What Is Sea Buckthorn?
Sea buckthorn is a naturally occurring ingredient used in skincare, hair care and cosmetic products to help improve the appearance of the skin and hair. With the increased interest in naturally-occurring ingredients across the beauty industry it is no wonder that sea buckthorn has come into the spotlight. Sea buckthorn is considered to be a great source of omega fatty acids, lipids, and vitamins such as vitamin C, A, E, P and B.
However, like many naturally occurring ingredients there isn’t a wealth of rigorous scientific data available for this ingredient. However, there have been a few recent studies that have looked into the composition and potential benefits of the ingredient.
Naturally occurring ingredients tend to be a little more complex than a single ingredient, like vitamin C. This is because naturally occurring ingredients are made up of a number of different compounds. While the complex nature of the compounds may add to the benefits of the ingredient, it can often make them slightly trickier to study and it can make it harder to evaluate their safety.
In the case of sea buckthorn, it consists of fatty acids such as palmitoleic acid or omega 7 and gamma-linoleic acid or omega 6 as well as complex lipids, sterols, and vitamins. Generally, fatty acids, lipids, and sterols are considered to help improve the moisturization, maintain a healthy skin barrier, improve the shine of your hair, and may even balance out excess oil production by the skin and hair.
The vitamins present in sea buckthorn, such as vitamins C, E, A, P and B, all have benefits in their own right however, the concentration they are found in sea buckthorn oil may help to improve the overall appearance of the skin. If you do a quick google search you will probably find a vast array of sea buckthorn products from capsules to oils and moisturizers. Here we are talking about the topical uses of sea buckthorn oil, however, there is some interesting research that is being conducted into the benefits of sea buckthorn oil when taken as a dietary supplement. This research is relatively new and more research is needed before its potential benefits can be fully understood but the new research into its benefits as a dietary supplement are interesting. Always speak to your doctor before introducing a dietary supplement into your routine.
the good: Sea buckthorn provides the skin with a source of fatty acids, complex lipids and vitamins. These compounds may help to moisturize the skin, prevent moisture loss and improve the general appearance of the skin and hair.
the not so good: Like any ingredients, particularly naturally occurring ingredients, it can be irritating to 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: Nothing to keep an eye on here.
Is Sea Buckthorn Vegan?
Sea buckthorn is derived from the sea buckthorn or Hippohae rhamnoides plant. The rich orange colored oil is extracted from the fruit pulp or seeds of the sea buckthorn berries. As this ingredient is sourced from plants, it is considered to be vegan. Of course, depending on the other ingredients in a formulation and the brand and their ethos, the product you may be considering may not be vegan. However, as an ingredient, sea buckthorn is generally considered to be vegan.
What Are The Benefits of Sea Buckthorn?
Sea buckthorn contains two saturated fatty acids, palmitic acid, and stearic acid. These fatty acids, despite what the name ‘acid’ may suggest actually help support moisturization of the skin. Fatty acids do this by creating a barrier or protective occlusion on the surface of the skin. This barrier reduces the amount of water that is lost to the air also known as transepidermal water loss or TEWL. While the skin has a natural skin barrier, fatty acids can help support the hydration levels of the skin, improving the firm appearance of the skin.
Unsaturated fatty acids are also present in sea buckthorn oil. There is debate as to whether saturated fatty acids are bad for your health when eaten, compared with unsaturated fatty acids. However, while this debate remains ongoing the benefits to the skin that saturated vs unsaturated fatty acids provide is a far less divisive issue. Unsaturated fatty acids, such as omegas 3, 6, and 9, often play a role in the skin’s natural barrier and moisture protection. Sea buckthorn oil contains linoleic, gamma-linolenic, palmitoleic, and alpha linolenic acid. These fatty acids have been studied for their healing moisturization benefits to the skin.
The skin barrier plays an important role in the health and condition of the skin. The skin’s natural barrier consists of the first few layers of the skin, ceramides, fatty acids, cholestrol and lipids. These components along with the acid mantle barrier help to keep the skin hydrated and healthy. Adding to the benefits to the skin barrier of the fatty acids found in sea buckthorn is lipids. A number of complex lipids make up the composition of sea buckthorn oil, which may help to support the health of the skin barrier, soothe the skin and give the skin visibly improved firmness.
Sterols, another component of sea buckthorn (I did warn you that naturally-derived ingredients were complex), also may support skin barrier health and function. Sterols are plant compounds that have a similar structure to human cholesterol. Cholesterol is a major component of cells and is part of the skin’s natural barrier.
