review: rosehip oil

EXTENDED DIRECTOR’S CUT VERSION OF EARLIER MUA REVIEW.
Everything you ever wanted to know about rosehip oil but were afraid to ask.

See also: UPDATED version: 2011-12-01.

UPDATE (2013-07): not used in a while, and not missed it. For topical sunscreen-boosting antioxidants, I’ve been using a combination of vitamin C (+/- E) serums (ex. from Silk Naturals) and green-tea-based ones (ex. from Garden of Wisdom); and meadowfoam seed oil for moisture.

Not awfully fussed about the vanity aspects (skin brightening / whitening, etc.), but whatever, each to their own…

BACK TO THE ORIGINAL POST (2011-12): Used off and on for about five years; twice daily for around about the last two years. Skin here: sensitive, dryish, prone to irritation breakouts (or, irritation as expressed as a breakout–first place is the thin skin around the nose). Used various brands along the way; see further down for specifics. Applying it like a serum, after washing, to damp skin. About 2-3 drops for face, a similar amount for neck and throat, and a drop patted in around the eyes. More than that, and it can feel greasy. Then moisturiser and sunscreen on top in the morning. Evening: usually nothing over it, unless my skin is really parched.

WHAT, WHY, WHAT’S THE POINT?

It’s a lightweight oil, easily absorbed. Like any oil, it will moisturise. It’s fairly well-tolerated on quite a range of skin types and conditions. Not all, YMMV, do research reviews and other online resources to see if it seems likely to sit *your* very individual skin.

Main point: antioxidants, especially retinol, plus essential fatty acids. Very high in vitamin C and A (as retinol; the only plant-sourced oil to contain vit A, which you’ll otherwise find in many animal fats, ex. fish oils). Useful for dealing with photodamage, retinol helping with cell regeneration/turnover, collagen renewal, elastin levels. General “skin food”: linoleic acid or omega-6, and linolenic acid or omega-3: good for moisture, repair, soothing and smoothing, especially on more sensitive and eczematic skin.

Given that I can’t use any other forms of vitamin A without massive skin reaction, this stuff is a godsend.

Can be eaten too–or drunk in the form of rosehip tea–indeed, this provides at least as many benefits from ingestion as from topical application (if not more). As is usually the case with antioxidants.

Made from either just the seeds or the whole fruit–the “hip”–of any of the main common rose varieties. As with other plants, this is the part that feeds the baby plant that will eventually leave the parent plant and start a new life of its own. Hence high nutritional content.

SOURCE

Most often nowadays from rosa moscheta, the musk rose a.k.a. rosa rubiginosa or r. eglanteria = the briar, or sweet briar, or eglantine rose. Same plant, different names. It’s usually called r. moscheta (freq. misspelled moschata) for cosmetic purposes, though the official botanical / scientific name is r. rubiginosa (alt. eglanteria for historical reasons). Reckoned to be originally from the Himalayas, native to western Asia and Europe, cultivated for millenia, main commercial source now Chile (and Argentina).

(Rarer) from a different rose species native to the Alps, rosa pendulina. Ex. used in some Swiss skincare products.

A completely different beast from “rose oil” = scented / perfume oil, made from rose petals, and usually from different species (rosa damascena, rosa centifolia, r. gallica, r. canina, etc.). Rose otto = made by steam distillation; rose absolute = by solvent or CO2 extraction.

THE LONG VERSION

From aromantic.co.uk (kind of the UK equivalent of Garden of Wisdom, Mountain Rose Herbs, and other ingredient-providers)

Description: Cold pressed. The seeds contain approx. 9% oil. A dry to very dry oil. The only Vegetable Oil which contains natural Retinoic acid (Vitamin A acid). Good for oily skin, sensitive skin, skin problems and skin with large pores. The best Vegetable Oil source of Omega 3. Also a good source of Omega 6.

Origin: Most commercial Rosehip oil now comes from Chile and grows wild in the Southern Andes.

Thickening point: – 15 ºC

Shelf life: Keeps for 2 – 5 years.

Contents:

  • 13 – 19 % Oleic Acid (Omega 9);
  • 48% Linoleic Acid (Omega 6);
  • 25 – 35% Alpha Linoleic Acid (Omega 3);
  • 5 – 8% Glycerin;
  • 0.06 – 0.09% E-vitamin – Natural d-alpha Tocopherol;
  • 0.0001% A-Vitamin Acid (Retinol Acid);
  • a tiny amount of Beta carotene.

