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sea buckthorn oil

Article Summary

  • What is the sea buckthorn plant, and why do we love it so?
  • The unique and powerful fatty acid profiles of sea buckthorn oils
  • What they'll do for your skin

Sea buckthorn oil is one of the most interesting ingredients in Liquid Gold. It’s what gives Liquid Gold its signature color, but that’s just a fun side effect. I chose to include two types of sea buckthorn oil for the incredible benefits they have on the skin. 

Read on to learn more about sea buckthorn oil than you ever thought you wanted.

What Is Sea Buckthorn?

The sea buckthorn plant, Hippophae rhamnoides, is an extremely hardy shrub found on the northern coasts of Europe, as well as throughout the Himalaya. It’s well-suited to those harsh climates as it can survive down to -45°F. It’s been used for centuries as traditional medicine, and was fed to horses to promote weight gain and a shiny coat. In fact, “Hippophae” literally means shining horse. They are the shiny horse berries.

Sea buckthorn produces little orange berries, which are edible (and delicious - they’re like a slightly floral pineapple). Those berries are incredibly nutritious, rich in vitamin C, flavonoids, and omega fatty acids. We harvest oil from two parts of the berry: the seed and the pulp. 

Before I get into the specific qualities of sea buckthorn oil, let’s do a quick refresher on fatty acids and triglycerides. (It’s important, I promise.)

All About Fatty Acids

One thing all plant oils have in common is that they’re composed of triglycerides. (If they don’t feature triglycerides - for example, squalane - then they’re technically not an oil, but a wax or other type of lipid.) A triglyceride is pretty simple: it’s a glycerol molecule with three fatty acids attached.

All plant oils are made of triglycerides, but we know from experience that coconut oil is way different than rosehip oil, which is way different than macadamia nut oil. That’s because how a triglyceride interacts with your body depends on which fatty acids are attached to that glycerol.

There are a lot of different types of fatty acids, and they’re classified in two ways: how many carbons they have, and how many double bonds they have.

For example, stearic acid has 18 carbons and no double bonds; linoleic acid has 18 carbons and 2 double bonds. Fatty acids with no double bonds tend to make much heavier, more solid oils than fatty acids with 1 or more double bonds (think shea butter vs. olive oil).

Each fatty acid, and by extension, each triglyceride combo, interacts with your skin in a unique way. That’s where sea buckthorn oil really shines.

Fatty Acids in Sea Buckthorn Oil

As I mentioned up top, Liquid Gold features 2 different types of sea buckthorn oil: seed and berry. When I was formulating Liquid Gold, I knew I wanted a wide range of fatty acids to help support skin barrier health, and reading the fatty acid profiles of these two oils really blew my hair back. Let’s look at the highlights from these two oils

sea buckthorn oil and fatty acids

Sea Buckthorn Seed Oil

  • Linoleic acid: ~33%
  • Alpha linolenic acid: ~33%
  • Oleic acid: ~20%

Sea Buckthorn Berry Oil

  • Palmitoleic acid: 32-42% (highest concentration of any plant oil)
  • Palmitic acid: 34-41%

As you can see, despite coming from the same little berry, these two oils are wildly different. They actually complement each other really well, which makes sense - Mother Nature is the best cosmetic chemist there is. Let’s take a quick dive into the different benefits provided by the fatty acids in sea buckthorn oil.

Palmitic Acid

Palmitic acid is a rich emollient as well as an occlusive agent, meaning it locks moisture into your skin rather than letting it evaporate. It’s primarily found in palm oil (thus the name).

Palmitoleic Acid  

This is one of the many fatty acids found naturally in our skin, and it’s one that’s been discovered to decrease in concentration as we age, so it may be linked to the visible signs of aging. In studies, they’ve found palmitoleic acid applied to the skin can speed up wound healing, and has significant anti-inflammatory effects.

Oleic Acid 

Derived from the word “olive” because it’s found in such high quantities in olive oil, oleic acid is a very rich moisturizer. It’s a fabulous emollient, meaning it can smooth the microscopic cracks in your skin and keep everything supple and moisturized.

Linoleic Acid 

Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid – your body can’t produce it by itself – so you need to get it either from things you eat or things you put on your face. There’s a long, long list of the great things linoleic acid can do. Here are some of them:

  • Walk back damage from UV radiation
  • Increase barrier function
  • Reduce hyperpigmentation
  • Increase circulation
  • Fight breakouts
  • Even skin texture and reduce scaliness

So why isn’t linoleic acid in every single thing we put on our face? Mainly because it’s really hard to stabilize; the two double bonds means it can go rancid quickly. (That’s a big reason why Liquid Gold is in an airless bottle.)

Alpha-Linolenic Acid

Another essential fatty acid, alpha-linolenic is just as impressive as its cousin, linoleic, although it’s significantly less studied. It has shown incredible anti-inflammatory effects, can improve and regulate skin barrier function, and can prevent the formation of itchy, dry spots.

What Else Is In Sea Buckthorn Oil?

Beyond their absolutely stunning fatty acid profiles, both seed and berry oils have a lot of great features, such as:

  • Carotenoids - powerful antioxidants that protect the skin from Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), a particularly vile type of unstable molecule that can damage DNA, RNA, and proteins, and can even lead to cell death
  • Tocopherols - a class of molecules with extremely high antioxidant activity that can also strengthen the skin barrier
  • Phytosterols - oil-soluble compounds that can protect the skin’s collagen from breaking down

Where Can I Find Sea Buckthorn Oil?

After reading many, many paragraphs about how great sea buckthorn oil is, you might be wondering, why isn’t this stuff in everything? A big reason is the color: the seed oil is orange, and the berry oil is the type of deep, bright red that stains your clothes just looking at it. You can’t really use pure sea buckthorn oil without looking like you’re using an extremely expired fake tanner.

sea buckthorn oil

But fear not - if you managed to miss my several references to Liquid Gold, here it is again: Liquid Gold contains both seed and berry oils. That’s why it’s the color it is, and that’s part of why using buckthorn oil skin benefits to strengthen the skin barrier and undo damage.

What other ingredients would you like to see a deep dive on? Let me know in the comments!



This article is reviewed by Alli Reed on 4/25/2023.