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Selected Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Topically Applied Sunflower Oil


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This paper aims to summarize the outcomes of in vivo and in vitro studies relating to cosmeceutical and phytopharmaceutical potency of sunflower seed oil based on the epidemiological evidence published in the last 13 years. Study design of the reviewed literature included 25 selected scientific articles, as follows: randomized human studies (11), animal studies (6), reviews (5), and in vitro studies (3). Topical applied product consisted in raw sunflower seed oil, mixtures with other oils or herbs, and trade cosmetic or medicinal products. Fatty acids from this vegetable oil were shown to alleviate symptoms associated with skin sensitivity and inflammatory skin disorders, as well as to protect skin from photodamage and photoaging. Health benefits of sunflower oil were also found when applying on gingival, respectively on gastric mucosa. In conclusion, topical administration has proven certain positive skin effects but further research may be warranted in order to design more potent and safe phytopharmaceuticals.
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App. Sci. Report.
10 (1), 2015: 45-49
© PSCI Publications
Applied Science Reports
E-ISSN: 2310-9440 / P-ISSN: 2311-0139
DOI: 10.15192/PSCP.ASR.2015.10.1.4549
Selected Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Topically Applied
Sunflower Oil
Mihaela Stoia1*, Simona Oancea2
1. Faculty of Medicine, Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Romania
2. Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Food Industry and Environmental Protection, Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Romania
*Corresponding author email:
Paper Information
Received: 18 February, 2015
Accepted: 27 March, 2015
Published: 20 April, 2015
Stoia M, Oancea S. 2015. Selected Evidence-Based Health
Benefits of Topically Applied Sunflower Oil. Applied
Science Reports, 10(1), 45-49. Retrieved from
This paper aims to summarize the outcomes of in vivo and in vitro studies
relating to cosmeceutical and phytopharmaceutical potency of sunflower
seed oil based on the epidemiological evidence published in the last 13
years. Study design of the reviewed literature included 25 selected
scientific articles, as follows: randomized human studies (11), animal
studies (6), reviews (5), and in vitro studies (3). Topical applied product
consisted in raw sunflower seed oil, mixtures with other oils or herbs, and
trade cosmetic or medicinal products. Fatty acids from this vegetable oil
were shown to alleviate symptoms associated with skin sensitivity and
inflammatory skin disorders, as well as to protect skin from photodamage
and photoaging. Health benefits of sunflower oil were also found when
applying on gingival, respectively on gastric mucosa. In conclusion, topical
administration has proven certain positive skin effects but further research
may be warranted in order to design more potent and safe
© 2015 PSCI Publisher All rights reserved.
Key words: cosmeceutical; fatty acids; healthy skin; phytopharmaceutical; sunflower oil.
From skin care to medical therapeutics, sunflower seed oil subjected increasingly research papers in dermatology as
well as patent products for two major reasons, respectively (1) an effective, low-cost, and natural alternative, and (2) contains
lipids similar in composition to stratum corneum lipids which has been shown to increase the epidermal ceramide and
cholesterol synthesis, and to activate peroxisome proliferative-activated receptor alpha (Eichenfield et al., 2009). Literature
reviews refer mostly to the use of oils to retain moisture in skin and consequently to preserve and enhance skin barrier
(Telofski et al., 2012; Lodén and Maibach, 2012), especially in preterm newborn infants to reduce neonatal mortality and
hospital acquired infection (Lawn et al., 2013; Salam et al., 2013). Pediatric dermatologists recommend paraffin and linoleic
acid as basic and healthy ingredients for the next generation of emollients, highlighting natural oils such as safflower, grape
seed, poppy seed and sunflower oil with 70-80% share of linoleic acid. Recently, the emollient effect of certain vegetable oils
was assessed by transepidermal water loss measurements and relies on semi-occlusion of the skin surface (Patzelt et al., 2012).
Human evidences on antioxidant property of tocopherols - abundant in sunflower seeds and known as the most
common form of vitamin E - are also referring to cosmeceutical photo-protection in dermal applications (Mishra et al., 2011),
especially in the form of natural unesterified tocopherols as demonstrated by in vitro human skin cell (keratinocytes) test using
simulated solar UV radiation (Alander et al., 2006). There is evidence that photo-protection by n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids
relies on a balance between inflammatory, immune, and antioxidant systems in the skin. Cosmeceuticals are cosmetic products
with biologically active ingredients purporting to have medical or drug-like benefits when applied topically, such as creams,
lotions and ointments (dictionary), but not expected to be similar to a pharmaceutical product. In this respect, emollient and
antioxidant properties of topical applied sunflower oil should be regarded from the perspective of repair and maintenance of
the epidermal barrier as a skin care product.
