Today we're going to talk about one of Polynesia's most valuable natural treasures when it comes to skin care - tamanu oil.
Tamanu oil is often referred to as the "green gold" and "beauty leaf" oil. However, don't be confused if you also encounter the names Kamani, laurelwood, Alexandrian laurel, Calophylle Inophylle, Palo maria, Takamaka, and many others over the internet. These are all names for this one grand ingredient - a natural beauty elixir that has many applications in skin care.
Native to Southeast Asia, tamanu oil has been used for centuries as a folk remedy for various hair and skin problems. People believe it can treat leprosy, hemorrhoids, vaginal infections, sunburn, rashes, burns, acne and acne scars, psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea. It can also increase collagen production and treat wrinkles.
If you suffer from dry aging skin, chances are you've already heard about this powerful natural remedy. And, it's no surprise, as today you can find it in many skin care products. Mostly it's marketed as a remedy for fungus and the long-awaited cure for psoriasis.
But are these claims justified? Let's find out.
(Looking for an acne-fighting solution, and thought tamanu might help? Try Misumi's Clear Skin Duo Kit).
Tamanu oil is cold pressed from the nuts of tropical trees belonging to the Calophyllaceae family. The tamanu nut tree can grow up to 2-3 meters and has a thick trunk and elliptical, shiny leaves. The kernels of the tamanu trees have a very high oil content (up to 75%). The pressed oil has a yellowish-green color similar to olive oil.
It contains fatty acids, such as oleic acid (20-26%), linoleic acid (21-29%), and stearic acid (25-35%).
Linoleic acid (omega-6) has anti-inflammatory properties that contribute to the benefits of tamanu oil. It makes the consistency thinner, making it suitable for acne-prone skin. Additionally, it promotes moisture retention, which makes your face more soft and elastic, and helps with wound healing.
Oleic acid (omega-9) has antioxidant and anti-aging effects. In addition, it helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines and makes the skin soft and radiant. Lastly, stearic acid has powerful cleansing properties, which will keep your skin clean and free from dirt, debris, and dead skin cells.
Tamanu is not an oil you can eat - its uses are limited to the beauty industry and medicine. However, currently, there's not enough research to support the more serious medicinal claims associated with the benefits of tamanu oil.
When it comes to the skin, there are many tamanu oil benefits. Research indicates that it can help with acne, acne scars, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, fungi infection, itchy skin, and symptoms of conditions associated with dry and textured skin.
Let's explore this in more detail.
Oily-skinned people aren't the only ones who can experience all those amazing tamanu oil benefits. The high-fat content of tamanu oil is highly beneficial for people with a lot of texture as it can help maintain moisture without making your face look greasy.
It has a comedogenic rating of only 2 (out of 5) which means it won't clog your pores and will be gentle. The oleic and linoleic acids will hydrate your skin, making it feel soft and look luminous.
It'll also improve the appearance of chapped lips and scaly skin.
Dry and rough skin can lead to more fine lines and wrinkles. Keeping your face moisturized is one way to prevent damage and cracks in the skin's tissue.
The antioxidative properties of tamanu oil will protect you from the damaging effect of free radicals caused by oxidative stress. And on top of this, when absorbed, this product can stimulate collagen production and help the skin heal - it can tighten it, promote cell turnover, and maintain its elasticity.
These processes work against wrinkle formation and also help reduce the appearance of fine lines that have already formed.
Tamanu oil has powerful anti-bacterial properties that can effectively kill acne-causing bacteria, such as Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes). In addition to this, one very recent comparative study made on various plants from which tamanu oil is produced found that the ingredient can potentially serve as a lead agent in preventing inflammation.
Together, both properties can fight off those annoying pimples and help with the long-term treatment of inflammatory acne and acne vulgaris.
And, if you have severe cystic acne or you already have scarring, you can also still rub tamanu oil into your skin. The oil is rich in antioxidants and also has wound-healing and skin regeneration properties.
Alongside anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, tamanu oil can help you finally get rid of your pimple scars. In 2002, a study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science found that scars significantly decreased after nine weeks of regularly using a tamanu oil product.
