- What are rosehips?
- Myths about the oil
- Rosehip oil health benefits
- How to use rosehip oil on your face
When she announced a few years ago that her secret weapon was to wear this obscure oil at night, it went from obscurity to being a must-have beauty product.
Now it’s so popular, the brand Liquid Gold is selling the organic unrefined oil by the gallon. You probably won’t find it locally, but you can buy a gallon on Amazon. The rich and famous are said to be spreading this stuff over their entire body!
All this excitement though needs to be scrutinized. Because let’s be honest here… rosehip oil reviews in Glamour and Daily Mail are far from scientific. When you cut through that hype, does it really live up to expectations?
What are rosehips?
The “hips” of a rose are just what they sound like. Right below the flower’s petals is a tiny round pod. After pollination, they produce a mini-fruit with seeds inside.
With most cultivated species of roses, you almost never see these so-called hips. Since the petals are so tight at the base, they can’t easily pollinated by bees.
What is rosehip oil made from? There are over 70 species in the Rosa genus and it is the wild species which have not been domesticated that work best for making it. Most common are the Rosa moschata or Rosa rubiginosa/mosqueta from South America, or the Rosa canina (known as dog rose) which grows in South Africa and Europe. These produce the little fruits, which are bright red in color.
Also known as rosehip seed oil, it won’t smell like the flower you’re used to. If it is organic and cold pressed, it will smell just like uncooked dry pasta. An earthy and warm aroma. The more refined it is, the less scent it will have.
Lightly or unrefined rosehip will be reddish orange in color. The refined and deodorized versions will look yellow, like olive or argan oil.
It has a short shelf life – a max of up to 6 months after the bottle has been opened. That’s assuming you always keep it tightly closed when not in use and stored away from heat and light. That’s why even if it weren’t crazy expensive, buying it by the gallon would be a terrible idea if you’re just using it on your face. You would never use a gallon in 6 months!
How to tell if rosehip oil is bad is simple – it will smell different when rancid. A strong oily and acidic aroma. Using expired or a poor quality product is actually bad for your health, because most of the antioxidants will have degraded and the fatty acids will have oxidized. Not something you want on your skin!
Myths about the oil
Vitamin C content
Most claim its rich in vitamin C, but that’s not true!
This is because ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin, so when the seed oil is pressed and processed, you will be left with none of the water soluble components.
Plus, even if there were a few vitamin C molecules floating around (think parts per million) they may have been destroyed during manufacturing. Why? Because steam distillation is often used to separate the oil from the seeds and fruit.
Should you use rosehip oil or vitamin C serum?
Both would be even better. The oil offers moisturizing properties and other beneficial phytonutrients, just not the C. If you’re only going to go with one, a vitamin C serum with hyaluronic acid would probably be better for anti-aging purposes. Try this brand.
Rosehip essential oil
Essentials are made out of volatile organic compounds. As the name implies, they’re highly unstable. After being exposed to air, they breakdown quickly and evaporate.
They don’t contain the more stable fatty acids you get with coconut oil and other edible versions. Argan and tamanu (from the Southeast Asian fruit tree) are two non-edible versions which are also made out of the stable fats. When you put them on your hair or face, they don’t evaporate.
Despite what some people call it, rosehip is not an essential. It is a fixed or carrier oil, comparable to something like argan or jojoba. There’s no difference between rosehip oil vs. rosehip seed oil, they’re both the same thing. Regardless of what you want to call it, here is what’s inside:
|Polyunsaturated||Oleic acid (C18:1)||10-20%|
|Polyunsaturated||α-linolenic acid (C18:3 n-3)||26-37%|
|Saturated||Palmitic acid (C16:0)||3-5%|
|Saturated||Stearic acid (C18:0)||1-3%|
|Source: Council of Europe, 2001; Flores Ahumada DA, 2005|
The high amount of omega 3 (a-linolenic acid) in rosehip is a rare benefit. Not many plants or fish have one-third of their fat in this form. Nearly half of the composition is omega 6 (cis-linoleic acid) (3).
Flavonoids, carotenoids, trans-retinoic acid, and tannins are also inside. A detailed analysis done by German researchers said (4):
“…these seed oils were found to contain appreciable amounts of lipohilic antioxidants having health beneficial potential.”
Rosehip oil health benefits
What does rosehip oil do for skin? Miranda Kerr and People magazine may offer an opinion, but not verifiable facts. Although none of the following uses are proven, they do at least offer hints as to what is (or isn’t) being researched.
1. Skin epithelitis relief
Epithelium are a sheet of cells covering most body’s surfaces, including the skin.
Radio-epithelitis is skin damage and pain which is caused by radiotherapy treatments for cancer.