By comparison, phytopharmaceuticals are drugs whose active constituents are exclusively plant-based (containing
plant parts, extracts, plant juices or distillates) and are used in rational phytotherapy, offering high advantages as they come
with safety profiles. For example ozonized sunflower oil meets these requirements, modulating the complex healing process
probably by slowly decomposition into different peroxides generating hydrogen peroxide that can explain the prolonged
disinfectant and stimulatory activity (Travagli et al., 2010). Sunflower oleodistillate containing 90% essential lipids, 5%
App. Sci. Report. 10 (1), 2015: 45-49
phytosterol, and 1% vitamin E has proven in vitro and in vivo a triple action on cutaneous barrier homeostasis, inflammation,
and immunologic response specific to atopic dermatitis (De Belilovsky et al., 2011). In modern medicine, translation of
traditional remedies into phytomedicines is based on the role of phytochemicals which show a positive correlation between
their modern therapeutic use and the traditional use of the plants from which they are derived. In this respect, new antioxidant
formulations to improve stability of vegetable oils are welcome (Oancea and Grosu, 2014; Stoia and Oancea, 2013). The aim
of this paper is to highlight the health benefits of topical applied sunflower oil based on high quality evidence.
Method Articles addressing the topical application of raw sunflower seed oil or products containing the oil concerned were
identified through on line search in scientific databases, following publications between 2002 and 2014. The evidence-based
review system was performed in order to meet the eligible criteria of health claims primarily in human studies and secondary
in animal and in vitro studies, according to the levels of evidence hierarchic differentiated in table 1.
Table 1. Levels of evidence (Source: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database).
Results And Discussion
25 from 31 of the reviewed scientific articles were selected and classified as follows: 11 human clinical trials, 6
animal studies, 5 reviews, and 3 in vitro studies. The prevalence of human trials (44%) in the selected epidemiological
evidence, as shown in figure 1, points out the practical interest of scientists for new topical therapies inspired by nature, and
less harmful. The applied product consisted in sunflower seed oil, experimental mixtures (Skin conditioner; Essential fatty acid
solution; Eicosa-pentaenoic acid), and commercial products (Oleozon; Psirelax). Evidence-based results and studies conclusion
are summarized in table 2.
human trials
animal studies
in vitro studies
Figure 1. Study design of the reviewed literature
App. Sci. Report. 10 (1), 2015: 45-49
Table 2. Evidence-based health benefits of topically applied sunflower oil.
clinical trial
Sunflower seed oil
Enhances skin barrier function, and prevents invasive
bacterial infections;
(Kanti et al., 2014; Danby
et al., 2013; LeFevre et
al., 2010; Nawshad et al.,
2007; Darmstadt et al.,
2005; Darmstadt et al.,
Demonstrated effectiveness in the treatment of
onychomycosis, superior to that of ketoconazole;
(Menéndez et al., 2011)
Skin conditioner
Complementary treatment in mild to moderate severe
(Maier et al., 2004)
Sunflower oil
Diminishes the „scaly skin” symptoms of patients
known to be deficient in essential fatty acids (topical
(Aburjai and Natsheh,
Vitamin E and F
containing toothpaste
Reducing plaque levels and improving gingival
(Schäfer et al., 2007)
Linoleic acid
A constituent of sunflower oil can become
incorporated into human gingival tissue after
application in vivo and, in so doing, “nourish” human
(D’Agostino et al., 2007)
Open label study
Psirelax® (mixture)
Decrease in psoriasis severity
(Shiri et al., 2011)
Systematic review
Anti-wrinkling and anti-ageing properties;
(Mishra et al., 2011)
oleodistillate (SOD)
Moisturizing properties in adults, and strong steroid-
sparing effect in infants and babies with atopic
(Eichenfield et al., 2009)
Sunflower oil
As a minor ingredient in skin protectant drug products
in neonates;
(Visscher, 2009)
Sunflower oil
Dry skin treatment for smoothing and noncomedogenic
(Singh et al., 2014)
Critical review
Essential fatty acids
The analyzed studies, mainly performed using animal
models, are not appropriate to indicate EFA as an
efficient therapy for wound healing in humans.
