Having grown up with hibiscus flowers, usually bight red with the long pistil reaching for the sun with yellow covered stamens prominently displayed and so familiar, I was captivated when I first found hibiscus seed oil from one of my suppliers.
It felt strangely unifying to marry my early love of the hibiscus flower with my later work on the lipid oils.
Hibiscus seed oil is a special oil too. It is a delicate and lovely carrier oil, and it is a powerful lipid on its own as a facial oil.
Fatty Acid Profile
Hibiscus seed oil is high in linoleic acid. Here’s a breakdown of the fatty acid profile below.
(40%) linoleic acid
(28%) oleic acid
(20%) palmitic acid
(5.3%) Stearic acid
(1.7%) unusual cis -10-Nonadecenoic acid, or Sterculic Acid
Feel, Color & Scent
Hibiscus seed has a golden yellow color, and as with most oils I’ve worked with, the color varies slightly depending on the source and level of refinement.
Below are two hibiscus seed oils from two different suppliers. One is just slightly darker and cloudier than the other, but otherwise, these two oils are identical in feel and absorption and they have the same fatty acid profile.
This oil has a neutral scent that I would describe as slightly herbal and I find it absorbs well into the skin without leaving an oily feeling.
Hibiscus seed oil is reported as ‘exfoliating’ in various blogs and studies I found on line. And it does have its own feel on the skin. Slightly toning I would describe it. So I wanted to know what was different about this hibiscus oil and discovered that it has a small percentage of Sterculic acid which is rare to find in lipid oils.
Could this unusual fatty acid be the source of the gently and slightly exfoliating properties of the oil? Just by applying it as a light facial oil, it increases cell turnover. The results are subtle, but I find them noticeable over time.
Hibiscus seed oil is a rich source of plant sterols and other antioxidants. It also contains small amounts of squalene, 15mg per 100g of oil.
As a Skincare Oil
To use hibiscus seed oil as a facial oil, apply a few drops to damp clean skin. Just out of the shower or after cleansing when the skin is still damp is ideal. Another way to add the water element is by dampening the skin with a light hydrosol before applying a facial oil like hibiscus.
You can also use hibiscus seed oil as a body moisturizer and on damp hair and scalp.
Since growing up surrounded by bright red hibiscus flowers, anything hibiscus’ will always be a rich, vibrant red color.
So recently when experimenting using hibiscus seed oil in a melt recipe I wanted to bring that red to what I was working on by using a natural pigment to add color.
Melts are a solid balm that does not include a wax and are cooled and set in a mold rather than a container. The trick is getting them to set up solid and not melt completely when the temperature changes. They are to melt into the skin but still hold their form.
My experiment was somewhat successful. Here’s the formula I ended up with.
30% Kokum butter
26% Illipe butter
15% Kpangnan butter (substitute: mango butter)
12% Cocoa butter
15% Hibiscus seed oil
2% Alkanet infusion
This is just one example of what is possible and the formula that held up best from my experiment. It felt solid at 74° F room temperature and still melted on the skin.
NOTE: Some of these butters are newer on the market, but I find many are increasingly available. Here is a list of suppliers around the world that I’ve gathered over the years.
I haven’t personally purchased from all of them based on location and shipping but I have purchased from many in the US. And, if you have a favorite supplier that you would like to add to this list, let me know and I will add it to this list.
To Make the Alkanet Infusion
Fill a mason jar with 1/3 chipped or pieces of alkanet root. Fill the jar with a liquid oil. I used sesame seed oil for this one. Allow the alkanet root to infuse for several weeks. Over time the oil will take on a deep red color.
What are you experimenting with these days? Leave a comment below.