Tamanu Oil: Unlocking the Secret for Acne-Prone Skin
by Heather Smith on Mar 08, 2023
As part of our ongoing series about all the best face oils (of which there are so many), tamanu oil benefits for skin need more attention. This unique oil is underrated and often overlooked but should get more press and use, especially if you have acne-prone skin.
Tamanu oil is a natural oil derived from tamanu nuts, which are native to tropical regions of Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. For centuries, tamanu nut oil has been used in traditional medicine for its healing properties, and it's now gaining popularity in the skincare industry for its remarkable benefits for the skin. Tamanu oil is rich in fatty acids, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds, which help moisturize, soothe, and rejuvenate the skin.
The tamanu tree is considered sacred in some Pacific Island cultures and is believed to have mystical and healing powers. As a result, it's known by some as the "God tree," "beauty tree," and "beauty leaf."
In this blog post, we'll explore how tamanu oil can be incorporated into your skincare routine and how it can transform your skin.
What is Tamanu Oil?
The oil is naturally derived from the tamanu nut. It's a round, green fruit with a large kernel that's approximately 60-70% oil. The nuts of the tamanu tree are difficult to crack open, often requiring a special tool or technique to extract the kernel.
The colour comes from the higher-than-average content of pigment from the chlorophyll in the plant. The deep green oil is extracted through a cold-pressing process.
Depending on growing conditions and other factors, the aroma can be quite pungent and strong. I find it smells a bit like black licorice, but I haven't heard other people describe it this way.
The tamanu nut grows on the Calophyllum inophyllum tree. Native to tropical regions of Southeast Asia and Polynesia, the tamanu tree reaches heights of up to 30 meters tall. A second variety, Calophyllum tacamahaca, is also used for oil production but is less common.
The typical fatty acid profile shows a good balance between oleic and linoleic acids, which is important to get the benefits of both:
- Oleic acid: 36-46%
- Linoleic acid: 24-34%
- Palmitic acid: 12-14%
- Stearic acid: 5-9%
- Calophyllic acid: up to 5%
Calophyllic acid is a rare fatty acid found almost exclusively in tamanu oil. The percentage of calophyllic acid in tamanu oil can vary depending on the source and processing method, but it is typically present in relatively small amounts, usually less than 5% of the total fatty acid profile.
How Does Tamanu Oil Work?
Tamanu oil has a unique ability to penetrate deeply, which makes it an effective moisturizer and helps to promote the regeneration of healthy skin cells. Tamanu oil is rich in antioxidants like Vitamin E, which help protect your skin from pollution and environmental damage.
Thanks to the fatty acids and other active phytochemicals, it's thought to promote the growth of new skin cells, reduce inflammation, help kill bacteria and fungi, moisturize dry skin, and prevent or treat minor wounds and infections.
The reported medicinal uses include infectious and inflammatory skin conditions, including eczema. Some data suggest tamanu oil for eczema may be a valid treatment; however, the studies are small and mostly done on animals. More research is required.
There is some suggestion that calophyllic acid is responsible for some of the therapeutic properties attributed to tamanu oil, such as its ability to promote wound healing and reduce inflammation. But, again, more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms of action and potential benefits of calophyllic acid.
The potential oil uses and benefits of using tamanu oil for skin are:
- Reducing and preventing breakouts and soothing and moisturizing the skin
- Reducing the appearance of scars
- Nourishing and moisturizing the hair and scalp
- Soothing and reducing redness and irritation of sunburns and minor wounds
- Soothing insect bites and stings by relieving itching and swelling
There is also some thought that tamanu oil for hair will improve shine and could treat fungal scalp conditions.
Tamanu Oil for the Face
Tamanu oil products for skin care are growing in availability and number. The oil is suitable for most skin types, including dry, sensitive, oily or acne-prone skin.
Evaluating the quality of tamanu oil can be tricky as there are no industry-wide standards for determining its purity or potency.
