Emu Oil, which has been used by Australian aborigines for centuries to treat cuts and other wounds, has become a very popular ingredient touted to do pretty much anything, from moisturizing skin to reducing wrinkles to treating acne. But is Emu Oil really such a miraculous ingredient or are cosmetic companies exaggerating its benefits?
What is Emu Oil?
The emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is a flightless bird native to Australia and one of the largest in the world. The oil derived from the fat of this animal contains several unsaturated fatty acids, including oleic (20%), palmitic (20%), linolenic (1-2%) and linoleic (20%) acids. These fatty acids are naturally present in the skin and help maintain and repair its outermost layer.
Emu Oil is more moisturizing than mineral oil
These fatty acids give Emu Oil strong moisturizing properties, making it a very effective treatment for dry skin. According to a study published in the Australasian Journal of Dermatology, it is a more effective moisturizer and has better skin penetration than mineral oil: “it appears that emu oil in comparison to mineral oil has better moisturizing properties, superior texture, and lower incidence of comedogenicity, but probably because of the small sample size (the study was conducted on 11 people only) these differences, were not found to be statistically significant. Neither of the oils were found to be irritating to the skin. Finally, emu oil fatty acid composition was studied by gas chromatography and was found to have high concentration of nonpolar monounsaturated fatty acids, which may explain emu oil’s ability to penetrate easily through the stratum corneum barrier.”
Emu Oil has anti-inflammatory properties
A 2003 study has shown that Emu Oil also has anti-inflammatory properties. Scientists induced inflammation in rats and then applied emu oil on the affected area. Several hours later, they discovered the inflammation was reduced. They also applied other oils, such as olive oil, flaxseed oil and fish oil, and found out they all have anti-inflammatory properties as well. However, Emu Oil works slightly better than them to reduce inflammation.
Emu Oil and wrinkles
But while Emu Oil has both moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties, I couldn’t find a single study claiming it is effective at reducing or even just preventing wrinkles. There is some anecdotal evidence that Emu Oil has antiaging properties but it comes mostly from companies that sell it. Of course that doesn’t mean that Emu Oil doesn’t work against wrinkles, only that we don’t know if it does yet and, considering how expensive Emu oil can be, I’d rather stick to retinoids and other antioxidants such as Vitamin C, that have already been proven to work.
Emu Oil and acne
Some companies that sell Emu Oil also claim it isn’t comedogenic and so won’t clog pores and that it is even effective against acne. But again, there are no studies that either confirm or deny these claims. The only thing we know for sure is that Emu Oil contains a high amount of Oleic Acid, which is very comedogenic. Now, that alone doesn’t prove that Emu Oil is comedoegnic. Emu Oil is made up of several compounds and it is possible that some of the others counteract the comedogenic effect of Oleic Acid. But until we know for sure, I think those suffering from acne would do better to stay away from Emu Oil and try ingredients that have been proven to work such as Benzoyl Peroxide, Salicylic Acid and Tea Tree Oil.
The Bottom Line
Emu Oil has soothing properties that help reduce inflammation and is very moisturizing (even more than mineral oil), making it a good treatment for dry skin. However, that’s just not enough to make me wanna rush out and buy Emu Oil, especially considering that this oil is usually quite expensive and there are lots of ingredients that have the same properties (they may be slightly less effective but unless you have skin that’s very dry or inflamed, they’ll work just as well) and cost a lot less. Sadly, at the moment, there are no proof that Emu Oil has anti-aging properties or that it is effective at fighting acne so if that’s the reason you want to try this oil, you may wanna wait until more research is done and stick to what’s already proven to work in the meantime.
Have you ever tried Emu Oil? If so, how did it work for you?