Romans put a lot of faith in a certain berry, which was believed to contain the strength of Sun deity Sol and was allegedly gifted to men by no one other than Mars, the god of warfare himself. A staple ingredient in the warriors’ diet during battle, it was believed to replenish military might and prowess.
Traditional Asian medicine used this sunshine-packed berry to restore vitality, as well as to treat intoxication and diseases associated with the blood, heart and lungs. It was equally popular in Tibet, where this flaming orange fruit helped the human body adapt to the conditions of high altitude.
What we are referring to is nothing other than sea buckthorn, which has somewhat lost its popularity since the ancient times. As you will see on closer inspection, its unquestionable benefits for our skin are well worth the consideration. It can also come in handy in baking, or in the form of a sunny tea or syrup.
A brief history of sea buckthorn
Sea buckthorn (or Hippophaë rhamnoides in Latin) is particularly abundant in Siberia and the Caucasus region. No wonder then that the indigenous Siberian population has passed down so many legends associated with its golden fruit. In ancient times, sea buckthorn harvesting was a strictly shamanic domain, given the precious powers attributed to it. According to these beliefs, its berries could even stop bleeding, while bringing an overall sense of calm and preserving strength.
Everything about this, however, is grounded in evidence. The very process of sea buckthorn picking is a task not for the faint hearted. The berries burst easily and turn to mush, not to mention the incredibly spiky branches they grow on. Although mystic insight has nothing to do with it, much patience and effort are certainly required to stock up on this gift of nature. The juice and oil of sea buckthorn does in fact possess wound healing properties, while mashed up berries can be effectively used to stop blood loss. Nature really is the best doctor.
Russian herbalists of the 15-17th centuries recommended using sea buckthorn to treat stomach, skin and eye diseases. Berry infused potions were used to bathe babies, protecting their sensitive skin from inflammation, dryness and peeling. Some savvy women would have also used it as a hair rinse.
In the kitchen, sea buckthorn berries came in handy in the form of various infusions, homemade fruit drinks (kompots) and herbal teas. It was later discovered that it can also be used to make incredibly fragrant jams and syrups, which has given it a local nickname “Siberian pineapple” for its aroma. Legends and old wives’ tales aside, let us turn to some facts.
What does science have to say?
Although we would prefer to avoid such now hackneyed words as “superfood” or “powerhouse foods”, this is somewhat inevitable when it comes to sea buckthorn. Modern medicine and professional cosmetology simply cannot praise this fiery berry and its oil enough.
Chemical composition of sea buckthorn oil
The chemical constituents of sea buckthorn are astounding to say the least. Its oil contains almost 190 biologically active ingredients, including palmitoleic, oleic, linoleic, stearic, arachidic, malic and citric acid. Vitamins contained include: A, C, D, E, F, K, P, B1, B2, B6. In addition, it houses such powerful antioxidants as zinc, iron, calcium, selenium, copper and tanning agents.
Given such a rich list of ingredients, the benefits of the berries and oil on our health and appearance seem common sense. And there is substantial evidence to support that.
Health benefits of sea buckthorn
Chemical research carried out in Poland in 2017 has demonstrated that sea buckthorn berries and oil support the functioning of the immune system and fight infection. Given that sea buckthorn oil contains almost 20 times the amount of vitamin C contained in a single orange, this adds up.
Sea buckthorn berries benefit our heart, improving circulation and expelling toxins from the body, while encouraging oxygen absorption into our skin. Due to the presence of unsaturated fatty acids, sea buckthorn oil also promotes skin regeneration and reduced cholesterol in the blood. And it does not stop there. Further research has also demonstrated sea buckthorn’s benefits as a mood booster thanks to its apparent antidepressant qualities.
Research carried out in 2019 by scientists at the University of Barcelona confirmed that fatty acids contained in sea buckthorn oil are invaluable when it comes to cell membrane connection, transportation of vital energy and nutrients, and regulation of lipid concentration in plasma. The presence of omega-6 and high content of the rare omega-7 makes it a truly unique ingredient.
Another group of researchers from Finland has demonstrated the use of sea buckthorn oil to significantly improve dry eye syndrome. Volunteers were administered 2 g of sea buckthorn oil a day over the course of three months. The result was a reduction in such symptoms as burning, a gritty sensation and redness, which has profound implications for our tech savvy digital age.
