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Sunflower Seed Oil & Safflower Oil Benefits - High Linoleic Oils, Low Oleic

Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil

Throughout this page I refer to High Linoleic (HL) Sunflower as being effective for skin and not today's common High Oleic Sunflower. There is a major difference, especially when it comes to infant and pre-term infant massage. Almost all articles on the web are talking of the benefits of Sunflower and Safflower oils refer to the nature's high Linoleic variety, not today's modified high Oleic oil.

Both HL Sunflower oil and HL Safflower oil are high in polyunsaturated fats and through studies show to be beneficial to our bodies in many ways. High Oleic oils are high in saturated fats and while our bodies produce oleic, applying them to skin can be too much and cause havoc; dry skin, breakouts, allergic reactions, rashes, eczema, dermatitis, etc.

Each oil offers many benefits for skin, for adults and for pre-term infants.

Almost all of the Sunflower grown today are plants that have been genetically modified to be high Oleic and low Linoleic, to give the oil a longer shelf life on store shelves. When found in supermarkets and health food stores, Sunflower oil is almost always high Oleic Sunflower Oil.

In my newly added Infant Message Oil, I provide higher Linolenic and Linoleic (omega 3 & 6) essential fatty acid oils, having a low Oleic (omega 9) acid content.

Sunflower oil also contains lecithin, carotenoids, and a high Vitamin E content.

For infant massage, click here.


Unlike many botanical oils, Sunflower and Safflower oils easily absorb into skin. Both are rich in monounsaturated fat and high in antioxidants, particularly the antioxidants vitamins A, C and E which are known to help prevent free radical damage to skin that can contribute to premature aging.

  • Mid Oleic Sunflower contains between  45% to 60% Linoleic (LA) (Omega 6) fatty acid, a polyunsaturated ω-6 fatty acid, and between 26% and 39% Oleic (Omega 9) acid.
  • High Oleic Sunflower oil is one of the highest Oleic (monounsaturated) acid oils of all plant oils, with about 82% Oleic acid.

Both oils are clear light honey colored oils with a bland odor and taste. They are naturally rich in vitamin E (Tocopherol) providing about 55.8 mg per 100 grams, and is low in saturated fat.

Sunflower oil provides more Vitamin E (55.8 mg per 100 g) than any other vegetable oil, with at least 85% oleic acid. Also, plant oils normally have more Gamma-Tocopherol then Alpha-Tocopherol, which many are sensitive to. Most Vitamin E added to products independently and most Vitamin E supplements are made of Alpha-Tocopherol.

dot D-Alpha Tocopherol is natural Vitamin E, whereas DL-Alpha is synthetic Vitamin E. Although DL-Alpha Vit E is cheaper, the human body does not absorb it as well, or as much, as natural Vitamin E. The same holds true or Tocopherol Acetate.

Research shows Linoleic Sunflower oil provides a very light protective barrier that helps resist skin infections, and keeps away bacteria.

dot Linoleic Sunflower is difficult to source. See more below, in Infant Massage.

Linoleic Sunflower oil is easily absorbed and is conditioning to skin and hair. With smoothing properties this oil is beneficial for both dry and oily complexions, irritated skin, problem skin, and aging skin. It conditions skin without leaving an oily layer on the skin.

With a light texture, Sunflower oil is very pleasant to use on skin. With a rich mixture of vitamins and other natural substances high Oleic sunflower oil has wonderful healing properties, and is referred to as non-comedogenic, meaning it will not clog pores that causes blemishes or pimples to form. It is very good if traditional acne remedies have failed.

Sunflower oil is a combination of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats with low saturated fat levels and in comparison to other nuts and foods high in these compounds, sunflower contains high levels of vitamin E (Gamma tocopherol), betaine, phenolic acids, and choline. In addition, this oil is a good source of arginine and lignans compared to some nut oils. Each of these compounds has been studied by the scientific community and shown to offer a variety of health benefits.

Phytochemicals are natural astringents, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents and have been used for centuries to treat acne and other common mild to severe skin disorders. Its use is safe and does not cause any side effect. Clogged pores restrict the sebum resulting in whiteheads and blackheads. Phytochemicals help unclog the pores to ensure continuous and uninterrupted sebum discharge from the skin.

Phytochemicals prevalent in Sunflower oil and their benefits

  • Phenolic acids (chlorogenic acid), Antioxidant and Anti-carcinogen
  • Vitamin E (tocopherols), may protect against cardiovascular disease
  • Betaine, may protect against cardiovascular disease
  • Choline, plays a role in memory and cognitive function
  • Arginine, potential heart benefits
  • Lignans, may protect against heart disease and some cancers; lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Infant Massage -

    Why Olive oil should be avoided for infants, pre-term and full-term, and infant massage:

    Infant massage itself benefits neonates in many ways, and strengthens the bond between infant and parent. This alone has shown to help prevent "failure to thrive". For infants, pre-term and full term, an oil low in Oleic (Omega 9) is recommended as it protects and strengthens the skin barrier.

