Sweet Almond Oil: A Potent Elixir For Skin And Hair Care
by Heather Smith on Jul 02, 2023
As part of our ongoing series on the best face oils, almond oil (or sweet almond oil as it's usually called) wins a top spot for its soothing and versatile abilities as a carrier oil that's great for massage or gua sha, and as a facial oil, cleansing oil, hair oil, and more!
Sweet almond oil is derived from sweet almonds and is rich in Vitamin E and monounsaturated fatty acids.
It's widely used in skincare products due to its moisturizing, anti-aging, and hair-nurturing properties.
Sweet almond oil is non-comedogenic and won't clog pores. It's best for those with dry and maturing skin.
What is Almond Oil
Almond oil is a powerhouse of nutrients that comes from sweet almonds. It is rich in Vitamin E, monounsaturated fatty acids, and minerals, all essential for healthy skin and hair. Sweet almond oil is widely used in skincare products due to its immense benefits. It is a fantastic natural moisturizer that soothes dry skin, reduces dark circles, and minimizes signs of aging; it can also promote hair growth, add shine, and reduce scalp inflammation.
The benefits of almond oil are backed by science. Research suggests that the antioxidants found in almond oil can help protect the skin from sun damage and reduce inflammation. The fatty acids help make skin softer and smoother and help keep hair hydrated and healthy, which can help reduces breakage and split ends.
How is Almond Oil Made
Almond oil production is relatively straightforward. The process begins with the harvesting of ripe almonds, specifically sweet almonds.
Ripe almonds are harvested and dried using a specific temperature range of 38-44°C. This temperature range helps to reduce moisture content, which makes the oil extraction process easier.
The dried almonds are cold-pressed using a hydraulic or expeller press. This method helps preserve the almond oils' nutrients, making them a potent carrier oil for various essential oils.
The oil is filtered to remove any remaining solids and impurities. This filtration process ensures the final product is pure and ready for use.
The result? A golden, nutrient-rich oil full of fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, perfect for nourishing and rejuvenating your skin and hair.
Sweet Almond vs Bitter Almond
Almond oil is an umbrella that could refer to oils made from sweet or bitter almonds.
Sweet almond oil comes from the edible almonds that we enjoy snacking on. It's packed with vitamins E and K. It is known for its beneficial skincare properties, such as moisturizing and reducing inflammation. For reasons you'll read next, sweet almond oil is generally the only version that makes it into skin or hair products.
Bitter almond oil comes from a different variety of almond trees, which yields a bitter taste. When processed correctly, it's used as a flavouring or scenting agent. Bitter almonds' unique, intense flavour is used in small amounts to give a characteristic taste to products such as marzipan and amaretto. However, because of the phytochemical amygdalin, which converts to cyanide (!), bitter almonds are not safe for ingestion or use as an oil unless properly processed.
In general, if you see almond oil on the ingredient list of a skincare product, you can assume that sweet almond oil was the variety used. The botanical name for this is Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis. If you see bitter almond listed (Prunus Amygdalus Amara), you might want to dig a bit deeper to be sure it was processed by a reputable manufacturer. Also, it is a known skin irritant, so maybe just pass it all together.
Fatty Acid and Phytochemical Profile
Sweet almond oil stands out for its rich blend of nutritious fats and myriad bioactive compounds.
Fatty Acid Profile
The majority of sweet almond oil consists of beneficial fatty acids, specifically:
Oleic Acid (Omega-9): This monounsaturated fat constitutes around 60-75% of sweet almond oil. It's known for its moisturizing and skin-regenerative attributes.
Linoleic Acid (Omega-6): Making up approximately 20-30% of sweet almond oil, this polyunsaturated fat plays a critical role in maintaining the skin's barrier function and preserving its moisture.
Palmitic Acid and Stearic Acid: These saturated fats make up about 1-2% of sweet almond oil and maintain the oil's texture and stability.
The high oleic acid levels make this an excellent oil for dry skin. The high levels of linoleic acid make this a balanced fatty acid profile, so people experience soothing, anti-inflammatory, and non-comedogenic results.
Sweet almond oil is also rich in bioactive compounds that provide various therapeutic effects:
Vitamin E (Tocopherol): An abundant source of Vitamin E, sweet almond oil contains about 0.5-1mg per gram of this potent antioxidant that defends skin cells against free radical damage.
Phytosterols: Almond oil contains about 100-200mg/kg of these compounds, which structurally resemble cholesterol and assist in preserving the skin's barrier function.
Squalene: Sweet almond oil features significant levels of this natural skin lipid component known for its moisturizing and antioxidant properties.
Phenolic Compounds: These antioxidants are present in small quantities, generally less than 1% of the oil's total composition, but contribute to the protective and anti-aging benefits.
A note about the phytochemical amygdalin: Unlike bitter almond, sweet almond contains only trace amounts of amygdalin, the compound that can break down into toxic cyanide. This makes it safe.
