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Elevated Simplicity Blog

Evening Primrose Oil: Soothe Skin Through Life's Stages

by Heather Smith on Jul 29, 2022

This article continues our series about facial oil; the skin benefits of evening primrose oil are in the spotlight today. Natural skincare lovers know how essential beauty oils are for their daily routine. We will discuss the many skin benefits and reasons to use evening primrose oil for your face and skin. Keep reading to discover why evening primrose oil is one of the best for most skin types.


Evening primrose oil skin - infographic by bareLUXE Skincare

What is Evening Primrose Oil and What is it Used For?

The history of evening primrose use dates back centuries to medicinal applications by Indigenous North Americans. Evening primrose poultices were common remedies for bruises and wounds. In addition, stems and leaves were used to treat skin irritation and rashes. The leaves were also eaten to cure gastrointestinal problems and improve digestion. In the 17th century in Europe, evening primrose was used as a cure-all for many common health problems. 

The Evening Primrose plant is an ornamental flowering plant. The plant has a biennial lifespan and bears yellow flowers which open up during the evening and close during the day. The flowers of evening primrose bloom from late spring to early summer. It is now found throughout North America, Europe, and some subtropical regions with favourable climates. Although it is most commonly known by the name evening primrose, the plant is also called sun cups, sun drops, the King's cure-all, and evening star. 

Evening primrose oil is extracted from the tiny seeds of the Oenothera biennis plant. The oil is particularly rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a type of essential fatty acid. GLA has many health benefits, including improving the health of the skin barrier and reducing inflammation.

You can find evening primrose oil in most health food stores. It is most commonly sold as a capsule, but it is also available in a bottled version. Due to its high percentage of unsaturated fats, evening primrose oil can undergo oxidative deterioration, compromising its quality. Therefore, it is important ensure you're using fresh product that's been stored properly.

Fatty Acid Composition of Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose oil is very high in linoleic acid (70%) and gamma-linolenic acid (10%). For that reason, this oil is beneficial from both nutritional health and topical skin perspectives. 

Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated, omega-6 fatty acid. It is important for the proper functioning of the body's various tissues. A diet high in essential fatty acids results in health benefits like reduced inflammation and reduced risk of cardiovascular events like stroke. Unfortunately, these fatty acids cannot be produced by the human body and must be obtained from the diet.

Evening primrose oil contains high levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which is beneficial for several reasons. In particular, GLA contributes to the production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins and eicosanoids, including 15-hydroxyeicosatrienoic acid. These are essential for the proper functioning of many tissues and have anti-inflammatory effects. They are also involved in preventing the development of inflammatory diseases and skin problems.

Since the body converts GLA into prostaglandins and anti-inflammatory compounds, there is a potential medicinal role for supplements as they might improve symptoms of PMS and menopause and it may improve heart health, cholesterol, and pain.

Evening Primrose Oil Skin Benefits

If you're looking for ways to combat the signs of aging, evening primrose oil may be the answer.

Research has shown that the fatty acid composition of evening primrose oil may influence the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can help improve skin discoloration. In addition, the GLA may help fight inflammation and reduce the appearance of acne (more on that below).

A deeply-moisturizing emollient oil, using evening primrose as a face oil will reduce transepidermal water loss. People with dry and mature skin will appreciate this benefit. Although most people use it as a dietary supplement, it has also been used to treat allergic skin, including eczema and other skin conditions. The question of whether topical or oral use is the most likely to support healthy skin hasn't been fully answered with clinical studies.

When using evening primrose oil as part of your facial oil routine, you would expect to experience:

    • moisturization and emollience
    • reduced visibility of fine lines and wrinkles
    • skin barrier improvement and strengthening
    • reduced redness from irritation and inflammation
    • Improved skin tone and gradual reduction in the appearance of scars and spots
    • regulation of sebum production and improvement in the appearance of acne, with a special emphasis on hormonal acne
    • GLA supports healing, so evening primrose oil may help to improve skin firmness and elasticity in addition to smoothness and overall hydration levels

Does Evening Primrose Oil Clog Pores?

While some oils clog pores, evening primrose oil is not usually one of them.

It has a comedogenic rating of 1-2, making it suitable for most skin types. This is the middle of the comedogenicity scale, so if you have very oily skin, you will want to avoid using this oil full-strength. You can still experience the benefits using a lower concentration and mixing it with a carrier oil that's more suited to oily skin (ie. abyssinian or sunflower seed oil).

Evening Primrose Oil for Acne

The association of GLA with hormones and prostaglandins makes it a particularly interesting oil to consider use with hormonal acne. There is also interest in whether evening primrose oil skin effects could be targeted towards post-menopausal skin. 

From a science standpoint, there is no specific research data to prove that evening primrose face oils specifically target acne, hormones, or menopausal changes. 

However, we do know that GLA and linoleic acids are highly protective and anti-inflammatory. We also know the generalized benefits that face oils have for all skin, particularly acne-prone and mature. 

It's reasonable, and we feel strongly, that evening primrose oil be included in face oils designed to target acne, particularly hormonal or age-related. Some of the nuances of individual oil characteristics will never be fully proven in research trials. So we have to take what we do know and apply it as best we can. 

Is Evening Primrose Oil Safe?

Evening primrose oil is safe to use on your skin. There aren't any specific concerns about it and it shouldn't react with any other ingredients. It's always best to properly patch-test all new skincare products. The topical use of facial oils is not a concern in pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Regarding nutritional supplementation, it's important to speak to your doctor. Nothing is entirely free of risk or side effects. For example, because of the association of evening primrose oil with prostaglandins and hormone-mediated conditions like PMS and menopause, do not take oral supplementation during pregnancy or if you have a history of hormone-sensitive cancer without first seeking qualified medical advice.

Is Evening Primrose Oil Farming and Manufacturing Sustainable? 

The production of evening primrose oil has been widely scaled because of its demand as a nutritional supplement and face oil.

There are no specific humanitarian or agricultural concerns unique to this plant. As always. choosing suppliers who use sustainable farming practices and support fair wages for their workers is critical.





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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.