(Ferreira et al., 2012)
Animal study
Sunflower seed oil
Accelerates the healing process in wounded horses,
goats, lambs, and mice;
(Oliveira et al., 2012;
Abhishek et al., 2012 ;
Marques et al., 2004;
Darmstadt et al., 2002)
Sunflower seed oil
40 % protection in the mouse skin tumor (papiloma)
(Kapadia et al., 2002)
Ozonized sunflower oil
94 % average mycological cure in experimental
dermatophytosis in mice.
(Thomson et al., 2011)
In vitro study
Sunflower seed oil
Effectiveness by antimicrobial activity index on S.
aureus, E. coli, B. subtilis, P. aeruginosa, Candida
(Aboki et al., 2012)
Ozonized sunflower oil
A direct chemical-oxidation attack on Giardia
duodenalis cultivated trophozoites;
(Hernández et al., 2009)
Eicosa-pentaenoic acid
EPA is a potential agent for the prevention and
treatment of skin aging in human dermal fibroblasts.
(Kim et al., 2005)
Regardless of the applied product (per , mixtures with other oils or herbs, and trade cosmetic / medicinal products),
sunflower oil has proven certain qualities involved in the health of the skin via enhancing skin barrier function and local lipid
production, reducing inflammation, activating peroxisome proliferative-activated receptor-alpha, promotion of wound healing,
and promotion of apoptosis in malignant cells (McCusker and Grant-Kels, 2010). Ozonized sunflower oil (Oleozon) and
sunflower oleodistillate (SOD) were among the most used products in clinical trials compared to crude oil which was mainly
used in animals for wound healing or to improve outcome in neonates with compromised barrier function as a low-cost
efficient alternative. Moreover, n-6 and n-3 EFAs seem to be crucial to skin function and appearance, respectively n-6 fatty
acids are related to skin sensitivity and inflammatory skin disorders, while n-3 fatty acids are protectors in photo-damage and
photo-aging. Therefore, topical supplementation may be a route of delivery during EFA deficiency.
In conclusion, there is strong evidence coming from human studies and systematic reviews which supports the
following health benefits of topical applied sunflower oil: antifungal treatment in adults’ onychomycosis, infection preventing
in premature neonates, atopic dermatitis treatment in infants and babies, “dry skin” and “scaly skin” treatment in adults and
elders with EFA deficiencies, anti-wrinkling and anti-ageing properties, improving gingival condition, and psoriasis
complementary treatment. A promising adjuvant therapy in skin cancer comes from animal papiloma model, but further
clinical trials are expected to support this hypothesis as well as other health claims on phytopharmaceutical potency of
sunflower oil.
App. Sci. Report. 10 (1), 2015: 45-49
This work was supported by a grant of the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research, CNCSUEFISCDI,
project number PN-II-ID-PCE-2011-3-0474.
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... A study 40 concluded that sunflower oil provides an increase in granulation tissue and complete healing of the epidermis. In other studies [41][42][43] , it was stated that sunflower oil was more effective in wound healing compared to control, and this may be due to the linoleic acid content. In our study, histological results were compatible with the literature, but when the immunohistological results were examined, it was seen that the sunflower oil group had high IL-6 and TNF-α in the wound tissue. ...
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There are various studies showing that oral supplements are shortening or facilitating effects on this process. Therefore, this study investigates the use of edible oils as supplements in the wound healing process. Of the 7 groups (control, Hypericum perforatum extracts in olive oil, olive, sesame, fish, black seed, sunflower), each has 8 Wistar Albino rats. In the experimental groups, 1.25 mL/kg oral oil was used for 10 days. Macroscopic images of the wound area were taken. Wound healing was evaluated by histological analysis. Collagen III, IL-6, TNF-α and TGF-ß1 density analyzes were performed on the tissue samples. According to macroscopic analysis, wound narrowing is higher in all groups on the 2nd and 4th days than the control group. Histopathological and immunohistochemical analyses of all experimental groups except sunflower oil group revealed better results than control group.
