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Sea Buckthorn for Healthy Skin

May 4, 2012 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast about natural skin care. One of the callers inquired about products featuring sea buckthorn. “What is sea buckthorn anyway? Is it a seaweed? How is it different than krill oil?”. Whenever I hear this sort of exchange, whether in a health food store or on TV, I have an impulse to interject and answer the question myself. I guess it’s an impulse still with me from my days working as a health food store consultant. I always loved answering questions posed by customers and employees alike. That enthusiasm and passion to share information about natural medicine remains within me. These days, I just have a different venue for sharing what I know.

Sea buckthorn (SBT) is not a seaweed or in anyway sourced from bodies of salt water. Rather, it’s a shrub with vibrantly colored berries, leaves and seeds that have medicinal components. Over the past decade or so, the popularity of SBT has grown alongside a considerable amount of mostly positive research. The majority of the published science has examined the effects of oral SBT supplements containing antioxidants and/or essential fatty acids derived from its pulp and seeds. Thus far, only two studies have specifically evaluated the influence of SBT supplementation in human subjects with skin conditions. In both instances, atopic dermatitis, a common skin disorder that is a form of eczema, was the focus of the interventions. The results indicate that supplementing with SBT (5 g/day) beneficially alters the fatty acid composition of the skin. This is likely due to the types of healthful fatty acids naturally present in SBT including alpha-linolenic acid, oleic acid and palmitoleic acid. The noted, positive shift in the fat content of the skin resulted in symptomatic improvements in as little as one month.

There isn’t nearly as much documentation about the use of SBT as a topical agent in humans. However, the evidence that does exist offers a glimpse of hope for those with acne, burns and oily skin. For instance, a pilot study from 2010 discovered that an SBT emulsion successfully reduced oiliness or sebum in the skin of 10 healthy volunteers. An experiment from 2006, involving 151 burn patients, compared the wound healing potential of an SBT oil dressing versus a placebo – a vaseline gauze. The patients treated with the sea buckthorn dressing “showed more obvious exudation reduction, pain relief, and faster epithelial cell growth and wound healing”.

The ultimate question I have about the sea buckthorn products currently on the market is whether they’re capable of delivering on the promises listed on their labels. Do they really reduce the appearance of blotchy skin, dark circles and wrinkles? If so, where’s the proof? The use of oral SBT supplements presents a different challenge altogether. The 5 gram daily dosage used in the atopic dermatitis studies would be prohibitively expensive to maintain over the long term. But, I can tell you this, a member of my own family has been using an SBT supplement for eye dryness with considerable success. In fact, I recommended it based on a few preliminary studies that I reported on in the past. Perhaps in the near future, I’ll have similar cause to recommend SBT creams, lotions and shampoos. I’m open to the possibility, I’m just not sold quite yet.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Remedial Prospective of Hippophae Rhamnoides Linn. (Sea Buckthorn) (link)

Study 2 – Effect of Dietary Supplementation with Sea Buckthorn (Hippophaë (link)

Study 3 – Effects of Dietary Supplementation w/ Sea Buckthorn (H. Rahmnoides) (link)

Study 4 – Formulation and Evaluation of Antisebum Secretion Effects of Sea(link)

Study 5 – Management of Burn Wounds with Hippophae Rhamnoides Oil (link)

Sea Buckthorn May Protect Skin and Promote Healing

Source: Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011; 2011: 659705. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Nutritional Supplements, Women's Health

6 Comments & Updates to “Sea Buckthorn for Healthy Skin”

  1. JP Says:

    Update: Passing along a testimonial from a long time client:

    Hi JP,

    Two weeks ago I started applying the SHIKAI BORAGE THERAPY dry skin lotion to my forearms, hands and legs in the morning as I got up and at night before bedtime. When I apply this lotion I notice that it gets absorbed promptly and there is not a residual stickiness typical of other moisturizing creams.

    I am impressed of the improvement that my skin has experienced both in suppleness,strength and mini wrinkles. I used to start bleeding easily at any minor scratch and now it is not happening! Even if the bleeding stopped promptly it was still a nuisance. No more!

    Please feel free to share my success with other ladies in my age group (almost 77) and skinny complexion probably prone to have thin skin and being prone to easy bruising!

    Thank you much for your successful targeted prescription! Of course this treatment is becoming a daily habit for me to continue enjoying more youth like skin!

    Of course I am practicing also your recommendations of consuming a healthy diet and enjoying daily good dark unsweetened chocolate .

    Giuliana F.

    Be well!


