Stock photo of nigella sativa oil, seeds, and flower
Elevated Simplicity Blog

Black Seed Oil: An Ancient Skin Care Secret Taking the Modern World by Storm

by Heather Smith on Jun 11, 2023

 

Black seed oil, also known as Nigella sativa, is an ancient treasure that has captivated the world with its incredible medicinal properties. Its legendary anti-inflammatory and antioxidant virtues have found use in traditional medicine for treating an impressive array of conditions.

As a nutritional supplement, black cumin seed oil has taken the spotlight, but science is now noticing its dermatological benefits, revealing its potential to become a game-changer in skin care.

This article joins our comprehensive series on face oils, and black cumin seed oil earns a spot on our list of best face oils for acne. Keep reading to find out why.

Black Cumin Seed Oil for Skin - Infographic by bareLUXE

The Rich Legacy of Black Seed Oil

With its origins traced back to the Middle East and South Asia, black seed oil's usage as a natural remedy spans centuries. The ancient Egyptians revered it for its skin-enhancing properties.

The Arabian physician, Ibn Sina (known as Avicenna), was vocal in his admiration for its myriad health benefits. In his writings, he christened the seeds of Nigella sativa (black cumin) as "Habbat al Barakah," translating to "the seed of blessing." His writings reflect his deep appreciation for these seeds' therapeutic potential, highlighting their strength-enhancing, digestion-improving, and skin-treating properties.

Black seed oil's significant role in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine is also substantial.

Here are a few trivia pieces about black seed oil:

The Eternal Beauty of Cleopatra: Legend has it that the timeless beauty of Cleopatra, the queen of Ancient Egypt, owed much to the black seed oil integrated into her skincare routine.

Nature's Magnet for Honeybees: The Nigella sativa plant is a significant attraction for honeybees. One study revealed that honey from bees that fed on Nigella sativa flowers demonstrated an improved nutritional profile and antimicrobial activity.

An Archeological Marvel: The discovery of black cumin seeds in the tomb of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun underscores its deep-rooted value and significance in antiquity.

Sacred Reference: Black seed holds a special place in Islamic tradition. Prophet Muhammad is said to have proclaimed, "In the black seed is healing for every disease except death."

Black seed oil is found in health food stores, pharmacies, and online. It's often applied directly to the skin or combined with other natural ingredients like honey, yogurt, or aloe vera. Its ingestion forms include capsules, liquid, or powder.

However, if you're considering it as a dietary or health supplement, please consult your physician or natural health practitioner. This article primarily focuses on the topical uses of this oil for skincare.

Skin Benefits of Black Cumin Seed Oil

The topical application of Nigella sativa oil is thought to offer numerous skin benefits, including:

    • Enhancing skin tone and texture
    • Mitigating inflammation and irritation
    • Diminishing age spots
    • Battling acne and breakouts, including fungal
    • Fostering wound healing
    • Easing symptoms of inflammatory conditions (i.e. potential for use with eczema or psoriasis)

With its powerhouse of valuable constituents, it's not surprising that this oil is surging in popularity in skincare routines.

Black seed oil benefits are substantial, but what's the secret behind its potency?

The Chemistry of Black Seed Oil

The power of black seed oil lies within its complex and rich biochemistry. Each constituent has a unique role, and together they create a potent, natural remedy that can address numerous skincare concerns.

Let's break down the key players in this nourishing oil.

Fatty Acids

Like all oils, black seed oil is predominantly made up of fatty acids. Among the fatty acids present, the starring role goes to Linoleic Acid (Omega-6), which accounts for about 50-60% of the total fatty acid content, and Oleic Acid (Omega-9), which makes up roughly 20%. We also find a supporting cast of Palmitic Acid (12%) and Stearic Acid (3%). This is a well-balanced oil that will be both moisturizing and skin barrier-supporting.

Fatty acids are key players in maintaining skin health, from preserving the skin's barrier and maintaining hydration to exhibiting anti-inflammatory properties.

Phytochemicals

Beyond the fatty acids, the phytochemicals in black seed oil each contribute to the oil's potential benefits.

Thymoquinone: The spotlight falls most brightly on thymoquinone, an antioxidant powerhouse. Despite only making up 0.4%-2.5% of black seed oil, this compound is believed responsible for a large portion of the oil's medicinal activity. It has demonstrated strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and even potential anticancer properties (though this is not proven or used therapeutically).

