Rose hip oil, or rose hip seed oil, is an inedible carrier oil obtained from the seeds of rose hips, the fruit of the rose plant. It is not the same thing as rose oil, which is an essential oil obtained from rose flower petals. The uses of rose hip oil are mostly cosmetic, being a preferred choice for both hair and skincare among those looking for a readily available, light, organic carrier oil. Rose hip oil is a great source of pro-vitamin A carotenes such as beta-carotene and vitamin E and has moisturizing, anti-aging and regenerative properties. It is hydrating, absorbed fast into the skin and non-irritating.
What is rose hip oil?
Rose hip oil is oil made from rose hips, more exactly, rose hips seeds. The rose hip is the fruit of the rose plant, also called a rose hep, a haw or simply a hip. It is a small, oval or roundish, bright red fruit with a black tuft at the end opposite to the stem, and filled with tiny, pointy, cream-colored seeds. There are actually more seeds in rose hips than pulp. While edible, the fruits are not particularly palatable, which is why the pulp is are either used for jam or dried and ground for making vitamin C supplements, while the seeds are used for making rose hip oil, also called rose hip seed oil. Rose hip (seed) oil is not used as an edible oil. Also, it can be made from the seeds of any rose species, more commonly Rosa canina, Rosa moschata or Rosa rubiginosa.
Rose hip seed oil vs rose hip oil vs rose oil
Is there a difference between rose hip seed oil, rose hip oil and rose oil? Actually, there is. Rose hip seed oil is oil made exclusively from rose hip seeds. Rose hip oil usually also refers to oil made exclusively from rose hip seeds, but may refer to oil made from whole rose hips too (so both seeds and pulp). While the seeds are the source rose hip oil, it is time consuming to remove them from the fruits prior to the oil extraction, which is why rose hips are often crushed whole. While crushing the fruits whole does serve the purpose of reducing manufacturing costs, the resulting rose hip oil is less concentrated than rose hip seed oil. Lastly, rose oil is an oil made from roses and it is obtained by crushing the flower petals. Rose oil is also pleasantly scented, whereas rose hip oil has a slightly earthy, oily odor to it rather than an actual fragrance.
Is rose hip a carrier or essential oil?
Rose hip oil is labeled as both a carrier oil and an essential oil by different sources. But rose hip seed oil is, in fact, a carrier oil. The reasons why rose hip seed oil is considered to be more of a carrier than an essential oil include:
- It is obtained from the seeds of rose hips, versus rose oil which is obtained from rose petals, rosemary oils which is obtained from rosemary flowers or eucalyptus oils which is obtained from eucalyptus leaves.
- It is (supposed to be) extracted through cold pressing, a mechanical, no-heat process used to extract most base or carrier oils that involves crushing the seed to release the oils in them. This is the same process used for edible vegetable oils such as extravirgin olive oil. By comparison, fragrant essential oils such as rose oil and eucalyptus oil are more commonly obtained through distillation.
- It is high in fatty acids, basically oils such as Omega 6 and Omega 9, but also Omega-3. By comparison, rose and other essential oils are rich in volatile and aromatic organic compounds, aka essential oils, that give them their particular scent or fragrance.
- Rose hip oil has a faint earthy, oily odor, but no actual perfume, a characteristic of most carrier oils. Versus rose oil which is perfumed as a result of a high content of volatile and aromatic organic compounds.
- The final argument in favor of rose hip oil being a carrier and not an essential oil is its use: rose hip oil is used as a carrier oil, to dilute other essential oils. Rose hip oil does not evaporate soon after it reaches the skin, but essential oils do, hence the need to mix them with carriers.
Fatty acids in rose hip seed oil
Here is the fatty acids composition of rose hip seed oil:
- Linoleic acid or Omega-6, a polyunsaturated fatty acid
- Alpha-linolenic acid, a polyunsaturated Omega-3 fatty acid, a form specific to plant sources (also found in olive oil)
- Palmitic acid, a saturated fatty acid
- Stearic acid, a saturated fatty acid
Rose hip seed oil is highest in linoleic acid (47-49%), followed by alpha-linolenic acid (33-40%), palmitic acid (3-5%) and stearic acid (2.5-2.9%).
Vitamins and antioxidants in rose hip seed oil: vitamin A in the form of carotenoid antioxidants with vitamin A activity (best represented by beta-carotene), vitamin E, bioflavonoids and other polyphenols.
*Note: rose hip seed oil does not contain retinol, which is a form of vitamin A found in animal foods such as liver, butter, fish oil and eggs.
