I can feel fall in the air. It is a lovely time of year, the changing of the seasons. The days are getting shorter, my skin is getting dryer, and my acne is flaring up.
Wait? What did you say?
Yes, well, as much as I love the relief from the hot summer sun, however when the fall weather rolls in, I notice big changes in my skin. Luckily, there are plenty of natural creams and lotions to remedy this itchy inflammatory situation. And, since it's fall, I believe pumpkin should get a little time to shine in the fading fall sun.
[rather listen than read? Check out this episode in our Plant Powered Podcast: Kiss My Grass]
Pumpkin seed oil is this blog’s Plant Power Highlight. She is eco-friendly to produce, harvest, and process. This makes her affordable and sustainable choice in natural skin care products. A win-win for the eco-conscious skin care community. I find it so delightful that her seasonal ripening coincides with the seasonal changes of our skin. It's as though she is growing just for you.
Pumpkin seed oil is fantastic for dry skin as well as acne. Pumpkin seed oil contains over ten different types of fatty acids and eight essential minerals. (1) This type of complex composition gives the ‘all natural’ approach to skin care a huge leg up over industrial formulas. It would be incredibly difficult and expensive for any skin care formulator to try and copy the nutritional recipe that pumpkin seed oil offers. She simply packs too much good stuff into each drop for any human to try and copy. As I love to say: plants do it better.
What makes pumpkin seed oil so great for dry skin is the one-two punch of her oil composition and mineral concentration. Topping the concentration of fatty oils, pumpkin seed oil contains large amounts of linoleic and palmitic fatty acids. Both of these acids are fantastic to shore up our skins barrier and keep moisture in (2). The human body cannot make these types of acids on our own, in fact studies have shown that when people are lacking these types of fatty acids they are more prone to eczema. Therefore, because they are essential, humans must eat or apply these fats. When applied topically, linoleic and palmitic fatty acids are broken down by our skin cells, which means they are used as skin food. Their fatty components have bioactive results (2). These oils play a direct role in the function and creation of the skin cells that make up our skin barrier! (2) Without a healthy skin barrier, our skin is easily damaged and it becomes itchy and inflamed.
But how is Pumpkin seed oil good for acne?
Pumpkin has a wonderful trick up her seed. The seed oil is incredibly anti-inflammatory, and it is just the right type nutrients, oils, and minerals that help reduce inflamed acne lesions. As stated before, her unique composition allows for the oil to hydrate the skin barrier. Luckily it is not heavy and pore clogging oil like coconut oil or other deeply moisturizing plant oils. It turns out, this type of oil hydration is good for acne.
I know it sounds crazy to add oil to acne, after all, most acne lesions are caused by too much oil. Well…sort of. Even though the reasons people develop acne are complex, the result is an enlarged oil gland with oil trapped beneath the surface of the skin which become swollen, inflamed, and sometimes infected with bacteria.
Often, people suffering from acne become obsessed with washing their faces, in an attempt to remove the oil and clean off the ‘bad’ bacteria. What they don’t know, is many times this makes things worse, much worse. The first reason is because our skin needs oil. The skin barrier is literally skin cells held together by fats (especially the types of fats found in pumpkin seed oil). If you wash your face too much, or too aggressively, you will wash away these fats. When that happens, bad bacteria can enter the skin and cause infections or worsening acne. At the very least, the entering bacteria causes increased inflammation because the skin’s immune system is working combat these intruders. Thus creating red itchy skin. Secondly, when you wash away all this oil, this signals to your oil glands to produce more oil! Thus creating a vicious cycle. What you need is balance, but with the right types of oils.
Gently washing your face is good to remove excess oil, dirt, dead skin cells, and inflammatory pollution. However, afterwards it is important to replace some of that oil with a light moisturizer or quick absorbing face oil like pumpkin seed, grape seed, or sunflower seed oil; all of which are high in Linoleic and Palmitic acids. This will help ease inflammation before it has a chance to start.
What about the acne I already have?
Pumpkin seed oil can help reduce the size and redness of the acne lesion. In addition to the TEN types of fatty acids pumpkin seed oil contains, she also has several anti-inflammatory minerals. Topping her list are magnesium, zinc, manganese, and phosphorus (1). These minerals work as chemical communicators to slow down the skins immune system communication. Under normal circumstances, our skins immune system sends out chemical messengers to recruit other cells to the scene of a problem. However, in the case of a clogged swollen pore, this system is out of balance. Because the immune system is causing inflammation around the clogged pore, it makes it really difficult for the trapped oil to come out of the pore and heal. Instead it just gets bigger and bigger. This reminds me of a popular childrens toy. Imagine the hand as inflammation of the skin and the water bead toy is what is happening to your pore when it is being squeezed by inflammation.
The minerals in pumpkin seed oil are known to disrupt this process and allow for the swelling around the clogged pore to relax, allowing for the oil to be released from the gland and the skin to return to normal.
In 2018 a group of researchers conducted a study to see if pumpkin seed oil would improve the appearance and number of acne lesions in their test group. They tested twenty individuals and had them apply pumpkin seed oil to their acne lesions daily for three months. The results were quite astonishing. After just one month, all the test subjects had positive results. Collectively they have 38% less lesions, and after two months 59% less lesions. After three months, 90% of the test subjects reported they were satisfied with the results of the study (1).
You can help prevent flare ups by keeping your skin gently cleaned and well hydrated with pumpkin seed oil. This will help you by signaling to the oil glands not to over produce oil which can potentially get clogged beneath the surface. Additionally, the anti-inflammatory effects of pumpkin seed oil will help the skin around a clogged pore relax and allow for the lesion to heal.
Not a bad days work for an unassuming gourd. Hurray for pumpkin and her plant powers.
Dr. Chantelle Davidson, Pharm. D.
October 2nd, 2021
Learn more about Chantelle in her Author Bio.
Abeer, et. al. Facial Acne Therapy by Using Pumpkin Seed Oil with its Physiochemical Properties. Applied Science Reports. 2018
Simard, et. al. Modulation of the Lipid Profile Reconstructed Skin Substitutes after Essential Fatty Acid Supplementation Affects Testosterone Permeability. 2019.