Where is it Best to Use Almond Oil
Almond oil is versatile! As a facial oil, a body massage oil, a hair oil, and a cleansing oil - it makes it onto our list of favourites for pretty much all of them.
Sweet Almond Oil Skin Benefits
Used as a skincare ingredient because of its soothing and gentle properties, it has a subtle, sweet scent that makes it more exotic than other carrier oils. For skin care, almond oil benefits both body and facial skin alike.
Here are a few more benefits of using almond oil on your face or body:
High linoleic acid levels are soothing, anti-inflammatory, and help strengthen the skin barrier
Oleic acid is a powerful emollient that moisturizes and protects skin.
Vitamins A and E, plus antioxidants that fight off free radicals and help repair damaged skin cells.
As a full-body massage oil, it can help keep skin supple and potentially ease stretch marks.
By deeply penetrating the skin barrier, sweet almond oil provides your complexion with long-lasting moisturization. This helps to keep the skin looking plump and vibrant.
Almond oil benefits may exist for people with eczema because of its nourishing properties. However, it's always best to review new products with your dermatologist if you have an underlying skin disorder like eczema or psoriasis.
Almond Oil for Hair
Almond oil is another natural oil on our list of best oils for hair.
Topical application to the scalp provides deep nourishment to hair strands, strengthening them from the roots to the tips. Vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that guards the hair against environmental stressors and UV radiation, helps prevent breakage and split ends. Its lightweight, non-greasy texture makes it an excellent natural conditioner, adding silkiness and shine to the hair without weighing it down. The Omega-6 fatty acids in sweet almond oil regulate oil production on the scalp, maintaining its health while encouraging robust hair growth.
Regularly applying this nutrient-rich oil can transform your hair, leaving it strong, glossy, and full of life.
Almond Oil for Cleansing
Due to its delicate scent, almond oil boosts the luxury factor when included in an oil cleanser. This mild, hypoallergenic oil is suitable for sensitive skin types and effectively dissolves excess sebum and impurities. While not specifically astringent or toning, sweet almond oil's gentle cleansing properties make it an excellent choice for the oil cleansing method.
Will Sweet Almond Oil Clog My Pores
Almond oil is rated 2/5 on the comedogenicity scale.
The higher proportion of oleic acid makes this oil best for people with normal to dry and mature skin. However, it's balanced with the anti-inflammatory effects of linoleic acid, so sweet almond oil is non-comedogenic.
If you have acne-prone or oily skin, you will benefit more from the drier oils, but it's still safe to try almond facial oil without expecting it to cause a breakout.
Can I Use Almond Oil if I'm Allergic to Nuts
The Prunus dulcis tree is a member of the Rosaceae family, and its nuts contain proteins that are known allergens. Allergic reactions can range from mild itching, redness or hives to more severe symptoms such as anaphylaxis.
Proteins are generally removed during the refining process because they are not oil-soluble. This means that if people have a nut allergy, almond oil could be safe. However, the issue is that cross-contamination of protein particles could still occur, although rare. Refined almond oil is subject to various steps that should remove proteins, but severely allergic people should still be aware.
If you have a known nut allergy, especially if severe, skip the almond oil. There are so many other oils with similar benefits; it's just not worth the risk.
Sustainability and Humanitarian Considerations
Almond farming and the subsequent production of almond oil present unique sustainability and humanitarian challenges and opportunities that need to be considered.
One of the most prominent concerns related to almond farming is water use. Almonds are a water-intensive crop, with one almond requiring about 12 litres of water to grow. This is particularly significant in areas like California, which produces about 80% of the world's almonds but frequently experiences drought. Advances in irrigation technology and strategies, such as micro-irrigation systems and regulated deficit irrigation, are being implemented to reduce water consumption.
Almond farming also heavily relies on bee pollination. Nearly two-thirds of the commercial bees in the U.S. are brought to California each year to help pollinate the almond orchards. This mass migration of bees can spread diseases and pests within bee populations, impacting bee health. Farmers and researchers are exploring practices like planting wildflowers and cover crops to provide more diverse food sources for bees and better management practices to protect bee health. Almonds are very pollinator-friendly plants, provided they are grown without pesticides!
From a humanitarian perspective, there are labour rights considerations, especially concerning harvesting. Almond harvesting is labour-intensive and often involves migrant workers who may be vulnerable to exploitation. Fairtrade certifications and initiatives can help ensure workers are paid fairly and work under safe conditions.
Almond farming can generate significant waste, but opportunities exist for sustainable waste management. The almond shells can be used as livestock bedding, while the hard outer hull can be turned into a sweet livestock feed. Innovatively, some companies are looking into using almond waste to generate electricity, thus turning a potential problem into a sustainable solution.
While these sustainability and humanitarian challenges are significant, the almond industry has proactively acknowledged and addressed these issues. With ongoing research and implementation of sustainable and fair practices, the aim is to make the production of almonds and almond oil more sustainable and socially responsible.
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