Carthamus tinctorius, also known as safflower, is a highly branched, thistle-like annual plant. In the United States, it grows in the western part of the country, primarily in California. In addition to use in cosmetics, safflower seed oil is used as a cooking oil, in salad dressing, and for the production of margarine.
Safflower seed oil is rich in vitamin E, a potent lipid soluble antioxidant. Antioxidants have the ability to neutralize free radicals, the unstable molecules that contribute to the formation of premature wrinkles and fine lines on the skin. In addition, vitamin E helps the skin retain moisture by strengthening the skin’s barrier function. Safflower seed oil also has a high content of phytosterols. Phytosterols are similar to cholesterol and benefit the skin by replenishing its lipid barrier while also providing soothing effects. Research demonstrates that phytosterols are able to reduce collagen degradation and increase collagen production. This is important because the breakdown and loss of collagen is one of the major factors that contributes to aging skin. For this reason, safflower seed oil can often be found in anti-aging skin care products.