In a study where 28 head and neck cancer patients applied rosehip oil twice daily to their skin, the researchers concluded it was “at least, as effective (or more effective) as other and more common skin treatments” (5).
2. Minimizing stretch marks
There are many products which claim to help stretch marks (striae gravidarum) but few have been clinically tested for their prevention.
Is rosehip oil safe during pregnancy? As with most herbal products, it hasn’t been studied for side effects when it comes to the health of the baby. When it comes to the mother’s health, there is only one study that’s been done.
In this double-blind, randomized and controlled trial, pregnant women were divided into the following two groups (6):
- Treated group: An anti-stretchmark cream with oil of rosehip, extract of Indian pennywort (Centella asiatica), hydroxyprolisilane-C (amino acids), and vitamin E.
- Control group: A placebo cream without those active ingredients.
For some of these women, there seemed to be a big improvement when it came to the formation of new stretch marks during pregnancy:
“In women without previous striae, incidence of these marks was significantly lower for the treated group patients compared with control group (5.6% vs. 35%)”
Interesting, but since multiple ingredients were used, you can’t really claim this is evidence for any one of them as a stand-alone. Rosehip oil for melasma during pregnancy hasn’t been studied either.
3. Leg ulcers and surgical wounds
It was only a small non-controlled study, but 10 patients in Spain were treated with Rosa mosqueta oil. That’s the species which grows in the Andes mountain range of Chile. A 26% concentration of it was used.
They claimed a “very notable improvement on its healing compared with the control group” and because there were no adverse reactions, they believed it to be “very useful for these conditions” (7).
4. Scar removal
Aside from general anti-aging benefits, this is one of the most touted uses. How long does rosehip oil take to fade scars, if it even works?
If you exclude the open wound studies, there’s only one which is about the long term treatment of scar discoloration and texture. It was published a couple of years ago and conducted at a university hospital in Spain (10).
- 108 patients with fresh post-surgical scars completed the trial.
- 76 were given a dosage of rosehip seed oil to use twice daily (Repavar brand). Usage began right after their suture removal.
- 32 used no treatment.
The results? These charts and before and after photos speak for themselves…
Subjective evaluation of erythema at 6 and 12 weeks. Intense = orange bar; Mild = aqua; No erythema = purple.
Subjective evaluation of discoloration at 6 and 12 weeks. Intense = orange bar; Mild = aqua; No erythema = purple.
Hypertrophy (raised scarring)
Subjective evaluation of hypertrophy at 6 and 12 weeks. Intense = orange bar; Mild = aqua; No erythema = purple.
A = before, B = after 12 weeks of rose hip oil scar treatment twice daily.
Is rosehip oil good for acne scars?
While it has not been clinically studied, you will see many product reviews online claiming success. How long you use it for is more of a long term thing – applying either daily or every other day to minimize the formation of news ones, while improving the hyperpigmentation of old scarred pimples. It’s not just teens using it, as those with adult acne also talk of this regimen.
If you want to experiment with uses for acne, it may not be a bad idea to combine it with an essential, like frankincense and rosehip oil.
Why? Because at least in lab studies, one of the benefits of frankincense oil is that it has been found to have antibacterial properties. They have even tested it against P. acnes (Propionibacterium acnes) which is a bacteria associated with increased inflammation and redness of cystic nodules.
Hyperpigmentation aside, does it do anything to prevent pimples? That brings us to the next thing on the list…
5. Acne treatment
Even though the oil hasn’t been studied for this use, there is supporting evidence that it might help.
Anyone who has struggled with severe zits is familiar with the topical use of retinol (Vitamin A1). Some of the most popular prescription acne medications are retinoid-based creams and serums; Retin-A, Retin-A Micro, Renova, Tazorac, Differin, Avita, and Atralin just to name a few. Accutane is an oral version, but that one has really horrific side effects.
How retinoids work for acne is by increasing your cell turnover rate. That’s how fast you shed skin cells and grow new ones. The theory is that this helps unclog pores, since the dead cells don’t have as long to sit there.
Excess dry skin and flaking are common reactions, which is why it’s important to use a good moisturizer with them.
That benefit (retinoids) and its side effects (dry skin) is exactly why rosehip oil is good for oily skin.
There is not retinol in rosehip oil per se, but there is trans-retinoic acid. That’s a natural form of vitamin A versus the synethic pre-formed type, which is what prescription retinol is.
Those used in prescriptions can be dangerous, because the vitamin A is already formed, so your liver is forced to metabolize it. With natural vitamin A it’s in a precursor form, so your body only converts what it needs.
The fact that this oil is a rich source of trans-retinoic acid is probably the scientific explanation as to why so many people claim to experience acne relief from using it.
