What Is Tamanu Oil?
Tamanu oil is a naturally-derived oil that is sourced from the seed of the Calophyllum inophyllum tree, an evergreen native to Southeast Asia. Tamanu oil historically has been used in medicinal practices for hundreds of years. This is due to its mild antibacterial properties and potential to help support wound healing.
These benefits, as well as tamanu oil’s high concentration of fatty acids, antioxidant and potential anti-inflammatory benefits, have made tamanu oil a popular new skincare ingredient.
Tamanu oil comes as a dark green, thick oil that is often described as having a unique nutty, earthy smell. Some people find the scent of tamanu oil offputting, if this is the case it may be best to use products that formulate tamanu oil with other ingredients, in order to reduce the scent but still receive the benefits.
the good: Rich oil that may help to soothe the skin, improve the appearance of hydration, support wound healing and act as a source of antioxidants.
the not so good: Like many plant-derived ingredients, cocoa butter is not particularly well studied for its efficacy and safety. Also, tamanu oil is rich oil and may be too heavy for some skin types.
Who is it for? All skin types except those that have an identified allergy to it.
Synergetic ingredients: Works well with most ingredients.
Keep an eye on: Tamanu oil is also often labelled as Calophyllum inophyllum seed oil
What Are The Benefits of Tamanu Oil?
Tamanu oil is known for its variety in benefits to the skin, such as antibacterial, wound healing and hydrating.
Tamanu oil is a rich source of fatty acids which help to keep the skin hydrated and prevent moisture loss. Tamanu oil is often recommended for dry skin types as the rich, thick oil acts like the skin’s natural barrier reducing the moisture and water loss from the skin to the air. This moisture loss is also known as transepidermal water loss or TEWL.
Tamanu oil has recently been found to have antibacterial properties. Studies have found that tamanu oil’s antibacterial properties are effective against the two most common bacteria that are found in acne, p.acnes and p.granulosum. This along with tamanu’s soothing abilities may make it a great oil to support the treatment of acne.
A compound called calphyllolide is found in tamanu oil, this compound is well-studied for its anti-inflammatory benefits. This may mean that tamanu oil is a potential supporting treatment for inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and rosacea.
Alongside the soothing properties of tamanu oil, it also may have some wound healing benefits. Studies have suggested that tamanu oil may help to support collagen production and increase the number of glycosaminoglycans or GAGs. GAGs are sugars that are important for the production and maintenance of collagen and elastin. This may make tamanu oil even better for acneic, irritated or compromised skin.
Tamanu oil is also a great source of antioxidants for the skin. Antioxidants help to reduce the effects of free radicals on the skin. Free radicals are produced through a process known as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress often occurs in response to UV exposure, pollution, diet and smoking. The free radicals produced by oxidative stress cause damage to the cells in your body and have been linked to some of the visible signs of aging. Antioxidants help to neutralize this process.
Is Tamanu Oil Comedogenic?
Tamanu oil contains fatty acids that are both comedogenic and non-comedogenic, containing both oleic and linoleic acid. This means that tamanu oil only mildly clogged pores. As tamanu oil has so many benefits for acenic skin it may be useful for some people who experience breakouts or acne, particularly dry skin experiencing acne. However, if you have oily skin that experiences breakouts you may want to test out tamanu oil first and discontinue if congestion occurs.
Is Tamanu Oil Safe?
The complexity of any plant-derived ingredient can make it difficult to identify which components of the ingredient are safe and non-irritating. As tamanu is a plant-derived ingredient, this complexity applies. One of the main issues to note is that those with allergies to tree nuts should avoid using tamanu oil as this allergy may be triggered with its use.
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, a group that is responsible for evaluating the safety of skincare and cosmetic ingredients, has not reviewed the safety of tamanu oil. However, this ingredient is not usually associated with irritation or sensitivity.
Léguillier T, Lecsö-Bornet M, Lémus C, et al. The Wound Healing and Antibacterial Activity of Five Ethnomedical Calophyllum inophyllum Oils: An Alternative Therapeutic Strategy to Treat Infected Wounds. PLoS One. 2015;10(9):e0138602. Published 2015 Sep 25.