Avocado oil for your skin and hair
We all know avocado is perfect for making delicious and healthy breakfast toast.
The creamy green fruit is also full of nutrients that can strengthen your heart while providing a whole host of skin care benefits.
But avocado doesn’t just help your skin from the inside out. Applied as an oil, it nourishes from the outside in too.
“Oral and topical forms of avocado work for skin and hair benefits,” says Stacy Chimento, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami. “The fatty acids, vitamins D and E, and beta carotene in avocado oil help moisturize and nourish the skin and hair.”
Knowing avocado oil can boost your skin and hair health is one thing. Understanding how to use it—straight from the bottle you use to cook? As an ingredient in a skin care product?—is another thing entirely.
Here, four dermatologists detail everything you need to know about the amazing beauty benefits of avocado oil, including who it benefits and how, exactly, to use it.
What is avocado oil?
Avocado oil is exactly what it sounds like: oil from everybody’s favorite guacamole ingredient.
“Avocados grow year-round in temperate climates like California, and the oil from the healthy fruit is chock-full of antioxidants and unsaturated fats,” says Ava Shamban, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Los Angeles.
Avocado oil is also slightly unique in how it’s derived.
“Unlike many oils, which are derived from seeds, avocado oil is extracted from the pulp of the avocado,” says Jennifer M. Segal, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Metropolitan Dermatology Institute in Houston.
Avocado oil nutrition
Avocado oil is pressed from the avocado fruit itself and contains about 60 percent oil, according to Dr. Chimento.
Here are the nutrients and daily values (DV) in one tablespoon (14 grams) of avocado oil:
Protein: 0 g (0 percent DV)
Fat: 14 g (18 percent DV)
Saturated fat: 1.6 g (8 percent DV)
Carbohydrates: 0 g (0 percent DV)
Fiber: 0 g (0 percent DV)
Sugars: 0 g (0 percent DV)
Avocado oil’s benefits for skin and hair
There’s no shortage of research on the benefits of eating avocado—and not just for your hair and skin. Take, for instance, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2020.
It found that a moderate-fat diet with one avocado per day can decrease oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) levels in adults—the “bad” type. And it’s associated with a reduction in small, dense LDL. Both are linked with coronary artery disease.
Well, thanks to its bevy of nutrients, avocado oil is particularly good for your hair and skin
To begin with, it’s packed with powerful antioxidants.
“It contains a high percentage of vitamin cofactors, including E, C, A, B6, niacin [B3], potassium, and magnesium, which nourish, lubricate, and moisturize,” says Dr. Shamban.
So why should you use avocado oil for your skin? The following seven benefits are a good place to start.
Avocado oil’s moisturizing capabilities are tops, thanks to its fatty acid content.
“The high concentration of fatty acids is what makes it a super emollient, sealing in moisture for skin, scalp, and hair,” Dr. Shamban says.
The oleic acid, in particular, helps to lock in moisture.
“It is able to penetrate the stratum corneum [outermost layer] of our skin surface, both in between the cell spaces—intracellularly—and inside the cells—intracellularly—helping to replenish the skin,” Dr. Shamban explains.
The stratum corneum is made up of epidermal cells and mortar that is made of various types of lipids, she explains.
“When there is not enough mortar, the skin dries out and the cells separate, forming cracks that create a compromised barrier function,” says Dr. Shamban. “Lipid-rich products like avocado oil can help to work like a ‘spackle,’ filling in and sealing those cracks.”
Flushed, red, and scaly skin are all signs of inflammation. Though causes are varied, this relatively simple product may help treat it.
“Avocado is also good for skin inflammation,” says Debra Jaliman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and author of Skin Rules.
Chances are, you encounter free radicals in your daily life. These unstable molecules have the potential damage to your cells, including your skin. Avocado oil might counter that damage.
“It contains vitamin E, which blocks free radicals from the body, and this aids in slowing down the aging process,” says Dr. Jaliman.
By lessening oxidative stress (an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants), avocado oil may reduce wrinkles, she says.
People with extra-sensitive or reactive skin may want to reach for avocado oil.
“Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it could work well for someone who has eczema or seborrheic dermatitis,” says Dr. Jaliman, adding, “It helps heal dry, irritated skin.”
Prevent sun damage
Niacin (aka vitamin B3) has been linked to an ability to protect skin from UV-induced sun damage. Avocado oil happens to be high in this key nutrient.
The vitamin may even potentially help repair DNA, though studies on this have mostly been done in lab cells or animals. Few involve humans, and fewer still involve humans using topical niacin. Bottom line: count this as a finding that needs a lot more research to back it up.
Arthritis is a painful condition that tends to get worse with age. It affects 23 percent of all American adults.
Could avocado help? It’s too soon to say, but early research suggests a possibility.
A study published in 2019 in The Journal of Applied Oral Science looked at the effect on rats with induced arthritis.
