The oil of safflower blooms is used as a moisturizer.

©iStockphoto.com/redmonkey8

If you check the label of some of your favorite foods, you may find safflower oil in the list of ingredients. It's a commonly used vegetable oil in tasty treats including desserts, breads and salad dressings. But you might be surprised to learn that safflower oil can also be found in some of the products you use on your body.

In skin care products, safflower oil is used as a lubricant with occlusive properties, meaning that it acts as a protective barrier to prevent water from leaving your skin. It works with your skin to soften dryness, smooth roughness and soothe some skin problems. You might find it in products such as moisturizers, conditioners and facial cleansers.

In scientific terms, safflower oil is known as Carthamus tinctorius seed oil [source: Personal Care Products Council]. Pressed from the blooming plant's seeds, safflower oil contains linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that offers many benefits for skin. This acid is a key reason why safflower oil works so well in skin care products. Linoleic acid offers powerful dirt- and oil-removing abilities, and it also provides a softening effect in conditioners [source: Personal Care Products Council].

Some dermatologists caution against using natural oils, but the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel considers safflower oil to be a safe ingredient in cosmetic products and unlikely to cause skin irritation. However, you should still be cautious in using it if you have existing skin conditions.

If you do opt for trying natural oils, understanding your skin and hair needs can help you identify which ones are a match for you. Using the wrong ones in even trace amounts on your skin or hair might aggravate existing problems [source: Wright]. Because of its moisturizing properties, safflower oil is best suited for people with normal to dry skin. So if dry, lusterless skin and hair are your primary beauty worries, you might consider trying products with safflower oil.

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