Sunflower Seed Oil (Helianthus Annus): How To Best Incorporate This Ingredient Into Your Skincare



What Is Sunflower Seed Oil?

Helianthus annuus or sunflower seed oil is used in a number of skincare and cosmetic products. It is mainly used for its potential to provide benefits such as decreasing inflammation, replenishing the skin’s barrier, and improving hair loss conditions. It is also often used to help improve the texture and sensory feel of a product by acting as an emollient. 

Helianthus annuus is the name of the plant species commonly known as the sunflower. All Helianthus species are native to North America, except for three species in South America.

Sunflower seed oil is the oil pressed from the seeds of sunflowers. Sunflower seed oil can be extracted using chemical solvents or expeller pressing which refers to the oil being squeezed directly from sunflower seeds by crushing them. The world’s total production of sunflower seed oil in 2014 was nearly 16 million tons.

Like many plant-based ingredients, sunflower seed oil isn’t just one ingredient, it is made up of a number of different compounds. Sunflower seed oil is a mixture of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, consisting of approximately 59% linoleic acid, 30% oleic acid, 6% stearic acid, and 5% palmitic acid. 

The oil also contains significant quantities of vitamin E, sterols, and squalene. In addition to use in cosmetics, sunflower oil is available as a cooking oil. It is known for having a clean taste and low levels of trans fat.

Sunflower Seed Oil

the good:Sunflower seed oil may help to support the reduction of inflammation, support hair growth and help maintain the skin’s natural barrier.

the not so good:As a plant-derived ingredient, sunflower seed oil is made up of a number of different compounds. This can make it more likely to cause an allergic reaction and sensitivity in some people.

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:Keep an eye out for the potential benefits sunflower seed oil may have to the hair.

What Are The Benefits Of Sunflower Seed Oil To Your Skin?

In cosmetics and skincare products, sunflower seed oil has several potential benefits including working as an emollient, supporting the skin’s barrier, soothing and hair growth. 



As an emollient, sunflower seed oil works to soften and soothe the skin while also acting as an mild occlusive ingredient. Occlusive ingredients form a protective film on the surface of skin. This film helps to prevent evaporation of the skin’s natural moisture and increases skin hydration by causing buildup of water in the uppermost layer of skin.

Sunflower seed oil is also commonly used in hair conditioners and other hair products due to its emollient properties. In fact, it is the second most common base oil used in the hair oil industry, according to the Journal of Cosmetic Science. Sunflower seed oil has a softening effect on the hair and helps to prevent breakage.


Supports the skin barrier

The fatty acids found in sunflower seed oil help to restore the skin’s natural barrier function. The skin barrier refers to the top layers of skin, natural oils or sebum, ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids. The barrier helps to protect the skin from bacteria, allergens and fungi as well as prevent water loss to the air. The skin’s natural barrier is a vital part of maintaining skin health. 

A 2013 study examined the effects of sunflower seed oil on the adult skin barrier.  The results of the study suggested that sunflower seed oil preserved the integrity of the top layers of the skin or stratum corneum. Sunflower seed oil does not cause irritation or redness and helps to improve the hydration of the skin. 

The skin barrier is composed of corneocytes or dead skin cells held together by a lipid barrier or natural oils. In addition to fatty acids, the barrier consists of ceramides and cholesterol. A deficiency in these essential lipids or oils can lead to a weak or damaged barrier, which can subsequently allow harmful things like allergens, bacteria, and irritants to pass through the skin. 

Damage to the skin’s natural barrier can result in symptoms of dryness, itching, and irritation, and may lead to the development of skin conditions like acne, eczema, and premature signs of aging.

 Using ingredients that replenish the skin’s barrier, such as sunflower seed oil, can help to prevent these problems.



Sunflower seed oil may provide anti-inflammatory effects due to its high composition of linoleic acid. 

Linoleic acid hydrates the skin and improves elasticity, and also has an effect on certain inflammatory mediators. The potential anti-inflammatory properties of sunflower seed oil make this an excellent ingredient for those with symptoms of dry, flaky, or irritated skin.


Hair loss

The linoleic acid found in sunflower seed oil is also thought to improve hair loss conditions by increasing blood circulation and improving skin penetration for topical hair growth treatments.

Studies have found that linoleic acid may also be able to block the formation of DHT, a hormone that is linked to hair loss, when included as a part of a healthy diet.

Is Sunflower Seed Oil Vegan?

Sunflower seed oil is a vegan ingredient. Sunflower seed oil is derived from, as the name would suggest, sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds are a plant-derived ingredient. 

If you are looking for a vegan product it is best to check the other ingredients in the formulation and ensure the brand is cruelty-free.

Is Sunflower Seed Oil Comedogenic?

Sunflower seed oil is considered to be a non-comedogenic ingredient. This means that it is unlikely to clog your pores or contribute to breakouts and acne. 

Is Sunflower Seed Oil Good For Sensitive Skin?

Sunflower seed oil is considered a great oil for all skin types. However, it may be especially useful for dry or sensitive skin types. 

Due to sunflower seed oil’s benefits in helping to improve hydration as well as support the skin’s natural barrier it is a great oil to help with dry or sensitive skin. 

Studies suggest that sunflower seed oil does not cause sensitivity, irritation or redness. 

Is Sunflower Seed Oil Good For Your Hair?

The main ingredient in sunflower seed oil that provides the most benefit to the hair and skin is linoleic acid. 

Linoelic acid is thoight to improve hair loss conditions by increasing blood circulation and improving skin penetration for topical hair growth treatments.

Sunflower seed oil is also used in hair care products to help soften the hair shaft and prevent breakage. For this reason you will often seed sunflower seed oil present on the back of your product. 

Is Sunflower Seed Oil Safe?

The safety of Helianthus annuus or sunflower seed oil has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel.

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel is a group responsible for the independent evaluation of the safety and efficacy of skincare and cosmetic ingredients. 

Sunflower seed oil was included in the Expert Panel’s review of plant-derived fatty acid oils.

Based on a history of safe use in food, the composition of the oil, and data indicated this ingredient was not a dermal irritant or sensitizer. The Expert Panel concluded that Helianthus annuus or sunflower seed oil was safe as used in cosmetic and skincare products.

Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. Published 2017 Dec 27.
Danby SG, AlEnezi T, Sultan A, Lavender T, Chittock J, Brown K, Cork MJ. Effect of olive and sunflower seed oil on the adult skin barrier: implications for neonatal skin care. Pediatr Dermatol. 2013 Jan-Feb;30(1):42-50.



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