The comedogenic rating of rosehip seed oil has been reported as 1, meaning there’s only a slight chance it will clog your pores (0 is non-comedogenic and 5 will almost certainly clog your pores). However keep in mind this scale is subjective and not really based on any concrete measurements. Some people say “the oil breaks me out” and it might very well. Everyone’s skin is different.
Those other fatty acids in the oil help to moisturize the dryness, which goes hand in hand with retinol and retinoic acid treatments. It’s like retinol plus moisturizer combined.
6. Hair loss and appearance
Can it really help with balding and thinning hair?
That’s what you will hear hyped on a few blogs, but there’s literally zero scientific research on this topic. Those claiming it can help hair loss are misleading you.
How to use rosehip oil for hair typically involves a hair mask. A small amount is massaged into the scalp, left on for about one hour, and then rinsed off in the shower.
There’s no harm in doing that and it’s possible there may be beneficial effects from the antioxidants on the skin of the scalp, but that’s unrelated to losing your hair from aging.
There’s more evidence to suggest it might help with:
- Dandruff – By moisturizing the scalp.
- Dry and dull hair – The oils add sheen.
- Bounce and texture – By replenishing moisture in the follicle.
7. Wrinkle prevention
Did you know that retinoids are considered by many to be the only proven topical treatment for preventing wrinkles and fine lines?
They’ve been used since the 60’s and for signs of photoaging, since the 80’s (11). In reference to Retin-A and generic equivalents:
“To my knowledge, this is the only drug for which there has been crystal-clear demonstration that it works on the molecular level.”
Dr. John Voorhees said that in a New York Times article. He is the chairman of the University of Michigan’s dermatology department (12).
Based on the research, we have concluded that the best rosehip oil for your face will be one that’s cold pressed and organic. The reason is because of the antioxidants which have been found in the oil. The retinoic acid for acne and wrinkles will hold up well during steam distillation, but that heat will cause some of the antioxidants to degrade. This is why lower temperatures –like cold pressing – is preferred.
Even though it doesn’t have vitamin C in it, there are other antioxidants. The cold pressed oil was evaluated using sophisticated differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). They found up to 783.55 µg of phenolic compounds per kilogram, which included high amounts of p-coumaric acid, a potent antioxidant. That led the scientists to say (13):
“Relatively high protection against oxidative stress in the oils seemed to be a result of their high antioxidant capacity and the level of unsaturation of fatty acids.”
That test was based on Rosa rubiginosa (aka Rosa mosqueta). Earlier research echoed a similar finding (14).
Even though the antioxidant activity on human skin hasn’t been studied, it’s clear why rosehip oil uses of the face and neck might help with anti-aging.
Instead of using it by itself, some women add the oil to their makeup and toner as an antioxidant booster. Even rosehip oil lip gloss and balm is starting to catch on, such as this one from Trilogy.
How to use rosehip oil on your face
- Use as a base layer at bedtime, underneath your face cream. Retinoids are highly sensitive to light, which causes them to break down. While you can wear it during the day, the best time will be an application right before you turn the lights off for the night.
- How much per application is 2 to 3 drops. Using the dropper, place the drops in the palm of your hand and gently massage over your face. More may be needed for dry skin and if you’re treating your neck.
- For twice daily, apply your second dosage in the morning. Even though the trans-retinoic acid will be compromised by the light, you will still benefit from the moisturizing omega 3’s and 6’s, as well antioxidants like the p-coumaric acid.
- After your morning application, apply a sunscreen. Since retinoids make your skin more susceptible to UV damage, it’s even more important to protect your skin from the sun. Plus, this will help slow down the degradation of the retinoic acid underneath.
Finding where to buy the 100% pure form can be a challenge. In Australia, you have Chemist Warehouse selling it like hot cakes. In the US, pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens don’t even carry it.
Ulta Beauty lists around a dozen products on their website containing it, but none where it’s the number one ingredient. Walmart and similar places don’t sell it, at least at their physical stores.
Depending on the location, Whole Foods might stock Aura Cacia rosehip oil serum, which is available in a USDA certified organic version. You can also buy it on Amazon.
Other respected brands include Neal’s Yard, Evan Healy, ECO Organic, Pai Skincare, and Fushi (in the UK).=
Want a day and night cream? Try Miranda Kerr’s brand KORA Organics, but it’s not cheap!
Based on reviews and popularity, the best on the market might be Trilogy rosehip oil. Bottled in New Zealand, it’s made with just one ingredient and is certified organic. Even though the packaging doesn’t say it, the FAQ on Trilogy’s website confirms that yes, their oil is cold-pressed. This is their flagship product and it’s unisex, so both women and men can use it without any weird aromas added.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.