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Benefits of Tamanu Oil: The Exotic Elixir Your Skin Will Love

October 09, 2019

benefits of tamanu oil for skin care

Sometimes, your skincare routine needs a makeover. It’s easy to become comfortable in your morning/nighttime routine when you’re not dealing with breakouts or other issues.

But! Comfort creates space for opportunity. You don’t have to wait for a date night to feel beautiful — feeling beautiful is a daily routine (and an achievable one!).

Alas, with all the cosmetic clamor out there, it can feel overwhelming to know which product or ingredient to look out for when you want to change it up.

Enter: Tamanu Oil

You may have heard of this luscious liquid by the name “Alexandrian laurel” (or perhaps you’ve never heard of it at all!). Native to Southeast Asia and the South Pacific islands, tamanu oil is exotic to the U.S., and therefore hasn’t made its way into mainstream cosmetics yet.

But, the skincare secret is out, and the tamanu imports are in! 

Read on to find out everything you need to know about tamanu oil. Some highlights include: 

  • tamanu oil benefits
  • tamanu oil uses
  • tamanu oil for hair
  • tamanu oil benefits for dark spots
  • tamanu oil psoriasis treatment

But First, What Is Tamanu Oil?

Tamanu oil comes from the nuts of a tropical tree called Calophyllum inophyllum, which is native to the South Pacific islands — namely, Polynesia — but can also be found in Southeast Asia, India, and parts of Africa and Australia. 

The genus Calophyllum literally translates to “beautiful leaf” in Greek -- a fitting name for its large, bright, waxy green leaves, which frame the white flowers that blossom biannually.

Tamanu oil has been used for centuries in its native lands for general skin and hair health. It has also been used medicinally for various ailments, including: 

  • ulcers
  • wounds 
  • burns
  • boils
  • blisters
  • cuts

Tamanu oil is extracted from the kernel of the apricot-sized drupes (the fleshy fruit with a thin outer layer and a hard core — think: peaches, plums, cherries, mangoes) that grow on tamanu trees. The oil is viscous with a yellow-greenish hue (similar to olive oil).

A Brief History of Tamanu Oil

Tamanu oil is relatively new to the U.S., so research is still surfacing in regard to its proven benefits and treatments for various skin conditions. Below is a basic timeline showing the progression of tamanu oil uses from centuries ago until now.

Centuries ago: Exactly when Pacific island cultures such as Polynesia and Fiji began to implement tamanu oil uses is unknown, but it’s thought to have been used for centuries. 

The benefits from the Calophyllum inophyllum tree are not limited to its oil; South Pacific islanders used the leaves, bark, and twigs of the tree for various medicines. They also used tamanu oil for hair and skin care. 

Early 1900s: Tamanu oil is used as a pain reliever in Fiji for more serious conditions such as shingles, neuralgia, sciatica, and leprous neuritis. The French begin to discover tamanu oil.

1930s: Tamanu oil is studied and researched in hospitals in the U.S., Europe, and the Pacific islands. It’s found to be an effective topical healing agent, possessing the following properties: 

  • skin-healing
  • antimicrobial
  • antineuralgic
  • antioxidant
  • anti-inflammatory 

1980s: Specific testing of tamanu oil takes place in the U.S. in an attempt to find skin technology advancements. More English-language research emerges in publication. 

Today: Tamanu oil just made its debut in European and U.S. cosmetics. Now, its skin- and hair-care benefits are settling into the cosmetics industry.

Myriad of Monikers

Though it has been used medicinally in the South Pacific for centuries, tamanu oil is still coming of age in the U.S., which perhaps is why it hasn’t nailed down one ubiquitous term yet. The most popular English alternative is Alexandrian laurel, but you may also find tamanu oil referred to as the following:

  • beauty leaf oil
  • laurelwood oil
  • beach calophyllum oil
  • kamani oil
  • kamanu oil
  • dilo oil

Tamanu Oil Benefits

Alright, let’s get to it. What are the benefits of tamanu oil?

At this point, there are many research-backed benefits of tamanu oil. However, there are still some tamanu oil benefits that are believed to be effective with no supporting research. 

The table below outlines various tamanu oil benefits with explanations as to how the oil is believed or proven to execute these benefits, followed by examples of tamanu oil uses as they pertain to these benefits.

(Reminder: Everyone’s skin can react differently to new ingredients. We recommend a patch test before applying new products to the skin!)

Herbal Dynamics Beauty Cheat Sheet: 

Tamanu Oil Benefits

Tamanu Oil Benefits

Explanation

Tamanu Oil Uses

Wound healing

Among the most discussed and researched tamanu oil benefits are its wound-healing capabilities.

Tamanu oil is capable of cicatrization, which is the ability to accelerate wound healing by forming new tissue.

This study found that Calophyllolide isolated from Calophyllum inophyllum reduced fibrosis, or scarring. (Calophyllolide is a neoflavanoid — an anti-inflammatory and metabolic compound.)

Another study found that tamanu oil can be used to effectively treat wounds that have been infected.

Apply tamanu oil to burns, blisters, cuts, and scrapes for faster wound healing and scar prevention.

Acne healing

Research has shown that tamanu oil performs high antibacterial activity against certain strains of acne.

As a proven anti-inflammatory, tamanu oil can be used for inflammatory acne (such as cystic acne).

Tamanu oil also has proven antimicrobial properties, which can help fight acne by acting as a natural cleanser. 

(Quick tip: Don’t overdo antimicrobials — studies have shown that the skin’s microbiome is essential for balancing skin pH, and that probiotics can actually fight certain strains of acne.)

Try using a cream or serum with tamanu oil on acne-prone skin, or following a breakout. 

