What Is Babassu Oil — and Should You Be Using It?
One skin expert reveals why this is basically coconut oil 2.0, plus the best skin-care products to try that contain the trendy ingredient.
It almost seems like a trendy new skin-care ingredient appears every day — bakuchiol, squalane, jojoba, snail mucin, what's next? — and with all of the products on the market, it can be hard to discern what's actually worth the investment. Well, meet the new kid on the block, babassu oil. Here, one skin pro explains why it definitely deserves a spot in your routine.
But first, what exactly is it? "Babassu oil is derived from the seed of the babassu palm tree," says Gretchen Frieling, M.D., a Boston-area triple board-certified dermatopathologist. The babassu tree is found in tropical regions of Brazil, and the oil is extracted by cold pressing the seeds from the tree's fruit. This powerful antioxidant oil is used for medicinal purposes like wound healing, inflammation, treating skin conditions including eczema, and even stomach issues, she adds. (Related: Everything You Need to Know About Eczema, According to Derms)
If you're wondering how it differs from other popular skin-care oils, Dr. Frieling explains that it can be best compared to coconut oil, thanks to its "incredible moisturizing and soothing properties." While the two could be siblings or cousins, one benefit of using babassu oil over coconut oil is that it's lightweight and less greasy, so it absorbs into the skin much more quickly and easily.
Because babassu oil so moisturizing, it's ideal for dry skin or for anyone who suffers from flaky, parched skin in winter. Plus, it's safe for all skin types, including sensitive. "It effectively helps dry, itchy, inflamed skin, as well as eczema-prone skin — it is not likely to clog pores, but instead moisturizes and increases skin elasticity," notes Dr. Frieling. Also nice: It's rich in vitamin E, which has antibacterial, antimicrobial and immune-boosting properties, she points out. (Related: Here's Why Should You Consider Using Vitamin E for Your Skin)
In addition to its skin benefits, babassu oil is also super beneficial for hair. "Babassu oil has been shown to add volume to flat, dry hair, giving the hair a smooth and shiny look," says Dr. Frieling. What's more, it can help nourish the scalp, which is key for those with dandruff, and it won't cling to your roots or weigh your locks down as coconut oil might.
Has babassu oil officially piqued your interest? If you're wanting to add it to your skin-care routine, Dr. Frieling suggests looking for it in its natural form. Opting for 100-percent babassu is where you'll reap the most benefits, since it isn't mixed with other ingredients or watered down, she explains. Once you secure a bottle, you can also add a couple of drops into your daily moisturizer before applying it to your face — for an extra boost of hydration, says Dr. Frieling. (Related: The Best Anti-Aging Moisturizers to Use Every Morning)
Ahead, the best babassu oil products that will revive and restore dry skin and lifeless hair.
Velona Babassu Oil
Dr. Frieling likes this pick if you are on the hunt for a pure form of babassu oil. This cold-pressed option nourishes skin, fades acne-related scarring, brings relief to dry, itchy skin — including that caused by eczema and psoriasis — and can be used on your tresses as a leave-in conditioner to moisturize weak, brittle strands. (Related: The Best Leave-In Conditioners—Plus, Why You Should Be Using One)
One reviewer wrote: "This oil is like coconut oil 2.0, literally better for cosmetic purposes in every way. (I haven't tried it for cooking yet). It's a great moisture lock in your skin-care routine, for removing makeup, for sealing moisture in your hair, etc. It's just an awesome oil and 100 percent worth the money."
Davines The Renaissance Circle Mask
Made with babassu butter and yellow clay, this hair mask restores brittle, damaged strands and leaves hair feeling incredibly silky and smooth. The babassu butter helps detangle, while the clay works to actually repair the hair structure. Just apply it to towel-dried hair after shampooing, allow it to sit for 10 minutes, comb through, and rinse.
"If your hair is over-processed/damaged, feels like straw, or lacks shine, just a few minutes with this product will fix all of that," shared a shopper. "I don't have the patience to wrap up my hair in conditioner for 10-30 minutes, so I just use a little bit after I shampoo while I soap. Just this little bit of time makes my hair soft, bouncy, and shiny like a little kid's. This product works better than any salon product that my hairdressers have ever used. It even calms down my frizz (curly, fine hair) without weighing it down."
Cherry Almond Hand and Body Wash
This gentle body wash contains a babassu-nut derived surfactant (translation: a cleansing agent made from the babassu nut), which effectively hydrates and cleans, without stripping the skin of moisture. (ICYDK, some body soaps use sodium lauryl sulfate as a surfactant, which is designed to remove dirt, sweat, and oils, but at the same time, strips skin of its natural moisturizing factor.) This wash also boasts cherry blossom extract and sweet almond oil for an extra dose of hydration. (Related: The Best Moisturizing Body Washes Your Shower Routine Needs)
R+Co Waterfall Moisture + Shine Lotion
Not only does this hair lotion smell like actual heaven — thanks to a combination of juniper berries, blood orange, rhubarb, leather, and violet — but it also features babassu oil. Perfect for those with fine-to-medium hair, use it to tame fly-aways, moisturize ends, or apply it all-over to wet locks and blow dry or allow it to dry naturally. And with more than 500 five-star ratings on Amazon, it must be good.
"I bought this on a whim based on an article I read online, and it is amazing," raved a customer. "I have very fine hair which has been damaged by bleaching. This product made my hair feel soft after air drying, and held the natural wave pattern of my hair. When I used it before blow-drying, I could see and feel a dramatic difference in the softness and manageability of my hair. Amazing!"
Dr. Adorable Inc. Babassu Oil
This 100 percent pure oil recommended by Dr. Frieling can be used as a moisturizer for your skin (without feeling greasy or heavy), and as a conditioning treatment for hair to restore elasticity and health. (Related: The Best Hair Oil for Your Hair Type)
One reviewer wrote: "Completely changed my hair; I go to hot yoga (Bikram) 4+ times a week and wash my hair too frequently, drying it out. I've tried coconut oil, avocado oil, castor oil, argan oil.... all of these oils just made my hair too tangled and were hard to wash out, never conditioned my hair. I put a very, very generous amount of this oil in my hair before class (or before I go to the gym) and also use it as a skin moisturizer. After a month of religious use, everyone has commented on the difference in the appearance of my hair and my partner noticed the softness of my skin."
Augustinus Bader The Face Oil
While it might be a splurge, this skin-care brand has a cult-following of celebrities, including Kate Bosworth, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Victoria Beckham. This anti-aging face oil is packed with babassu oil, hazelnut, and pomegranate, and antimicrobial Karanja (another tree-based, cold-pressed oil), which all help to plump and soften the skin, promote elasticity, minimize the appearance of fine lines, and reduce hyperpigmentation. Plus, it's formulated without fragrance, harmful irritants, and pore-clogging ingredients, so even those with sensitive skin can reap the benefits.