  2. JP Says:

    Update: Dietary supplement improves appearance, health of aging skin …


    Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology; Volume 144, March 2015

    A dietary supplement improves facial photoaging and skin sebum, hydration and tonicity modulating serum fibronectin, neutrophil elastase 2, hyaluronic acid and carbonylated proteins

    “In the present study, administration of a dietary supplement containing Pycnogenol®, low-molecular-weight HA, collagen, glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate and coenzyme Q10 significantly improved facial photoaging, as assessed 2 weeks after the end of a 4-week treatment period. This finding coupled with a significant increase in sebum, hydration and tonicity, if compared with placebo. The improvement in facial photoaging also coupled with an increase in serum fibronectin and HA and a decrease in serum carbonylated proteins and neutrophil elastase 2. Our findings suggest a systemic modulation of these parameters that may represent biomarkers of photoaging pathology and could be used to monitor progression or improvement in this condition. The results from this study are in agreement with a previous investigation where a dietary formulation (BioCell Collagen®) administered for 12 weeks improved skin dryness/scaling and global lines/wrinkles with a significant increase in hemoglobin and collagen in skin dermis at 6 weeks and hemoglobin at the end of the study [16]. In summary, our dietary compound shows a synergistic efficacy of its individual ingredients in improving facial photoaging 2 weeks after the end of a 4-week treatment period. Pycnogenol®, HA, collagen, glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate and coenzyme Q10, which all possess a rationale of efficacy in modulating the ECM, can be put together in a dietary compound that produces an improvement in skin photoaging also modulating serum HA, carbonylated proteins, fibronectin and neutrophil elastase 2 levels. The clinical meaning of these parameters and their involvement in the photoaging pathophysiology at the systemic level warrant further investigation. Future studies will also address the long-term effects of the formulation used in this investigation in patients affected by photoaging. A limitation of our study is that the ELISAs we used do not allow to discriminate among different forms of some of the analytes that have been the object of our investigation.”

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Updated 08/03/15:


    Maturitas. 2014 Nov;79(3):316-21.

    Effects of sea buckthorn oil intake on vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

    BACKGROUND: Vaginal atrophy, the thinning and drying of vaginal mucosa, is associated with menopause. The standard estrogen treatment is not suitable for all women.

    OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effects of oral sea buckthorn (SB) oil supplementation on vaginal atrophy.

    METHOD: A total of 116 postmenopausal women experiencing symptoms of vaginal dryness, itching or burning were randomized to this placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Ninety-eight participants completed the intervention of three months, during which they consumed 3g of SB or placebo oil daily. At the beginning and end, factors of vaginal health were scored by a gynecologist, vaginal pH and moisture were measured and vaginal health index was calculated. Symptoms of atrophy and menopause were evaluated at study visits and by daily logbooks. Serum samples were collected for the analysis of circulating lipids, liver enzymes and C-reactive protein.

    RESULTS: Compared to placebo, there was a significantly better rate of improvement in the integrity of vaginal epithelium in the SB group when both compliant and noncompliant participants were included (odds ratio (OR)=3.1, 95% CI 1.11-8.95). A beneficial trend was observed when only the compliant participants were included (OR=2.9; 95% CI 0.99-8.35). There was a tendency (P=0.08) toward better improvement of vaginal health index from baseline to the end in the SB group [(0.8 (SD 2.8)] compared to placebo [-0.1 (SD 2.0)].

    CONCLUSIONS: SB oil showed beneficial effects on vaginal health, indicating it is a potential alternative for mucosal integrity for those women not able to use estrogen treatment for vaginal atrophy.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Updated 08/03/15:


    Adv Skin Wound Care. 2014 Jul;27(7):317-23.

    Healing effect of sea buckthorn, olive oil, and their mixture on full-thickness burn wounds.

    OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study is to evaluate the healing effect of silver sulfadiazine (SSD), sea buckthorn, olive oil, and 5% sea buckthorn and olive oil mixture on full-thickness burn wounds with respect to both gross and histopathologic features.

    METHODS: Full-thickness burns were induced on 60 rats; the rats were then were divided into 5 groups and treated with sea buckthorn, olive oil, a 5% sea buckthorn/olive oil mixture, SSD, and normal saline (control). They were observed for 28 days, and the wounds’ healing process was evaluated.

