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What Is Sea Buckthorn Oil — and Should You Add It to Your Skin-Care Routine?

Melanie Rud
·8 min read
sea buckthorn oil fb
sea buckthorn oil fb

Prostock-Studio/Getty

I know, I know — you might be sick of hearing about skin-care oils. After all, there are approximately 10 billion of them (maybe I'm exaggerating, but you get the picture). That said, of all of the many oils you may have seen or heard of, there's one that flies somewhat under the radar, yet deserves some time in the spotlight. I'm talking about sea buckthorn oil, an oil that's truly unique among its counterparts, thanks to a laundry list of skin benefits.

Sea buckthorn oil is extracted from the berries, leaves, and seeds of the sea buckthorn plant, a small shrub that grows in the Himalayan region, explains board-certified dermatologist Corey L. Hartman, M.D., founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL. "It's rich in many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and is referred to as a super fruit of skin care," he says. And because sea buckthorn oil can be either applied topically or ingested, it also has a litany of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, points out dermatologist Purvisha Patel, M.D., founder of Visha Skincare.

But back to the skin-care side of things. The oil is one of the only ones to contain all four types of omega fatty acids — omega-3, omega-6, omega-7, and omega-9, notes Dr. Patel. "This makes it a good oil to help repair the skin barrier in inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis and eczema," she adds. It also makes it deeply hydrating, a choice pick for anyone dealing with extremely dehydrated skin. (Related: The Best Eczema Cream, According to Dermatologists)

That being said, pretty much anyone can benefit from incorporating sea buckthorn oil into their skin-care regimen; the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant profile makes it ideal for improving the overall health (and appearance) of the skin, says Annie Gonzalez, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami, FL. Those antioxidants, in particular, neutralize skin-damaging free radicals, reducing the signs of aging, she adds. The oil is packed with tons of them, but is especially high in vitamin C and vitamin E. In fact, the sea buckthorn plant berries contain ten times more vitamin C than an orange, and are the third highest source of vitamin E in the plant world, points out Dr. Hartman.

So, what's the best way to work sea buckthorn oil into your routine? You can look for the oil in its purest form, in which case you should use it after or in lieu of a moisturizer. The point of a facial oil is to seal in moisture, and if you apply it before a water-based lotion or cream, the benefits of that moisturizer won't make it inside the oil layer, explains David Petrillo, cosmetic chemist and founder of Perfect Image. If you can't find pure sea buckthorn oil, you can most often spot it in lightweight serums, where it's combined with other hydrating ingredients, such as jojoba oil or hyaluronic acid, he notes. (Psst, serums can and should be applied under a moisturizer.) You also may want to save it for morning use. "Depending on which part of the plant it's extracted from, the oil can have a reddish, orange, or yellow color that can stain white bedding," cautions Dr. Patel. (It shouldn't have any tinting effect on your skin.)

Now for the million dollar question — what if you have acne-prone skin? These experts point out that sea buckthorn oil isn't pore-clogging in and of itself; it's safe for all skin types, adds Dr. Gonzalez. That being said, it is sometimes used in thicker creams or lotions that can be problematic for those with oily or acne-prone skin. In that case, seek it out in a product that's labeled as non-comedogenic (translation: won't clog pores) if you do want to try it. (Related: The Best Drugstore Acne Products, According to Dermatologists)

Ready to get on board the sea buckthorn oil train? Ahead, eight products worth trying.

The Ordinary 100% Organic Virgin Sea Buckthorn Fruit Oil

Both Dr. Patel and Petrillo recommend this completely pure, unadulterated version of the oil. "A little goes a long way," says Dr. Patel, who advises using just one drop for your full face after cleansing. Petrillo points out that, because this contains just the oil and nothing else, it's also a nice option to mix in with another oil or oil-based serum that you may like using to reap the benefits of both ingredients. Bonus points for the affordable price.

