Red Palm Oil for Skin & Hair Health
Red palm oil has caught the attention of many consumers recently after being named the “health miracle of 2013” on the Dr. Oz Show. Even though its miracle properties for the body were touted, it is equally beneficial for skin and hair health. I was so intrigued I decided to look it up and give it a chance.
There are many health benefits for the hair and skin when it comes to red palm oil. The major components include beta-carotene and two forms of vitamin E. Beta-carotene converts into vitamin A and also gives vegetables like carrots their distinctive reddish-orange colors. What makes this oil so special is that it contains more than beta-carotene than carrots and tomatoes combined. Vitamin A is a great ingredient in most high end skin repairing creams and the sheer amount in red palm oil makes it a more affordable alternative. It is also used for treatment of eczema, psoriasis, stretch marks and scars.
Vitamin E in combination with vitamin A is what makes this oil a great addition to hair and skin regiments. Vitamin E is composed of two parts, tocopherol and tocotrienol. While many foods and oils that have vitamin E are healthy they usually only include tocopherol which is considered the less potent part of Vitamin E. Tocotrienol has been linked to hair regrowth and thickening by protecting and replenishing the actual hair follicle. Overall, vitamin E is a strong antioxidant that fights skin damaging and wrinkle causing free radicals.
Together, vitamin A and E, help to soften the hair, improve elasticity and add shine. Red palm oil has strong antibacterial properties for cleansing the scalp. A special refatting agent in the oil
that helps to restore moisture.
Red Palm Oil Vs. Palm Oil
It is important to not get confused when reading labeling. Red Palm oil is not the same as palm oil. In many cases when something is labeled simply “palm oil” it comes from palm kernel oil. This oil is extracted from the palm seed not the palm fruit like red palm oil. Palm oil fat is highly saturated and lacks the nutritional value of red palm oil.
The red coloring of red palm oil is what holds the main benefits of the oil. The carotene within has even more beta-carotene and lycopene, which carrots and tomatoes are well known for. An unrefined, organic version should be purchased for the best quality red palm oil. Both oils can be found in Africa and Asia but due to the recent devastation of natural orangutan habitats in Asia caused by cultivation, it is a more humane choice to buy West African red palm oil.
How to Use & Results
This oil is very heavy and thick. It also solidifies at room temperature similar to coconut oil. Also, the red coloring has a tendency to stain. It will not dye the hair but simply rub off a reddish-orange color onto whatever it touches.
The best external use for red palm oil is as a pre-shampoo moisturizer or an oil rinse. To prevent the drying effects of shampooing, especially sulfate shampoos, apply a sparing amount of the oil onto the hair. A good way to get it into oil form is to place to container under warm, running water.
From personal experience the phrase, “a little goes a long way”, cannot be stressed enough. My thick, medium-length natural hair was well saturated in red palm oil for a 30 minute oil rinse. The 30 minute process and typically 10 minute wash out process turned into a pain staking 45 minutes. Without the stripping power of shampoo, hot water just did not seem strong enough. It was not until after 20 minutes of hot water rinsing, 10 minutes of conditioner washing and 15 more minutes of hot water rinsing did the oil come out. Even then there was a bit left but the majority came out during the following deep conditioning treatment and overnight time allowed for the oil to soak into the hair.
The results? A full week of well moisturized hair with little concern about dry winter scalp and brittle ends. The effort was worth it but I will experiment with just a pre-shampoo treatment next time before settling on one usage or the other.