At any given point, a new buzzy ingredient is having its moment in the spotlight across the beauty industry. Not too long ago, beauty lovers on TikTok were obsessed with glycolic acid for its ability to stop sweat and body odour. Then, people began recognising the benefits of rosemary oil for hair growth.
And now, folks seemingly can’t stop talking about black seed oil (aka black cumin seed oil) — a type of oil that’s extracted from the seeds of the plant Nigella sativa, explains Shari Sperling MD, a New Jersey-based board-certified dermatologist. The seeds of the plant have been used topically as a natural remedy for various health concerns for years, especially in Eastern Europe and Western Asia, explains Dr Sperling. However, there seems to be an uptick in beauty brands utilising the ingredient in various products due to its supposed skin and hair perks.
Ahead, discover the beauty benefits of black seed oil that may convince you to add it to your routine.
Beauty benefits of black seed oil
Offers antioxidant properties
Because it’s rich in antioxidants, black seed oil “can help scavenge free radicals and soothe skin to keep it healthy,” says Robert Finney, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Entière Dermatology in New York City.
If you need a refresher, free radicals form when your skin is exposed to UV light, x-rays, or air pollutants, and when left unchecked, they can cause dark spots, slow collagen production, and lead to premature signs of ageing. Antioxidants help neutralise those free radicals, preventing them from doing such damage. “Due to the antioxidant benefits, [black seed oil] may [also] help to fight signs of ageing, such as fine lines and wrinkles,” says Marisa Garshick, MD, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology.
In addition to antioxidant properties, studies show that it can also offer antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. That may make it helpful in reducing acne, which can be caused by bacteria, explains Dr Sperling. One study published in the Journal of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery showed that when people used a topical lotion containing black seed oil on an area of skin with acne for two months, they experienced a reduction of pimples. In another similar study published in Phytotherapy Research, people who applied a gel with black seed oil twice daily experienced a significant reduction in acne compared to those who used a gel without the ingredient.
May soothe certain skin conditions
Certain skin concerns, such as psoriasis, are caused by inflammation, so it makes sense that research shows that black seed oil may help reduce symptoms of the condition, including red, itchy, and patchy skin, when applied topically as a lotion that contains other ingredients. Similarly, several studies found that it can help soothe eczema, another dermatological disease characterised by dry, itchy skin. In one study from 2012, an ointment with the ingredient turned out to be more effective in soothing eczema symptoms compared to a Eucerin ointment (a common OTC product used for dry skin types). The study authors go as far as to suggest that the black seed oil ointment’s effects may even be on par with Betamethasone cream, a type of corticosteroid (an ingredient that reduces itchiness), at reducing the severity of hand eczema when applied topically.
May improve hair strength
Admittedly, the studies on black seed oil for hair are still limited, but those that do exist suggest it can help with hair loss and promote stronger hair, says Dr Sperling. For instance, in one small study from 2014, a hair oil containing black seed oil and other herbal ingredients reduced hair loss over the course of 90 days. Researchers from the study note that black seed oil contains proteins and fatty acids that can play a role in blood circulation, which may make the ingredient helpful in promoting healthy hair growth.
Black seed oil’s anti-inflammatory benefits can also help soothe scalp inflammation and irritation, therefore contributing to healthier, stronger strands, adds Dr Finney. “It can be applied to the hair to help condition the ends or to the scalp to help reduce any associated inflammation that may be impacting the scalp,” explains Dr Garshick.
How to incorporate black seed oil into your routine
“I would recommend looking for a well-formulated product that contains black seed oil as an ingredient as opposed to just buying straight black seed oil and using it,” says Dr Finney. Not only can it be irritating for some, but the pure oil might also create more breakouts and increase oiliness in those with acne-prone or oily skin — which is why “breakout-prone patients should avoid facial oils,” according to Dr Finney.
That said, products with black seed are generally well-tolerated and can be used by all skin types, adds Dr Sperling. Just be sure to “perform a patch test before use, especially if you have sensitive skin,” says Dr Garshick, who notes that you can use black seed oil products once or twice per day.
As for hair application, the same rule applies: Look for a product with black seed oil in its ingredient list and apply it to your hair or scalp as directed, says Dr Finney. Using pure black seed oil instead could contribute to a dandruff flare-up in those who are prone to the scalp condition since dandruff is caused by excessive oiliness, explains Dr Finney.
Bottom line? If you just love testing new ingredients in search of better-looking skin and hair, black seed oil might be worth seeking out.
This story first appeared on www.shape.com.
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