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Ingredient Highlight: Safflower Oil

This pantry staple has super powered skin benefits for a wide range of skin types from dry to acne-prone. Keep reading to learn more!


It’s no secret that I love superfoods.

While safflower oil isn’t considered a superfood, it’s certainly a super skincare ingredient! This lightweight oil can do it all from nourishing dry skin to improving acne.

I know, I know—How can something that helps dry skin also help with acne-prone skin? We’ll get to that, but first let’s learn a little bit about safflower. 

A brief history of safflower

Safflower is a thistle-like herbaceous plant in the sunflower family that thrives in hot, dry environments around the world. Plants can grow to almost 60 inches tall with multiple branches. Each branch usually produces up to five flowers that can range in colour from yellow to orange or red. Each flower contains anywhere from 15 to 30 seeds. 

It’s believed that safflower is one of the world’s oldest crops. In ancient Egypt, the beautiful yellow, orange and red flowers were used to make textile dyes. Early Spanish colonies in New Mexico replaced saffron with safflower in recipes. 

Filed of safflower

Today, safflower oil is extracted from the flower seeds and used as a high heat cooking oil. And of course, we wouldn’t be talking about safflower oil if it wasn’t also used in skincare products. 

So let’s get to it and discuss what makes safflower oil such a great skincare ingredient.

Benefits of safflower oil in skincare

Safflower oil is a lightweight oil that is easily absorbed into the skin. It acts as an emollient and an occlusive, helping to soften the skin and keep it hydrated by preventing excessive transepidermal water loss

As a quick refresher, transepidermal water loss is a natural process where moisture evaporates from the skin. Occlusive ingredients create a barrier on the skin that slows this process, helping the skin to retain moisture and stay hydrated. 

In addition to its emollient and occlusive properties, safflower oil also helps with acne. I know that oil seems like the last thing you should be using if you have acne-prone skin; however, safflower oil is non-comedogenic (meaning it won't clog pores) and contains a substantial amount of linoleic acid, ranging from 55%(1) to almost 80%.(2)

So what is linoleic acid? Well, it’s an essential fatty acid (more commonly known as omega-6) that is a component of the skin’s natural sebum. Early research suggests that people with acne have lower levels of linoleic acid in their sebum. In 2002, researchers conducted a study to determine if topically applied linoleic acid had an impact on cases of mild acne. After one month, a 25% reduction in the size of comedones was observed in areas where linoleic acid was applied versus no change to the areas where a placebo was applied.(3)

In 2011, researchers tested a facial cleanser formulated with safflower oil on participants with acne and noticed a significant reduction in acne after two months of use.(4)

The linoleic acid content of safflower oil isn't the only aspect of this ingredient that helps with acne. A 2020 study shows that safflower oil has antimicrobial and anti-fungal effects. Not only do these properties inhibit common acne-causing bacteria, they're also thought to help with wound healing.(5) This is good news when it comes to treating burst comedones (AKA: popped pimples). 

The benefits of safflower oil in skincare don’t stop there. Safflower oil is rich in vitamin E(6) (a well-known antioxidant that has been used in skincare for decades). Research shows that vitamin E provides some defence against skin damage caused by UV rays. 

In addition to the antioxidant properties of vitamin E, a recent study determined that the flavinoid, acacetin, in safflower oil is effective at minimizing signs of aging caused by UVB rays.(7) Specifically, it helped to inhibit the production of collagenase. Without getting too sciency, collagenase is a protein that breaks down collagen. As I’m sure you know by now, collagen keeps your skin looking plump and helps to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Now let me be perfectly clear—just because safflower oil can help protect the skin from UV damage, does not mean that it's a replacement for sunscreen. You should always apply your favourite non-nano, reef-safe SPF as the final step in your skincare routine!

Before we move on, it’s also worth mentioning that the linoleic acid and vitamin E content of safflower oil also help to strengthen the skin barrier. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a strong skin barrier is so important to the health of your skin. The skin barrier is the outermost layer of your skin. Its job is to keep moisture in and foreign stressors out. When the skin barrier is weakened, skin is more likely to become dry, dull, red and irritated. Nobody wants that!

As you can see, the benefits of safflower oil are quite extensive. Obviously, we had to include this ingredient in the Graydon Skincare lineup.

Safflower oil in Graydon Skincare products

When we formulated Moon Boost, our goal was to create an oil-based serum that worked for all skin types. It needed to be non-comedogenic for acne-prone skin and nourishing enough for dry skin. Obviously, safflower fit the bill perfectly!

To reap all the skin benefits that safflower oil has to offer, simply add Moon Boost Serum to your skincare routine. After cleansing, gently massage 1 to 3 drops of Moon Boost onto damp skin and follow up with your moisturizer. Easy!

Moon Boost Serum can be used in the morning and/or at night. Combine it with your favourite Graydon Skincare moisturizer and a spritz of our Face Food Mineral Mist before applying to create a Skin Smoothie. 

Final words

The benefits of safflower oil in skincare cannot be denied! Research shows that this non-comedogenic oil helps reinforce the skin barrier, fight acne, aid in wound healing and prevent signs of aging caused by UV damage. It may not be a superfood, but safflower oil is a superstar skincare ingredient that you can find in Moon Boost Serum

Other names: Carthamus tinctorius, fake saffron

What it is: anti-acne, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-microbial, emollient, occlusive

*The descriptions in this article reflect the quality of the raw ingredient.


Ceramides are lipids that play an important role in skin barrier function. Click here to discover the benefits of adding ceramides to your skincare routine.


(1) Pelin Günç Ergönül, Zeynep Aksoylu Özbek. “Chapter 29 - Cold pressed safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) seed oil.” Cold Pressed Oils, Academic Press (2020). doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-818188-1.00029-3

(2) Nauman Khalid, Rao Sanaullah Khan, M. Iftikhar Hussain, Muhammad Farooq, Asif Ahmad, Iftikhar Ahmed. “A comprehensive characterisation of safflower oil for its potential applications as a bioactive food ingredient - A review.” Trends in Food Science & Technology, vol 66 (2017)2017.

(3) Letawe, C et al. “Digital image analysis of the effect of topically applied linoleic acid on acne microcomedones.” Clinical and experimental dermatology vol. 23,2 (1998): 56-8. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2230.1998.00315.x

(4) Young-Ho Park, Chang-Seop Lee. “Efficacy of Safflower on the Acne Skin and its Application for Facial Cleansing Biomedical Material.” Journal of the Korean Chemical Society, 55(3):400-404 (2011). doi:10.5012/jkcs.2011.55.3.400

(5) Khémiri, Ikram et al. “Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Potentials of Seed Oil from Carthamus tinctorius L. in the Management of Skin Injuries.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity vol. 2020 4103418. 4 Nov. 2020, doi:10.1155/2020/4103418

(6) Matthaus, B et al. “Fatty acid composition and tocopherol profiles of safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) seed oils.” Natural product research vol. 29,2 (2015): 193-6. doi:10.1080/14786419.2014.971316

(7) Eun Hee Jeong, Hee Yang, Jong-Eun Kim, Ki Won Lee. “Safflower Seed Oil and Its Active Compound acacetin Inhibit UVB-Induced Skin Photoaging.” Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology, 30(10): 1567-1573 (2020), doi:10.4014/jmb.2003.03064

Image Credits Main image by: gyro
Safflower image by: gyro
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