Thymohydroquinone and Thymol: These bioactive compounds have demonstrated antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, reinforcing the oil's potential in managing skin conditions.

Nigellicine and Nigellidine: These alkaloids are other notable components of black seed oil, potentially contributing to the overall pharmacological effects of the oil.

Phytosterols: Black seed oil contains about 0.5-1% of these plant-derived compounds. They are known for their skin-soothing properties, helping to calm irritation and aid in skin repair.

Vitamins

In addition to the phytochemicals and fatty acids, black seed oil also contains trace amounts of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, and E, essential for skin health and immunity.

Working together, these constituents allow black seed oil to target various facets of skin health, promoting a clearer, healthier complexion. It's truly a testament to the power of natural chemistry!

Black Seed Oil for Acne: The Evidence

Scientific studies are starting to show the potential benefits of black seed oil in treating acne, a common and stubborn skin condition.

A 2020 study found that applying a lotion containing 10% black seed oil significantly reduced the number of acne lesions in participants after two months. The anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties are attributed to this reduction.

Another study involving 70 participants demonstrated that a gel containing black seed oil had comparable efficacy to benzoyl peroxide (a popular acne treatment) in treating mild to moderate acne. Notably, the black seed oil gel had fewer side effects, indicating its potential as a gentler alternative.

It's worth noting that more research is needed to solidify these findings and understand the full extent of black seed oil's effectiveness against acne. Still, the results are promising, leading many to incorporate black seed oil into their skincare routines, especially those looking for natural remedies for acne.

Everyone's skin is unique, and what works for one person might not work for another. Always patch-test any new product and seek professional advice if you have concerns or doubts.

How to Use Black Seed Oil for Optimal Skin Health

Black cumin oil can be used at full strength as a carrier oil.

However, some oil manufacturers work to isolate the highest possible levels of thymoquinone using other distillation and extraction methods like those used for essential oils. In that case, using the oil at 100% full strength could be irritating due to other volatile aromatics that may be extracted - so always follow the manufacturer's recommendations regarding whether dilution is needed.

Like all facial oils, black seed oil can be used 1-2x per day. Most people need only 1-2 drops. Patch testing is recommended, especially if you have sensitive skin or allergies. Check with your dermatologist or skincare practitioner if you have diagnosed medical conditions of the skin.

Black seed oil is an ingredient that can be used alone or added to other skincare formulations. It is not usually pore-clogging (comedogenicity rating = 2 with a balanced fatty acid ratio), so it's suitable for all skin types, particularly acne-prone.

Black Seed Oil Hair and Scalp Benefits

The oil from black seeds is excellent for hair! In fact, this oil has a top spot on our list of best hair oils.

Embracing black seed hair oil as part of your hair care routine opens the door to many potential benefits:

    • Boosts Hair Growth:¬†While not a prescription medication, the richness of black seed oil in essential fatty acids nourishes the scalp and hair follicles, which can stimulate healthy hair growth. The presence of antioxidants aids in combating oxidative stress that can impede hair growth.

    • Strengthens Hair Strands:¬†The phytochemicals in black seed oil help reinforce hair strands from root to tip, reducing the chances of breakage and split ends.

    • Moisturizes and Softens Hair:¬†The hydrating properties of black seed oil can breathe life into dry and brittle hair. Its moisturizing benefits result in softer, smoother locks with increased elasticity.

    • Soothes Scalp Conditions:¬†Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, black seed oil may help alleviate certain scalp conditions. This includes issues like dandruff, scalp irritation, and folliculitis, fostering a healthier scalp environment.

    • Improves Hair Thickness and Luster:¬†Regular use of black seed oil can enhance the overall appearance of your mane. It can improve hair thickness by stimulating hair growth and providing deep nourishment. Moreover, the oil imparts a natural shine to the hair, amplifying its lustre.

    • Protects Hair from Damage:¬†The potent antioxidant compounds in black seed oil, especially thymoquinone, defend your hair against environmental damage and potential harm from heat styling tools, keeping your locks robust and healthy.

These benefits are not isolated to your scalp only. Used alone or combined with other ingredients, black cumin seed oil is also one to try for beard care.

