Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) is an herbaceous, flowering plant native to North America. This plant’s delicate yellow flowers bloom in the evening from late spring to summer – hence the name “evening primrose.” This beautiful flower also goes by the names “evening star” and “sun drop.”
The plant grows as far north as Newfoundland, and as far south as Canada, and it’s been used by Native Americans for centuries as both a food and a natural remedy. Remarkably, all parts of the evening primrose are edible: the roots, stem, leaves, buds, and seeds.
Those edible seeds? They do double-duty as a traditional medicine, too. When pressed, the seeds produce evening primrose oil. This oil is golden in color, with a thick, nutty smell. It’s often used to alleviate symptoms associated with menopause – and it can even promote joint wellness and support skin health.1
A lot of the oil’s benefits are thanks to its abundance of essential fatty acids. Fatty acids can help boost mood and help support the health of the immune system, the heart, the brain, the joints, and the skin.2
Some fatty acids can be manufactured by the body, while other fatty acids are essential. This means that they can’t be manufactured by the body – they must be obtained through dietary sources. That’s where evening primrose oil comes in. A remarkable 25 percent of evening primrose oil is made up of essential fatty acids.3
These essential fatty acids include:
Linoleic acid: An omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid can also be found in sources like grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, walnut oil, olive oil, almonds, egg yolks, and cocoa butter.
Gamma linolenic acid: Abbreviated as “GLA”, gamma-linolenic acid can also be found in sources like hemp seed oil, blackcurrant seed oil, borage seed oil, oats, barley, and spirulina.
A Skin-Friendly Oil
Evening primrose oil does a lot to help support skin health. Here are 7 ways evening primrose oil can benefit your skincare routine:
1. Moisturizes Dry Skin
Applying moisturizer frequently can do a lot to restore hydration to the skin. But if you run out of moisturizer and find yourself in a pinch, you can put a little evening primrose oil to work. Studies show that evening primrose oil may be able to help improve skin moisture levels.4
It’s likely that the presence of GLA (gamma linolenic acid) plays a large role in this. It seems that the more GLA evening primrose oil contains, the more effective it is at moisturizing dry skin, and soothing irritation.5
2. Boosts Skin Elasticity and Firmness
When you’re young, your skin tends to look plump and healthy – and it’s able to retain its shape or its “elasticity.” But as you age, your skin naturally loses this firm, elastic quality. Typically, aging skin tends to take on a more wrinkled, loose, crepey appearance.
Evening primrose oil, though, seems to have a positive effect on skin firmness and elasticity.6 This is perhaps due to the presence of essential fatty acids. You see, many scientists believe that essential fatty acids play an important role in maintaining skin elasticity.7
So if you’re looking to help maintain skin suppleness, try a little evening primrose oil.
3. Strengthens Skin Barrier Function
It’s surprisingly easy to forget what the skin actually does. In essence, your skin provides the barrier between everything outside your body and everything inside your body. This basic duty is referred to as the “skin barrier function.”
A healthy skin barrier consists of a tough top layer of skin known as the “stratum corneum.” The stratum corneum serves your skin in a couple of ways:
- It helps your skin retain water, and…
- It works hard to keep any “foreign invaders” – dirt, debris, pollutants, or pathogens – from penetrating your skin and causing irritation or infection.
A healthy skin barrier function is necessary for maintaining healthy skin. When the skin barrier is disrupted, sensitivity, water loss, dryness, or other symptoms may result.
Both GLA and linolenic acid – found in evening primrose oil – help maintain the strength of the stratum corneum and skin barrier function.8 By keeping these essential fatty acids in regular rotation, you can be sure your skin’s getting the support it needs to do its job well.
4. Improves Skin Texture
Skin naturally renews itself in a process called “desquamation.” During desquamation, old skin cells are sloughed off to reveal newer, brighter, smoother skin.
As you age, the desquamation process slows down, and dead skin cells start to build upon the skin, making it look thick, rough, and uneven.9
Gentle exfoliation can do a lot to get rid of this buildup of dead skin cells, and reveal brighter, renewed skin. And fatty acids – like the GLA and linoleic acid found in evening primrose oil – can also give you an extra boost. In one trial, evening primrose oil was found to induce a nearly 22 percent improvement in skin’s texture.10
5. Diminishes the Look of Age Spots
Spending time in the sun does a number on your skin, causing the development of age spots, for example.
Age spots are small areas of hyperpigmentation caused by exposure to the sun’s UV rays. These spots can show up anywhere, but they’re common on the face, arms, and backs of the hands.
Now, the best way to prevent age spots is to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen and to limit your time in the sun.
But if you’re looking to diminish the appearance of age spots you already have, evening primrose oil may come in handy for you. Applying the oil to your skin might help whiten and brighten dark spots caused by UV radiation.11
6. Alleviates Itchiness
Itchy skin can drive you up the wall, but GLA-rich evening primrose oil just might be able to help.
In one study, people given a 6-week supplement of evening primrose oil saw a significant reduction in skin irritation and itching symptoms.12
Ready to stop that itch and get some evening primrose oil relief?
7. Reduces the Appearance of Acne
You might associate breakouts with junior-high dances, but the truth is, acne can happen at all ages. Hormones, stress, and diet can all play a role in the development of acne, but it turns out that the presence (or absence) of essential fatty acids may also play a role.
Studies have shown that many acne sufferers actually have lower levels of linoleic acid in the surface oils of their skin. And it turns out that applying linoleic acid to the skin of acne patients can, in fact, decrease the size of clogged pores — which are a precursor to acne.13
But there’s more — the GLA found in primrose oil also seems to be an effective acne-fighter. It’s thought that this acid suppresses the activities of certain hormones that can lead to the development of acne.14
So if you’re struggling with pimples, evening primrose oil may help you get just the dose of GLA and linoleic acid your skin needs to begin to balance itself out again.
Evening Primrose Oil For Beautiful Skin
With nicknames like “evening star” and “sun drop,” it’s no wonder evening primrose oil has the potential to work wonders on the skin. Use this GLA-rich oil day or night to help keep skin healthy, moisturized, calm, and breakout-free.