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Emu oil: beneficial or bird brained?

Leah loves to learn: I recently purchased this reportedly “wonderful” Emu Oil on ebay and, whilst waiting for it to arrive, I am curious as to whether there is any scientific basis to back up the claims made about it. Apparently it’s amazing both in the fight against acne and as a moisturiser. To me, that sounds like a contradictory sentence.

The Right Brain gives her the bird:

Emu oil is made from the fat of the second largest bird in the world, Dromaius novaehollandiae, better known as the Australian emu. What’s the first largest bird, you ask? Who do you think we are, The Bird Brains??

Seriously though, the Australian aborigines have supposedly used emu oil for centuries for treating burns, cuts, and other wounds. Let’s take a closer look at this miracle bird oil.

Good for skin

Emu oil is primarily made up of unsaturated fatty acids (About 70%). The largest component is oleic acid (20%), an unsaturated fatty acid that naturally occurs in skin. It also contains a pretty good slug of linoleic acid (20%) and linolenic acid (1-2%) both of which are Essential Fatty Acids for skin. So, it makes sense that emu oil would be an effective treatment for dry skin. Furthermore, according to a 2003 research study, it’s an effective anti-inflammatory. (Interestingly, that same study also showed that fish oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil, and liquefied chicken fat had similar properties. But emu was the best of the bunch so if you’re offered the choice between emu oil and liquefied chicken fat, go for the emu.)

Anxious about acne

Leah also asked about the effect of emu oil acne. The answer to that question is a bit harder to sort out. A quick websearch revealed LOTS of references stating that emu oil is noncomedogenic (i.e., won’t clog pores and cause acne.) But most of these references were from companies selling emu oil or from other non-scienctific sources. The only bona fide scientific references we could find (here and here) state that oleic acid (the major component in emu oil) is VERY comedogenic. While it’s theoretically possible that other components in emu oil counteract the comedogenic effects of the oleic acid, we couldn’t confirm it one way or the other. So, we’re skeptical and we suggest that if you have acne prone skin you try it at your own risk.

What about hair?

Another of the Beauty Brains community, Rachel, asked how emu oil compares to coconut oil for penetrating hair. We weren’t able to find any test data to answer that question but there’s certainly no harm in trying it. So oil away, Rachel, and let us know how it works out for you.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

There’s enough scientific evidence to suggest that emu oil could be good for your skin, but if we’re not sure how it might affect acne. If you’re interested, here are a few emu oil products to try:

Longview Farms Emu Oil

Vanish Triple Emu Oil (As seen on Oprah, so you KNOW it must be good!)

Blu Emu Super Strength Emu Oil