Sustainability and Humanitarian Considerations

When we turn our attention to black seed oil farming and production, there are some considerations to note. 

Agricultural Practices: Nigella sativa is a hardy plant that grows well in various conditions, making it a sustainable crop. Organic farming promotes soil health, conserves water, and enhances biodiversity. As consumers, choosing organically grown black seed oil and other organic face oils is a step towards supporting sustainable agricultural practices.

Ethics and Trade: Today, the primary commercial producers of Nigella sativa seeds include countries in regions such as India, Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. As long as supply chains are confirmed, the risk of human exploitation should be low. However, farming in developing nations raises the risk of this occurring, so brands need to be diligent when vetting suppliers. 

Energy Use and Carbon Footprint: Black seed oil's extraction and refinement processes can consume significant energy and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Cold-press extraction is a more energy-efficient method than solvent extraction or steam distillation and results in a higher-quality oil. 

Embracing the Ancient Wisdom

Whether you're battling acne, seeking anti-aging benefits, or want to pamper your radiant skin with natural products, black seed oil offers an impressive range of advantages.

The benefits for skin and hair should not be understated. From scientific studies to historical texts, the evidence is compelling. The beauty secret of the ancients may indeed be the solution to our modern skin woes.

 

 

References:

Experience the miracle of Nigella sativa oil ‚Äď the gift of nature that continues to captivate and heal from the time of pharaohs to the present day.

Khan, M. A., Tania, M., Wei, C., Mei, Z., Fu, S., Cheng, J., ... & Xu, J. (2018). Thymoquinone, as an anticancer molecule: from basic research to clinical investigation. Oncotarget, 8(31), 51907. 

Majdalawieh, A. F., & Fayyad, M. W. (2016). Recent advances in the anticancer properties of Nigella sativa, a widely used food additive. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine, 7(3), 173-180. Salem, M. L. (2005). Immunomodulatory and therapeutic properties of the Nigella sativa L. seed. International immunopharmacology, 5(13-14), 1749-1770. 

Chehl, N., Chipitsyna, G., Gong, Q., Yeo, C. J., & Arafat, H. A. (2009). Anti-inflammatory effects of the Nigella sativa seed extract, thymoquinone, in pancreatic cancer cells. HPB, 11(5), 373-381.)

Ali, B., & Blunden, G. (2003). Pharmacological and toxicological properties of Nigella sativa. Phytotherapy Research, 17(4), 299-305.

Avicenna., & Goichon, A. M. (1939). Livre II du Canon de la médecine. Paris: Desclée de Brouwer

Alzahrani, H. A., Alsabehi, R., Boukra√Ę, L., Abdellah, F., Bellik, Y., & Bakhotmah, B. A. (2012). The antibacterial and antioxidant potency of floral honey from different botanical and geographical origins. Molecules, 17(9), 10540-10549.

Salem, M. L. (2005). Immunomodulatory and therapeutic properties of the Nigella sativa L. seed. International immunopharmacology, 5(13-14), 1749-177

Eid AM, Elmarzugi NA, Abu Ayyash LM, Sawafta MN, Daana HI. A Review on the Cosmeceutical and External Applications of Nigella sativa. J Trop Med. 2017;2017:7092514.

Soleymani S, Zargaran A, Farzaei MH, Iranpanah A, Heydarpour F, Najafi F, Rahimi R. The effect of a hydrogel made by Nigella sativa L. on acne vulgaris: A randomized double-blind clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2020 Nov;34(11):3052-3062. 

Ahmad MF, Ahmad FA, Ashraf SA, Saad HH, Wahab S, Khan MI, Ali M, Mohan S, Hakeem KR, Athar MT. An updated knowledge of Black seed (Nigella sativa Linn.): Review of phytochemical constituents and pharmacological properties. J Herb Med. 2021 Feb;25:100404.

About the Author

Dr. Heather Smith developed her love for skinimalism and clean beauty years ago when she began making home remedies for her newborn's eczema. She is an expert in natural ingredients and active botanicals and has now launched bareLUXE Skincare - a full line of effective oil serums. She dedicates this blog to consumers who are researching ingredients and working to make their beauty ritual more natural and sustainable.

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER 

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Smith nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content should consult their physicians about their skincare concerns and routines.