Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Camellia oil

Camellia oil, known as "tea oil" or "tea seed oil" (INCI: Camellia sinensis seed oil), is a light, non-greasy, really affordable oil filled with oleic acid, polyphenols, and vitamins! It is generally cold pressed and comes from the seed of the tea plant, not the leaves. You can even cook with it (the smoke point is 485F)! But don't confuse it with tea tree oil - they aren't even remotely the same thing.

Camellia oil is different from different suppliers. Some suppliers advertise their camellia oil is high oleic - 79% or higher - and some advertise it is well balanced between oleic and linoleic fatty acids - 42% and 36% respectively. This will affect the shelf life of your oil - between 18 to 24 months - so ask your supplier which oil you are purchasing from them. I am going to work with the figures from my supplier, which is a high oleic version.

Camellia oil contains 8% palmitic acid (C16), 2% stearic acid (C18), 79% oleic acid (C18:1), and 7% linoleic acid (C18:2). The oleic acid contained in camellia oil is as high or higher than olive oil (up to 83%) and avocado oil (up to 80%) without being as heavy an oil as those others. Camellia oil offers all the great stuff we want from oleic acid - it is well absorbed by the skin, offering softening, moisturizing, and regenerating properties, and it offers anti-inflammatory benefits. Considering using it where you use olive oil but want a lighter lotion or product!

Camellia oil contains a lot of polyphenols in the form of tannins and catechins. The catechins offer antibiotic properties and research into green tea polyphenols is showing some promise in preventing UV related skin damage (although preliminary studies show that camellia oil doesn't seem to have a suppressive effect on skin cancer induced on mice). The tannins in camellia oil make it an astringent oil with a dry feel, so it's good for hair care products or other creations where you want a light, dry feel.

Although camellia sinensis contains caffeine, it's a water soluble alkaloid we don't find in the oil. We do, however, find it in green tea extract (more about this amazingly cool extract in a while!)

You'll want to use camellia oil at up to 10% in your creations. You can use it at higher levels, even neat on your nails and hair, but this will impart a drier feeling to your products. It has a 12 to 24 month shelf life - check with your supplier - if you keep it in a cool, dark place. It is absorbed well by your skin, is non-tacky, and is a good addition to a massage oil. I like it in manicure and hair care products.

I have to admit, I found researching this oil really frustrating. Everyone is passing on the same information as if it were gospel - it's high in Vitamin E and phytosterols - with no numbers or studies cited. Stated that it has been used in Asia for centuries - Japanese people have been using this oil for centuries, Sumo wrestlers use it on their hair, the most beautiful women in China use it - means nothing. The touch of a monarch was thought to cure scrofula - but then again, have you ever met anyone diagnosed with this? So it must work!

Camellia oil WILL NOT make your hair or nails grow faster. No oils can do this. It can, however, make your nails and hair feel very nice!


ObsidianCat said...

I like your scepticism and judiciousness!

Anonymous said...

what is the HLB of cameilia oil?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Great question! I can't find the HLB, but the odds are good it is around 7 as most oils are around 7 (okay, there are exceptions, but camellia oil is a pretty basic kind of oil). So if you think of it as 7, you should be fine!

Evik said...

Dear Susan,

first, thanks for this interesting post! Again I was thinking and went searching some scientific papers. And found out that there are at least three types of Camellias: sinensis, oleifera and japanica (http://thetatteredteddy.com/bathandbody/body-oils/camellia-plant-differences.html).

Why do I mention it - because I found a paper suggesting the oil from the latter (C. japonica) to be used as wrinkle reducing candidate for topical application:

Jung E. et al. Effect of Camellia japonica oil on human type I procollagen production and skin barrier function. Journal of Ethnopharmacology Volume 112, Issue 1, 30 May 2007, Pages 127–131


Might be of interest?

Cecia said...

Hi, thank you for your posts! Would you tell me where I can buy camellia oil, please. Thanks again!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Cecia. Take a look at the FAQ for a list of suppliers grouped according to country. You should find someone there!

So Rad - Whoot! said...

Hi Susan! Great blog:) I'm wondering if you can help - I'm looking for a comedogenicity chart for all oils. Do you know where I can find this? I have searched the web and I find some, some with different ratings, but is there an official chart or something? Sorry if I have missed it on your blog., I checked your oils comparison chart too. I'm finding it hard to find the rating for Rice Bran Oil. Any help is much appreciated!
(I am researching oils for a facial serum for myself for pigmented, uneven tone and aging skin that has been breaking out lately!) Thanks:)

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan! Sorry for the anonymous comment... Japanese notes Camellia oil for Softer hair.. But they're pertaining about Camellia Japonica Oil and not the Sinensis kind. I've tried both and the Camellia Japonica is truly superior than the Sinensis one. Thanks! :)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Thanks for the comment. You know, you can just sign off with your name - any name at all - instead of leaving it without a name. I have a very strong policy on this because anonymity can breed a community of rudeness!

Daniel said...

Hi There,

I realize this post is from 2009. Hopefully, you can still help. I have been trying to identify the differences between the Three types of Tea Seed Oil. Sinesis, Oleferia and Japonica. I want a food grade product that I can cook with, but also want to be able to use it on my hair, skin and finally sharpening knives (this is one of the traditions of Japan). What I can't seem to find is a comparison of the three products. Japonica is for hair and knives but can you eat it? Sinesis is for food but never seems to be available for eating and Oleferia is available for food but how does it work for hair and knives? Maybe I'm expecting too much but I'd just like to buy the best for all three applications with a strong understanding of the product. Can you provide any resources that may talk about their applications and why Oleferia seems to dominate the food market vs Sinesis (the original plant)?
Thanks for your help!!


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Daniel. As I write in the post above, sinesis is used for cosmetic products and eating. I'm afraid I don't have time to do all that research, but sounds like you're in for some Googling fun!

sunshay said...


I am researching a substitute for almond oil in a lip balm recipe. Do you have any ideas? Thanks!


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Sunshay! Check out the emollients section on the blog and look at the post on almond oil, then compare it to other oils. I have created a chart to make the comparison easier! As a thought, there are a few different ways to compare oils. What is important in almond oil that you are trying to find in another oil?