Sesame Oil in Skin Care

Sesame Oil in Skin Care

Sesame oil (Sesamum indicum) is a moisturizing, antioxidant rich oil found in many skin care products that has been used across the world for hundreds of years in food and medicine.

In skin care, sesame oil is sought after for its unique compounds like sesamol, an anti-inflammatory antioxidant, compound unique to sesame plants.

Sesame oil is also notable for its ability to absorb UV radiation, protecting the skin from sun damage when used in sunscreens.

Find out if sesame oil is right for your skin care routine!

What is sesame oil?

What is sesame oil?

Sesame oil is primarily composed of unsaturated fatty acids, meaning it could be classified as a "dry oil."

Though sesame oil is derived from plants, it is not considered an essential oil because its texture is too thick. Plant oils with high viscosity are often considered carrier oils.

Sesame oil is an unsaturated plant oil with hydrating, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and sun protective properties.

What are the active compounds?

Sesame oil contains many beneficial components like hydrating fatty acids and antioxidant natural compounds.

The four major fatty acids in sesame oil (in order of concentration) are:

  1. Linoleic acid
  2. Oleic acid
  3. Palmitic acid
  4. Stearic acid

The compound that sesame seed oil is most coveted for in skin care, however, is the lignan "sesamol," not found in other plant species.

Sesamol is a very beneficial compound in skin care which has been lauded for its antioxidant and radiation absorbing properties since the 90's.(2,3)

Some evidence even suggests sesamol may treat certain types of cancers. (4) That being said, more data is always required on proposed cancer treatments, and drinking sesame oil will not cure cancer.

Other lignans in sesame oil are sesamolin and sesamin. (11)

Sesame oil is also rich in tocopherols, the family of compounds which includes vitamin E.

Studies have also found that these and other active compounds such as various flavonoids and phenolic compounds give sesame oil antimicrobial properties. (12)

Benefits of sesame oil

Skin benefits

Sesame oil is rich in compounds that give it moisturizing, UV protecting, antioxidizing, and antimicrobial properties.

Studies have found it can treat bacterial and fungal conditions like staph infections. It has been used in places like Nigeria for centuries for antibacterial reasons. (5)

Antioxidant compounds present in sesame oil eliminate free radicals on the skin which contribute to wrinkles and aging skin. (3)

The hydrating fatty acids in sesame oil make it a good ingredient in many facial moisturizers.

It is also occlusive, meaning it helps other ingredients and moisture stay on the skin.

Oleic acid, also common in sesame oil, is useful when layering skin care ingredients because it helps other ingredients absorb into the skin.

Side effects

Sesame oil contains comedogenic Palmitic fatty acids, meaning it can clog the pores of your face or hairline if you are prone to acne.

Oleic acid, which sesame oil contains a lot of, can irritate extremely dry skin types, causing inflammation in some cases.

Is sesame oil safe in skin care?

Is it safe?

Sesame oil is safe to use in skin care.

EWG rating of "1," meaning there are no common health concerns associated with sesame oil.

If you are allergy to sesame seeds in your food, you are likely also allergic to them as a skin care ingredient.

It is a clean, non-toxic ingredient, safe during pregnancy and on baby skin.

The primary danger of sesame oil is using it for incorrectly in your custom skin care regimen or if it's not right for your Baumann Skin Type.

Take our skin type questionnaire to shop by your skin type!

Specific uses

Because sesame oil contains such a broad array of beneficial compounds, it is used in many types of skin care products like moisturizers, sunscreens, skin lightening products, and masks.

It is also used in formulations specifically designed to treat conditions like kinds of hyperpigmentation, dry skin, wrinkles, and hair follicle damage.

Studies have found that sesame oil, (specifically its active compound sesamol) is good at preventing photodamage from damaging UV radiation. (7)


Despite the seemingly boundless benefits of sesame oil, it is unfortunately not a great choice for acne treatments.

Sesame oil is comedogenic, in part due to palmitic acid, which means it can clog the pores of acne prone skin.

That being said, it does also contain antimicrobial properties which are often good for acne treatments.

If it was not comedogenic, it would be good for acne.

If you are acne prone but would like to include oils in your skin care regimen, here are six non-comedogenic oils to consider:

Dark spots

This oil has lots of oleic and linoleic acid, meaning it is a weak tyrosinase inhibitor and can prevent/treat dark spots.

Just like other natural plant-based tyrosinase inhibitors, they are only really effective when used alongside other skin lightening ingredients like PAR-2 blockers or other tyrosinase inhibitors like:

There are many ways to treat hyperpigmentation, and many related products contain natural skin lightening oils.

