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What are the benefits of safflower oil for the skin?

Safflower oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of the safflower plant. While it's still relatively unknown in the field of cosmetics, it is nonetheless full of potential and could offer several benefits to the skin. What are the properties of safflower oil when applied topically? Learn more in this article.

Benefit #1: Safflower oil hydrates and nourishes the skin.

When applied topically, safflower oil is primarily used for its nourishing and moisturizing properties. Rich in linoleic acid, it strengthens the skin's barrier and promotes the cohesion of cells in the stratum corneum. Better organized, these cells ensure improved skin impermeability and reduce water loss. Additionally, safflower oil contains phytosterols, compounds with the ability to capture and retain moisture. The phytosterols support the hydrolipidic film present on the surface of the epidermis and ensure skin hydration.

Safflower oil can be used on both the face and body and is particularly favored by individuals with dry skin or skin prone to tightness. Non-comedogenic when of high quality, safflower oil can also replace a night cream, especially in winter when the skin is exposed to harsh temperatures and needs maximum comfort and hydration.

Benefit #2: Safflower oil could potentially slow down the development of wrinkles.

Safflower oil is also credited with a tightening effect, highly sought after in the formulation of skincare products for mature skin. In addition to its ability to prevent fine dehydration lines due to its moisturizing properties, safflower oil could also directly act on the causes of skin aging. Studies have shown that this vegetable oil has an inhibitory effect on collagenase and elastase, enzymes respectively responsible for the degradation of collagen and elastin fibers. As a reminder, these proteins of the extracellular matrix play a significant role in maintaining the firmness and flexibility of the skin, and their gradual decrease from the twenties greatly contributes to skin aging.

However, caution is advised regarding this property: at present, only studies in vitro have demonstrated it. No study has yet established that the topical application of safflower oil can prevent or mitigate the effects of time on the skin.

Benefit #3: Safflower oil soothes the skin and reduces redness.

Safflower oil possesses proven anti-inflammatory properties. These properties are derived from the phytosterols present in its composition. Phytosterols can inhibit the activity of NF-κB and AP-1 proteins, which are pro-inflammatory transcription factors. Indeed, NF-κB codes for various inflammation proteins such as certain pro-inflammatory chemokines. AP-1 has similar effects and notably codes for cytokines, which are also pro-inflammatory. Thanks to these mechanisms, safflower oil has a soothing effect on the skin and helps to reduce itching and sensations of discomfort.

This botanical extract can also be used to counteract unwanted redness, in the case of a mild rosacea for example. A study specifically looked at the effects of a moisturizing cream containing 1% vitamin K to treat 50 patients suffering from rosacea. After applying this cream twice a day for eight weeks, researchers measured a significant reduction in erythema. Vitamin K is found in safflower oil, which may suggest its effect in cases of rosacea and on redness.

Benefit #4: Safflower oil accelerates wound healing.

Safflower oil also possesses healing properties that are beneficial in combating acne scars or minor cuts. In addition to providing the skin with good hydration, a key factor in ensuring its healing, it acts directly on the fibroblasts and theepithelialization of tissues. Safflower oil not only promotes the synthesis of collagen by the fibroblasts but also stimulates angiogenesis, which is the formation of new blood vessels.

Furthermore, the modulation of the inflammatory response induced by linoleic acid present in safflower oil also facilitates the healing process. This compound also plays a role in the synthesis of several mediators such as thromboxanes and leukotrienes, which are very active in dermo-epidermal synthesis and angiogenesis.

Benefit #5: Safflower oil protects the skin from oxidative stress.

In addition to protecting the skin by keeping it hydrated, safflower oil has a antioxidant activity that allows it to counteract the damage caused by free radicals. Generated following prolonged exposure to UV rays, pollution, or tobacco, these reactive molecules contribute to the alteration of protein structures, leading to skin damage (wrinkles, skin sagging, hyperpigmentation...). Once again, it is the phytosterols that are responsible for the antioxidant properties of safflower oil, supported by vitamin E, also present in this oil.

In addition to stabilizing free radicals through electron donation, phytosterols stimulate the activity ofendogenous antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx). Notably, SOD catalyzes the dismutation of superoxide anions O2.- into oxygen O2 and hydrogen peroxide H2O2. GPx, on the other hand, facilitates the transformation of organic hydroperoxides before they can damage cells. These various effects allow safflower oil to help prevent skin aging.

Benefit #6: Safflower oil may have an effect on brown spots.

Extended exposure to the sun, hormonal fluctuations, or prolonged skin inflammation are factors that can disrupt melanogenesis and lead to the appearance of pigmented spots. Although harmless, this hyperpigmentation impacts the uniformity of the skin tone and can be a source of discomfort. Several studies have been conducted to find active ingredients capable of reducing these marks. Some have specifically focused on safflower oil and have arrived at interesting conclusions.

It has thus been demonstrated that safflower oil has a inhibitory effect on the tyrosinase of the bacterium Streptomyces bikiniensis. This inhibition could even be comparable to that induced by arbutin, a recognized anti-spot active ingredient. Tyrosinase is an enzyme that plays a major role in melanogenesis to enable the production of melanin. These results are encouraging regarding the ability of safflower oil to prevent and correct brown spots. However, for the time being, it is necessary to remain cautious, as this study was conducted in vitro on bacteria. Trials with individuals showing signs of hyperpigmentation would be necessary to conclude on the depigmenting effect of safflower oil.


  • HWANG J. K. & others. Inhibitory Effects of Active Compounds Extracted from Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) Seeds on Melanogenesis. Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin (2004).

  • MERAH O. & al. Phenol Content and Antioxidant and Antiaging Activity of Safflower Seed Oil (Carthamus Tinctorius L.). Cosmetics (2019).

  • BITRI L. & al. Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Capabilities of Seed Oil from Carthamus tinctorius L. in the Treatment of Skin Wounds. Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Oxidative Stress in Wound Recovery (2020).

  • ERGONUL P. G. & OZBEK Z. A. Cold pressed safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) seed oil. Cold Pressed Oils (2020).

  • GALAWISH AHMED A. The efficacy of topical 1% vitamin K cream in treating steroid-induced rosacea. Journal of Pharmacy and Technology (2020).


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