Healthy Planet blog readers are likely familiar with the health benefits associated with fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids. They also probably know all about skincare oils like rosehip and jojoba – and how these can offer protection from irritation, redness, and dryness. But how many people are familiar with a product like an emu oil?
Emu oil is made up of essential fatty acids (like omega-3) and is completely hypoallergenic for sensitive skin.
Derived from the fat of the emu – flightless birds native to Australia – it is mostly comprised of fatty acids known to help in the treatment of skin conditions like eczema and acne.
Emu oil has an established history of use in Australia when aboriginal cultures utilized emu fat and oil to treat skin conditions or topical infections.
The Fatty Acid Profile of Emu Oil
Emu oil is derived from the emu, the second largest bird after the ostrich. Emu oil is derived from the adipose tissue, and depending on how the oil is extracted, the oil can range from a thin yellow liquid similar to fish oil, or a creamy white. Oils that tend to be a darker yellow in color are believed to be of lesser quality.
Emu oil is composed of 70% essential fatty acids, which include omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids. As it is biologically similar to that of our skin’s fatty acid composition, it is absorbed well and penetrates rapidly into the skin. It is commonly referred to as a “dry oil” for this reason, meaning it moisturizes without leaving a greasy ‘film’ on the surface of the skin.
As research indicates: “the speedy dermal absorption of pure emu oil into the blood is explained by its high unsaturated fat content (67-70%), which is comparable to that of our skin, its higher proportion of oleic acid (omega-9) and an absence of phospholipids, [which] limit dermal absorption.”
Primarily, oleic acid, linolenic acid, and linoleic acid are the constituents in emu oil that help transport the bioactive compounds (antioxidants) within the emu oil into the skin, allowing quick absorption.
These fatty acids are commonly used internally to reduce inflammation and reduce the appearance of fine lines/wrinkles when used topically.
The Skin Benefits of Emu Oil – Inflammation, Irritation, Wound Healing
Dermatologists will now sometimes recommend emu oil for patients, given that it is highly anti-inflammatory and completely non-toxic. Emu oil is non-comedogenic, meaning it does not ‘clog’ or block the skin’s pores the same way some skin oils can, while being bacteriostatic (reduce bacterial growth). Initially, emu oil was often used as a natural sort of sunscreen and has been added to natural sunscreen formulations to help provide an additional barrier of protection from UV rays.
While not a human study, this study on mice indicates emu oil as being beneficial for inflammation – the swelling when emu oil was used was dramatically reduced compared to other oils, and within only six hours of treatment.
It should be noted that because emu oil is derived from the belly fat of emu birds, it is not a “cruelty-free” ingredient, and is therefore not recommended for vegans.
When looking to purchase emu oil, always look for a 100% pure grade oil, or ensure that the oil is only ever diluted with other natural and safe carrier oils – like jojoba. Shea butter is also common in topical solutions or creams and is perfectly safe. Given the rise in emu oil’s popularity, there are now a number of less-than-reputable companies breeding emus in poor conditions, resulting in yellow-tinged, poor-quality oil.
You’ll want to opt for emu oil derived from emus raised on Australian soil – or Canadian-produced emu oil from smaller suppliers. All our brands of emu oil are from reputable companies that have years of experience when it comes to producing and sourcing high-quality oil.
While emu oil can be ingested (used internally), we would recommend avoiding this as there aren’t a ton of long-term studies done on the safety of ingestion.
Pure emu oil can be applied topically by rubbing it directly onto the area of concern with clean hands. Emu oil provides soothing relief from eczema, dry skin, acne, and irritated skin. It can also help accelerate the healing of small wounds and abrasions Emu oil has shown benefit to those with arthritis or joint pain when applied to the area topically.