Evening Primrose Oil in Skin Care

Evening Primrose Oil in Skin Care

Evening primrose oil, (Oenothera biennis), is a common ingredient in many skin care and supplement products.

It contains extremely high amounts of valuable fatty acids such as linoleic, linolenic, and gamma-linolenic fatty acids.

Many skin care products like moisturizers and cleansers contain this ingredient because linoleic acid is anti-inflammatory and soothing on skin.

Evening primrose oil is comedogenic, which means it can clog pores and should not be used on acne-prone skin or allergic sensitive skin subtypes.

What is evening primrose oil?

Evening primrose oil is a plant extract used in a variety of products like skin care products and fatty acid supplements.

EPO is considered the best source of gamma linolenic fatty acid out of all oils used in skin care.

EPO contains high concentrations of many useful fatty acids for products like moisturizers, cleansing creams, and various serums.

This oil is has shown significant positive impacts on patients with eczema.





Why is evening primrose oil used in skin care?

Evening primrose oil is used in skincare because it has extremely high concentrations of anti-inflammatory fatty acids, specifically linoleic and gamma linolenic fatty acids.

Linoleic and linolenic fatty acids are great in moisturizers and other products meant to soothe inflammation and hydrate skin.

EPO has one of the highest concentrations of linoleic acid of any oil used in skin care at 70%.

EPO fits into the ingredient category of "dry oils" because linoleic fatty acids are unsaturated fats.

It serves a similar function to sunflower oil products in skin care, but with a lower concentration of oleic acid than sunflower oil has.

What are some of the primary uses of evening primrose oil in skin care products?

Evening primrose oil has an extremely high concentration of beneficial and soothing unsaturated fatty acids for skin care, like linoleic, linolenic, and gamma-linoleic fatty acids,

It is used as an ingredient in many kinds of skin care products like:





Skin lighteners



Evening primrose oil for skin lightening

Evening primrose oil contains unsaturated fatty acids, which means they are tyrosinase inhibitors.

Tyrosinase inhibitors block tyrosinase receptors to stop them from producing melanin, or skin pigment.

Evening primrose oil is one of many skin lightening ingredients used in skin care.

EPO can be used alongside other tyrosinase inhibitors like hexylresorcinol, as well as PAR-2 blockers like niacinamide.

The best combination of skin care products for you depends on your custom skin care routine.

Shop for skin lighteners by your Baumann Skin Type to make sure you only use the right oils for your skin.

Using evening primrose oil with retinoids for wrinkles

Evening primrose oil will not fix wrinkles on skin on its own, but it can be used alongside a retinoid as part of an anti aging regimen.

Evening primrose oil is used alongside retinoids and other anti-aging ingredients in many products because of its soothing linoleic fatty acids which counteract the side effects of retinoids.

Retinoid routines vary greatly based on your skin type and personal skin issues. Be sure to take the Baumann Skin Type questionnaire to develop your custom skin care regimen!



Evening primrose oil in hair care products

Oils like with lots of unsaturated fatty acids like EPO are great for hydrating and repairing the proteins that make up our hair.

EPO is not particularly recommended as a hair care oil for acne-prone skin types because it can cause pimples along the hair line.

Everyone's hair is a little different in more ways than color

While EPO might be the best choice for some people's hair, it may not be the best choice for you.

Some oils are too heavy for curly hair, weighing locks down into wavier shapes. This is not always desirable.

On the other hand, some oils are too light to weigh down hair in cases where you want to control frizzing in humid environments.

The amount and type of oil you should use for your hair depends on many factors, including your scalp's sebum production.

Be sure to think about carefully about what your hair needs when picking hair care products.



Does using evening primrose oil effect hormones?

Evening primrose oil products can affect your hormones when taken orally.

When used in topical skin care products, EPO does not have any effect on hormone balance.

It contains extremely high levels of beneficial fatty acids that have been shown to have many interesting positive effects on hormone balance.

For example, evening primrose oil supplements have been shown to improve reproductive hormone regulation in obese rats. (1)

Though more testing is required, it seems that EPO might one day be commonly recommended for regulating reproductive hormonal imbalances related to obesity in humans.

EPO affected levels of follicle stimulating, luteinizing, and testosterone hormones, reducing the complications from hormonal changes in polycystic ovary syndrome. (2)

In this same study, EPO reduced insulin and serum glucose levels and increased insulin sensitivity - all of which are beneficial effects.

Metabolic processes having to do with the reproductive cycles were clearly improved as compared to the control group in this study.