... The ability of MCT to control immune response is due to the reduction of the antigen absorption and availability in the blood as it bypasses the mesenteric lymph and directly enters the portal blood (Lee et al., 2021). In cosmetic formulations, Sunflower oil enhances skin barrier function and prevents invasive bacterial infections and local lipid production, reducing inflammation, activating peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha, promoting wound healing, and promotion of apoptosis in malignant cells (Stoia & Oancea, 2015). ...
Nanoemulsions are being increasingly utilized in the pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and food industries. They have gained special attention in the cosmetic sector owing to their smaller size and higher kinetic stability and their ability to improve the cutaneous penetration of active ingredients. In addition, they reduce transepidermal water loss, which augments the skin’s barrier function. In recent years, the increased awareness among consumers about the health-linked benefits of natural ingredients in cosmetics has urged finding green cosmetic ingredients that are benign to the skin. One of the natural motivations for this quest is finding suitable emulsifier candidates with negligible side effects that are sourced from plants or microbes, which can serve as viable replacements to the erstwhile used synthetic surfactants. Formulating a stable nanoemulsion system for cosmetic application entails a systematic understanding of important attributes of the surfactant candidate such as critical micelle concentration, hydrophilic lipophilic balance, critical packing parameter, and Winsor ratio that are pivotal to the overall performance of the emulsion system. The current review attempts to portray the salient features of nanoemulsion systems in cosmetic formulations, by essentially capturing the important characteristics of the emulsifier that dictate the overall stability of a nanoemulsion system. The recent transition toward the use of green ingredients such as emulsifiers and oils that are dermatologically safe has been delineated, by highlighting their important properties. Furthermore, the progress made so far in the application of microbial biosurfactants in nanoemulsion formulations is presented. Finally, the factors that dictate the overall stability of the nanoemulsion are briefly reviewed.
... [40] Topically the oil of sunflower has been found to effective in treatment of dry and scaly skin condition, dermatitis, fungal infection, in addition to that oil has been effectively used as lubricant, anti-wrinkle and anti-ageing effect in cosmetics. [41] ...
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The wide popularity, acceptability and demand of herbal cosmetics has been increased in recent years due to awareness of harmful side effects and adverse reactions caused by synthetic cosmetics ingredients. Herbs, plant materials and plant products were used as cosmetics since ancient times. Various essential oils, juices, fixed oil, plant exudates, extracts, isolated compound obtained from natural sources have been used for their skin care potential in various herbal cosmetics. Herbal cosmetics getting more popularity and belief among the people due to safety, higher bio-compatibility, cost effectiveness, easy availability, lower side effects, environmental friendly nature and traditional experience of uses. Such reliability on herbal cosmetics encourage to screen more herbs, plant materials and natural ingredients for their cosmetic potential. Scientific review of available data and new researches on medicinal plants can provide basis to use more plants for their skin care potential. This review attempts to emphasize the use of some common medicinal plants for their skin care potential in herbal cosmetics.
... Also, H. annuus was involved in the composition of some pomades in pharmacy. Its oil has been reported to be used as a constituent in skinprotective medicinal products in newborns (31) and dry skincare for its softening and noncomedogenic properties (32). Considering this ethnobotanical value of H. annuus L., there are several studies evaluating biological activities such as anti-inflammatory, antimalarial, anti-asthmatic, anti-diabetic, antihypertensive, anti-oxidant, anti-tumor, antioxidant, and antimicrobial (33). ...
... Dersani ® oil is used to treat wounds and is composed of essential fatty acids [1]. On the other hand, cold-pressed sunflower seed oil (Helianthus annus) has been used topically to improve the skin barrier and prevent systemic infections [2]. ...
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Dersani® and sunflower® oils are used by the Brazilian population as a cicatrizing agent. However, data on physical and chemical properties of these oils are scarce. In this data article on oils, we determined a total of 14 fatty acids composition by gas chromatography (GC), as well as quantifying the elements contents (Ca, K, Mg, Al, Cr, Fe, Mn, Na, P, Se and Zn) using inductively coupled plasma optical spectrometry (ICP OES). Rancimat method was used to determine the oxidative stability of the oils at temperature of 110 °C, in which the induction times for Dersani® and Sunflower® oils were 1.54 (±0.02) and 6.21 (±0.17) hours, respectively. Spectroscopic techniques UV-VIS and fluorescence were employed to obtain spectral datasets. UV-VIS and fluorescence spectroscopy reveals the presence of phenolic, tocopherols, tocotrienols and methyl-linolenate compounds in the oils. The determination of mineral and others contents in oils is an important criterion for the assessment of oil quality with regard to oxidation and their toxicity, properties and storage.