Remember, hydration is a great remedy for acne, and oils lock in moisture better than almost any other product or ingredient.

Tamanu oil is also low on the comedogenic scale, meaning it has a low propensity to clog pores and cause breakouts! 

Anti-aging 

Many studies have shown that tamanu oil increases collagen production — the enemy of aging skin!

Tamanu oil is also known to be ultra-hydrating, which can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Incorporating a serum with tamanu oil or a similar anti-aging oil (such as argan oil) can yield fantastic skin-tightening results, leaving skin looking much more youthful and plump.

Antiseptic, analgesic

Even more than an antimicrobial and antifungal, tamanu oil functions as an antiseptic and analgesic.

(Side note: Antiseptics help to prevent the production of microorganisms, while antimicrobials work to destroy them. Analgesics work as pain-relievers with no loss of consciousness.)

For this reason, tamanu oil has actually been used to effectively treat vaginitis (a bacterial infection of the vagina) as an alternative to antibiotics and antifungals.

You should consult a doctor if you experience vaginitis. If you prefer a natural approach, ask for a treatment that includes tamanu oil or another natural substance. 

While antibiotics and antifungals may provide instant relief, they do not target the root of the problem with vaginitis, which is the vagina’s disrupted ecosystem.

Anti-inflammatory 

The anti-inflammatory properties of tamanu oil have provided centuries’ worth of treatments for various ailments, including burns, cuts, boils, and blisters. Tamanu oil can also treat (but not cure) inflammatory skin conditions.

This study found that tamanu oil can be used as an effective treatment for atopic dermatitis (eczema).

It’s also thought to be an effective treatment for psoriasis and rosacea.

If you experience eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea, you should consult a dermatologist and ask about natural treatment options. 

Try applying diluted tamanu oil to a small portion of the affected area. If you notice improvement, continue on larger areas of the skin.

Moisturization

Tamanu oil is rich in fatty acids, specifically palmitic, oleic, linoleic, alpha-linoleic, and stearic acids.

Fatty acids help the skin lock in moisture by acting as a barrier. This leaves skin looking firm and fresh.

Fatty acids can also help reduce the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Read more about the benefits of fatty acids for skin here.

Use tamanu oil as a facial oil. Apply before bed after a cleanser, toner, and serum (if you use one). 

If you notice improved hydration and smoothness, incorporate into daytime use as well.

You can also use tamanu oil for sunburn relief (because of its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties).

Hair care

Tamanu oil for hair is one of its oldest known uses. It is thought to improve hair texture and thicken hair follicles, much like castor oil does. 

The antibacterial properties of tamanu oil can also be good for bacterial scalp conditions.

Apply to hair for one hour or overnight 2-3 times a week for fuller, shinier hair.

Skin lightening

There’s no research directly outlining tamanu oil benefits for dark spots. However, tamanu oil is rich in antioxidants, which are proven to contain skin-whitening capabilities.

For this reason, there is a lot of discussion surrounding a tamanu oil hyperpigmentation treatment. Again, there’s no written research on this subject yet.

While the evidence is lacking in regard to tamanu oil benefits for dark spots, there’s no harm in trying it yourself (as long as your skin reacts well to tamanu oil in a patch test). 

Try a tamanu oil hyperpigmentation treatment by applying the oil to age spots, post-inflammatory dark spots (following eczema or dermatitis, for example), or to patches of melasma.


Replace Coconut Oil with Tamanu Oil for Skin Care

Does any of this sound familiar? Tamanu oil has many of the same skincare benefits that coconut oil is thought to offer. Like tamanu oil, coconut oil contains antimicrobial, antifungal, and ultra-hydrating properties, which have led many to believe that coconut oil is a cure-all when it comes to skin care.

While coconut oil has plenty of benefits, here’s why we recommend trying tamanu oil:

  • Tamanu oil is much lower on the comedogenic scale, which ranks oils and butters from 1-5 based on their propensity to clog pores. Coconut oil is a 4 on the scale, while tamanu oil is only a 2. (That’s a big difference for such a small scale!) Tamanu oil is thus much less likely to cause breakouts.
  • Tamanu oil has a much better pH level for the skin. Our skin’s pH sits at about a 5.5 on the pH scale, which is slightly acidic on the overall scale of 0-14 (0 being acidic and 14 being alkaline). Products with a pH that is too alkaline can disrupt the skin’s acid mantle, which is essential for locking in moisture and replenishing skin cells. Skin products should have a pH that falls between 4 and 7 on the pH scale. Coconut oil is typically a 7-8, which means it is too alkaline for the skin — especially for everyday use. So where does tamanu oil sit? Between 4 and 7. Bingo!

Lovers of the All-Natural, Rejoice!

The recent tamanu oil breakthrough is exciting news for those who love all-natural skin care products (like us!). While this oil can be used on its own, it’s also a great component for lotions, creams, ointments, and serums. Bonus: it has a mild, pleasant aroma.

The downside of tamanu oil coming into mainstream cosmetics is the risk that harmful chemicals and preservatives (such as parabens) will make their way into tamanu oil-based products. For this reason, we recommend looking out for cold-pressed, unrefined, organic tamanu oil. 

Next time you’re shopping for natural beauty products, keep an eye out for these terms:

  • Clean
  • Natural
  • Organic
  • Non-toxic
  • Safe
  • Plant-based

The benefits of feeding your skin with genuinely natural products are real. Plant-based vitamins, minerals, and nutrients truly work better than their synthetic counterparts to nourish stronger, healthier skin. Plus, you’ll feel great knowing that you’re doing something smart for your overall health and wellbeing. 

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