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If you're still not sold on face oils and using them regularly in your skincare routine, chances are you might have had a less-than-positive experience with one in the past. Some oils are indeed known to be comedogenic and some even irritating, but that's not the case for all of them. If you've been burned by a skincare oil before, you might have sworn them off forever. But here's the deal: not all oils are the same, and they don't all work for everyone. Take meadowfoam seed oil, for instance. This plant-based oil is nothing like the heavy, greasy consistency you might associate with oils, so don't be put off if you find this ingredient listed high up on your product's label. To fill us in on everything this oil can do, both for the skin and for product formulation, we turned to triple board-certified dermatopathologist Gretchen Frieling, MD; board-certified dermatologist Stacy Chimento, MD, of Riverchase Dermatology; and cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson of BeautyStat Cosmetics. Together, the skin experts weigh in the benefits of meadowfoam seed oil.
Meet the Expert
Meadowfoam Seed Oil
Type of ingredient: Emollient
Main benefits: Seals in moisture and softens skin.
Who should use it: Because meadowfoam seed oil is similar to natural sebum, Chimento says the ingredient is suitable for all skin types.
How often can you use it: Meadowfoam seed oil is safe to use daily. Chimento recommends adding a few drops into a daily moisturizer and also incorporating it into a nightly routine for those with dry skin.
Works well with: Robinson recommends using it in conjunction with other skincare oils and butters.
Don't use with: Because meadowfoam seed oil is a very stable oil, Robinson says it's compatible with many other cosmetic ingredients.
What Is Meadowfoam Seed Oil?
A plant-based oil, meadowfoam (aka Limnanthes alba) seed oil is derived from meadowfoam seeds and is composed of mostly fatty acids and antioxidants, which explains why you'll find it in several skincare and hair care products. When talking about skincare formulas, specifically, Frieling says the ingredient is commonly included in formulations because it works well with many other ingredients, helps to thicken the product, and enhances the texture and feel of moisturizing products. So how does it feel, exactly? While some oils are known for their thick, slick consistency, this isn't one of them. Robinson describes meadowfoam seed oil as having a unique, velvety texture that is very emollient without being greasy and compares it to argan oil—but a less expensive and more stable version. Frieling breaks it down: "It has over 95% long-chain omega-9 fatty acids, making it a highly stable and oxidative oil. This means that in the presence of light and air, meadowfoam seed oil is less likely to go bad or develop a bad odor."
Benefits of Meadowfoam Seed Oil for Skin
Meadowfoam seed oil isn't only included in cosmetic formulation for its stability and sensory properties. The skincare ingredient also provides a few benefits to the skin, as listed below.
- Locks in moisture: Although meadowfoam seed oil isn't the same as the natural sebum your skin makes (Robinson points out that meadowfoam seed oil is higher in fatty acid content while sebum contains more wax esters), it works similarly to sebum to seal in moisture. And because it’s so similar to our skin’s oils, Chimento adds that meadowfoam seed oil is suitable for all skin types.
- Softens skin: "While there is very little evidence on the effectiveness of meadowfoam seed oil to treat skin conditions, we know that it can hydrate the skin," Frieling explains. When applied to the skin, meadowfoam seed oil acts as an emollient, sealing in moisture and keeping the skin soft and supple.
- Balances sebum production: "Ingredients like meadowfoam seed oil help to balance our skin’s natural sebum production, keeping it from being too dry or too oily," Chimento explains. "It can easily absorb into the skin and will not feel heavy or greasy, unlike other thicker oils and creams."
- Fights aging and free-radical damage: According to Frieling, the powerful antioxidant properties of meadowfoam seed oil indicate that it might help prevent sun damage and reduce oxidative stress.
Side Effects of Meadowfoam Seed Oil
Although this isn't one of those oils known for being super irritating, Chimento always recommends performing a patch test on the inside of your forearm when trying any new product before applying it more broadly. If an allergic reaction does occur, you might experience a rash, itchiness, tingling, swelling, and inflamed skin, in which case you should discontinue use of the product and consult your doctor.
How to Use It
Face oils typically work best as the last step in your skincare routine to seal in all the moisture underneath it. Still, Chimento also suggests adding a few drops of meadowfoam seed oil to your daily moisturizer or hydrating serum after cleansing. If you have dry skin, Chimento suggests taking it a step further and also applying two to three drops of pure meadowfoam seed oil onto cleansed skin for added moisture at night.
The Best Products With Meadowfoam Seed Oil
Part foundation and part face oil, this liquid-like tint melts seamlessly into the skin for that sheered-out, dewy finish you get when you mix a few drops of face oil into your makeup. This formula contains jojoba, avocado, and rosehip seed oils, which is why it's one of Frieling's favorites. "Not only does it provide decent coverage, but you’re also nourishing the skin with nutrients and minerals that a normal foundation or BB cream wouldn’t," Frieling explains. With just 16 shades offered, we only wish it were available in a wider range.
Another top pick of Frieling's is this fragrance-free cleansing oil made with a combination of five plant oils. "I highly recommend the double-cleanse method to anyone who suffers from acne caused by clogged pores," Frieling says. "Oils do an incredible job at picking up other oils, dirt, and makeup without leaving an oily residue. This cleansing oil is a blend of meadowfoam seed oil and other gentle oils that also hydrate and nourish the skin while removing impurities."
Named by Byrdie as one the best face oils for glowy skin, this fragrance- and essential-oil-free product has a gentle, lightweight feel that you wouldn't expect from a bunch of oils. But instead of heavier oils, this formula combines cloudberry, cottonseed, and meadowfoam seed oils to help the skin retain moisture while imparting a soft, dewy glow.
For all those times when your skin (face or body) could really use a reset and a boost of moisture, reach for this calming oil. Here's the breakdown: Hemp seed oil, meadowfoam seed oil, witch hazel, and vitamin E work together to nourish, moisturize, and rescue tired skin (hence the name).
Have super dry skin that needs moisture and lots of it? Try this body balm (it's a top pick of Byrdie's editorial director) made from all-natural ingredients, like meadowfoam seed and avocado oils. As a bonus, you can also use it as a cleansing balm and a hair treatment—if you didn't already use it all up on your body, that is.
If the Byrdie product review on this serum isn't convincing enough, allow us to add to it. Not only does this serum—a combination of vitamin E with plant oils, like green tea seed oil, sunflower oil, and meadowfoam oil—simultaneously moisturize dry skin and keep oily skin at bay, but the lightweight feel also allows it to layer nicely under makeup.
If sheet masking is more your vibe, try this one from facialist Angela Caglia. Meadowfoam seed oil is just one of many skin-loving ingredients packed into each sheet. Made from bio-cellulose (best for serum penetration), these masks are also infused with hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, and lactic acid for hydrating and brightening benefits.