How Borage Oil Benefits Your Skin: A Comprehensive Review

May 23, 2023by Heather Smith



Are you on the lookout for a natural remedy to enhance your skincare routine? Look no further, as borage seed oil might just be the answer you've been searching for!


Borage Oil Skin Benefits - infographic by bareLUXE Skincare

Derived from the seeds of the Borago officinalis plant, this incredible oil is packed with gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA), an essential omega-6 fatty acid that works wonders for your skin's health and barrier function.

In this article, we'll dive deep into the science behind borage oil's efficacy, explore its various applications, and reveal how adding this powerhouse ingredient to your regimen can lead to smoother, more radiant skin. This article is a continuation of our comprehensive series about face oil as well as the best face oils for acne.

Get ready to transform your skincare game with this amazing natural elixir!

What is Borage Oil

Borage oil, also known as starflower oil, is derived from the seeds of the Borago officinalis plant. This plant is native to the Eastern Mediterranean region but has since been cultivated in various parts of Europe and North America.

stock photo of a single borage flower

The beautiful blue star-shaped flower was a popular ingredient in traditional medicine, with its leaves being brewed into medicinal teas believed to cure fevers, coughs, and even depression.

Borage oil's journey into skincare began when researchers discovered that it is an incredibly rich source of gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid necessary for skin health and barrier function. In fact, borage oil boasts the highest concentration of GLA among all known plant sources – providing twice the amount found in evening primrose oil! This remarkable quality caught the attention of beauty enthusiasts and scientists alike.

As more studies were conducted on borage oil's benefits for skin health, it quickly gained recognition as a powerful natural remedy for various skin concerns such as eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, inflammation, dryness, and moisture loss.

Thanks to these compelling findings and its impressive GLA content, borage oil has become a highly sought-after ingredient in many skincare formulations today.

Fatty Acid Composition

In addition to GLA, borage oil also contains other essential fatty acids like linoleic acid, oleic acid, and stearic acid. These fatty acids work together to improve your skin's barrier function, keeping it moisturized and protected against environmental stressors. They also have anti-inflammatory properties that help soothe irritated or inflamed skin.

The typical fatty acid profile of borage oil is as follows:

    • Gamma-linolenic Acid (GLA): 18-26%
    • Linoleic Acid (LA): 35-38%
    • Oleic Acid (OA): 16-20%
    • Palmitic Acid: 10-11%
    • Stearic Acid: 3-4%

In addition to these fatty acids, borage oil also contains other phytochemicals, such as sterols, tocopherols, and saponins. These all work together to create the list of beneficial skin effects of using borage seed face oil.

Borage Seed Oil Trivia

History of Borage: The borage plant has been cultivated for centuries and is significant in folklore. In ancient Rome, it was believed that borage could protect against sadness and melancholy, leading to the saying, "I, Borage, always bring courage."

Culinary Use: Borage leaves and flowers are often used in salads, soups, and summer drinks for their cucumber-like flavour. In Germany, the plant is used to flavour a traditional gin-based cocktail called "Gurkenbowle."

Honey Production: Borage flowers are highly attractive to bees and are often grown deliberately to support honey production. Borage honey is known for its light and delicate flavour.

Companion Planting: In gardening, borage is often used as a companion plant, especially for tomatoes, squash, and strawberries. It's believed to help repel certain harmful insects while attracting beneficial ones, like bees and wasps.

Cosmonauts' Diet: Interestingly, borage seed oil has even made its way into space! Russian cosmonauts reportedly included borage oil in their diet to maintain their health and skin condition in the harsh space environment.

Medicinal Uses: Traditionally, borage has been used as a medicinal plant in various cultures. Its leaves and flowers have been used in treatments for fever, cough, depression, and certain skin conditions. However, modern science has mostly focused on the potential benefits of borage oil, particularly its GLA content, for skin health and inflammation.

Industrial Use: Beyond its culinary and medicinal applications, borage oil is also used in some industrial applications due to its unique properties. For instance, it's sometimes used as an eco-friendly substitute for mineral oils in various applications, such as biodegradable lubricants.

Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA): Borage Oil's Claim to Fame

Benefits of Gamma Linolenic Acid for Skin

The primary mechanism of action for gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) involves conversion to dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) and then to prostaglandin E1 (PGE1) within the body, which typically takes place when GLA is consumed orally. However, when applied topically, GLA can still offer potential benefits, although the exact mechanisms need to be better understood.

For topical applications, it's thought that GLA may help maintain the skin's barrier function and reduce inflammation directly at the skin level. There is also evidence that essential fatty acids can be absorbed through the skin, but it's unclear to what extent this occurs and how much of the absorbed GLA might be converted to DGLA and PGE1 in the skin. This the reason we like oils high in GLA for hormonal acne and menopause skin care

One of the main reasons for using borage oil topically is to provide the skin with essential fatty acids that it may be lacking, particularly in conditions like atopic dermatitis (eczema), where deficiencies in the skin's lipid barrier have been noted.