Rosehip Seed Oil which is used commercially is produced in Chile. It is extracted from seeds of a rosebush which grows wild in the southern Andes. It is the only Vegetable Oil which contains natural Retinol acid (A-Vitamin acid) – 125mcg per every 100g.

Rosehip Seed Oil is high in both Linoleic Fatty Acid and Linolenic Fatty Acids and they belong to what we call Essential Fatty Acids often known as Vitamin-F. One of the effects of these is to reduce the size of the pores so it’s very good for preparations for people with large pores on the skin. Because of its natural content of Vitamin A, it is also very good for all kinds of skin infections such as acne, pimples and boils. It is also useful in the treatment of damaged skin tissue caused by scalds, burns and varicose veins.

The consistency of Rosehip Seed Oil is dry to very dry and is useful in all kinds of face oils where the purpose is cell regeneration. The high quantity of Linolenic Acid (a Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acid) means that Rosehip Seed Oil has a low melting point (20ºC minus). This helps to counteract the high melting point of Saturated Fats such as Cholesterol (150ºC plus), Cocoa Butter (28ºC plus). This high melting point means that it is hard for the body to process. This is one of the reasons why people with oily skin / acne should not eat chocolate. By adding Rosehip Seed Oil to your skin, you reduce the overall melting point of the fats in your skin allowing the body to process them.

  • Rosehip Oil contains 5% Saturated Fatty Acids, 16% Mono-Unsaturated Fatty Acids, 41 – 50% Duo-Unsaturated Fatty Acids and 30-36% Poly-unsaturated Fatty Acids.
  • Due to the high level of of Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids, you should never buy the oil without added 0.5 Vitamin E Oil. (This prevents the oil from going rancid.) Without this the Rosehip Oil will have a shelf life of less than 6 months. By adding 0.5% Vitamin E Oil, this will increase the shelf life to around 2 years.
  • Rosehip Oil reduces the fattiness of other Vegetable Oils in blends.
  • Rosehip Oil is a classical and luxurious Vegetable Oil which is excellent for sensitive and oily skin, acne and for skin with large pores.
  • Rosehip Oil has a short surface time on the skin which means that is absorbed fast and leaves no fatty residue. It is very good for face oils.
  • Can be used in face oils, creams, lotions and massage oils.

As ever, see also: Wikipedia article

EFFECTS & RESULTS

  • Skin smoother, more even, firm.
  • No irritation, indeed feels soothed. May be increasing skin resilience (and may “toughen” it up slightly–in the case of thin fragile skin, this is a great thing). This depends on the oil type, though (see further below)
  • Helps moisture levels (in my case, in combination with moisturiser and sunscreen on top).
  • May help reduce scarring; also used for stretch-marks.

I tested out all of the above (being the hypothetical benefits–testing this as, well, a scientific hypothesis) vs. not using RHO. Methodology:
1. split-face testing, product vs. nothing
2. split-face testing, one product vs. another
3. one day on with stuff, one day off (without)
4. ditto, for a week. This was usually accidental rather than intentional, due to forgetting stuff when away, or to having lost it or broken a bottle and not got round to replacing it yet for work-crisis reasons.

Not sure but while I can’t prove it helped scarring, it hasn’t actively hindered it either. Also: at the time of the injury, didn’t use RH oil cos it was an accident and a first-aid situation: witch-hazel on cotton pad, disinfectant, anti-bug stuff, and dressings. I had an accident two months ago that involved smashing a glass in my face (did it to myself, entirely own stupidity, not having fights with trolls or anything…). Nose cut to bone at the bridge, upper lip (mouth to nose area) cut through (tooth bumped, mouth cut through on inside too). Once the wounds had sealed and I could wash and touch them, I used RH oil as per usual, plus moisturiser and more sunscreen than usual. Two months on and the nose will scar, but it’s already very faint. The upper-lip marks are almost gone. Can supply before and after photos if need be–happen to have one from a conference dinner 3 days after accident, can take an “after” one any time …

DIFFERENT KINDS OF RHO

Increasing in price down the list.

