Sesame oil is derived from the seeds of the flowering sesame plant, also known as Sesamum indicum. These plants are native to East Africa and India, but they’re currently grown in many countries around the world.

Due to its hearty, nutty flavor and its high levels of mono- and polyunsaturated fats, sesame oil has become one of the most popular oils for cooking.

But does it have benefits beyond the kitchen? Is it a good oil to use on your skin? Read on to learn more about the properties of this oil, and what it can and can’t do for your skin.

Sesame oil has the following properties, which help to make it a beneficial oil for your skin:

  • Antioxidant. This means it has the ability to fight damage by free radicals, or unstable molecules that can harm the cellular structure of your skin.
  • Antimicrobial. This means it can kill harmful microorganisms or stop their growth.
  • Anti-inflammatory. This means it can reduce inflammation and swelling.

Sesame oil also has a moderately low rating on the comedogenic scale. This unofficial database ranks different oils and butters by their pore-clogging properties. The scale ranges from zero to five.

A rating of zero means that an oil won’t clog your pores, while a rating of five means that it will.

According to a 1989 study published in the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, refined sesame oil has a comedogenic rating of one, and unrefined sesame oil has a rating of three. Non-comedogenic oils, like sesame oil, are good options for many types of skin.

Because non-comedogenic oils don’t clog pores, sesame oil may work well on acne-prone skin. Sesame oil’s anti-inflammatory properties may also add to its acne-fighting abilities, although there’s currently no scientific data to back this up.

Although studies on sesame oil are limited, especially with regards to skin care benefits, there have been some discoveries about its antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties:

  • A 2005 animal study found that topical application of sesame oil may reduce oxidative stress, which can lead to cell or tissue damage.
  • A recent animal study found that topical use of sesame oil was helpful for healing second-degree burn wounds.
  • One small study found that sesame oil, combined with massage, significantly reduced pain associated with limb trauma among emergency room patients.
  • There’s some evidence that sesame oil may help filter out ultraviolet (UV) rays, but not to the extent that products designed for this purpose can.

Sesame oil contains vitamin E, which can help protect skin cells from the damage caused by environmental factors, such as UV rays, pollution, and toxins.

Sesame oil also contains several phenolic compounds, which give it its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds include:

  • tocopherol
  • pinoresinol
  • sesamin
  • sesamolin
  • sesaminol
  • sesamol

It also contains several essential fatty acids. These acids are effective moisturizers that can help keep your skin supple, soft, and hydrated.

  • oleic acid
  • palmitic acid
  • stearic acid
  • linoleic acid

Sesame oil is safe for most people to use. Since any substance can cause a reaction, especially if you have sensitive skin, it’s a good idea to do a patch test prior to using.

Follow these steps to do a patch test:

  • Wash and dry the upper part of your inner arm, near your elbow.
  • Apply a small amount of sesame oil to the area with a clean cotton ball.
  • Cover for 24 hours with a gauze pad.
  • If you feel tingling or itching, remove the gauze pad, wash the area, and discontinue use of the oil.
  • If you feel no sensation, leave the gauze pad on for the full 24 hours and then remove.
  • If your skin looks and feels clear, you’re probably not allergic or sensitive to the oil, and can use it freely on your skin.

If you have a sesame allergy, don’t use sesame oil.

Sesame oil isn’t an essential oil, so it doesn’t need to be diluted prior to use.

Try to find sesame oil that’s free of other ingredients and chemicals. Read the product label to find out if the oil is pure, or if it has anything else added to it.

You can use sesame oil liberally on your skin for massage and for moisturizing purposes.

If you use sesame oil for acne or acne scars, dab it onto the affected area with a cotton ball, and leave it on overnight. You may want to exfoliate your skin first to remove dead skin cells and debris. This may help the oil absorb more easily into your skin.

In addition to sesame oil’s potential benefits for skin, there are many other ways you can use this oil, including:

  • Cooking. Sesame oil has a slightly nutty taste, making it excellent for stir-fried dishes and salad dressings. Research suggests it also has a host of health benefits. One study found that sesame oil may help lower cholesterol and inflammation in the body. Another study found that it may help reduce blood pressure. Finally, a 2002 animal study indicated that it may also have chemopreventive qualities.
  • Mouthwash. Sesame oil’s antibacterial qualities make it an effective mouth rinse. Using oil as a mouthwash is an Ayurvedic technique known as oil pulling.
  • Constipation relief. Anecdotal evidence indicates that diluted sesame oil may help relieve minor constipation. To use, mix one to two tablespoons of sesame oil with water, and drink twice a day.
  • Hair and scalp nourishment. The same nutrients and properties that make sesame oil beneficial for your skin also apply to your hair. Try massaging a small amount of sesame oil into your scalp and hair, concentrating on the ends if they’re dry. Leave the oil on your hair or scalp for at least an hour, then rinse.

With its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties, sesame oil can help your skin in several ways. It may be especially beneficial for acne-prone skin and acne scars.

Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, sesame oil also offers a number of other health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.

If you want to use sesame oil on your skin, you may want to talk to your doctor or dermatologist to find out if it’s a good option for your skin type.