    High Linoleic Safflower and Mid Oleic Sunflower oils are ideal choices for infant massage. In their natural state both oils were high Linoleic and low Oleic. Unfortunately much of the Safflower and Sunflower grown today have been modified to be high Oleic. Oleic acid provides a longer shelf life for store shelves. Finding these two oil High in Linoleic fatty acids in local grocery or health food stores is very difficult. Most, if not all, carry high Oleic oils for the longer shelf life. Also, some oils found in stores are not pure, many are adulterated with lesser quality oils.

    When purchasing these oils at your local grocery store, check the nutrition label to view the Monounsaturated fatty acid (Oleic, Omega 9) and the Polyunsaturated fatty acid (Linoleic, Omega 6) contents. You want the Polyunsaturated content the highest, between 45% to 60% . More than likely the oil you find will be high Oleic having a higher Monounsaturated fatty acid content.

    Olive oil vs Linoleic Sunflower oil

    The study below was based on Linoleic Sunflower oil, not today's Oleic Sunflower oil. All studies I find today are based on nature's Linoleic varities of Sunflower and Safflower oil with many studies having been carried out prior to the influx of today's modified Sunflower and Safflower oil.

    "In studies conducted on human volunteers, topical application of olive oil for 4 weeks caused a significant reduction in stratum corneum integrity and induced mild erythema in volunteers with and without a history of atopic dermatitis. Sunflower seed oil preserved stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the epidermis) integrity, did not cause erythema, and improved hydration in the same volunteers. In contrast to sunflower seed oil, topical treatment with olive oil significantly damages the skin barrier, and therefore has the potential to promote the development of, and exacerbate existing, atopic dermatitis. The use of olive oil for the treatment of dry skin and infant massage should therefore be discouraged."

    (Reference: Pediatr Dermatol. 2012 Sep 20., Academic Unit of Dermatology Research, Department of Infection and Immunity, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health, University of Sheffield Medical School, Sheffield, UK.,
    PMID: 22995032)

    Infants and Children, Infant Massage:

    Linoleic Sunflower oil is protecting to an infants tender skin and their skin barrier, helping to protect them from skin infections and bacterial infection, and helps against diaper rash caused by the acidity of body wastes.

    Many studies using high Linoleic Sunflower oil have been conducted involving premature and low birth weight infants who are often susceptible to infection due to their underdeveloped skin. The studies determined that infants receiving a daily skin treatment of high Linoleic Sunflower oil were 41% less likely to develop infections in hospital and that the babies had steady weight gain.

    dot Data suggests that topical application of linoleate-enriched oil such as Sunflower seed oil (not High Oleic Sunflower oil), and also Linoleic Safflower, helps to enhance skin barrier function and improve the outcome in neonates with compromised barrier function.

    dot Mineral oil, used in many common Baby Oils, is derived from petroleum and is not recommended for infants.

    dot Mustard oil which is used routinely in newborn care throughout South Asia, also should not be used, it has shown to have toxic effects on the epidermal barrier.
    (source PubMed)

    Through studies conducted on pre-term infants, oil massage [using Linoleic Sunflower oil) has shown a decrease in the mortality rate of premature infants.
    (Reference: Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2004 Aug;23(8):719-25., Department of International Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA)

    Oil massage for newborns is reported to improve weight gain by better thermoregulation. Studies show massaging premature infants demonstrated enhanced weight gain and an increase in body length. Application of oils through massage on pre-term babies resulted in enhanced weight gain and neurological development, and a shorter stay in the hospital.
    (source PubMed)

    The application of oils through massage to pre-term babies resulted in enhanced weight gain and neurological development, a shorter stay in the hospital, and less weight loss in the first 7 days of life in low birth weight neonates.
    (source PubMed) and (source PubMed)

    Shelf Life:

    High Linoleic Sunflower and Safflower oil have a shelf life of 1 year when properly stored, kept cool and sealed tight, keeping the oil away from heat and light. Both oils should be refrigerated to extend the shelf life. When refrigerated, warm the amount needed to room temperature before applying as a massage oil to infants.

    High Oleic Sunflower oil has a shelf life of 2 years when properly stored; kept away from heat and light.

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    All information on this page is copyright protected by Urban Chaos and may not be used or distributed without our written permission and a link back to this page if used in a website. Please contact us for permission and for any questions.


    The information on this page is based partly on traditional medicine which utilizes natural materials to support health, and has not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This product is intended to support general well being and is not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure any condition or disease. We do not offer medical advise.  If you have any medical conditions please seek advice from your medical doctor.

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