They are touted as alternatives to condition hair, moisturize skin, fight acne, and strengthen nails. Take a stroll down the beauty aisle of your drugstore and you'll find them in many products. Do they work? You might need to experiment. Everyone's skin is different, and it comes down to trial and error.
Made from the fruit of the marula tree, which is native to South Africa, this oil is rich and hydrating. It's full of fatty acids, which dermatologists say soothe dry skin. It absorbs quickly and won't leave you shiny or greasy.
Red, inflamed breakouts happen when bacteria gets trapped inside your pores. Research shows that tea tree oil helps zap that bacteria. In one trial, it beat a placebo gel (which has no active ingredients) at treating acne and calming inflammation. Another study found that it was as effective as benzoyl peroxide, a common ingredient in over-the-counter zit remedies.
Sometimes called "liquid gold," argan oil is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, which can fight the effects of aging. Dermatologists also say its omega-3 fatty acids boost collagen growth and plump up your skin. It doesn't matter if you have a dry, oily, or normal skin type.
It also conditions hair, but doesn't weight it down or make it feel greasy. You can still use your other hair care products, too.
You probably think of chamomile as a relaxing tea, but the oil from this daisy-like plant can also calm your skin. Skin specialists call it an anti-inflammatory and an antiseptic, which cuts down on redness, irritation, and the chance of infection. Peppermint oil has the same soothing properties.
Dry, cracked skin is more likely to get infected, irritated, and have allergic reactions. Coconut oil protects and moisturizes it, and soothes the scaly, rough patches that go along with common conditions like eczema, too.
You'll find vitamin A in lots of skin care products. It's a "retinoid," a chemical that helps replace old skin cells with new ones and make collagen, which can ease color changes from scarring and stretch marks. Two oils that are particularly rich in vitamin A: rosehip seed and carrot. Some dermatologists say they're also good as acne and anti-aging treatments. You would use only a tiny dab at nighttime.
Want to plump up your ponytail? Does your scalp show more than it used to? Rosemary oil may help you get a thicker, shinier mane. In one study, 6 months of treatment worked as well as 2% minoxidil against androgenetic alopecia, a common form of hair loss in men and women. And it was less likely to cause an itchy scalp.
Castor oil is another home remedy said to thicken brows and lashes. Before you try it, ask your doctor if it's safe, since it would go near your eyes. The jury's still out as to whether it really works.
Got thin or brittle nails? For a simple, all-natural solution, dab a little olive or avocado oil on them before bed. The oils will soak in overnight and nourish with good-for-you fatty acids. You can use other types of oil for this, too.
Could you replace your mouthwash with oil? It's trendy, but oil pulling, or rinsing out your mouth with oil, is a generations-old remedy for healthy teeth and gums. Research shows it might help. Recent international studies found that swishing with sesame oil (coconut and sunflower work, too) can cut plaque and gingivitis. It may also wash away the microorganisms that cause bad breath.
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- Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology and assistant professor of dermatology, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York.
- Department of Agriculture, Republic of South Africa: "Marula."
- American Academy of Dermatology: "Acne: Who Gets and Causes."
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- Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute: "Vitamin A and Skin Health."
- Panahi, Y. Skinmed, January-February 2015.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: “Avocado Oil," "Olive Oil."