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Babassu oil is a tropical oil made from the seeds of the babassu palm, a tree native to the rain forests of South America.

Packed with antioxidants and healthy fats, it can boost the health of your skin and hair, moisturizing them without causing you to feel greasy or develop acne.

However, the oil also has some potential drawbacks.

This article reviews the uses, benefits, and downsides of babassu oil.

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In South American countries like Brazil, to which the babassu palm is native, the plant’s oil is commonly used for cooking and even as medicine.

Locals use it to heal minor wounds, such as cuts and scratches, and treat leukorrhea — vaginal discharge that is associated with hormonal imbalances (1).

Babassu oil is also turned into biofuel that can be used as an alternative to diesel fuel (2).

However, in the United States, it’s most commonly utilized as an ingredient in hair and skin care products, such as lotion, shampoo, and makeup.

summary

Babassu oil has been used in South American countries for cooking and medicinal purposes. It also has industrial applications as a biofuel. In the United States, it’s mainly used in skin and hair care products.

Babassu oil is associated with several beneficial effects, but most of the research has been conducted in test tubes and animals.

Thus, more human studies are needed to fully understand its benefits.

Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and wound-healing properties

Babassu oil and other parts of the plant are used for various medicinal purposes in South America, such as to treat skin conditions, wounds, inflammation, and stomach problems (1, 3).

The oil is rich in antioxidants, which are compounds that can help reduce cellular damage caused by harmful free radicals (4).

In addition, babassu oil is antibacterial. One test-tube study noted that it killed certain harmful bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, which causes staph infections (5).

Components of the babassu plant, including its oil, are also anti-inflammatory and can promote wound healing (3).

In one study, rats that had babassu extract applied to a wound healed faster than a control group (6).

Rich in healthy fatty acids

Like coconut oil, Babassu oil is a plant-based oil rich in saturated fats, making it solid at room temperature.

However, these fats melt quickly at body temperature. As such, they’re a widely used ingredient in skin care products.

The main fatty acids in babassu oil are lauric and myristic acid, which are both saturated (7, 8).

Still, the oil contains oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that’s also found in olive oil and credited with many of olive oil’s health benefits (5, 9).

These fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, potentially immune-boosting, and moisturizing, making them great for your skin and hair (3, 9).

What’s more, lauric acid is antibacterial and has been shown to cause cancer cell death in animal and test-tube studies (5, 10).

Moisturizing for your skin and hair

Similarly to coconut oil, babassu melts at body temperature, allowing your skin to absorb it very well.

Yet, unlike coconut oil, it’s lightweight and not greasy, making it ideal for use on your skin.

What’s more, it does not appear to cause acne (11).

In addition, babassu oil causes a refreshing, cooling sensation when it’s applied to the skin, as it melts rapidly (12).

Lastly, it can add volume to dry, flat hair without weighing it down (12).

summary

Babassu oil is rich in antioxidants and fatty acids that make it great for your skin and hair. It’s also anti-inflammatory and antibacterial.

Little is known about the potential side effects of babassu oil, including whether it has negative effects in pregnant or nursing women.

To be safe, you should consult your healthcare provider before using babassu oil if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Additionally, some research suggests that babassu fruit flour may slow your body’s blood-clotting ability. Thus, if you’re taking a blood thinner, you should avoid babassu oil, as it may have a similar effect (13).

Eating babassu fruit and other parts of the plant may also impair your thyroid function, which can be particularly harmful to people with hypothyroidism. If you have this condition, you may want to avoid babassu oil (14, 15).

It’s difficult to know how much babassu oil enters your bloodstream after you apply it to your skin. Therefore, if you have any concerns about using it, you should talk to your healthcare provider.

summary

Babassu oil may inhibit blood clotting and thyroid function. If you’re on blood thinners or have hypothyroidism, you should avoid using babassu oil. To be safe, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should likewise abstain from using it.

Babassu oil can be used in cooking, but it’s most commonly used in skin care products. Although, it has a wider range of applications in South America.

The oil can be purchased online or in some natural grocery or beauty supply stores. You can apply it directly to your skin or hair as a moisturizer or conditioner.

Because it melts so easily on the skin, it’s also a good carrier oil for essential oils.

Furthermore, babassu oil can be substituted for coconut oil in homemade skin and hair care recipes, including soaps, hair masks, or body scrubs.

summary

Babassu oil can be used as a substitute for coconut oil in recipes for the skin and hair. It’s also an ingredient in many beauty products. In South America, it may have a wider range of applications, including culinary uses.

Babassu oil is used in cooking, biofuel manufacturing, and medicine.

Still, in the United States, it’s most commonly found in hair and skin care products, as it’s rich in antioxidants and healthy fatty acids, in addition to being lightweight and non-greasy. What’s more, it doesn’t cause acne.

Overall, babassu oil is a healthy and moisturizing addition to your skin and hair care routine.