Sunflower oil is a fantastic oil if you are looking for a high linoleic acid oil. It's light, meaning you can make some very light moisturizers containing great ingredients, and it's inexpensive. It has a shelf life of up to 6 months, one year for the high oleic acid version. (More about this below.)
Its fatty acid make up is...
5 to 7% palmitic acid (saturated, C16)
3 to 6% stearic acid (saturated, C18)
16 to 36% oleic acid (unsaturated, C18:1)
61 to 73% linoleic acid (unsaturated, C18:2)
It can contain up to 700 mg per kg Vitamin E, 500 mg in the form of the alpha tocopherol and 100 mg in the gamma tocopherol. It contains between 3000 to 4500 ppm phytosterols like sitosterol and campesterol, which help reduce inflammation and itching, and can reduce transepidermal water loss.
Unfortunately, with all those double bonds in the linoleic acid, it doesn't have a long shelf life - 3 to 6 months. The high levels of Vitamin E help with oxidation, but not enough to overcome the double bonds. With these high levels of Vitamin E, you're going to get the goodness offered by the vitamin - softening of the skin, alleviation of dry skin, the usual retention of water, plus anti-inflammatory benefits!
Ceramides are essential for the normal organization of our tissues into structures that are responsible for keeping the barrier function of the skin functioning well, like preventing transepidermal water loss and keeping other things out. They are found in our skin at about 50% by mass. The other components of our skin are fatty acids (10 to 20% by mass) and cholesterol (about 25%). A decrease in ceramides - through aging, exposure to high or low temperatures - can lead to dry skin and itchiness due to a decrease in the efficacy of the stratum corneum's ability to keep water in and other things out. During the winter, a proportion of our ceramide 1 linoleate (acylceramide) decreases, and this can lead to dry and itchy skin. During the summer, our skin has increased levels of palmitic and palmitoleic fatty acids. And people with atopic dermatitis and acne show reduced levels of linoleic acid in their skin.
Studies have shown linoleic acid can restore the barrier function and reduce scaling on your skin. One study showed using linoleic acid on people with acne reduced the pustule size by 25% in one month. It can act as an anti-inflammatory, acne reducer, and moisture retainer.
Oleic acid is not considered an essential fatty acid because our bodies produce it. Although oleic acid is actually found in our human sebum - you'll probably see jojoba and olive oil touted as being very close to sebum as a selling point - it can actually make the effects of the bacteria responsible for some types of acne (P. acnes) worse!
It's not considered a comedogenic oil, so it is good for facial lotions. Not only is it light, but it is also thought to help with acne! (I definitely recommend it for acne - it makes your skin feel moisturized and very soft!)
The skin feel of sunflower oil is light and greasy, which isn't a bonus if you like your products to be less greasy feeling. However, if you're accustomed to store bought products with mineral oil, it's still less greasy feeling than that.
Join me tomorrow as we embark on making our first product, a body oil with sunflower oil. If you simply can't wait that long, take a look at some products we've made in the past...
Facial moisturizer with sunflower oil
Oil based make-up remover
Linoleic acid: Lotion bars
Formulating with oils: Solid scrub bars
Weekend Wonderings: How can we make a nice body oil from an oil cleansing method oil?
Duplicating products: Korres 3 in 1 cleansing emulsion
Newbie Tuesday: Testing the skin feel of our oils