Rich and velvety, with a feel similar to pomegranate seed oil, meadowfoam oil should be a staple of any skin care routine. Relatively inexpensive as an oil, meadowfoam performs on a par with oils that run many times the price. The qualities that make it a great oil for the skin are its very long chain fatty acids which we’ll discuss in a moment. Naturally present vitamin E, tocopherols are abundant in the oil contributing a high degree of antioxidant protection against free radicals in and on the skin.
Meadowfoam oil is pressed from the seeds of a flower native to the Pacific Northwest. This small annual flower Limnanthes alba and its oil seed crop are a fairly recent addition to agriculture in the US. The name meadowfoam expresses the way a field of the crop appears when in bloom, like white foam blowing across the sea. Originally grown as a replacement for sperm whale oil, Meadowfoam oil is now grown as a crop for its unusual fatty acid make up that makes it a desirable ingredient in skin care products.
All fatty oils are made up of carbon chains of varying lengths called fatty acids. These fatty acids can be saturated – with hydrogen – thus solid at room temperature or, unsaturated – less than a full complement of hydrogen – liquid at room temperature. See our discussion on Fatty acids Made Simple for more information. What is so unusual about the fatty acids in meadowfoam seed oil is their length. A full 97% are twenty carbons long or longer, very unusual for a plant derived oil. Over 20 carbons the fatty acids fall into the category of very long, while 14 to 18 carbons are called a simple long chain.
When carbon chains of oils are 20 carbons and longer they become very stable against oxidation – they resist turning rancid. They keep well and this property also confers protection to the cells that under lie an application of the oil. They protect the cells against dehydration as it can lock in moisture plus provide protection against damaging rays of the sun and weather extremes. That the oil glides on easily, soaks into the cells and offers so much protection makes it an obvious choice for skin conditioning.