Stretch marks, acne scarring, or other types of scars are all due to skin lesions that happened while the skin was trying to heal from abrupt damage. For example, in the case of a very severely inflamed pimple or sudden weight change. Although the types of scars are different, and this affects their treatment, the moisturizing, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties of organic tamanu oil have led people to believe they can also use it to fade the appearance of stretch marks.
Anecdotal evidence shows that this practice has yielded satisfactory results for many people, but more research is still needed.
One of the most famous benefits of tamanu oil is its ability to destroy fungi infections. More specifically, it's most beneficial for athlete's foot - a contagious foot fungal infection. A 2017 study published in the Industrial Crops and Products journal evaluated and confirmed the oil's antifungal properties. Although more research is needed, the anecdotal evidence for this benefit is piling up, and people believe it can truly make a difference.
The anti-inflammatory properties of tamanu oil are highly beneficial for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. While there's no research supporting the idea that tamanu oil is an effective remedy against eczema, some people have been using it and are reporting improvement. It can help with scarring and dark spots.
On the other hand, tamanu oil for psoriasis is a well-reviewed subject.
Up until today, there's still no cure for psoriasis, and you shouldn't expect magical results. But tamanu oil can reduce the outbursts of symptoms related to psoriasis. This is because Tamanu oil has a high content of fatty acids, especially oleic and linoleic acid. We already know that the rate of psoriasis is lower in regions where people's diets are rich in these fatty acids.
Because it also has many other beneficial properties, you can include tamanu oil in your skincare routine. Just make sure you consult with your doctor or dermatologist.
The main compounds in tamanu oil are oleic, linoleic, stearic, palmitic, and erucic acid. All these compounds give it antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties, which help the skin heal and recover from painful or itchy bites. The moisturizing properties will make your skin softer and less irritable.
We all know the struggles of shaving and waxing, especially in the summer. One of the biggest nightmares is ingrown hairs, which aren't only annoying but sometimes really painful - especially if inflamed. Tamanu oil has anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial for irritated skin and ingrown hairs.
The best method is to apply a couple of drops of tamanu mixed with a few drops of tea tree oil to a cotton pad and rub it on the affected area of the skin. Make sure you do this after showering since warm water opens the pores, which helps the oils absorb better.
We've already mentioned the wound-healing and powerful antioxidative properties of tamanu oil. It's believed it can reduce intracellular ROS activity. Also, some neoflavonoid constituents of tamanu oil have great free radical scavenging effects.
But, beyond the antioxidant potential, a 2009 study published in the US National Library of Medicine found that Calophyllum inophyllum (tamanu oil) was the only oil that possessed the capacity to absorb UV light within a spectrum from 260 to 400 nm. What this means is that 85% of the DNA damage caused by UV radiation was shown to be inhibited with 1% of Tamanu oil.
Don't take this as an excuse to ditch your sunscreen. There's still a lot of research needed to place tamanu as a potential sunscreen product - or as a way to treat minor burns. A safe way to try tamanu oil is to apply it in addition to your traditional sunscreen product.
There are no known serious side effects associated with the topical use of tamanu oil for the skin. Yet, there are cases where you should avoid using the oil, or at least be more careful and consult with your doctor before using it.
You can read this on the product label, but it's still worth mentioning. Tamanu oil is not edible, and you should avoid swallowing the oil or allowing it to get into contact with the eyes as it can cause irritation.
Avoid using it on open wounds. Always consult with your doctor to find the best treatment for your open wound, and after the wound is closed, use the oil to help the skin heal faster.
Tamanu oil is considered a natural herbal supplement and is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for any medicinal effect. This means that the FDA can file a lawsuit against any company that claims it has medicinal benefits.
Because of its chemical constituents and powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antioxidant, antiseptic, and antimicrobial properties, tamanu oil is considered beneficial for relieving symptoms and skin imperfections. However, it's definitely not a cure for underlying skin conditions, and you shouldn't use it as a replacement for any traditional treatment.
Tamanu oil is considered safe to use, and allergic reactions are rare. However, it comes from the tamanu nut tree. If you have an allergy to tree nuts, you should avoid the oil. The tamanu oil smell is strong and earthy, with a nutty aroma.
