We'll be the first to admit that until not too long ago, the mention of chia seed oil brought to mind the tiny seeds that you eat in a rich pudding and not a skincare ingredient rich in antioxidants and emollients. And as beneficial for your health as chia seeds are (not to mention tasty), can you blame us? But as cosmetic chemist Marisa Plescia points out, chia seed oil as a skincare ingredient deserves some recognition, too.
To help explain why, we turned to Plescia and two board-certified dermatologists, who make a pretty convincing case for why chia seed oil deserves a place in your skincare routine.
Meet the Expert
Keep reading for everything you need to know about chia seed oil.
Chia Seed Oil
Type of ingredient: Non-fragrant plant oil.
Main benefits: Moisturizes, protects from free-radical damage, and improves dryness and itchiness.
Who should use it: Mudgil says thanks to its versatility, chia seed oil, in general, offers benefits for all skin types. Russak adds that anyone with sensitive, inflamed, and dehydrated skin would particularly benefit from chia seed oil in their routine, and it even works well for irritated and oil-prone skin.
How often can you use it: According to Mudgil, chia seed oil is generally safe to use on a daily basis but stresses the importance of listening to your skin and adjusting accordingly.
Works well with: Even though chia seed oil is high in antioxidants, Plescia points out that it lacks a high vitamin C concentration, so using vitamin C in conjunction with chia seed oil could boost its skin benefits, which includes reducing signs of aging. Plescia adds that astaxanthin, an ingredient that's high in vitamin C and E, can especially enhance the effectiveness of chia seed oil.
Don't use with: Plescia says chia seed oil can be used in conjunction with many cosmetic ingredients.
What Is Chia Seed Oil?
Chia seed oil (or, more formally known as salvia hispanica seed oil) is—you guessed it—extracted from the seeds of the chia plant. Plescia says as a food, chia is a powerhouse source of fatty acids, dietary fiber, proteins, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and antioxidants, such as caffeic acid, rosmarinic acid, myricetin, and quercetin.
Skin benefits aside, part of what makes this ingredient such a great one to include in cosmetic formulation is that it’s very stable, and it's also resistant to oxidation, according to Plescia. It's available in pure form, but because of its levels of fatty acids, it's commonly used in moisturizers and can also be found in eye creams, lip products, and even hair care products.
Benefits of Chia Seed Oil for Skin
Because chia seed oil is so versatile, Mudgil says it offers benefits for all skin types. Here's how this nutrient-dense ingredient can improve the skin:
- Moisturizes the skin: Mudgil notes that chia seed oil is rich in emollients, which makes it an effective moisturizer and works to soften the skin and improve the skin barrier function.
- Protects from free-radical damage: The strong antioxidant properties of chia seed oil help protect the skin from oxidative damage and free radicals (which play a major role in skin aging) due to environmental aggressors, such as UV radiation or pollution.
- Improves dryness and itchiness: Russak adds that chia seed oil can also work to improve pruritis (itchy skin) and xerosis (dry skin). Plescia points to an eight-week study of patients suffering from xerotic eczema who used a simple cream with 4 percent chia seed oil that found significant improvements in skin hydration and skin barrier function and reduction of itchiness.
- Increases skin hydration: Russak says not only can chia seed oil help with skin hydration, but it can also decrease transepidermal water loss.
- Is an antioxidant ingredient: Chia seed oil has strong antioxidant properties and is full of highly beneficial ingredients for the skin.
- Rich in fatty acids: When it's used in skincare, chia seed oil is especially beneficial because of its composition of fatty acids. It contains linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid) and more than 60 percent alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid), which, Plescia explains, is one of the highest for any plant source.
Side Effects of Chia Seed Oil
According to Plescia, chia seed oil is a safe and effective ingredient to use in beauty products for any type of formula and skin area. Chia seed oil is easily tolerated, and Russak even says the ingredient could be used on irritated, inflamed, and oil-prone skin. "I would only recommend avoid using if someone has an allergy to chia seeds," Russak says.
How to Use It
Russak recommends applying the oil on clean skin after cleansing the face as the next step in your skincare routine, so it absorbs and does not get diluted by the other products. Allow a few minutes for the product to soak in before applying your moisturizer and sunscreen. Russak adds that due to its antioxidant properties, chia seed oil is best used in the morning to decrease the effects of exogenous stressors on the skin.
Topical Chia Seed Oil vs. Edible Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are great for your health, but you already knew that. Plescia says the benefits of chia seed consumption are well documented, and chia seeds are considered to be one of the most nutrient-rich foods in the world. High in protein, fiber, and linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid), Plescia describes chia seeds as a heart-healthy food but adds that studies that correlate the ingestion of chia seeds with skin health and skin benefits are limited.
The Best Products With Chia Seed Oil
Both Plescia and Mudgil recommend this line of chia seed oil products, which uses a patented extraction method for high-quality chia seed oil, and this multitasking treatment is a standout product from the brand. Brace yourself, because this formula is chock-full of powerful ingredients, such as encapsulated retinol, the botanical retinol called bakuchiol, vitamins C and E, and nutrient-dense chia seed oil. Together, these ingredients help to brighten, moisturize, and improve the look of fine lines and wrinkles without the irritation typically associated with retinol.
Plescia also recommends this highly concentrated serum for treating the delicate skin around the eyes. This formula moisturizes with nutrient-rich plant oils, including chia seed oil, raspberry seed oil, pomegranate oil, and cranberry oil. Marine extracts astaxanthin (an ingredient rich in vitamins C and E that Plescia recommends pairing with chia seed oil) and algae act as strong antioxidants to support skin regeneration and defend against environmental stressors.
A versatile ingredient like chia seed oil deserves an equally versatile product, like this butter from Elemis. One of Russak's top product picks, this formula can be used as a cleanser, a deep-cleansing mask, or a hydrating and non-irritating makeup remover for both the eyes and face. "It has a great buttery, soothing texture," Russak says. "I like the combination of AHAs with chia seed oil because they can counteract the irritation commonly seen with acids."
This product, another one of Russak's favorites, uses chia seed water for intense but lightweight hydration. "Chia seed extract decreases transepidermal water loss, therefore increasing the effects of hyaluronic acid hydration," Russak explains.
For a more affordable option, try this sustainably-sourced 100 percent pure chia seed oil. We've named it one of the best products by The Ordinary and especially like it for softening the hair.
Does chia seed oil help reduce wrinkles?
Chia seed oil is rich in antioxidants and fatty acids, two things that help reduce and prevent wrinkles. It also helps reduce moisture loss and repairs your skin's moisture barrier to keep skin looking fresh, hydrated, and plump.
Is chia seed oil good for acne-prone skin?
Chia seed oil is a great option for all skin types, including those with acne-prone skin. Our experts agree that chia seed oil is suitable for those with oily, dehydrated, irritated, and sensitive skin as well, due to chia seed oil's lightweight, yet incredibly emollient properties.
How often can I use chia seed oil in my skincare routine?
Chia seed oil can be used daily. It is recommended that it be used in the morning to help fight external stressors like UV rays and pollution.
Parker J, Schellenberger AN, Roe AL, Oketch-Rabah H, Calderón AI. Therapeutic Perspectives on Chia Seed and Its Oil: A Review. Planta Med. 2018 Jul;84(9-10):606-612. doi: 10.1055/a-0586-4711. Epub 2018 Mar 13. PMID: 29534257.