    RESULTS: Wound contraction occurred faster in sea buckthorn, olive oil, and the sea buckthorn/olive oil mixture groups compared with the SSD and control groups. The volume of the exudates was controlled more effectively in wounds treated with the sea buckthorn/olive oil mixture. Purulent exudates were observed in the control group, but the others did not show infection. The group treated with sea buckthorn/olive oil mixture revealed more developed re-epithelialization with continuous basement membrane with a mature granulation tissue, whereas the SSD-treated group showed ulceration, necrosis, and immature granulation. The results show that sea buckthorn and olive oil individually are proper dressing for burn wounds and that they also show a synergetic effect when they are used together.

    CONCLUSION: A sea buckthorn and olive oil mixture could be considered as an alternative dressing for full-thickness burns because of improved wound healing characteristics and antibacterial property.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Updated 08/03/15:


    Burns. 2014 May;40(3):511-9.

    Healing efficacy of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) seed oil in an ovine burn wound model.

    To investigate the efficacy of sea buckthorn (SBT) seed oil – a rich source of substances known to have anti-atherogenic and cardioprotective activity, and to promote skin and mucosa epithelization – on burn wound healing, five adult sheep were subjected to 3rd degree flame burns. Two burn sites were made on the dorsum of the sheep and the eschar was excised down to the fascia. Split-thickness skin grafts were harvested, meshed, and fitted to the wounds. The autograft was placed on the fascia and SBT seed oil was topically applied to one recipient and one donor site, respectively, with the remaining sites treated with vehicle. The wound blood flow (LASER Doppler), and epithelization (ultrasound) were determined at 6, 14, and 21 days after injury. 14 days after grafting, the percentage of epithelization in the treated sites was greater (95 ± 2.2% vs. 83 ± 2.9%, p<0.05) than in the untreated sites. Complete epithelization time was shorter in both treated recipient and donor sites (14.20 ± 0.48 vs. 19.60 ± 0.40 days, p<0.05 and 13.40 ± 1.02 vs. 19.60 ± 0.50 days, p<0.05, respectively) than in the untreated sites, confirmed by ultrasound. In conclusion, SBT seed oil has significant wound healing activity in full-thickness burns and split-thickness harvested wounds.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Updated 06/26/16:


    J Cosmet Dermatol. 2016 Jun 17.

    Zeaxanthin-based dietary supplement and topical serum improve hydration and reduce wrinkle count in female subjects.

    BACKGROUND: Dietary modification, through supplementation and elimination diets, has become an area of interest to help slow skin aging, reduce symptom severity or prevent reoccurrence of certain dermatologic conditions [Clinical Dermatology vol. 31 (2013) 677-700]. Free radical components (reactive oxygen species or ROS) or lipid peroxide (LPO) is involved in the pathogenesis and progression of accelerated skin aging when prolonged oxidative stress occurs. The use of antioxidant-related therapies such as nutraceuticals is of particular interest in restoring skin homeostasis. Antioxidant carotenoid zeaxanthin is concentrated in the eye and skin tissue and believed to decrease the formation of ROS associated with UV light exposure. With zeaxanthin, phytoceramides, and botanical extracts an oral and topical test product (with zeaxanthin, algae extracts, peptides, hyaluronate) have been developed to improve the appearance and condition of skin when used as directed.

    METHODS: Subjects were divided into three groups: two tests (skin formula 1 – oral product alone (ZO-1), skin formula 2- oral product with topical product (ZO-2 + ZT)), and one placebo control. The study consisted of a washout visit, baseline (randomization), week two (2), week four (4), week six (6), week eight (8), and week twelve (12). Key parameters measured were as follows: fine lines, deep lines, total wrinkles, wrinkle severity, radiance/skin color (L, a*, b*), discolorations, and skin pigment homogeneity.

    RESULTS: Thirty-one subjects completed the twelve-week study; no adverse events were recorded during the study. Statistically significant improvements from baseline mean hydration score were observed in active groups at weeks 2, 6, and 8. A statistically significant difference was observed between mean differences from baseline scores for total wrinkle count at week 4 for the combination active groups compared to placebo. A statistically significant difference from baseline scores for fine lines count was also observed at the week 4 visit compared to placebo for both active groups. Statistically significant differences from baseline scores for average wrinkles severity were seen for week 12 visit for both active groups compared to placebo.

    CONCLUSION: We have shown that the combination of zeaxanthin-based dietary supplement plus a topical formulation produces superior hydration to that of placebo. Additionally, we have shown that the combination of oral and topical combination vs. oral alone has superior abilities to improve parameters associated with facial lines and wrinkles compared to placebo, although the dietary supplement alone proved most effective in reducing wrinkle count and severity.

    Be well!


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