Who knew that pretty sunflowers also had some serious skincare perks? “Sunflower oil is commonly included as an ingredient in moisturizers, anti-aging skincare, and lip care products,” says New York City-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. “Or, it may be used as a flagship ingredient in hydrating skin oils.”
Since sunflower oil is non-comedogenic, it won’t clog pores. It’s a super absorbent carrier oil and typically won’t irritate most people. Sunflower oil can be used on all skin types, including dry, normal, oily, and even acne-prone. The oil has several compounds with significant perks for the skin, including oleic acid, vitamin E, sesamol, and linoleic acid. To help us take a deep dive into sunflower oil, we tapped Zeichner and Orit Markowitz, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, skin cancer specialist, and founder of OptiSkin in New York City. Keep reading for everything you need to know about sunflower oil, including what it is, how to use it, and the best products to try.
Type of Ingredient: Carrier oil
Main Benefits: Soothes skin, strengthens the skin barrier, hydrates.
Who Should Use It: If your complexion is on the thirsty side, sunflower oil delivers the hydration your skin craves.
How Often Can You Use It: It can be used daily.
Works Well With: In general, sunflower oil plays well with others.
Don't Use With: There aren’t any specific ingredients you should avoid using with sunflower oil.
What Is Sunflower Oil?
“Sunflower oil is derived from the flower native to the southwest United States and has been used in skin care for decades,” Zeichner says. “Sunflower oil contains high levels of linoleic acid, a fatty acid found naturally in our skin’s sebum. Because of its high fatty acid concentration, sunflower oil has great emollient benefits, helping to improve skin barrier function and maintain hydration. Sunflower oil is also thought to have anti-inflammatory properties helping to calm the skin.” It can be found in a range of skincare products, from cleansers to face and body oils to serums to moisturizers. Sunflower oil quickly absorbs into the skin to deliver a serious dose of hydration.
Benefits of Sunflower Oil for Skin
Chock full of skin-boosting compounds, sunflower oil delivers plenty of perks to your complexion. These are the benefits of sunflower oil:
- Strengthens the skin barrier: “Sunflower oil is rich in linoleic acid, which is a fatty acid that's good for limiting water loss, so it’s good for the skin barrier,” Markowitz says.
- Delivers antioxidants: “Sunflower oil is rich in vitamin E, which is an antioxidant,” Markowitz says. Vitamin E will help guard skin from free radicals and damage from the sun, including fine lines and other signs of aging.
- Soothes irritated skin: “Sunflower seed oil is also thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, helping to calm the skin,” Zeichner says. “It has been well studied to treat skin conditions like dryness and eczema.”
- Helps with wound healing: “For wound healing and acne or inflamed skin, sunflower oil will help,” Markowitz says. Oleic acid may be responsible for helping to heal wounds faster.
- Doesn’t trigger breakouts: Sunflower oil is non-comedogenic. “It is one of the few oils that can be used in patients who have acne-prone skin, as it should not block the pores,” Zeichner says.
Side Effects of Sunflower Oil
You aren’t likely to experience any consequences when using this nourishing oil. “Sunflower oil is very low risk,” Markowitz says. “Because it's an anti-inflammatory, that's helping patients that have barrier issues in atopic dermatitis, and it is unlikely to cause a reaction. Usually, those ingredients that have that kind of interaction with the body very rarely end up causing any negative impact.”
How to Use It
“Sunflower seed oil can be used on a daily basis,” Zeichner says. “If you’re using a pure oil, it can be applied after washing and layered underneath your moisturizer.”
Those who are using it to treat a compromised skin barrier, eczema, or atopic dermatitis should use it more regularly to see results, advises Markowitz. “At night, that becomes your last layer,” she says.
The Best Products with Sunflower Oil
This potent hydrator earns a thumbs up from Markowitz. Designed to work for all skin types, the facial oil delivers mega moisture, boosts firmness, and helps smooth fine lines and wrinkles. The dual-phase oil treatment adds a glow wherever you use it, whether that’s your face, body, hair, or nails.
“Burt’s Bees Night Cream for Sensitive Skin contains high levels of sunflower seed oil along with other hydrating botanicals like oat extract to help hydrate, calm, and protect the outer skin layer,” Zeichner says. Made specifically for sensitive skin, the fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, gentle formula won’t trigger redness or irritation. The soothing moisturizer is of 98.9% natural origin and earned the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance.
Markowitz appreciates the combination of sunflower oil and honey since the latter is a powerful humectant, meaning the combo team up for loads of hydration. Aside from sunflower oil, its five-flower oil blend also includes hibiscus, rosehip, evening primrose, and crambe to infuse skin with omega fatty acids to nourish and strengthen the skin barrier. Additionally, buckwheat honey is chock full of antioxidants.
“The Rodan + Fields Redefine Lip Renewing Serum comes in individual use capsules and helps hydrate and soothe the lips using natural oils, including sunflower seed oil,” Zeichner says. Packed with antioxidants, each gel-filled capsule helps lips retain their natural moisture while smoothing texture and fine lines.
Another pick of Markowitz, this facial oil is made of nine antioxidant-packed superfood oils, including sunflower oil, broccoli, flaxseed, rosehip, and daikon radish. The lightweight oil plumps, brightens, and smooths, leaving skin glowing.
“This uses all-natural ingredients in a mineral-only formula that fully rubs into the skin without leaving behind a white cast,” Zeichner says. “In addition to sunflower seed oil, ingredients like squalene and ceramides keep the skin barrier intact.” The unscented sunscreen offers SPF 30 and also minimizes fine lines.
“Combining sunflower oil and a retinol alternative is a really smart idea because it’s also like a humectant,” Markowitz says. This face serum gently exfoliates to smooth and improve skin texture while tremella mushroom hydrates.