Sesame oil for dry skin

Sesame oil for dry skin

Sesame oil contains tons of linoleic fatty acids and some hydrating saturated fatty acids like stearic and palmitic acid.

Linoleic fatty acids are soothing, anti-inflammatory, and great in barrier repair moisturizers.

Because it also contains a high concentration of oleic acid, it can be irritating to extremely dry skin types or skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.

Stearic and palmitic acids are also both extremely hydrating and great in many moisturizers.

Hair care

Sesame oil is rich in hydrating fatty acids as well as the valuable compound sesamol, which is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredient.

Sesame oil can be great for repairing damaged follicles or protecting hair from sun damage.

Moisturizing hair follicles is an important part of healthy hair growth if you have a dry scalp.

If your skin is susceptible to acne, be cautious to avoid getting sesame oil on your hair line; it can result in acne on the forehead.

Five other great hair oils are:

UV protection

Sesame oil has demonstrated remarkable UV protective qualities in studies.(1)

Sesame oil is a good ingredient for sunscreens because it directly protects the skin from sun damage by absorbing UV radiation.

Because it is such a safe, sustainable, and affordable ingredient, it can be found in many sunscreens or SPF skin products.

Which products contain sesame seed oil?

Here is our complete collection of skin care products with sesame oil! Be sure to take the Baumann Skin Type quiz to make sure sesame oil is right for your skin!

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Here are some of the best references on sesame oil in skin care

  1. Sato Y, Kumazawa N, Suzuki M, et al. Studies on chemical protectors against radiation. XXXIII. Protective mechanisms of various compounds against skin injury induced by radiation. Yakugaku Zasshi. 1991 Jan;111(1):51-8.
  2. Bhardwaj R, Sanyal SN, Vaiphei K, et al. Sesamol induces apoptosis by altering expression of Bcl-2 and Bax proteins and modifies skin tumor development in Balb/c mice. Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2017;17(5):726-733.
  3. Puglia C, Lauro MR, Offerta A, et al. Nanostructured lipid carriers (NLC) as vehicles for topical administration of sesamol: in vitro percutaneous absorption study and evaluation of antioxidant activity. Planta Med. 2017 Mar;83(5):398-404.
  4. Kapadia GJ, Azuine MA, Tokuda H, et al. Chemopreventive effect of resveratrol, sesamol, sesame oil and sunflower oil in the Epstein-Barr virus early antigen activation assay and the mouse skin two-stage carcinogenesis. Pharmacol Res. 2002 Jun;45(6):499-505.
  5. Bankole MA, Shittu LA, Ahmed TA, et al. Synergistic antimicrobial activities of phytoestrogens in crude extracts of two sesame species against some common pathogenic microorganisms. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2007 Jun 10;4(4):427-33.
  6. Ramachandran S, Rajendra Prasad N, Karthikeyan S. Sesamol inhibits UVB-induced ROS generation and subsequent oxidative damage in cultured human skin dermal fibroblasts. Arch Dermatol Res. 2010 Dec;302(10):733-44.
  7. Sharma S, Kaur IP. Development and evaluation of sesamol as an antiaging agent. Int J Dermatol. 2006 Mar;45(3):200-8.
  8. Srisayam M, Weerapreeyakul N, Barusrux S, et al. Antioxidant, antimelanogenic, and skin-protective effect of sesamol. J Cosmet Sci. 2014 Mar-Apr;65(2):69-79.
  9. Baek SH, Lee SH. Sesamol decreases melanin biosynthesis in melanocyte cells and zebrafish: Possible involvement of MITF via the intracellular cAMP and p38/JNK signaling pathways. Exp Dermatol. 2015 Oct;24(10):761-6.
  10. Geetha T, Kapila M, Prakash O, et al. Sesamol-loaded solid lipid nanoparticles for treatment of skin cancer. J Drug Target. 2015 Feb;23(2):159-69.
  11. Kheirati Rounizi, S., Akrami Mohajeri, F., Moshtaghi Broujeni, H., Pourramezani, F., Jambarsang, S., Kiani, H., & Khalili Sadrabad, E. (2021). The chemical composition and heavy metal content of sesame oil produced by different methods: A risk assessment study. Food Science & Nutrition, 9(6), 2886-2893.
  12. Saleem, T. M. (2011). Anti-microbial activity of sesame oil. Int J Phytochem Pharmacol, 1(1), 21-23.

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