The Science of Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil in Skin Care

Written by: Dr. Leslie Baumann



Time to read 5 min

Hydrogenated vegetable oil is a common ingredient found in many skincare products. But what exactly is it and how does it impact the skin? In this article, we'll explore the composition of hydrogenated vegetable oil, its potential benefits, and what skin types may want to avoid this ingredient. To make sure you only buy the right products for your skin, take our quiz for free to get your Baumann Skin Type today!

What is hydrogenated vegetable oil

What is Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil?

Hydrogenated vegetable oil starts as a blend of oils extracted from plant sources such as soybeans, olives, sunflowers, and others. These natural oils contain a mix of fatty acids, including saturated fatty acids like palmitic acid and unsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid and linoleic acid. They also contain polyphenols and other antioxidant compounds.

The hydrogenation process involves heating the oil blend to very high temperatures and bubbling hydrogen gas through it. This causes the unsaturated fatty acids to become more saturated by gaining hydrogen molecules. The result is an oil that is solid or semi-solid at room temperature.

One key factor with hydrogenated vegetable oil is that its precise composition can vary significantly between batches depending on the exact oil sources used in the blend. This makes it difficult to consistently define its properties and effects in skincare formulations.

skin benefits of hydrogenated vegetable oil

Skin Benefits of Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil

Despite this variability, hydrogenated vegetable oil does possess some general qualities that could benefit certain skin types such as:

Skin barrier repair

The fatty acids in hydrogenated vegetable oil may help reinforce and repair the skin's natural moisture barrier, reducing moisture loss. The skin barrier is made of various lipids like cholesterol, fatty acids, and ceramideswhich can be found in many oils used in hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Anti-inflammatory effects

Unsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid have demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties that could help soothe irritated skin. Fatty acids like linoleic, linolenic, and alpha-linolenic acids are used in many barrier repair products, and are also commonly found in hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Increased ingredient absorption and penetration

The occlusive nature of hydrogenated vegetable oil can aid in the absorption and penetration of other active skincare ingredients. By keeping the skin protected and ingredients close to the skin, it is more likely slow absorbing compounds like retinoids will get to work effectively under an occlusive.

Anti-aging effects of hydrogenated vegetable oil

Hydrogenated vegetable oil naturally contains antioxidants like polyphenols and vitamin E that could help neutralize free radicals when applied topically. Untreated free radicals can cause genetic damage to skin cells that has a chance to cause cancer and skin aging. You can even find this ingredient in many sunscreens to provide thickness to products.

Moisturizing properties

As an oil, hydrogenated vegetable oil can provide deep moisturization for dry, flaky skin. This can occur by preventing evaporation of water off of the skin, and by physically entering the skin and providing hydrating lipids.

Drawbacks of hydrogenated vegetable oil

The Drawbacks of Hydrogenated Vegetable oil

While hydrogenated vegetable oil offers some potential benefits, there are also reasons why certain individuals may want to avoid it, such as:


The heavy, occlusive properties that allow hydrogenated vegetable oil to lock in moisture can also potentially clog pores, causing issues for those with acne-prone or oily skin. If you are sensitive to acne, you might want to avoid this ingredient.

Inconsistent formula

Since batches can vary significantly in precise composition, it is difficult to predict how an individual's skin may react. The qualities of hydrogenated vegetable oil can vary drastically as the components are variable. Some hydrogenated vegetable oil might be better for your skin than others.

Environmental impact

The hydrogenation manufacturing process requires high heat and hydrogen gas, making it less eco-friendly than some plant oil alternatives. Natural, unprocessed oils usually cause less damage to the environment than processed hydrogenated vegetable oil. 


Hydrogenated vegetable oil offers a blend of fatty acids, antioxidants, and emollient properties that could benefit dry, mature skin types by repairing barriers, reducing inflammation, aiding ingredient delivery, and providing intense hydration. However, those with oily or sensitive skin may want to avoid this occlusive ingredient due to potential pore-clogging and inconsistent formulations.

As with any skincare product, individuals should consider their specific Baumann Skin Type and concerns before making a purchase. Consulting a dermatologist can also provide valuable guidance on selecting ingredients best suited for one's unique complexion. Just because hydrogenated vegetable oil is right for someone else doesn't mean it's right for you!

You can find your Baumann Skin Type by taking the quiz for free today!

Level up your skin care knowledge with medical advice from dermatologists

Is hydrogenated vegetable oil the same as mineral oil?

Mineral oils come from petroleum based compounds, while hydrogenated vegetable oil is made by treating natural vegetable fats with hydrogen. The similarities between these two ingredients end past their shared ability to keep moisture on the skin with their saturated fatty acid compositions. Having an allergy to one does not reflect an allergy to the other. Note that mineral oils do not have unsaturated fatty acids.

Is hydrogenated vegetable oil good for skin?

If you are not prone to acne and do not have oily, sensitive skin, this ingredient could make a great addition to your skin care routine. Look for products that are designed for your Baumann Skin Type to make sure you only use hydrogenated vegetable oil products that are safe for you.

Best References and Scientific Publications on Hydrogenated vegetable oil:

  1. Baumann L. Antiaging Ingredients in Ch. 37 of Baumann's Cosmetic Dermatology Ed 3. (McGraw Hill 2022)
  2. Baumann, L. Ch. Cosmeceuticals and cosmetic Ingredients (McGraw Hill 2015)
  3. Poljšak, N., Kreft, S., & Kočevar Glavač, N. (2020). Vegetable butters and oils in skin wound healing: Scientific evidence for new opportunities in dermatology. Phytotherapy research34(2), 254-269.
  4. Ziboh, V. A., & Chapkin, R. S. (1987). Biologic significance of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the skin. Archives of dermatology123(12), 1686a-1690.
  5. Weisberg EM, Baumann LS. The foundation for the use of olive oil in skin care and botanical cosmeceuticals. In Olives and Olive Oil in Health and Disease Prevention. Cambridge, MA: Academic Press, 2021 pp. 425-434.
  6. Kataoka, H., Semma, M., Sakazaki, H., Nakamuro, K., Yamamoto, T., Hirota, S., ... & Ichikawa, A. (2009). Proinflammatory event of ozonized olive oil in mice. Ozone: science & engineering, 31(3), 238-246.
  7. Yang M, Zhou M, Song L. A review of fatty acids influencing skin condition. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2020;19(12):3199-3204.
  8. Spruit D. The interference of some substances with the water vapour loss of human skin. Dermatologica. 1971;142(2):89-92.
  9. Draelos Z. Moisturizers. In Atlas of Cosmetic Dermatology. Draelos Z, ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone, 2000, p. 83.
  10. Wehr RF, Krochmal L. Considerations in selecting a moisturizer. Cutis. 1987;39(6):512-5.
  11. Kligman AM. Regression method for assessing the efficacy of moisturizers. Cosmet Toilet. 1978;93:27-35.

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