Antioxidants and Vitamins
Sea buckthorn also contains a number of vitamins including vitamin A, C, E, P, and B complex. You will probably be familiar with the antioxidant and regenerative benefits of vitamin A, E, and C. Vitamin A, found in the form of carotenoids, may help support the regeneration of the skin. Vitamin A formulations are often used to treat acne and signs of aging. Vitamin C, is an antioxidant, helping to protect the skin against UV damage and may even out the appearance of the skin. And E is also an antioxidant, protecting UV damage and may strengthen the capillaries in the skin.
The other vitamins such as P and B, have their own, less well known benefits. Vitamin P refers to a group of ingredients called flavonoids. Flavonoids are plant compounds that aren’t actually vitamins. The term vitamin P is used to group the six different classes of flavonoids together. Flavonoids also work as antioxidants. Vitamin B or vitamin B complex refers to a bunch of different vitamin B’s, think B3 or B6. Some studies have suggested that vitamin B may help reduce some of the signs of aging.
Interestingly and maybe somewhat counterintuitively, the fatty acids and oils that are found in sea buckthorn oil may also help to manage congested skin. Linoleic acid not only may help support skin barrier health it has been studied for its benefits in reducing acne, blackheads, and spots. Linoleic acid is a natural component of sebum or the skin’s oil. Studies have found that congested skin types often have a lower linoleic acid content in their sebum. This is why linoleic acid is being studied for its use in balancing out sebum, reducing blackheads, and unclogging pores.
Gamma-linolenic acid, similar to linoleic acid may not only benefit the skin’s natural barrier. Gamma-linolenic acid or GLA is also being studied for its ability to reduce post-inflammatory substances that are induced by exposure to UV rays. This may have implications for sunburns and soothing irritation.
Sea buckthorn is sometimes used in hair care products such as shampoos and conditioners to help improve moisture, increase shine, reduce excess oil, and reduce the appearance of damage caused by colouring, and chemical or heat treatments.
Sea buckthorn has also been studied for its benefits to frostbite, Uv damage, and exposure to x-rays and chemical compounds as part of medical treatment. While this research doesn’t indicate a new use of the oil, it suggests the potential for sea buckthorn to be further studied for wound healing.
Is Sea Buckthorn Comedogenic?
Sea buckthorn oil is considered to be non-comedogenic which means that it is unlikley to clog your pores.
Interestingly sea buckthorn has also been studied for its benefits to sebum production and quality. Human sebvum consists of triglycerides, waxes, and squalene. Sebum helps to protect the skin from bacteira and allergens and helps to provide oil-based moisture to the skin.
Sea buckthorn oil contains palmitoleic acid which is a type of fatty acid which has been demonstrated to help protect the skin from bacteria or yeasts and may help to improve the quality of the skin’s sebum.
Is Sea Buckthorn Good For Itchy Scalp?
Sea buckthorn oil may help to reduce itching on your scalp. This is in part due to the presence of fatty acids in the oil. Fatty acids like palmitoleic acid help to support the skin’s natural barrier, proetcting it from allergens and irritation.
Is Sea Buckthorn Good For Hyperpigmentation?
Sea buckthorn oil may help to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Studies have suggested that the palmitoleic acid in sea buckthorn oil may help to inhibit melanogenesis. Melanogenesis is the process whhereby cells produce melanin pigment, the molecule responsible for giving your skin colour. It is thought that palmitoleic acid may inhibit some enzymes that are involved in this process, minimising the appearance of hyperpigmentation.
As is always the case with hyperpigentation, using sun protection is always really important as the sun can worsen the appearance of hyperpigmentation.
Is Sea Buckthorn Safe?
As is the case with many plant-derived ingredients, sea buckthorn oil is a complex compound with many different molecules contained within it. This complexity can often be a problem for identifying safety and sensitivity issues as there are many moving parts, unlike a single pure synthetically produced ingredient. For example, the number of different compounds in the oil will vary based on the type of plant and conditions in which it is grown.
Generally, sea buckthorn oil is considered to be safe for its indicated uses in skincare and cosmetic formulations. If you have sensitive skin, be mindful of slowly introducing this product to identify any sensitivity to it.
Zielińska A, Nowak I. Abundance of active ingredients in sea-buckthorn oil. Lipids Health Dis. 2017;16(1):95. Published 2017 May 19.
Solà Marsiñach M, Cuenca AP. The impact of sea buckthorn oil fatty acids on human health. Lipids Health Dis. 2019;18(1):145. Published 2019 Jun 22.