There’s a slew of oils out there that claim to have major beauty benefits. And while some of them have definitely become cult-favorites (ahem, coconut oil), others have fallen short. Now there’s a newer-to-the-market oil that is impressing users and boasting skincare perks that make it worth mentioning. Enter: babassu oil. While its name may not sound familiar to you yet, this oil may just be the next big thing when it comes to keeping your hair, skin, and body moisturized.
Before adding babassu oil to your beauty routine, you might be curious where it comes from. FYI: It’s derived from the seed of a babassu palm tree, which is native to the rainforests of South America, according to board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD. Like coconut oil, babassu oil is extracted from the kernels of the tree’s nuts.
She also notes that in Brazil, the babassu tree is known as the “tree of life,” because the oil is thought to have healing properties, and is commonly used in both cooking and beauty regimens across the country. (Consider it the do-it-all oil your busy lifestyle desperately needs.)
Keep reading to learn more about this tropical oil, what it’s good for, how exactly to use it, and why you need to consider adding it to your hair and skincare routine ASAP.
How do I use babassu oil?
Since babassu oil is a multitasker, it’s often compared to the stateside favorite coconut oil. And it’s true, if babassu oil had a twin, it’d probably be coconut oil, since it’s composed of similar fatty acids. Texture-wise, it’s also a smooth solid that liquifies once it hits your skin.
You can find it packaged either in a jar in soft solid form, like coconut oil would be, or in an oil dropper for applying it directly to your face or body.It can also be an ingredient in a thicker balm or lotion to lather on and nourish hair or skin.
There are a variety of ways to use this hydrating oil. “We typically think of this oil as good for dry skin, but it can also be helpful to combat redness,” Miami-based board-certified dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD, says. And since it’s really lightweight and easily absorbed, even those who have oily or acne-prone skin can benefit (more on that later).
Dr. King also notes that it’s a great oil for smoothing and hydrating the hair and scalp, since it’s less greasy than other oils.
What are the main benefits of babassu oil?
While more research and studies are required to understand all the wonders of babassu oil, there are a few known benefits that are worth mentioning.
It’s super hydrating.
Like many oils, babassu oil is a moisturizing go-to because it truly hydrates the skin. According to Dr. King, babassu oil contains 70 percent fatty acids, and is unique because it absorbs into the skin very quickly and leaves skin with that cool, refreshed feeling we all know and love.
Dr. Ciraldo agrees, adding that babassu oil’s hydrating properties are thanks to a high content of lauric acid, which is the same fatty acid that makes coconut oil so hydrating. But since babassu oil is so lightweight, it won’t leave your complexion feeling greasy in the same way coconut oil sometimes does.
Babassu oil has some antimicrobial properties.
The same acid that makes this tropically-derived oil hydrating also makes it antimicrobial. “Peer reviewed publications attest to the fact that lauric acid helps to fight against bacteria sometimes found on the skin, including strep and staph,” Dr. Ciraldo says. That being said, it’s not as effective in treating a skin infection as a prescription topical antibiotic, adds Dr. Ciraldo.
It may help improve acne and eczema-prone skin.
If you’ve ever had an acne or eczema flare-up, you know how inflamed and irritated the skin can become in what seems like minutes. Because babassu oil has some anti-inflammatory properties, Dr. King says it may be helpful in improving skin conditions, like acne and eczema. One older study found that lauric acid, which is present in babassu oil, may help reduce inflammation and acne-causing bacteria on the skin. Not to mention, since this lightweight oil doesn’t clog pores, it makes a great oil choice for those concerned about breakouts and blemishes.
Are there any downsides to using babassu oil?
Since research is limited on babassu oil, both Dr. King and Dr. Ciraldo agree that it can be hard to say if there are any downsides to adding babassu oil to your regimen. Dr. King recommends being cautious with this oil if you’re allergic to coconut oil,since both of these oils have some of the same properties and make up.
It may be best to avoid using it if you’re a pregnant or nursing mama, too, Dr. Ciraldo says, because there haven’t been any studies in this area. “Babassu oil has also been associated with changes in thyroid function in people who have thyroid disease,” she notes. So if you have a history of thyroid disease, it may be best to consult with your physician before using babassu oil in any way.
The bottom line: If coconut oil is your holy grail, babassu oil is a must-try for hydrating dry skin and hair, that doesn’t clog pores or feel heavy or greasy upon applying.
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