) into this pore-clogging ingredients checker from Acne Clinic NYC.
"The high concentration of fatty acids, including omega fatty acids and phytosterols are incredibly nourishing and hydrating for the skin," Mikailov says.
"However, it's the overall combination of all these compounds in sea buckthorn extract—the antioxidants, vitamins, fatty acids—that gives it its pro-collagen remodeling benefits, increase skin hydration by improving the skin barrier to reduce transepidermal water loss1 (TEWL)," he adds.
Not to mention, a 2017 animal study2 proved that sea buckthorn oil can be a helpful remedy for those with eczema. When looking for eczema-safe products, keep an eye out for essential oils and other potentially irritating additives.
This is why sea buckthorn oil is such a great slugging tool—it's deeply hydrating and simultaneously nourishes the skin (unlike petrolatum-based jelly, which simply holds moisture).
Great for all skin types.
"Because of its unique omega fatty acid composition, sea buckthorn oil is noncomedogenic and great for aging, dehydrated, rosacea-prone skin," clean cosmetic chemist and founder of KKT Consultants Krupa Koestline tells mbg.
Even the most sensitive skin types can benefit from this oil. "Clinical trials, animal experiments, as well as clinical practice have shown great anti-inflammatory benefits of the oil," Koestline says. She adds that it can also support wound healing for burns and even scars.
"It's been shown to have antimicrobial properties as well," Mikailov says about the ingredient. This makes sea buckthorn oil one of the better options for those with acne-prone skin than heavier ones like coconut oil.
Aids in body gua sha + massage.
Sea buckthorn oil provides great slip for use on the body as well. From full-body gua sha to massage and more, you can use this natural oil to connect to your body through touch.
Plus, not everyone likes the feeling of body lotion—so body oils may be a worthy alternative to consider.
A natural color-corrector.
Bonus: Hair oiling.
"Those [with] a dry, inflamed scalp, whether from normal dry winter weather or seborrheic dermatitis, can benefit from the hydrating, nourishing, and anti-inflammatory benefits of sea buckthorn," Mikalov explains.
"Fatty acids, as well as vitamins present in sea buckthorn oil, can provide nourishment and hydration to the scalp and support the structure of the hair," Marcus adds.
When the topical application is combined with scalp massage, the benefits are even more impressive. In one clinical study, participants who regularly massaged their scalps saw an increase in hair thickness3.
As mentioned above, this oil helps regulate oil production on the skin, which is ideal for those prone to an oily scalp too.
How to use it in your routine.
"I recommend always buying straight, cold-pressed oil without any additives to see the best results," Koestline says. However, the oil is highly pigmented and thus should be used with another carrier oil (consider jojoba, grapeseed, etc.).
"It is extremely orange and can stain your clothes and skin, if used in large amounts. I therefore advise people to mix a few drops of this oil in your moisturizer or serum before application," Koestline says. Once you have your sea buckthorn oil and carrier oil at the ready, there are a few different ways to use it. To reap the most benefits, consider the following:
- As a scalp and hair oil
- As the final step in your skin care routine
- Before makeup for additional glow
- Under your eyes as a natural color corrector
- Mixed into a clay mask to mitigate excessive dryness
- To assist in facial and full-body gua sha
Warnings & caution.
No matter which way you use this oil, be sure to patch-test it first. Any botanical ingredient can run the risk of irritation, so pay attention to how your skin reacts after applying it. If there's any redness, irritation, or inflammation, opt for another oil instead.
Does sea buckthorn oil contain estrogen?
Sea buckthorn oil does not contain estrogen but has been shown to ease vaginal dryness when taken orally.
Is sea buckthorn oil safe for acne-prone skin?
Yes. "Studies have shown that sea buckthorn is acne-skin-friendly as it helps normalize sebaceous glands from producing excess sebum," Mikailov explains. However, you'll want to be careful when shopping for sea buckthorn products. While the oil itself may not clog your pores, other filler ingredients may.
What is the best sea buckthorn oil for the face?
"I recommend always buying straight, cold-pressed oil without any additives to see the best results," Koestline says. However, the oil is highly pigmented and thus should be used with another carrier oil.
All in all, sea buckthorn oil is a universally beneficial ingredient that packs a nutrient punch. Use this oil on its own mixed with a carrier oil or opt for a pre-formulated topical cream, lotion, etc. Your skin will thank you for the antioxidant support and moisture replenishment. For a full slugging routine (sans petrolatum) check out this guide.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.