Rose hip (seed) oil benefits
- Moisturizing action thanks to a high unsaturated and saturated fatty acids and vitamin E content.
- Helps maintain optimal levels of skin hydration thanks to vitamin E which is incorporated into cell membranes, helping skin cells better retain moisture.
- Emollient properties – softens the skin and soothes irritation thanks to fatty acids and vitamin E.
- Anti-aging properties from pro-vitamin A carotenoids, vitamin E and fatty acids – for example, vitamin A helps with skin cell repair, while vitamin E is incorporated into cell membranes, reducing free radical damage that causes premature skin aging.
- Regenerative properties thanks to vitamin A which helps differentiate skin cells at maturity and vitamin E which acts as a free radical scavenger and both reduces cellular damage to skin and promotes skin damage repair.
- Potential benefits for acne thanks to the higher content of linoleic acid (Omega-6) which, according to studies, may help break up microcomedones and open pores, preventing acne breakouts in some instances.
- Potential benefits for hyperpigmentation: consistent use of rose hip seed oil is reported to help improve the appearance of dark spots thanks to its pro-vitamin A antioxidants content.
- Reduces redness and possibly also new scarring thanks to content of linoleic, linolenic and oleic fatty acids and vitamin E which become incorporated into cell membranes and may direct the healing process.
- Good for oily skin. Rose hip oil is lighter and doesn’t make oily skin feel even oilier. Instead, it creates a light oily barrier over clean skin and helps trap moisture in, contributing to a smoother feel and better hydration.
- Benefits for hair: using rose hip oil for hair care helps nourish dry, brittle hair and reduce breakage, while keeping hair flexible.
- Low in fragrant volatile and aromatic organic compounds and high in fatty acids, it is usually gentle on the skin and non-irritant.
- Great carrier oil to dilute various essential oils for use on the face or rest of the skin. Also see the benefits of rose hip fruits.
Rose hip (seed) oil side effects
While there are studies that show using high linoleic acid (Omega-6) carrier oils such as rose hip seed oil for skin care can help reduce and prevent acne breakouts, it is important to note that this is not a universal treatment for all types of acne. Some people find rose hip seed oil is comedogenic, a side effect that causes it to encourage acne breakouts, in which case it is best avoided.
How to use rose hip oil
Rose hip uses for face:
- Massage a few drops of rose hip oil onto a clean face to moisturize and soften the skin.
- Use rose hip oil as a serum and apply it to sensitive or especially dry areas of the face or areas with visible wrinkles.
- Mix a few drops of the oil in your face cream for extra hydration and added antioxidant benefits.
- Use on portions of dry skin, red spots and inflamed areas only to hydrate and speed healing.
Rose hip oil uses for scarring, spots and acne:
- While it is in no way a universal treatment for dark spots, acne or scars, it is reported that rose hip oil produces effects only with long-term use. Users report the oil works best when used 1-2 times a day for a minimum of 1-3 months or, ideally 6 months to a year.
How to choose the best rose hip oil
If you are wondering how to choose the best rose hip oil, I have a few pointers that can help you:
- First of all, go for rose hip SEED oil. If it’s specified that it’s seed oil, then it’s likely rose hip oil of the highest purity.
- Second, always choose COLD PRESSED. Cold-pressed rose hip (seed) oil is made by extracting the natural oils in the seeds mechanically, without heat (usually by crushing the seeds). Extracting the oil using heat or solvents will likely affect the properties of the natural oils in the seeds, potentially reducing the oil’s quality.
- Thirdly, choose ORGANIC. Organic rose hip (seed) oil is obtained from rose hips (seeds) grown as naturally as possible. More often than not, organic rose hip seed oil comes from wild-sourced rose hips, not cultivated. This is because wild rose plants are not only widely spread, but also highly invasive, so it’s simply more cost-effective to pick the fruits from naturally-occurring plants. In any case, check the label to make sure.
- Make sure the oil comes in a DARK GLASS BOTTLE. Protecting rose hip oil from light, air and heat helps preserve its properties for longer. This is why it’s advised to keep the oil in a dark glass bottle, sealed, and away from heat.
- Consider OIL COLOR. Rose hip oil should be lightly colored, a light amber color with maybe an orange tint.
- Consider the EXPIRATION DATE. It’s always a good idea to check the label and see when a product was manufactured and when it’s set to expire. An oil that is getting close to its expiration date may have lost some of its properties. The main worry is that you can’t know how well it’s been stored since it was produced.
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