Can you use evening primrose oil topically?

Yes, EPO oil can be used topically, and is found in many topical skin care products.

It is very anti-inflammatory because of its high linoleic acid concentration.

It also contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids, an important nutrient that is not naturally synthesized in the body.

Evening primrose oil is used in topical products to hydrate skin, repair the skin barrier, and soothe inflammation.

It is also an occlusive ingredient that helps hold water into the kin and protect the skin from allergens and irritants.

Primrose oil capsules vs creams?

Primrose oils can be found in oral supplements like capsules as well as topical skin care products. They are popular because of their high concentration of beneficial fatty acids.

When consumed orally, EPO has been shown to have possible impacts on hormone regulation having to do with pregnancy related hormones.

There is no evidence of changes in hormone regulation or balances from EPO when applied via topical skin care products. (5)

In other words, while EPO is useful as an ingredient in both topically and orally ingested products, it serves a different purpose in each form.

Benefits of evening primrose oil:

Evening primrose oil has multiple appreciable benefits when used in skin care products and beyond.

Three of the most notable benefits of evening primrose oil in skin care are:


  1. Anti-inflammatory
  2. Moisturizing
  3. Skin lightening

Is evening primrose oil safe?

Evening primrose oil has an EWG score of "1," the second best possible score after "verified." This means that EPO is considered a very clean and safe oil.

That being said, one of the definitions of a clean oil is not having impacts on hormone production, regulation, or balance, which may not be true for EPO.

As there are conflicting reports on the hormonal impacts of EPO, some studies have noted changes in pregnancy related hormones in obese rats when exposed to EPO through oral ingestion. (1)

When used in topical applications for skin care, EPO has shown no evidence of altering hormone production in any way. Its supposed effect on hormones is limited to oral ingestion.

It is worth asking an endocrinologist or your dermatologist if EPO is right for you if you are planning a pregnancy, are pregnant, or have hormonal imbalance.

Does evening primrose oil have any side effects?

EPO does not have any dangerous side effects when used in skin care products.

As with most oils in skin care, over application can lead to clogged pores or an undesirable film on the skin.

EPO is comedogenic, meaning it poses a risk of clogging pores in acne prone or sensitive skin subtypes.

Just like any plant-based ingredient, an allergy to EPO is possible, though unlikely.

Consult your custom skin care regimen to find out how often EPO products can be used on your skin.



Evening Primrose oil for Specific Skin Conditions

Because of its myriad benefits in skin care, there are a number of skin conditions that can be treated with products containing evening primrose oil such as:







It is not recommended for all conditions or skin types because it is comedogenic, meaning it can clog pores.

EPOI may not be right for your Baumann Skin Type so look for your skin type octagon on products when you shop for skin care containing evening primrose oil to see if the products is right for you.





Evening primrose oil for acne

EPO is a comedogenic ingredient, meaning it can easily clog the pores of some sensitive skin types.

When using EPO with acne or otherwise oily skin, make sure to closely follow your custom skin care regimen.

Using EPO outside of your recommended regimen may result in clogged pores or excessive moisture on the skin, which can lead to a change in the skin's microbiome.

There are many different types of treatment routines for acne, which include non-comedogenic moisturizers.

Evening primrose oil for dark spots

As a tyrosinase inhibitor, EPO is used in many skin lightening products which treat dark spots on the skin.

Moisturizers containing EPO can be combined in a skin care routine with other skin lightening ingredients.

EPO can be used in the treatment of many kinds of hyperpigmentation,

however, its skin lightening effects are not strong enough to give a significant benefit when it is used alone. It needs to be used in a comprehensive and customized skin care routine to treat hyperpigmented skin.

Three hyperpigmentation conditions that can be treated with EPO include:


  1. Melasma
  2. Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)
  3. Sun spots

How often should I use evening primrose oil?

Depending on your skin type, you might be able to use EPO multiple times per week, or even daily.

Since EPO is comedogenic, some sensitive skin subtypes might want to avoid using it regularly.

Consult your dermatologist or take the Baumann Skin Type Questionnaire to see if EPO is right for you!









Can you use products with evening primrose oil while pregnant?

It has been proposed by midwives for generations that use of EPO speeds up gestation, but no studies corroborate this belief. In fact, multiple studies found that this claim was untrue. (3,4)

It seems that EPO has no effect on pregnancy in general, particularly on the length of pregnancy.