So, while the systemic conversion of GLA doesn't typically occur with topical application, borage oil can still offer potential benefits when applied to the skin. However, further research is needed to understand these mechanisms fully.

What sources of GLA exist?

    • Borage Oil: Borage seed oil is one of the richest sources of GLA. It typically contains 18-26% GLA.

    • Evening Primrose Oil: This oil is another popular skincare choice, containing approximately 7-10% GLA.

    • Black Currant Seed Oil: This oil has approximately 15-20% GLA content.

    • Hemp Seed Oil: Hemp seed oil contains around 2-4% GLA.

    • Spirulina: While not an oil, this blue-green algae is often included in nutritional supplements for its GLA content, which can be as high as 23%.

The result?

A more supple, radiant complexion with improved hydration levels. 

The benefits of GLA don't stop there. This powerful fatty acid also offers antioxidant properties that protect your skin against environmental damage caused by free radicals. By neutralizing these harmful molecules, GLA helps keep signs of premature aging at bay while promoting a youthful appearance.

Borage Oil Benefits for Skin

Borage carrier oil benefits are numerous for both skin and hair. While there are many other oils for all skin types, these little blue flowers produce a unique oil with many benefits and uses.

Borage oil benefits the skin in the following ways:

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

When your skin feels irritated and inflamed, applying a soothing product with anti-inflammatory properties can bring much-needed relief, calming redness and promoting a more even-toned complexion.

By incorporating borage oil into your skincare routine, you'll be providing your skin with essential fatty acids that help combat inflammation at its source. This means that not only will borage oil help soothe existing irritations, but it will also help prevent future flare-ups from occurring.

Soothing Dry and Irritated Skin

Dealing with dry skin and irritations is frustrating, but incorporating the right ingredients into your routine can restore your skin's health and comfort. Borage oil replenishes lipids in the skin's outer barrier structure while providing antioxidant benefits. When applied topically as part of a carefully formulated skincare product, it absorbs easily without leaving a greasy residue behind – making it an ideal ingredient for sensitive skin.

Enhancing Skin Barrier Function

Applying borage oil topically provides your skin with essential fatty acids that strengthen its outer layer, making it less susceptible to damage from pollutants and allergens.

While being highly protective, some people report the addition of this face oil into their routine as one of the keys to healing their damaged skin barrier.

Promoting Skin Elasticity and Firmness

Our skin loses elasticity as we age due to decreased collagen production and environmental factors such as sun exposure. Borage oil can help counteract these effects by boosting the skin's natural defences against oxidative stress from free radicals while promoting collagen synthesis. Moisturization and prevention of water loss results in soft, plump skin.

Reducing the Appearance of Scars

Borage carrier oil has several benefits for scars that include accelerating wound healing, reducing inflammation, and improving skin elasticity. The GLA in borage oil promotes the regeneration of healthy skin cells, helping wounds heal faster and reducing the risk of scarring. By suppressing chronic inflammation, borage oil reduces redness and irritation around scars, making them less noticeable. Additionally, borage oil helps increase collagen production and maintain elastin fibres in the skin, leading to improved texture.

Addressing Acne and Blemishes

By incorporating high-quality borage oil into your skincare regimen – either through standalone products or by adding a few drops as a face oil – you can experience the benefits of using borage oil for acne and blemishes. Here's why this face oil is considered a potential natural acne treatment:

    • Reduces inflammation and promotes healing: GLA works as an anti-inflammatory agent, helping to calm redness and irritation caused by breakouts. The antioxidant properties of borage oil assist in repairing damaged skin cells and promote faster healing of existing blemishes.

    • Balances hormones: Because of its association with prostaglandins, there is potential for borage oil to play a role in helping hormonal acne.

    • Hydrates without clogging pores: Borage seed oil moisturizes without leaving a greasy residue or clogging pores – essential for those prone to acne.

    • Balances natural oil production: When applied topically, it effectively regulates the skin's sebum levels, preventing both excessive dryness and oiliness that can lead to acne and other skin issues.

Possible Side Effects of Topical Borage Oil

As with any new skincare product, it's best to conduct a patch test before fully integrating borage seed oil into your regimen.

When storing borage oil, keep it in a cool and dark place to maintain its freshness and prolong its shelf life.

Of course, everyone's skin reacts differently, but there are no specific warnings about potential borage oil side effects. Always review things with your dermatologist or primary care provider if you're worried.

What Does the Science Say

Skin Health: A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2009 found that borage oil dietary supplementation improved skin function in healthy adults, specifically reducing skin reddening and water loss. This suggests that borage oil could help maintain skin hydration and barrier function.

Skin Irritation: In a study by De Spirt et al. (2009), borage oil was topically applied in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study in 37 healthy women to evaluate its effect on skin barrier function and irritation from sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS). They found that the borage oil application was able to reduce the SLS-induced irritation.