Buy It: The Ordinary 100% Organic Virgin Sea Buckthorn Fruit Oil, $15, skinstore.com

Grown Alchemist Antioxidant Facial Oil

Sea buckthorn is one of several antioxidant-rich oils that come together in this protective and hydrating face oil that's great for any and all skin types. It's a top choice for Dr. Patel, who also lauds it for the dark, glass packaging and dropper dispenser that help prevent light and air from breaking down the oils and making them rancid. (And now you may be wondering if you need to store your products a certain way or if you need to invest in a skin-care fridge.)

Buy It: Grown Alchemist Antioxidant Facial Oil, $55, credobeauty.com

Versed Sunday Morning Antioxidant Oil-Serum

"This is an affordable option for all skin types. A hybrid between a facial oil and a serum, it nourishes the skin with sea buckthorn oil, camellia oil, and sodium hyaluronate," says Dr. Gonzalez of one of her picks. She adds that it's great for hydrating and helping strengthen the skin barrier, while also tamping down redness. (Credit the anti-inflammatory effects of the sea buckthorn oil.) Top tip: It's a dual-phase (or bi-phase) product, meaning the ingredients have distinct densities which make them separate and sit in layers. Give it a good shake to help combine the oil and serum before each use.

Buy It: Versed Sunday Morning Antioxidant Oil-Serum, $20, revolve.com

Weleda Hydrating Body and Beauty Oil

Hesitant to try oils on your face? Consider using them on the skin below your chin. Sea buckthorn oil is the star of the show here, combined in a sesame oil base to effectively hydrate even the driest spots on your body (think: ashy knees and cracked heels and elbows). It absorbs quickly without leaving behind any greasy residue, but does impart a gorgeous glow to the skin. With over 5,000 five-star ratings on Amazon, shoppers mentioned that it also seems to help reduce the appearance of cellulite on their butt and thighs.

Buy It: Weleda Hydrating Body and Beauty Oil, $24, was $26, amazon.com

Omorovicza Miracle Facial Oil

Sea buckthorn oil has some anti-aging benefits on its own, but this oil is an especially great youth-booster. It combines sea buckthorn oil with rosehip oil, rich in anti-aging vitamin A, and bakuchiol, a plant-based alternative to retinol, says Petrillo. Nordstrom customers with sensitive skin say they love how it seriously hydrates sans irritation, while others raved about the oil's ability to plump skin and reduce fine lines.

Buy It: Omorovicza Miracle Facial Oil, $125, skinstore.com and nordstrom.com

100% Pure Calendula Flower Cleansing Milk

For those dealing with extra-dry skin, adding hydration — at every step in your skin-care routine — is paramount, starting with cleansing. Enter this newbie, a supremely moisturizing cleanser that combines, you guessed it, sea buckthorn oil with soothing chamomile. The result? A formula that effectively removes all dirt and makeup, yet still leaves skin feeling lusciously soft and smooth. (Related: The 9 Best Pore Cleansers That Actually Remove Dirt, Oil, and Build-Up)

Buy It: 100% Pure Calendula Flower Cleansing Milk, $28, 100percentpure.com

Farmacy Honey Grail Ultra-Hydrating Facial Oil

This is another product that earns both Petrillo and Dr. Patel's seal of approval. They both appreciate the fact that there's sea buckthorn oil and soothing buckwheat honey in the mix, a nice option for calming irritated skin. It's also great if you're prone to breakouts, since it's not only lightweight and fast-absorbing, but also non-comedogenic, they say. One Amazon reviewer said they mix two drops of this facial oil with their moisturizer — as opposed to applying it directly to their face — and it makes their skin incredibly soft.

Buy It: Farmacy Honey Grail Ultra-Hydrating Facial Oil, $48, amazon.com

Mutha Face Oil

Can't get enough oils in your skin-care routine? This splurge-worthy option packs a ton of different ones, all with complimentary benefits, into one bottle. Along with all those benefits of sea buckthorn oil, there are plenty of other antioxidant-rich and skin-strengthening oils in the formula, such as tsubaki and pomegranate seed oils to name a few. There's also squalane, an oil-like substance that mimics the sebum naturally found in your skin, which contributes to the silky and fast-absorbing texture.

Buy It: Mutha Face Oil, $110, violetgrey.com