Despite its huge benefits, sea buckthorn does have several counterindications. It cannot be consumed if you have cholecystitis, cholangitis, pancreatitis, hepatitis and cholelithiasis. It should also not be taken if your stomach is too acidic or during relapse of gallbladder or liver diseases.
Sea buckthorn in beauty
Multiple studies on the skin benefits of sea buckthorn oil demonstrate that it can tackle a broad spectrum of concerns.
- Inflammation: Its unique gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is a great anti-inflammatory. The acid speeds up nutrient metabolism, improves circulation and fills the skin with oxygen, while acting as an inter-cellular “glue”, gently binding the cells of the epidermis.
- Protection: Sea buckthorn oil’s high fatty acid content of ~30% softens the epidermis and locks in moisture, protecting the skin from dehydration.
- Defence: Saturated fatty acids contained in sea buckthorn oil create a protective film, improving its defence against UVB light and cold weather, increasing the skin’s elasticity and turgor.
- Tone: The ideal pairing of vitamins A and C can improve skin tone and remove pigmentation, while strengthening the blood vessels.
- Acne: Acne and blackhead prone skin typically has a lower linoleic acid content, found in abundance in sea buckthorn. Sea buckthorn containing treatments therefore regulate the functioning of sebaceous glands and help combat inflammation.
- Ageing: Sea buckthorn oil is an invaluable source of lipophilic antioxidants, which fight ageing skin and wrinkles. This miracle cure should not be used more than 2-3 times a week, given sea buckthorn’s high carotenoid content, which can give your skin an orange hue.
Patch testing is a must
Sea buckthorn oil is a valuable discovery. However, prior to diving into its many benefits, make sure to carry out an allergy test. This is especially the case for those with sensitive skin prone to inflammation. If no redness or itchiness occurs within a 48-hours period, add products containing sea buckthorn into your beauty routine to your heart’s content.
Our top picks
A marvellous antioxidant serum with stellar radical-fighting ingredients all around. Sea buckthorn is here combined with rosehip, red raspberry, borage and cranberry seeds oils, which together bring about a radiant complexion.
This is so much more than just another hand cream. A true healing balm, packed full of vegetable oils to protect your hands from winter weather and overexposure to water. Sea buckthorn is included here alongside such wound-healing Chinese herbs as astragalus, honeysuckle and liquorice. An authentic and elegant product.
Black Locust Firming Concentrate
A unique serum designed for dry and ageing skin. Needless to say, sea buckthorn is one of the key ingredients in its formula, which also contains precious oils and extracts, whose action is further enhanced by bakuchiol, retinol’s natural sister.
Sea Buckthorn Body Wash
The well-known brand Weleda has an entire series of products formulated with sea buckthorn. If you ever considered trying it out, this creamy body wash might be a good start. Combining such multiple sunshine-in-a-jar ingredients as oranges, tangerines and grapefruits, it turns into a luxurious aromatic foam, refreshing the skin and treating your to the scents of summer.
Pe+C Combination Skin Serum Concentrate
Odacité’s light but highly concentrated serum plays to sea buckthorn’s strength as an anti-inflammatory. The formula is designed to balance the production of sebum, starring buckthorn’s fiery berries with cypress and peach oils. The result – skin that is healthy and matt.
Therapi Honey Skincare
Orange Blossom Honey Gel Cleanser
A gentle cleansing gel containing honey and sea buckthorn makes sure your skin is balanced and healthy. When mixed with water, it produces a light foamy texture, which helps cleanse the skin without overdrying it. Contains orange blossom and lavender essential oils.
When should you use a lip mask? All year around is the answer, but especially in winter, when our lips are so in need of that extra care. Nourishing sea buckthorn and evening primrose regenerate and calm the skin, while the sweet citrusy aroma is a treat for the senses when using this mask. A great ritual for when you need to bring back fullness and moisture to your lips.
Skin Perfecting Complex
As we have established, sea buckthorn is a vital berry containing a multitude of nutrients. That means its use goes way beyond topical applications. This complex aimed at boosting beauty from within is for consumption, increasing the production of collagen, fighting free radicals and skin imperfections such as acne and eczema. This vegan formula is suitable for everyone.
The Ordinary 100% Organic Virgin Sea-Buckthorn Fruit Oil
An organic concoction of floral and fruity oils for facial care by The Ordinary provides the much-needed moisture, nourishment and protection. The ideal contents - rich in vitamins A, B, C, E and K as well as Omega-3, 6,7 and 9 fatty acids - will give the skin its necessary nutrition and maintain it in its best condition.