EPO might be useful regulating hormones required for healthy normal gestation in obese populations

Some sources claim that EPO should be altogether avoided during pregnancy, so consult your OB/GYN if you have any concerns. (5)

There are other ingredients in the skin lightening category that are recommended for conditions like melasma during pregnancy.

Does evening primrose oil induce early labor?

It is a common misconception that EPO can induce labor early in pregnancy.

This is an unsubstantiated myth that has been observed not to be true in multiple scientific research studies.

There are no risks of early delivery from use of EPO, nor will EPO prevent past-date deliveries.

Consult your pre-natal doctor and their team for advice on any of your pregnancy concerns.

Which skin care products with evening primrose oil are best?

There are a wide variety of products in skin care that serve different purposes which all contain evening primrose oil.

Here is a selection of our favorite products containing evening primrose oil:

Best scientific references and peer reviewed articles on the use of Evening primrose oils in skin care products:


  1. Atteia, H. H., Alzahrani, S., El-Sherbeeny, N. A., Youssef, A. M., Farag, N. E., Mehanna, E. T., ... & Zaitone, S. A. (2020). Evening primrose oil ameliorates hyperleptinemia and reproductive hormone disturbances in obese female rats: Impact on estrus cyclicity. Frontiers in endocrinology, 10, 942.

2.Zand Vakili, F., Zare, S. H., Rahimi, K., & Riahi, M. (2018). The effect of evening primrose oil on changes in polycystic ovary syndrome induced by estradiol valerate in rat. Armaghane danesh, 22(6), 714-724.

3.Dove, D., & Johnson, P. (1999). Oral evening primrose oil:: Its effect on length of pregnancy and selected intrapartum outcomes in low-risk nulliparous women. Journal of Nurse-Midwifery, 44(3), 320-324.

4.Kalati, M., Kashanian, M., Jahdi, F., Naseri, M., Haghani, H., & Sheikhansari, N. (2018). Evening primrose oil and labour, is it effective? A randomised clinical trial. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 38(4), 488-492.

5.Bayles, B., & Usatine, R. (2009). Evening primrose oil.

6. Boonchai W, Iamtharachai P, Sunthonpalin P. Occupational allergic contact dermatitis from essential oils in aromatherapists. Contact Dermatitis. 2007;56(3):181-2.

7. Bleasel N, Tate B, Rademaker M. Allergic contact dermatitis following exposure to essential oils. Australas J Dermatol. 2002;43(3):211-3.

8. DiNardo JC. Is mineral oil comedogenic? J Cosmet Dermatol. 2005;4(1):2-3.

9. Blanken R, van Vilsteren MJ, Tupker RA, Coenraads PJ. Effect of mineral oil and linoleic-acid-containing emulsions on the skin vapour loss of sodium-lauryl-sulphate-induced irritant skin reactions. Contact Dermatitis. 1989;20(2):93-7.

10. Agero AL, Verallo-Rowell VM. A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis. Dermatitis. 2004;15(3):109-16.

11. Tolbert PE. Oils and cancer. Cancer Causes Control. 1997;8(3):386-405.

12. Rawlings AV, Lombard KJ. A review on the extensive skin benefits of mineral oil. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2012;34(6):511-8.

13. Boucetta KQ, Charrouf Z, Aguenaou H, Derouiche A, Bensouda Y. Does Argan oil have a moisturizing effect on the skin of postmenopausal women? Skin Res Technol. 2013;19(3):356-7.

14. Darmstadt GL, Mao-Qiang M, Chi E, Saha SK, Ziboh VA, Black RE, et al. Impact of topical oils on the skin barrier: possible implications for neonatal health in developing countries. Acta Paediatr. 2002;91(5):546-54.

15. Darmstadt GL, Saha SK, Ahmed AS, Chowdhury MA, Law PA, Ahmed S, et al. Effect of topical treatment with skin barrier-enhancing emollients on nosocomial infections in preterm infants in Bangladesh: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2005;365(9464):1039-45.

16. Berbis P, Hesse S, Privat Y. Essential fatty acids and the skin. Allerg Immunol (Paris). 1990;22(6):225-31.

17. Williams HC. Evening primrose oil for atopic dermatitis. BMJ. 2003;327(7428):1358-9.

18. Koca U, Süntar I, Akkol EK, Yilmazer D, Alper M. Wound repair potential of Olea europaea L. leaf extracts revealed by in vivo experimental models and comparative evaluation of the extracts’ antioxidant activity. J Med Food. 2011;14(1-2):140-6.

19. Aburjai T, Natsheh FM. Plants used in cosmetics. Phytother Res. 2003;17(9):987-1000.