After they were fed avocado-soybean compounds for a matter of weeks, they experienced an improvement in the repair of periodontal tissues, which surround and support the teeth.
Of course, the study was conducted on rats, so the findings are not directly applicable to humans. Plus, the researchers fed the animals avocado; they didn’t test avocado oil, and they didn’t test the product on the rats’ skin.
Further research is warranted before experts can recommend avocado oil for arthritis.
Where to find avocado oil for skin and hair
Wander down the oil and vinegar aisle of your local grocery store, and you’ll find bottles and jars of avocado oil for cooking. Pick one up next time—it’ll work great on your skin.
That’s right: you don’t have to spend boatloads of money on avocado-infused beauty products.
“You can use the same avocado oil you use to cook and apply directly to the skin or hair, or mix it with other beauty products,” says Dr. Chimento.
Easy as it is to shop for avocado oil, there are some things to look for before you buy.
“The best type of avocado oil to look for is extra virgin, cold pressed, and unrefined,” Dr. Jaliman says.
The oil will appear dark green and may have a slight, sweet odor to it. “If you want to use odorless oil, then you’ll have to choose the refined version,” says Dr. Jaliman.
(Unrefined oils have been completely filtered, while refined oils have been filtered and often treated in order to remove their smell and color.)
Of course, you don’t need to play skin care chemist in your kitchen. Many skin care products now come with avocado oil as an added ingredient. Dr. Chimento says masks, in particular, include avocado oil.
Dr. Jaliman recommends Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment With Avocado.
Just know you’ll probably pay more for those products than the large bottle of oil you can get at the grocery.
Who can use avocado oil?
Though avocado as an edible fruit is a wonderful addition to any diet, people using it solely for its skin care benefits might stop to consider their skin type first.
“I don’t recommend it for oily or acne-prone skin,” says Dr. Jaliman. “It’s comedogenic [pore clogging], so lighter oils are preferred.”
She also recommends staying away from avocado oil if you have an oily scalp because it’s a heavier oil.
But if you have dry or dehydrated skin or hair, avocado oil’s moisturizing benefits might be just what the doctor ordered.
“Avocado oil is exceptionally good for dry skin with low levels of sebum production or a disruption in the actual stratum corneum,” says Dr. Shamban.
How to use avocado oil on your skin
Just as avocado is a versatile add-on to meals, avocado oil is a great addition to your skin care regimen.
Dr. Jaliman suggests adding a few drops to your facial moisturizer or body lotion, which you can then slather on damp or dry skin.
“You can apply some right after you shower,” she says. “It will help lock in the moisture in your skin.”
And if you’re a fan of essential oils, you’re in luck, says Dr. Shamban.
“Avocado is a great carrier oil, so it can be blended with essential oils for a hair, scalp, or body treatment. Peppermint or lavender oils work well, using about four to five drops of essential oil to every ounce of avocado oil,” she says.
How to use avocado oil on your hair
“There are great products on the market for both hair and scalp with avocado oil, so it is not always necessary to hit the produce aisle or cooking aisle over the beauty aisle,” says Dr. Shamban.
If you want to do a DIY treatment, you can apply avocado oil directly to the scalp and massage with the pads of your fingertips. “This will help with circulation, soothing, calming, and even dandruff,” she says.
For people who want to use pure avocado oil as a treatment for damaged hair, Dr. Chimento recommends the following:
Warm a small amount of pure avocado oil in a jug of hot water.
Apply avocado oil to the scalp.
You can use avocado oil as a leave-in treatment or as an intensive rinse-out treatment; simply shampoo when you’re done if you don’t want to leave it in (or if you tend to have greasier hair).
Applying avocado and similar hair oils as a moisturizing mask to strands after hitting the pool is something Jennifer Segal, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Metropolitan Dermatology Institute, likes to do.
“As a swimmer, I am obsessed with hair oil, which nourishes the cuticle and adds luster and strength to hair—especially hair that has been stressed by sun, salt, chlorine, or color treatments,” she says.
Are there any downsides to using avocado oil?
If you’re especially prone to breakouts, avocado oil’s heaviness on your acne-prone skin might outweigh its nutrient benefits.
“As a general rule, more occlusive oils are not ideal for skin that is already oily and acne prone,” says Dr. Segal.
That said, it can be helpful to know why you’re breaking out.
“If breakouts are due to sensitive skin rather than classic acne [which originates with clogged pores], an emollient effect can be soothing and improve breakouts,” she says. “Provided the product does not contain perfumes or additives, which exacerbate skin sensitivity.”
Avocado oil tends to be nonreactive, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
“To minimize risks, it’s a good idea to do a patch test to avoid potential irritation or allergic reactions,” says Dr. Chimento. “Apply a small amount to the skin or scalp to see if you develop a reaction. If a reaction occurs, stop using avocado oil immediately.”
If you don’t have a reaction, you’re good to go. Slather it on, and get ready to reap the rewards.
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