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Oil from the seeds of sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) was extracted with n-hexane, and was evaluated for free fatty acid value, FFA (0.042%), acid value, AV (0.095mgKOH/g), ester value, EV (182.138mgKOH/g), saponification value, SV (182.233mgKOH/g), iodine value, IV (119.921mgI 2 /100g), peroxide value, PV (6.322mgO 2 /kg) and specific gravity, SG (0.915). The anti-microbial properties of the oil on different pathogenic organisms were evaluated.
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As key agents for improving the oxidative stability of vegetable oils, antioxidants are of practical interest concerning the health promoting effects in functional foods. This paper reviews the nutraceutical and phytopharmaceutical properties of sunflower oil, explores reported efficient indigenous antioxidant plant-based extracts, summarises current research on antioxidant plasma ability, favourable outcomes on blood lipids and other health benefits of sunflower oil, and puts forward the proposal of gradual replacing the lipid lowering drugs with a healthy dietary practice. In order to protect consumers health, more human intervention studies are expected to fulfill health claims related especially to antioxidant defense and prevention of premature cell-ageing and lately cognitive decline.
Plants act as a source of food and medicine from long times. A wide range of plant oils are used in cosmetics and toiletry preparations Women are obsessed with looking beautiful. So, they use various beauty products that have herbs to look charming and young. Indian herbs and their significance is popular worldwide. Herbal Cosmetics have growing demand in the world market and is an invaluable gift of nature. Herbal formulations always have attracted considerable attention because of their good activity and comparatively lesser or nil side effects with synthetic drugs. Herbs and spices have been used in maintaining and enhancing human beauty since time immemorial. Herbs such as Sandalwood and Turmeric have long been used by Indian women for skin care. This paper reviews the utility of some Indian medicinal plants in hair care and cosmetics. The association between Ayurveda and cosmeceuticals has also been highlighted in the paper.
Background: Inadequate skin care may increase morbidity in preterm infants. Skin care practices that support skin maturation have barely been investigated. Objectives: To investigate the effect of sunflower seed oil (SSO) on skin barrier development in low-birth-weight premature infants. Methods: 22 preterm infants (<48 h after birth, 1,500-2,500 g) were randomized into group C (control) and group SSO, receiving daily SSO application during the first 10 postnatal days, followed by no intervention. Transepidermal water loss (TEWL), stratum corneum hydration (SCH), skin pH and sebum were measured <48 h after birth and on postnatal days 5, 11 and 21 on the forehead, abdomen, thigh and buttock. Results: Skin pH decreased, while sebum remained stable in both groups. In group C, TEWL remained stable; in group SSO, TEWL increased significantly on the abdomen, leg and buttock until day 11, followed by a decrease after SSO application had been stopped. Abdomen SCH remained stable in group C, but continuously decreased in group SSO until day 21. Conclusion: SSO application may retard postnatal skin barrier maturation in preterm infants.
The paper describes the great potential of anthocyanin extracts from dry skins of red onions (Allium cepa L.) to stabilise sunflower oil in comparison to the effect generated by tocopherols mixture. Total phenolics content in the investigated red onion samples is 1346 mg GAE 100 g–1 fresh mass (FM), while total anthocyanins content is 99.66 mg 100 g–1 FM. The anthocyanin extract shows activity against Streptococcus pyogenes. The effectiveness of the natural antioxidant on the oxidative stability of sunflower oil was assessed by evaluation of primary and secondary oxidation products, using peroxide value and thiobarbituric acid reactive substances tests. Our results indicate that sunflower oil containing small amounts of red onion anthocyanin extract exhibits lower levels of lipid oxidation at 40oC during 10-day storage compared to control and samples containing tocopherols. Also, a significant decrease of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) values of sunflower oil treated with red onion anthocyanin extract was observed compared to the control sample. These results may contribute to the future consideration of anthocyanins from red onion by-products as economically advantageous sources of natural antioxidants and antimicrobials to be used in edible oils.