Can canola oil condition skin?

Alex asks: I read that Canola Oil is a very good skin moisturizer because it contains a lot of alpha hydroxy acids. I’ve tried it and I think it makes my skin feel softer. Can you explain why Canola oil is good for skin? Thanks a bunch!

The Right Brain responds:

Before we talk about its benefits, we’ll explain why Canola is one of the most controversial of all the vegetable cooking oils.

What is Canola oil?

As you might guess, Canola oil comes from the seeds of the Canola plant. You might guess that, but you’d be WRONG. Canola oil actually comes from the rapeseed plant. For some strange reason, women didn’t seem inclined to buy a product called “Rape Oil,” so in the late 1970s, Canadian rapeseed growers renamed their product Canola, which is an abbreviation for “Canadian Oil, Low Acid.” Voila, sales of Canola oil took off. Then, disaster struck a few years later when Canola oil was hit with more bad press: it was found to cause glaucoma and Mad Cow Disease. Psych! That connection actually turned out to be just an urban myth. So despite a rocky start, Canola oil finally established itself as a popular cooking oil.

Can Canola condition skin?

Ok, so it’s good to cook with, but is it good for skin? The answer is yes, no, and maybe. First of all, whatever benefit Canola has on skin, it’s unlikely to be related to alphahydroxy acids. In fact, we can’t find any reference to alpha hydroxy acids in Canola, which makes sense since those acids are water soluble and generally come from fruits. (If you’ve seen any credible sources that say something different, let us know and we’ll check them out.)

Instead of AHAs, at least one study suggests that naturally high levels of sterols might give Canola oil the ability to soothe skin that is irritated by surfactants. But these studies showed little effect on normal skin. And other studies show no benefit at all. But even if Canola Oil provides no special benefit, it can still make your skin feel soft just because it’s an oil.

The Beauty Brains bottom line:

If you have irritated skin you may see some benefit from Canola oil. But for most people it probably doesn’t make enough of a difference to justify spending more money. A regular moisturizer will work just fine.

(By the way term “rape” in rapeseed is derived the Latin “rapum,” which means turnip. That’s because turnips, rutabagas, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are related to the rapeseed plant.)