Last time we talked about Neem Oil, India’s sacred ingredient used in cosmetics over the world. Today we’re going to talk about one of Polynesia’s most valuable natural treasures when it comes to skincare - Tamanu Oil.
Tamanu oil is often referred to as the “Green Gold” and “Beauty Leaf” oil. Don’t be confused if you also encounter the names Kamani oil, Laurelwood, Alexandrian laurel oil, Calophylle Inophylle, Palo Maria oil, Takamaka oil, and many others over the internet. These are all names used for this one grand ingredient - a natural beauty elixir that has many applications in skincare.
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.
If you suffer from dry and problematic 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 cosmetic products. Mostly it’s marketed as a remedy for fungus on the skin, as well as the long-awaited cure for psoriasis.
But, are these claims justified? Let’s find out.
Tamanu oil is pressed from the nuts of the tropical trees belonging to the Calophyllaceae family. The tamanu 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 the olive oil.
The oil contains fatty acids, such as oleic acid (20-26%), linoleic acid (21-29%), and stearic acid (25-35%).
The linoleic acid (omega-6) has anti-inflammatory properties and makes the consistency of the oil thinner, which makes it suitable for acne-prone skin. Additionally, it promotes moisture retention, which makes the skin more soft and elastic, and helps with wound healing.
Oleic acid (omega-9) has antioxidant and anti-aging properties. It helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines and makes the skin soft and radiant. Last but not least, the 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 using tamanu oil.
When it comes to the skin though, research indicates that the oil can help with acne, acne scars, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, fungi infection, or dry and itchy skin, as well as symptoms of conditions associated with dry skin.
Let’s explore this in more detail.
The high-fat content of tamanu oil is highly beneficial for people with dry skin as it can help the skin maintain moisture without making the skin 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 on your skin. The oleic and linoleic acids will hydrate your skin and make it feel soft and look luminous.
Dry skin can lead to more fine lines and wrinkles. Keeping your skin moisturized is one way you can prevent damage and cracks in the skin’s tissue.
The antioxidative properties of tamanu oil will protect the skin from the damaging effect of free radicals caused by oxidative stress. And, on top of this, when absorbed in the skin, the oil can stimulate collagen production and help the skin heal - it can tighten it, promote cell turnover, and maintain its elasticity.
All these processes work against wrinkle formation and also help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines that are 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 published by Pharmacognosy Magazine, 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 acne vulgaris.
And, if your acne is severe or you already have scarring, then you can also consider using tamanu oil on your skin. The oil is rich in antioxidants and also has wound-healing properties. It helps with skin regeneration and promotes wound closure.
Alongside with the 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 acne scars significantly decreased after nine weeks of regular use of a tamanu oil product.
Stretch marks, acne scars, or other types of scars are all skin lesions, which happened while the skin was trying to heal from abrupt damage, as in the case of a very severely inflamed pimple or sudden weight change. Although the type of scars are different and this affects their treatment, the moisturizing, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties of tamanu oil have lead people to believe they can also use it to fade the appearance of stretch marks.
Anecdotal evidence shows that for many people, this practice has yielded somewhat satisfactory results, but research is still needed.
One of the most famous benefits of tamanu oil is its ability to destroy fungi infection on the skin, or more specifically, it’s most beneficial for athlete’s foot - a contagious fungal infection on the feet. 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.
On the other hand, tamanu oil for psoriasis is a well-reviewed subject.
We can start by saying that up until today, there’s still no cure for psoriasis and you shouldn’t expect magical results. But what tamanu oil can do is reduce the outbursts of symptoms related to psoriasis. Tamanu oil has a high content of fatty acids, especially oleic and linoleic acid, and we already know that in regions where people’s diets are rich in these fatty acids, the rate of psoriasis is lower.
Because it also has many other beneficial properties, you can include tamanu oil in your skincare routine and see how your skin will react. 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 the oil antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory 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 nightmares is the phenomenon of ingrown hairs, which is not only annoying but sometimes even really painful, especially if inflamed. Tamanu oil has anti-inflammatory properties which can be really beneficial in situations with irritated skin and ingrown hairs.
A lot of people have been using it to get relief and treat this problem. The best method is to apply a couple of drops of tamanu oil mix with a few drops of tea tree oil on a cotton pad and rub it on the affected area of the skin. Make sure you do this after showering since warm/hot water opens the pores which will help the oils absorb better.
We already mentioned the wound-healing and powerful antioxidative properties of tamanu oil. It’s believed it can reduce the 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-radiatios was shown to be inhibited with 1% of Tamanu oil.
It’s important that you don’t take this as an excuse to ditch your sunscreen. There’s still a lot of research needed to be done in order to place tamanu oil as a potential sunscreen product. A safe way to use 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 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 the oil on open wounds as well. Always consult with your doctor as what is 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 the oil 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, but it’s definitely not a cure for the underlying skin condition and you shouldn’t use it as a replacement for any traditional treatment.
Although tamanu oil is considered safe to use and allergic reactions are rare, if you have an allergy to tree nuts you should avoid the oil.
If you have never used tamanu oil before or you are not sure whether you have a tree nut allergy consider doing a patch test before applying on your face or on a large and problematic area of your skin. Here’s a practical and comprehensive guide on how to do a patch test for all of your skincare products.
There’s still not enough information to place the oil as unsafe or safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Still, because this is an extremely sensitive period and you should always be extra careful with everything you’re using, we recommend staying away from tamanu oil for the time being.
Okay, if for whatever reason you are unable to use tamanu oil for your skin, but you still want to get all the benefits the oil holds, 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 or clogging your pores. In fact, argan oil has an impressive comedogenic rating of 0 (tamanu oil has 2). That’s right, it’s one of the best oils for oily or acne-prone skin. In addition to this, argan oil has the same benefits as tamanu oil. It helps with wound-healing, wrinkles, acne, and sunburns.
Tea tree oil is one of the superstars in the beauty industry and has an additional advantage of being one of the most well-researched oils. It has powerful antibacterial properties which makes it suitable for oily and acne-prone skin, as well as acne scars, wounds, and problematic skin.
Castor oil also has the same benefits as tamanu oil. It comes with antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties which make it great for acne, skin infections, rashes, blemishes, wounds, and other skin imperfections.
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 you with similar benefits to the purported effects of tamanu oil. When applied topically, sea buckthorn oil it’s believed it can help with the process of wound healing and ease eczema symptoms.
Other Oils To Consider:
First things first - wash and cleanse your face before anything else, after which you will pat it dry to prepare it for the 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 that 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, after which you can apply the tamanu-jojoba oil mixture on your face. Let it act for twenty minutes and then rinse off with lukewarm water.
If you have an open wound, do not use tamanu oil! In this case, go visit your doctor and seek treatment. When the wound is closed you can apply a few drops of tamanu oil directly on the affected skin to help the skin heal faster. Let it absorb in the skin and don’t wash it afterward.
Another thing: Before using it on problematic skin, make sure you’re not allergic to the oil, as it can make things much worse.
Other ways you can use tamanu oil:
Tamanu oil is an ancient folk remedy for various hair and skin conditions. Throughout history it’s been used to treat leprosy, hemorrhoids, vaginal infections, sunburn, rashes, burns, acne and acne scars, psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea.
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 do know about tamanu oil we can say that it’s safe to use and potentially beneficial for people with dry skin, sunburns, fungal infections, eczema and psoriasis, acne and acne scars, stretch marks, ingrown hair, and rashes and skin irritations.
Still, consider tamanu oil as a great moisturizer that can help your skin relieve symptoms rather than a cure for the above-mentioned conditions.