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Combating Acne with Evening Primrose Oil

By Megan Griffith

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jaggi Rao,
MD, FRCPC Double board-certified dermatologist

Acne is a problem that millions of people deal with all around the globe. Its causes range from genetics to stress to hormonal troubles. While there are all kinds of treatments available for this sort of skin issue, plant-based solutions remain one of the most sought-after options. One such product is evening primrose oil. Evening primrose oil has become increasingly popular as an acne-fighting remedy for skin problems. It is thus becoming more widely available and can even be found in smaller neighborhood health and wellness shops. But what is evening primrose oil and how can it be employed to defeat acne?

The abundance of Omega-6 fatty acids in evening primrose help to adjust the amounts of particular hormones in your body, adjusting your tendency toward acne, too.

The Benefits of Evening Primrose Oil for Hormonal Acne

This plant-based substance is a health supplement which may be used as a food additive or applied directly to the skin in the form of oil. There are several ways in which evening primrose can become an ally in the battle with skin issues. The most significant characteristic of evening primrose is that it is an excellent manager of hormones. This means that it can help with hormonal imbalances which cause acne – thus targeting the root of the problem. How does it work? The abundance of Omega-6 fatty acids in evening primrose1 help to adjust the amounts of particular hormones in your body, adjusting your tendency toward acne, too.

How can you tell if your kind of skin problem is related to a hormonal instability? The answer is often more simple than you think. Certain stages of your life make you more prone to hormone-related acne. These include but are not limited to pregnancy or menopause, as well as good, old puberty. However, sometimes a different kind of hormonal imbalance could be at play. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal condition that may also result in increased acne. Other signs of PCOS include painful periods, abnormal excessive hair growth, and fatigue. If you think that your breakouts may be caused by hormonal inconsistencies2, then it is best to pay a visit to your doctor for a check-up.

How Evening Primrose Oil Fights Inflammation and Clogged Pores

The Omega-6 fatty acids in evening primrose oil are also excellent for battling inflammation3. Acne is technically caused by an inflammation of the skin, which makes this essential oil a great tool for preventing acne from forming in the first place. What makes this possible is the gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) ingredient which is found in Omega-6. This component is already present in your body, but may sometimes be at a lower level. Because evening primrose oil provides you with additional GLA4, it can successfully combat skin irritation. Not only can evening primrose get rid of any visible redness that you may experience, but it can also make your skin feel better overall.

Evening primrose is also particularly helpful with helping your cells rebuild and rejuvenate themselves. As acne is often caused by clogged pores5, evening primrose oil aids in the rehabilitation of cells, leading your body to shed dead skin cells at a slower rate. This way, the surface of your skin ends up unclogged, free to breathe, and less likely to produce acne. Indeed, evening primrose helps with the general refreshing of the skin. It can thus even assist you on your quest to ridding yourself of old acne scars. Sounds good to us!

Are There Any Drawbacks?

While the benefits of this substance are quite obvious, there is also one main drawback: it can sometimes cause irritation. Of course, this largely depends on your specific type of complexion, the current state of your skin, etc. Sensitive skin is more likely to be irritated by evening primrose oil, and if you’ve had negative reactions to other essential oils in the past, we encourage you to be cautious with this one. To avoid this problem, you can try ingesting evening primrose oil as a food supplement, which makes topical irritation far less likely. If you do happen to feel additionally inflamed after using evening primrose oil in any way, then stop treatment immediately and continue to look for another solution.

How to Use Evening Primrose Oil for Acne

In the case that you have decided to give evening primrose oil a try, then it is time to learn how to use it. There are various ways in which you can employ this substance in your fight against acne. First and foremost, it is important that the evening primrose oil that you use is as pure as possible. Buying the substance from a supermarket or a drugstore may not be enough. You might need to opt for an actual store which solely focuses on health and beauty. Another option is to seek out the product online, which might ensure that you truly find exactly what you are looking for, though you’ll want to keep an eye out for scams.

Indeed, the most potent form of evening primrose oil is its dietary supplement form. This is of particular help when combating acne caused by hormonal imbalances. If you have hormonal acne, ingesting this plant as a supplement6 can help fight the core of the problem, rather than applying the plant topically and merely fighting the visible symptoms. Moreover, as hormonal inconsistencies usually lead to various symptoms, in addition to acne, the direct intake of the supplement form of evening primrose oil can help with those other symptoms as well.

If your acne isn’t hormonal, you can still give evening primrose oil a try. Simply apply a few drops of the oil directly to the affected areas three times per day. This will help clear up breakouts, plus it can help with the skin hydration7 that is vital to freeing your skin from acne. Just apply a topical moisturizer to the affected areas and use the oil right after. The result is deep hydration that remains locked into the skin long after application.

References:

  1. Bayles B., Usatine R. Evening primrose oil. American Family Physician. 2009;80(12):1405-1408.
  2. Elsaie M. Hormonal treatment of acne vulgaris: an update. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. 2016;9:241-248.
  3. Granica S., Czerwińska M.E., Piwowarski J.P., Ziaja M., Kiss A.K. Chemical composition, antioxidative and anti-inflammatory activity of extracts prepared from aerial parts of Oenothera biennis L. and Oenothera paradoxa Hudziok obtained after seeds cultivation. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2013;61(4):801-810.
  4. Muggli R. Systemic evening primrose oil improves the biophysical skin parameters of healthy adults. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2005;27(4):243-249.
  5. Acne: Overview. Informed Health Online, Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. 2016.
  6. Timoszuk M., Bielawska K., Skrzydlewska E. Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) biological activity dependent on chemical composition. Antioxidants (Basel). 2018;7(8):108.
  7. Park K.Y., Ko E.J., Kim I.S., Li K., Kim B.J., Seo S.J., Kim M.N., Hong C.K. The effect of evening primrose oil for the prevention of xerotic cheilitis in acne patients being treated with isotretinoin: a pilot study. Annals of Dermatology. 2014;26(6)706-12.
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