Emu Oil Has Been a Dry Skin Fix for Nearly 40,000 Years—Here's Why

Emu Oil

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Emu oil is a popular Australian beauty export that intrigues beauty consumers across the globe. Aboriginal Australians began using this thick cure-all almost 40,000 years ago. For centuries, this oil fixture has been utilized for everything from moisturizing extremely dry skin to helping heal wounds.

But does this ancient solution hold up? Is it still a skincare panacea in the 21st century? To learn more about what benefits this ancient beauty treatment can offer modern consumers, we spoke with Dr. Hadley King, MD, FAAD, a New York City-based dermatologist, and Dr. Erum Ilyas, MD, MBE, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Montgomery Dermatology in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Read on for what they had to say.

Emu Oil

Type of Ingredient: Oil

Main Benefits: Helps prevent water loss from the skin, increasing hydration.

Who should use it: Emu oil is safe for all skin types, but is most beneficial to individuals with dry, inflamed skin, according to King.

How often can you use it: As often as necessary.

Works well with: Other oils and moisturizers.

Don’t use with: No serious adverse reactions have been reported with the use of emu oil.

What Is Emu Oil?

Emu oil is derived from the fat of an emu bird. Also known as Dromaius novaehallandiae, the emu is a flightless bird species that is indigenous to Australia. The fat is removed from the back of the bird and then goes through a refining process that removes excess toxins. It's important to note that because of this, emu oil is not cruelty-free.

Elyas says that emu oil is rich in fats, “particularly long-chained triglyceride esters, such as oleic acid and linoleic acid. It also contains saturated fatty acids like palmitic acid.” It contains 70 percent unsaturated fatty acids (mainly omega-9), 20 percent linoleic acid (omega-6), and 1-2 percent linolenic acid (omega-3), adds King.

When purchasing as a standalone product, be sure to look out for 100 percent pure emu oil that does not contain unwanted containments. Emu oil can also be found as an ingredient in various moisturizing creams and oils.

What Are the Benefits of Emu Oil?

  • Skin hydration: Emu oil is a thick occlusive, which means it can help prevent water loss, keeping skin happily hydrated.
  • Wound healing: Ilyas notes that wound healing is one of the various uses of emu oil.
  • Anti-inflammation: According to King, emu oil has been demonstrated to have potent anti-inflammatory activity associated with decreased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. 
  • Antioxidative properties: Emu oil contains a rich supply of carotenoids, flavones, polyphenols, tocopherol, and phospholipids, which, according to King, gives it rich antioxidative properties.
  • Arthritis relief: Arthritis is a disease associated with inflammation. The anti-inflammatory aspects of emu oil can potentially offer some minor relief.
  • Skin aging: Emu oil can help slow down wrinkle formation and other aspects of the aging process. One study found that the use of emu oil helped decrease wrinkles and dark circles around the eyes of the female participants.
  • Natural insect repellent: Emu oil contains different terpenes, a class of molecules that have been found to have some degree of insect repelling properties.

What Are the Side Effects of Emu Oil?

Studies have shown emu oil to have a relatively neutral effect on the skin. According to King, no serious adverse reactions have been reported with the use of emu oil. It’s relatively safe for topical use in humans.

That doesn't mean emu oil is right for everyone. Due to its thick consistency, emu oil could potentially clog the pores of certain skin types. Another concern to note involves the production process—emu oil is derived from deceased emu animals (often killed for their meat as well). Individuals who have vegan lifestyles or those who stay away from animal products will likely want to avoid this one.

How to Use Emu Oil

For skincare benefits, emu oil should be applied topically. When taken orally the benefits will primarily be digestive, and not necessarily skincare related.

Emu oil can be incorporated into the moisturizing portion of a skincare or body care regimen. You should use emu oil however often you would normally moisturize. Emu oil can be layered under or on top of your go-to moisturizer, and it can be mixed together with other oils or into creams and lotions.

The Best Products With Emu Oil

InstaNatural Emu Oil
InstaNatural Emu Oil $25
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King recommends InstaNatural's Emu Oil because it is 100 percent pure, certified refined, and free of contaminants. The product promises moisturizing properties that hydrate and replenish the skin, hair, and nails.

Leven Rose Emu Oil
Leven Rose Emu Oil $19
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This recommendation from King can be used as a moisturizer, for nail care and calluses, and to reduce wrinkles, age spots, stretch marks, and scarring.

Blue-Emu Super Strength Cream
Blue-Emu Original Super Strength Cream $18
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Ilyas recommends Blue-Emu's Super Strength Cream, one of the most popular emu oil products on the market. This affordable option can be used to moisturize severely dry and chapped skin along with soothing tired muscles and joints.

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