Everyone knows oils like jojoba, argan, or coconut and they don’t need an introduction. But Nature is a rich treasure chest and has more oils up her sleeve that can and maybe do even more than their popular counterparts. Ever heard of candlenut oil? Some people also call it kukui. And it’s somewhat of a Goldilocks oil. You know the days when your skin is acting up, when one set of ingredients is too trying but the other makes it too oily? And just bang in the middle you got candlenut oil.
This somewhat obscure oil is gaining popularity in the beauty world. It’s a hardworking multitasker. It seals in moisture, repairs your skin, slows down signs of premature ageing, and calms down wind bitten skin.
Still not convinced? In the past, it has also been (and still is) used for a wide array of purposes: as an antimicrobial agent, an ingredient in paint, a waterproofer, and a cooking ingredient. Read on to learn how candlenut oil with its range of vitamins, antioxidants, and essential fats helps address and prevent many skin concerns.
A little bit about the ingredient
Candlenut oil is made by extracting the nut of the candlenut tree. Its botanical name is Aleurites moluccanus. The tree grows in tropical rainforests and is native in the South Pacific, namely Polynesia and Southeast Asia, India, China, and Australia. It now grows throughout the world’s tropical regions.
Depending on where you are, candlenut goes by candleberry, Indian walnut, kukui among other names.
Did you know where the name candlenut comes from? It’s because the candlenuts were traditionally burned just like candles. The candlenut has a very high oil content. Roughly half of its weight is oil.
Hawaii has chosen the candlenut tree as its official state tree. For the Hawaiian people, it holds a great significance. The kukui tree (as the Hawaiians call it) had many purposes. They made leis (a garland or a wreath) from the shells, leaves, and flowers. The base material for the ink for tattoos comes from charred nuts. The trunk could be made into smaller canoes, and of course, the oil is well known for how well it moisturises and protects the skin. And do not forget, it also was used in traditional medicine.
The nuts are mildly toxic when raw, but when cooked or toasted taste sumptuous. In Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine, the candlenut is often used in curries. It makes the curries taste rich.
Kukui nut oil features a light texture and has a subtle nutty aroma. Depending on how the oil was extracted, it can have a light to dark yellow colour.
Depending on the region where the candlenut tree is growing, the oil extracted from the nuts has a different makeup. It usually contains
- 40% linoleic acid
- Up to 30% linolenic acid
- 15% oleic acid
- 1-4% stearic acid
- 4-8% palmitic acid
This makes it a lightweight oil that sinks into your skin without leaving it feeling heavy or greasy.
Why do you want to apply it?
The composition of candlenut oil makes it a wonderful helper to relieve dry, damaged, and ageing skin. It’s also great for people with oily or acne-prone skin since it has a high proportion of linoleic acid and a comedogenic rating of 2. This means it’s less likely to block up your pores.
Candlenut oil can penetrate your skin easily and acts as an emollient and seals in moisture. Been an emollient, candlenut oil goes into the little cracks and fissures of your skin leaving your skin feeling silky. It’s can repair your skin barrier as well as decrease transepidermal water loss (TEWL).
It’s not only that candlenut oil contains vitamins A and E, oleic and palmitic acid are also known for their antioxidant effects.
Just like vitamin A, vitamin E is also an antioxidant. This helps you protect your cells against the damages caused by free radicals. Just a quick refresher about free radicals and oxidation: Your body produces free radicals when you’re exposed to UV rays, pollution, or cigarette smoke. These pesky free radicals are responsible for oxidative stress and the ensuing inflammatory response which in turn can damage DNA. Think more wrinkles or age spots.
Vitamin A and its derivates are known to repair skin damaged by the sun, including less lines, improves skin texture, and reduced or faded dark spots. Did I already mention that candlenut oil can stimulate the growth of new skin cells? Good news, right? More collagen translates into firmer, more youthful skin.
Throughout history until the present, Hawaiians have used kukui nut for sunburn and to soothe skin following damage to the skin from sun, wind, and chemicals. The oil easily penetrates into your skin and forms a protective barrier on the skin.
As for after sun or windburn treatment, since kukui nut contains not only antioxidants but also several other phytochemicals, such as flavonoids, polyphenols, and saponins, it has analgesic (pain-relieving), anti-inflammatory, and wound healing properties.
How to use
Increasingly more products are formulated with candlenut oil. These are
- Massage and bath oil
If you can find cold-pressed, organic candlenut oil, you can also apply it directly to any area of your body. Or you can add a few drops to your favourite skin care product to put its moisturising effects on steroids.
Anything to be cautious of?
All skin types can benefit from the gentle and nourishing candlenut oil. The raw nut can be mildly toxic because it contains saponin and phorbol. But the oil itself has no known toxicity and is generally considered harmless.
Since it’s technically from a nut, people with nut allergies should be cautious or not use it at all.
Although research is still ongoing and results limited, candlenut oil has a long history in traditional Polynesian medicine. Moreover, it continues to be used still to protect skin and hair from salt water, harsh sun, and drying winds.
Every oil has its shelf life. When you store candlenut oil in a dry, cool spot away from sunlight or heat, you can expect it to last at least 1 year.