  • refined vs. unrefined:
    —unrefined always also means possible inclusion of things that might be irritants (very individual), and variation between batches and bottles. I’ve had some bottles that were fine, others that weren’t.
    —In short: YYMV with unrefined, but I’ve always found refined reliable.
    —You can always add in a little vitamin E as a preservative; if worried about skin reactions, looks for one that’s the straight-up lab synthesized sort and/or from safflower seed (avoid the one from wheat-germ; at least, I’ve had issued with it even though I’m not coeliac). Either the oil in a bottle or–usually cheaper–the capsules meant for ingestion; just snip one open and pour the contents into your RHO.
  • cold-pressed vs. CO2-extracted:
    the latter method produces a more stable oil, doesn’t oxidise, much longer shelf-life
  • seed oil sonly vs. seed oil + extracts from the whole fruit:
    whole rosehip–skin and all–includes trace minerals and more vitamins (the fruit is very high in C).

1. Refined, seed only:

= what I prefer: better-tolerated on sensitive skin, longer-lasting, and cheaper. If you’ve had issues with RHO before, try this. Should be more or less odourless. A very light yellowish shade, nearly colourless.

Of the various sorts of RHO, this one has the least of all the “natural goodness” etc. But better than nothing; better to be getting some of these lovely supposedly skin-nourishing things than none at all; and better to use something your skin tolerates than something it doesn’t. Cos if it doesn’t, you’ll be doing more harm than good: damage, needing to use other things to repair the damage, destabilised skin, ruined skin barrier, etc. It’s like with sunscreen: sure, by using ZnO-only stuff I’m not using super-high PPD stuff, but at least what I use offers some PPD, it is broad-spectrum for UVA & UVB, and it does the job–main jobs being preventing burning (my main risk and concern, as a redhead who’s already had a Curious Growth Incident) and reducing photosensitive reactions.

  • NOW brand, bought in Whole Foods and in various places online: some bottles smell slightly of rosemary; not to worry, doesn’t seem to make any difference (it’s the preservative).

2. Unrefined, cold-pressed, seed-only:

Smell: Should smell slightly earthy-nutty-fruity, not pungently sweet, with a smoky tea note. Some may smell fishier. Not rankly fish though it’s not unusual for there to be at least some fishiness to the scent, as is often the case with omega fatty acids (borage and evening primrose have this nose-note too). Colours range from deep amber to near-red, most are in the orange range. Textures vary: some are heavier.Some contain preservatives, either vitamin E or rosemary oil: this offers a decent compromise.

PROS:
The commonest kind of RHO. Readily available, many manufacturers. Competitive market, competitive prices.

Some (check with manufacturers–some have been indicated below) are fair-trade; most are organic.

CONS:
NBBB YMMV. I’ve had least tolerability from this kind of oil.

Competitive prices = huge range of prices, and higher price is no indication of any difference, for good or for ill, in quality. Most often, you’re paying for packaging (and other overheads and middle-men) rather than product.

The oil may smell and your skin too. This varies, as do individual perceptions.

Short shelf-life, goes off quickly.

Should be kept refrigerated; warm the requisite small quantity between hands before use. Best to buy little and often from a supplier with a rapid turnover; resist the temptation to buy greater quantities even though they’re a lower price by volume… Be careful buying online, especially at warmer times of year, as the oil is so fragile that it can be damaged through temperature changes (especially higher ones) in transit. As is normal, to be fair, unless it’s being transported like a biological specimen, which would render the cost prohibitive.

Some folks may prefer to have completely utterly pure oil with no preservatives. Unfortunately, this is hard to juggle with the oil’s fragility, even if buying very little–say, weekly. If that’s your cup of tea (same goes for organic/not), check with manufacturers before ordering.

  • Garden of Wisdom
  • Lotioncrafter
  • Melvita
  • Mountain Rose Herbs (fair trade, like all their stuff)
  • Natio
  • Renew
  • Skin Actives
  • some Etsy sellers (online: prices vary considerably)

Some other more widely-available ones: but beware breakouts, short life and rapid rancidity, and costing USD20.00 – 40.00 – and even more!!! per ounce:

  • Aubrey Organics
  • Neal’s Yard
  • Primavera
  • Sukin
  • Trilogy (a plus in theirfavour: fair trade and carbon-neutral, inc. their transport)
  • various Etsy sellers, etc.

—Of these, the most easily findable ones are Trilogy–in some boutiquey places and online–& Aubrey Organics–in health-food/eco-stores (also online), cheaper than Trilogy.

