(Back to Basics)

If Your Moisture Barrier Is Damaged, This Under-The-Radar Oil Can Help

Meet your new hero ingredient.

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Skincare products containing Tamanu oil that improves the moisture barrier
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With new products, brands, and categories popping up every day, beauty can be a bit overwhelming. Back to Basics is our rudimentary beauty series that serves as your crash course on the science behind some of the best formulations in the game. This week, we’re taking a look at tamanu oil for your skin.

It’s crazy to think that the term “moisture barrier” once meant very little to the general public. Now, it’s the subject of intense scrutiny by skin care enthusiasts everywhere. People are slugging, cutting back on exfoliation, and opting for emollient-rich creams all in an effort to help their skin retain moisture and defend against environmental aggressors. The modern skin care mantra, it seems, is to use soothing, barrier-supporting products only.

It’s no wonder, then, that brands are starting to incorporate more moisture barrier-friendly ingredients into their product line-ups. One of those ingredients is an under-the-radar oil that offers potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to the skin, along with an intense hit of moisture. It’s called tamanu oil, and it’s low-key incredible for moisture barrier repair and maintenance. Ahead, learn all about tamanu oil and what it can do for your skin — plus the best products to shop.

What Is Tamanu Oil?

According to Dr. Brendan Camp, board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology, “Tamanu oil is a plant-derived oil that is extracted from seeds of the tamanu nut tree, which is an evergreen that grows in Southeast Asia.” Just don’t expect to see the words “tamanu oil” listed on ingredient labels. Dr. Camp says it may be listed as “Calophyllum inophyllum seed oil” instead.

On its own, tamanu oil has a rich, nutty scent and a greenish-yellow appearance. Some people love the scent — others, not so much. However, if you do like it and you commit to using the oil, there are a whole host of incredible skin benefits.

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What Are The Skin Benefits of Tamanu Oil?

This ingredient is something of a jack of all trades when it comes to your skin. Take it from Dr. Geeta Yadav, board-certified dermatologist and founder of FACET Dermatology. “Like most plant-derived oils, it’s rich in fatty acids, which are essential to the healthy function of your skin barrier,” she says. “The fatty acids help your skin seal in moisture and prevent transepidermal water loss, leaving your complexion nourished and glowing.”

As if that’s not reason enough to try it (especially for anyone who struggles with dry skin and wants to repair a damaged barrier), Dr. Yadav says it also functions as an antioxidant. That means it helps the skin fight free radical activity that causes premature signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and skin laxity. “Studies also show that it offers anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial benefits in addition to demonstrating collagen-building properties, making this a great pick for anyone with inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and even acne,” she says. “Inflammatory skin conditions can cause collagen to break down faster; using tamanu oil could help counteract these effects.”

Who Should Use Tamanu Oil?

Since it’s so moisturizing (as most plant oils are), tamanu oil can majorly benefit dry skin types. Plus, due to the aforementioned anti-inflammatory effects, it’s also suitable for people with eczema, psoriasis, and acne — not everyone with acne, though. Camp says it should only be used on mild breakouts. Even though it’s an anti-inflammatory, it’s still an oil and it could have a comedogenic effect, meaning it could worsen moderate-to-severe acne by clogging pores.

Aside from those who have moderate-to-severe acne, people who have specific allergies should avoid using this ingredient. That’s according to Dr. Marina Peredo, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skinfluence NYC. “If you have an allergy to nuts, you probably should avoid using tamanu oil since it is derived from a tree nut,” she says. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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Are There Any Risks With Tamanu Oil?

According to all three experts, there are very few risks to using tamanu oil for people who don’t have specific nut allergies. However, it’s a skin care ingredient just like any other in that it should be introduced slowly and only after performing a patch test. This will ensure you’re avoiding any potential irritation.

“There are no major side effects with tamanu oil, but if you find that you are becoming irritated from using it, it is best to stop and consult with your dermatologist,” Dr. Peredo says. “If you're concerned about a possible reaction, test a small amount on your forearm first, and use it more infrequently than directed, gradually working your way up.”

How Often Can It Be Used?

Once you’ve performed a patch test and introduced it slowly into your routine, you can build up to using it every day — especially if you have dry skin and you’re looking to boost your moisture barrier. “You can incorporate tamanu oil into your everyday skin care routine,” Dr. Peredo says. “Since not all tamanu oil products are created equal, follow specific directions when it comes to how and how often to use any particular product.” Dr. Camp agrees, saying, “in general, most tamanu oil products can be used daily, though users should consult the directions for each product.”

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