An important criterion to consider when choosing high-quality or organic tamanu oil is the production process of extracting it from the nut kernels. The best oils will come from cold pressing the nuts, which preserves their natural compounds and ensures higher levels of antioxidants than what would be found with chemical extraction processes.
Unrefined tamanu oil will retain it's thick, greenish, herbal/pungent properties, which retain the skin benefits, so resist the urge to seek refined or deodorized versions.
How To Apply Tamanu Oil on Your Face
Before using tamanu oil, thoroughly cleanse your face and remove any traces of dirt, makeup, and other impurities. Then, apply a small amount of tamanu oil to your face and massage it gently onto your skin with circular motions. It can be used once or twice a day as desired.
Tamanu oil may be used on your skin as a:
- Moisturizer, either under another product or as a standalone to reduce water loss for better-hydrated skin
- Spot treatment, by applying a small amount of the oil directly to the affected area to maximize the antibacterial properties
- Facial oil, as part of your skincare routine, either alone or mixed with other oils
Pure tamanu can be used, but the benefits can still be seen with a 2-5% strength mixture.
Is Tamanu Oil Comedogenic?
The fatty acids in tamanu oil result in a low comedogenic rating (2, on a scale of 0-5), meaning that tamanu oil has a moderately low chance of clogging your pores. Some believe it works as a natural treatment for acne and can be used as a home remedy.
Tamanu Oil Side Effects and Risks
Tamanu oil is not edible and should not be taken orally as a supplement. Because of its status as a cosmetic ingredient, it is not subject to regulation by the FDA for the treatment or cure of any medical condition. The FDA has taken action against companies for over-promoting tamanu oil's benefits to the skin.
Because it is from a nut, tamanu oil may trigger allergic reactions in some individuals. If you have a tree nut allergy, it is advisable to avoid tamanu oil as it is derived from a type of tree nut. Always discuss with your physician or dermatologist if you're worried.
Tamanu Oil Sustainability and Ethics
Tamanu nuts are usually collected by hand after they naturally fall from the trees. For this reason, tamanu oil is considered sustainable as there is a minimal negative impact on the environment. If tamanu oil were to gain cult-superfood-status, there could be risk of over-farming, etc. but currently the supply and demand is balanced and reasonable.
Respect for Local Communities: Tamanu trees are often found in indigenous communities, and it is important to involve these communities in the harvesting and processing of the nuts. Sustainable practices should be developed in collaboration with these communities and compensated fairly for their contributions.
Tamanu Oil FAQ
Does Tamanu Oil Reduce Wrinkles?
Although there is limited research on the specific effects of tamanu oil on wrinkles, it does possess some potential anti-aging benefits thanks to its moisturizing properties, presence of antioxidants, ability to reduce inflammation, and the way it promotes skin health.
Does Tamanu Oil Remove Dark Spots?
Although some people use it for this purpose, there is no evidence to prove that tamanu oil can reduce the appearance of dark spots.
How to Use Tamanu Oil for Acne
You can try using it as a spot treatment or as part of an all-over-face oil. One-2 times per day is fine. As indicated above, full-strength use is safe, but you can see benefits with a lower concentration so using a mixed face oil is possible.
If acne is a skin concern, we recommend our guide to shopping for acne-prone skin and our list of 20 natural ingredients for acne.
How to Use Tamanu Oil for Skin That is Scarred
Acne, scars, stretchmarks, minor irritation, etc. all have similar instructions for use. Avoid using on open wounds. If you want to try tamanu oil on your scars, including stretch marks, you can apply 2-3 drops to damp skin every morning or night. It can be used directly or mixed with other skin-calming oils.
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, Tamanu oil is an excellent choice for people with acne-prone skin. It helps to soothe and heal irritated skin, reduce inflammation, and improve the appearance of scars and acne. Tamanu oil is a great, natural face oil for acne-prone skin, providing numerous benefits to improve the skin's overall health and appearance.
Check out our comprehensive guide to face oils for more information.
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