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Anti-inflammatory, hydrating, increases ceramide 1 production

Important Chemical Components:

Linoleic acid

Oleic acid

Palmitic acid

Arachidonic acid (trace amounts)


Origin Classification:

This ingredient is considered natural. Organic forms are available.

Personal Care Category:

Occlusive, barrier repair

Recommended for the following Baumann Skin Types:

It is useful in dry and inflamed skin types (S2, S3, S4) but should not be used in S1 (acne type) sensitive skin. Best for DRNT, DRPT, DRNW, DRPW, DSNT, DSPT, DSNW, and DSNT.


Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) is a thistle-like annual plant with many branches that belongs to the Asteraceae or Compositae family. Plants range in height from 1 to almost 5 feet with yellow, orange, or red flowers. Safflower oil is obtained by pressing the seeds of the plant. The fatty acid composition of safflower oil can be experimentally manipulated and varies depending on the geographical location of the plants.2


Safflower is one of the oldest cultivated crops, its use dating back 4,000 years to ancient Egypt, though its native country is not known.3,4 The plant was traditionally grown for its seeds, which were used in foods and folk medicine. The plant is now globally cultivated, in regions with long dry seasons, for its vegetable oil. The oil has been found to exert notable health benefits when consumed through the diet and also when used in topical formulations. The flower of C. tinctorius has been used for laxative and diaphoretic purposes as well as for skin eruptions, fevers, and measles in children.3 In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), C. tinctorius has been associated with uterostimulant activity.5 In addition, there is a lengthy history of safflower seed use in the clinical setting in Korea to prevent osteoporosis, to foster bone development, and to treat rheumatism.6


Linoleic acid (LA) is a primary constituent of safflower seeds and the ingredient typically cited for providing its cutaneous benefits (Table 15-1). In fact, safflower oil is one of the richest sources of LA, which is essential for the endogenous production of ceramides, important components of the epidermal layer that play a crucial role in barrier function and cutaneous water retention. LA is not produced by the body and, therefore, must be obtained through the diet. LA applied to skin has been shown to strengthen the skin barrier and lower transepidermal water loss.7

TABLE 15-1Pros and Cons of Safflower Oil

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