Atopic Dermatitis: A study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment in 2003 concluded that oral supplementation with borage oil could benefit patients with atopic dermatitis (eczema) due to its anti-inflammatory properties. A study conducted by Tollesson and Frithz (1993) suggested that topical application of borage oil for eczema may be effective in treating infants and children with atopic dermatitis. They observed improved skin barrier function in a majority of the 48 participants after 12 weeks of treatment.

Arthritis: A meta-analysis published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2003 reviewed multiple studies on using GLA for treating rheumatoid arthritis. While some individual studies showed benefits, the meta-analysis concluded that overall, there was insufficient evidence to support using GLA to reduce pain or improve function in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Nutrition and Other Health Effects: Borage oil's high GLA content may have other health effects. For example, a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007 suggested that GLA might have a role in reducing inflammation and promoting heart health. However, more research is needed to confirm these potential benefits.

Borage Oil vs Evening Primrose Oil

There is no clear winner.

In the world of carrier oils, these two have more similarities than differences.

Both borage and evening primrose oils are lightweight, fast-absorbing, dry oils that are unlikely to clog pores and remain neutral when it comes to colour or odour.

Both oils can benefit the skin due to their fatty acid content, specifically GLA. Borage oil stands out for its higher GLA content, but evening primrose oil has a long history of use and research in skincare.

The choice between the two might depend on individual skin needs, specific skin conditions, and personal preferences. As always, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare or skincare professional before incorporating new products into your skincare routine.

If you're specifically wanting to target a skin concern with GLA, then borage oil would be the one for you. 

Sustainability and Humanitarian Considerations of Borage Oil Production

The cultivation and production of borage plants for oil extraction can be considered sustainable and beneficial in multiple ways.

Borage is a hardy plant that can grow in a variety of climates and soil conditions, often requiring less maintenance and water than many traditional crops. This resilience not only reduces resource usage but also makes it a potentially attractive choice for cultivation in regions where agriculture is challenging. Moreover, borage plants naturally improve soil health by providing nectar for pollinators, fixing nutrients, and breaking up compacted soils with their root systems.

The process of borage seed oil extraction is relatively straightforward and can be achieved through cold pressing, which is more environmentally friendly than chemical extraction methods often used for other plant oils. 

From a humanitarian perspective, the cultivation of borage provides new agricultural opportunities for farmers, particularly in regions where other crops may struggle. The relatively high market value of borage oil compared to traditional oilseed crops can provide farmers with an increased income, promoting economic stability. 

It should be noted that borage oil production isn't as widespread as the production of some other plant oils, such as palm oil or soybean oil, and so it hasn't been linked to large-scale environmental or humanitarian issues like deforestation or forced labour.

However, it's always important to be aware of these potential issues and to take steps to ensure that any agricultural product is produced in a way that respects both people and the planet.


Remember that consistency is critical when using borage oil for optimal results. Make sure to apply it regularly—daily if possible—to experience its full range of benefits in alleviating inflammation, promoting hydration, and improving overall skin health. Borage seed oil is an amazing addition to your facial oil routine.

With patience and dedication to incorporating this powerful natural ingredient into your routine, you'll soon notice improvements in the appearance and texture of your skin. 

Give borage oil a try and experience its amazing benefits firsthand. Your skin will feel smoother, calmer, and more resilient as it revels in this nourishing elixir.


Borage oil is one of the key ingredients in bareLUXE CoreComplex Clarity Oil blend.

Read more about these special blends and watch for upcoming product announcement!



De Spirt, S., Stahl, W., Tronnier, H., Sies, H., & Bejot, M. (2009). Intervention with flaxseed and borage oil supplements modulates skin condition in women. British Journal of Nutrition, 101(3), 440-445.

Takwale, A., Tan, E., Agarwal, S., Barclay, G., Ahmed, I., Hotchkiss, K., . . . Williams, H. C. (2003). Efficacy and tolerability of borage oil in adults and children with atopic eczema: randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial. BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), 327(7428), 1385.

Little, C., & Parsons, T. (2003). Herbal therapy for treating rheumatoid arthritis. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2003(1), CD002948.

Rett, B. S., & Whelan, J. (2001). Increasing dietary linoleic acid does not increase tissue arachidonic acid content in adults consuming Western-type diets: a systematic review. Nutrition & Metabolism, 8, 36.

Tollesson, A., & Frithz, A. (1993). Borage oil is an effective new treatment for infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis. British Journal of Dermatology, 129(1), 95.

De Spirt, S., Sies, H., Tronnier, H., & Heinrich, U. (2009). An encapsulated fruit and vegetable juice concentrate increases skin microcirculation in healthy women. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 22(1), 2-8.

Foster RH, Hardy G, Alany RG. Borage oil in the treatment of atopic dermatitis. Nutrition. 2010 Jul-Aug;26(7-8):708-18. 

Bahmer FA, Schäfer J. Die Behandlung der atopischen Dermatitis mit Borretschsamen-Ol (Glandol)--eine zeitreihenanalytische Studie [Treatment of atopic dermatitis with borage seed oil (Glandol)--a time series analytic study]. Kinderarztl Prax. 1992 Oct;60(7):199-202. German.



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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.


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.