3. Unrefined, seed-only, but different manufacturing process–CO2 extraction:

  • A’Kin (similar prices to Trilogy, plus shipping costs)
  • lots from other cos. in Australia & New Zealand: the extraction process was *I think* developed there

4. Unrefined, whole-fruit, CO2 extraction:
= more expensive, but longer life, more stable, doesn’t oxidise. Orange, more viscous than refined, less so (and less dense, heavy-feeling) than other unrefined whole-fruit oils. Contains some vit. E (sunflower) for extra antioxidant effect and as a preservative. Smells like rosehip tea. This is the only unrefined (and organic, etc.) one that I’ve found tolerable and can use longer-term. That’s my skin, not the oil :)

PRO
Oil extracted from seed combined with extracts from the whole fruit, including the skin (vs just the seed), is supposed to have twice the sterols and five times the carotenoids.

CON
Expensive [EDIT: I found some cheaper ones, see UPDATED version: 2011-12-01]

  • Kosmea (online)
  • Pai (online, some boutiques)

THINGS TO BE CAREFUL ABOUT

Sample prices:

  • NOW (refined): CAD 10.50 / 1 oz (30 ml), online from USD 4.00 / 1 oz (not including shipping costs).
  • GoW etc. (unrefined, cold-pressed, online): USD 5.65 / 1 oz.
  • Kosmea (unrefined, CO2-extracted, online): from USD 24.50 / 1 oz (for the 2 oz bottle)

If it’s plain unrefined cold-pressed–most RHO sold is–and costs more than that, you’re being ripped off +/or paying for packaging. Beware organic-washing: ex. GoW are organic yet still keep price decent. Organic may be worth choosing for ethical reasons (environment) but no evidence for any difference in topical application to skin.

Like with argan oil, there’s a lot of products out there that contain rosehip oil but other stuff too. Ex. Evan Healey. I’ll remind you of the argan oil analogy:

Always. Read. The. Label. Especially the ingredient list. There is a crucial difference between “contains 100% pure argan oil” and “100% pure argan oil.”

For example: Moroccanoil, Agadir, and Organix have treatments that have ARGAN OIL in big letters on the front, but are mainly cyclopentasiloxane etc.

It’s like this statement from Papa John’s Pizza:

Now, I have eaten Papa John’s pizza. I have also eaten various other pizzas, including in Italy, including in Naples. And I’ve eaten mozzarella. Which is as completely different a beast from ”crafted from 100% mozzarella and high-quality milk by one of America’s finest cheese producers” as, well, Papa John’s pizza is from an Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana-certified pizza. To be fair, PJ’s training is probably a bit different from this, too.

4 comments

  1. Selestina Masson

    Hello there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a outstanding job!

    • gingerama

      YOU, SIR, ARE THE WINNER OF THIS WEEK’S GRAND PRIZE IN THE SPAM-OF-THE-MONTH COMPETITION!
      CONGRATULATIONS!!
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  2. beautyrevolution

    I have been purchasing and selling cold-pressed organic rosehip oil for a few years now – without an antioxidant. The shelf-life is easily 2 years or more. This is a very stable oil but I’m interested in your sources for information because you’re not the only one stating poor shelf-life online. Do you have some academic studies to refer to?

    • gingerama

      Quick answer / guess: much is surely down to the age of the oil and storage and transport. My guess is that I’ve been unlucky (others too) and that the best move would be to order from good suppliers with a guarantee of fresh supplies. Given how long an oil can take to move from, say, Chile to the USA even before it goes through temperature variations in air travel in the last, mailing, stage of its journey.
      But I’ll also check; my very rough and ready answer would be that it’s to do with the oil containing a lot of shorter carbon-chain fatty acids (C16 and less), which make an oil inherently less stable. As compared to an oil consisting mainly or exclusively of long-chain fatty acids, like meadowfoam seed oil (C20, 22, etc.). You’ll find that in standard organic chemistry and specialist cosmetic chemistry textbooks, amongst other sources; they in turn usually refer back to experimental data.
      That having been said: shelf-life is going to vary with environmental conditions, and from crop to crop and batch to batch (with the added variable of an oil’s chemical content varying from year to year, crop to crop, etc.; as with any other harvested plant). This could range from lasting days or weeks before going rancid, to even more than your two years.
      Conclusion: if you’re managing to produce rose hip seed oil with a guaranteed shelf-life of two years, that’s fantastic!

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