One of the biggest beauty game-changers of the past 10 years? Learning that oil-based products don’t, in fact, make our skin more oily. Yep, goodbye to oil-free moisturizers and skin-stripping cleansers. But with this newfound love for facial oils (and pretty much all things oil-based) has come a growing array of options: coconut, argan, sea buckthorn, noni, monoi, marula—it seems a new wonder oil is rolled out just about every month, each with more touted skinfood superpowers than the last. The longer that list becomes, and the more exotic the oil, the harder it gets to suss out which are actually worth the hype.
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One of the buzzier oils as of late: moringa oil, taken from the seeds of the moringa tree (also known as the horseradish tree, ben oil tree and drumstick tree). The plant has long been used for its multitude of medicinal properties (which include antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, anti-diabetic, and antioxidant). More recently, research has shown that moringa seed extract works as an antimicrobial against a number of bacterial and fungal species and to help reduce oxidative damage linked to aging. Further study has found that cream made with moringa leaf extract helped to improve skin volume, texture and smoothness. Not a bad bet, if you ask us.
With findings like these, it was only a matter of time before skin and hair care brands started to incorporate its oil into products in order to help boost moisture, reduce the signs of aging, and even ward off zits. But is the ingredient as good as it is on paper?
Dr. Debra Jaliman a New York-based dermatologist, assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist, seems to think so. “Moringa oil is packed with vitamins A, B, and C. It stacks up against other popular oils since it has many therapeutic properties,” she says. “It’s an antioxidant and has antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s a good exfoliant as well as an emollient, too.” Though those with acne-prone skin can feel squeamish about putting oil atop already-greasy skin, Jaliman likes this oil for acneic skin, saying that it can hydrate without clogging pores thanks to its antiseptic properties.
Dr. Jeannette Graf, a New York-based dermatologist, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, and author of Stop Aging, Start Living also likes moringa oil for its antimicrobial activity. But as she points out, where the ingredient really shines is in its ability to fight free radicals. “Moringa oil’s strongest benefits are its large amounts of antioxidants,” she says.
As if these perks aren’t enough, moringa oil is also for all skin types, according to Susie Wang, a cosmetic chemist and founder of skin care and cosmetics line 100% Pure. To get the most out of moringa’s skin-benefiting properties, Wang suggests looking for products made with vitamin E, which helps “makes [moringa oil] more potent and stable,” she says. Wang also suggests reaching for oil formulas that boast moringa as a lead ingredient, like True Moringa’s Passion Body Oil. “With serum and cream formulas, there is usually heating involved, which alters the nutritional phytochemicals found in moringa oil,” she notes. And if the oil in the product is obtained via is cold-pressed technology? All the better. “Because of the sensitivity of moringa, it’s best if the oil is not heat processed,” she advises, adding that moringa-based products should housed in dark, glass bottles and stored away from heat and light to help maintain their stability.
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Finally, the plant’s benefits don’t stop with skin: both derms say that moringa oil can serve as a great hydrator for hair. “The oleic acid in moringa oil can help strengthen the hair and retain moisture,” Jaliman says. “It’s antibacterial properties can help keep dandruff and/or dry scalp away as well.” Jaliman and Graf suggests looking for conditioners of all kinds made with moringa — including sprays, leave-in treatments and masks — to help boost hair health.
Whether you’re tapping moringa oil for its antibacterial properties in a cleanser, to deliver a fat dose of antioxidants to the body, or to help hydrate bouncy curls, click through the latest products that use this one-size-fits-all ingredient.