If you've never used any tamanu oil products before, or you're unsure whether you have a tree nut allergy, consider doing a patch test before applying properly. Here's a practical guide on how to do a patch test for all your skin care products.
As soon as you know you're safe to go, you can reap all those tamanu oil benefits.
There's still not enough information to confirm this product as unsafe or safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Still, because this is an extremely sensitive period, we recommend staying away from tamanu oil for the time being.
If, for whatever reason, you are unable to use tamanu oil for your skin but still want to reap all those amazing tamanu oil benefits, here are some alternatives you can consider using:
Argan oil is an amazing moisturizer that will keep your skin hydrated and soft without making it greasy. And it won't clog pores! In fact, this oil has an impressive comedogenic rating of 0 (tamanu oil has 2). That's right - it's one of the best oils for acne-prone skin. In addition to this, argan oil has the same benefits as tamanu oil. It helps with wound healing, wrinkles, and sunburn. It also works as a great acne treatment, and you can use it safely on sensitive skin.
Tea tree oil is one of the superstars in the beauty industry, with amazing skincare benefits. It has the additional advantage of being one of the most well-researched oils. It has powerful antibacterial properties, making it suitable for oily and acne-prone skin, as well as acne scarring, wounds, and problematic skin.
Castor oil also has the same benefits as tamanu oil. This carrier oil comes with antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory effects, which make it great for acne, inflammatory skin conditions and infections, rashes, blemishes, wounds, and other skin imperfections, helping you achieve the healthy skin you've always dreamed of. It's gentle enough to use on sensitive skin.
Sea buckthorn oil is rich in essential fatty acids and Vitamin E, which makes it a great candidate as a replacement for tamanu oil. It may also provide similar benefits to the purported effects of tamanu oil. When applied topically, sea buckthorn oil will sink past your skin barrier and help with the wound healing process and ease eczema symptoms.
Other Oils to Consider:
First things first - wash and cleanse your face before anything else. Then, pat it dry to prepare it for tamanu oil application. You can use a cotton pad or your fingers to apply a small amount of the oil and gently massage it over your face. You can dilute it with water or another oil you already use in your skincare routine. Let it act on your face for 30 minutes to an hour before washing it off with lukewarm water.
You can repeat this procedure daily or even twice a day until you see improvement.
If your main concerns are fine lines or wrinkles, you can use tamanu oil in combination with jojoba oil on a daily basis to really tackle those imperfections and restore the skin's natural elasticity.
Stary by washing and drying your face. Then, apply the tamanu-jojoba oil mixture to your skin. Let it act for 20 minutes and then rinse it off with lukewarm water.
You can also add tamanu oil (or one of our alternatives) to your body lotion, facial oil, and more.
Do not use tamanu oil on open wounds! In this case, go visit your doctor and seek treatment. Don't use it to treat infected wounds, either - you'll need a doctor's care. When the wound is closed, you can apply a few drops of tamanu oil directly on the affected skin, as tamanu oil helps it heal faster. Let it absorb in the skin, and don't wash it afterward.
Another thing: before using this oil on problematic skin, make sure you're not allergic, as it can make things much worse.
Other Tamanu Oil Uses:
Tamanu oil is an ancient folk remedy for various hair and skin conditions.
Unfortunately, scientific research on tamanu oil is thin, and only some of the oil's properties are supported with scientific evidence.
From the things we know about tamanu oil, we can say it's potentially beneficial for people with dry skin, sun damage, fungal infections, eczema and psoriasis, acne and acne scars, stretch marks, ingrown hair, rashes, and skin irritations. You can use it with essential oils or other carrier oils to help with a range of conditions.
Tamanu oil will help your skin relieve symptoms on all skin types rather than act as a miracle cure for the conditions mentioned above.
Comparative studies of selected Calophyllum plants for their anti-inflammatory properties
Tamanu (Calophyllum inophyllum) – the African, Asian, Polynesian and Pacific Panacea
Application of Calophyllum inophyllum oil as antifungal fat-liquor for leather industry
New tricyclic and tetracyclic pyranocoumarins with an unprecedented C-4 substituent. Structure elucidation of tamanolide, tamanolide D and tamanolide P from Calophyllum inophyllum of French Polynesia