Thought avocado only pairs well with tortilla chips? Think again. An excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, D and E, avocados can provide skin with deep moisture. The oil of an avocado penetrates the skin but is also thick enough to serve as a protective barrier.
"The high oil content of the avocado fruit has been known since Aztec times, with the fruit sometimes referred to as 'vegetable butter' or 'butter pear,’" according to the American Oil Chemists’ Society journal Inform. "Avocado oil was originally, and still is, extracted for cosmetic use because of its very high skin penetration and rapid absorption." Read on for some of avocado oil’s skin benefits.
Aids in Treating Wounds
Avocado oil can help heal wounds, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The Brazilian researchers found that avocado oil is rich in oleic acid and contains essential fatty acids.
"When used in pharmaceutical formulations for topical use, avocado oil can promote increased collagen synthesis and decreased numbers of inflammatory cells during the wound-healing process and may thus be considered a new option for treating skin wounds," the researchers wrote.
Soothes Sunburned Skin
In addition to providing the skin with moisture, the antioxidants found in avocado oil can help soothe sunburned skin. "Antioxidants such as vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin E), flavonoids, and phenolic acids play the main role in fighting against free radical species that are the main cause of numerous negative skin changes," according to a 2011 study published in the journal Pharmacognosy Research.
Boosts Collagen Production
Avocado oil also contains sterolins, natural steroids that do not have the negative effects often associated with pharmaceutical steroids. They may be effective in boosting collagen production and in treating age spots. Sterolin "softens the skin and reduces the appearance of age spots,” Shrankhla Holecek, founder of organic oils company Uma, told Refinery29. It is also high in lecithin, “a lipid that helps deliver nutrients directly to the bloodstream and deeper layers of the skin."
Reduces Itching and Inflammation
With its high level of vitamin E, avocado oil may reduce itching and skin inflammation and is also beneficial in softening rough and cracked patches. "A woman with dry skin needs soothing foods like avocados to stay hydrated," beauty specialist Narine Nikogosian wrote in the introduction to her book "Return to Beauty: Old-World Recipes for Great Radiant Skin."
How to Apply Avocado Oil
Directions on avocado oil consumer products recommend massaging the oil lightly into the skin after showering, applying directly to scalp as a conditioner or adding several drops to shampoo. Keep in mind that avocado oil – along with coconut oil – is not recommended for people who have oily skin. Holecek told Wmagazine.com that these oils are "comedogenic," and therefore can clog pores and cause blackheads.
Homemade “Return to Beauty” Recipes Featuring Avocado
Coco-Creamy Green Moisturizer
"This is the perfect antiwrinkle, healing cure for dry skin," Nikogosian wrote.
1/2 teaspoon plain yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon coconut oil
Scoop out avocado and mash it in a bowl. Add yogurt, lemon juice and oil. Mix well. Massage a small amount over the face.
Gentle Chamomile Hair Mask
"Chamomile infuses gentleness into everything – even hair," according to Nikogosian. "Hops are packed with hair vitamins and avocado is one of the best natural moisturizers around."
1 teaspoon dried chamomile
1 teaspoon avocado, mashed
1/2 cup beer
1 cup water
Bring the chamomile and 1 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and steep for 10 minutes. Strain the water into a small bowl, then add avocado and beer. Mix well. Apply mask to hair and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse with cold water. Repeat once per week.
Read more: 26 Things You Didn’t Know About Avocados
Deborah Day is a lifestyle and entertainment writer and editor. Former editor in chief of Maxim.com and executive editor of Premiere.com, she has been published on EW.com, TheWrap.com, Yahoo.com, LAmag.com and other media sites, as well as in Maxim, Interview and Time Out NY magazines.