Emu Oil Studies and Research: Is Emu Oil Really Good for Your Skin?
If you’re thinking of using emu oil for its health benefits, you may be wondering if there are any actual emu oil studies and research to support these health claims.
Emu oil has gained popularity for its use as a natural skin moisturizer and for reportedly improving skin health.
While there are reports from people claiming this oil has many health benefits, there are actually very few published emu oil studies; particularly research on emu oil and human skin.
The history of emu oil tells us it was originally used by the Aborigines of Australia as a skin healer and protectant.
Nowadays, many people use emu oil because they claim it helps moisturize and soothe the skin.
There are anecdotal reports that emu oil may be able to reduce joint pain, relieve eczema and even help wounds heal faster.
The ingredients of emu oil are primarily healthy fatty acids; many of which can help strengthen and fortify the skin’s natural moisture barrier.
While there’s little published research on emu oil, there are a few emu oil studies that show some of the unique properties of this natural oil.
1. Emu Oil Study shows it may Reduce Inflammation and Improve Skin Healing
Guangzhou, China – Researchers in China conducted an animal study to determine if emu oil would have any effect on wound healing in rats.
In this study, over 140 rats with second degree burns were treated with either a saline solution, iodine or emu oil
Researchers discovered that emu oil had the following effects on wound healing:
- relieved swelling and seeping of wounds
- reduced inflammation faster
- promoted faster wound healing
- appeared to help new skin grow over the wounds
- did not cause any secondary infection or side effects
Researchers concluded that emu oil appears to lessen inflammation in second degree burns due to lower inflammatory chemicals in the skin.
They also determined that emu oil could accelerate wound healing by inhibiting secondary inflammation.
However, you should note that the researchers found emu oil only improved wound healing when the oil was applied 2 days after the wound occurred.
Emu oil actually delayed wound healing if the oil was applied immediately after the wound occurred.
2. Emu Oil may Enhance Nipple Health in Breastfeeding Women
Breastfeeding is a natural part of motherhood but can present problems with dried, cracked and painful nipples.
Doctors believe that keeping your skin well-hydrated with the proper skin pH can help prevent skin damage to the areola skin barrier after prolonged breastfeeding.
A study published in the Journal of Evidence Based Alternative Medicine (Jan. 2016) found that topical application of an emu oil-based cream on the areola skin barrier in 70 at-term breast feeding women found it effectively hydrated and moisturized the outer layer of the breast areola and did not affect the skin pH, temperature or elasticity.
Researchers claim the emu oil improved skin hydration greater in women that started off with lower base levels of skin hydration, compared to women with normal skin hydration.
3. Emu Oil Research on Preventing Radiation Dermatitis
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic compared emu oil to a placebo for its effect on reducing radiation dermatitis.
Radiation dermatitis is a side effect that can occur after you’ve been exposed to a beam of radiation for cancer radiation treatment. Common symptoms can include rashes, inflammation and even skin breakdown.
In this double-blind, placebo-controlled emu oil study, researchers found emu oil appeared to help reduce the amount of redness, peeling and skin swelling better than a placebo in test patients undergoing radiation therapy on the breast or chest wall.
4. Emu Oil may Improve Post-surgical Healing
In this particular study, scientists compared the healing properties of emu oil against three traditional skin ointment creams:
- Polysporin – popular antibiotic cream
- Cortisone – corticosteriod used to reduce inflammation
- Furasin – antibacterial used to treat burns that become infected
All three skin ointments were applied to surgical wounds 24 hours after the surgery was completed in rat models. After one week, researchers analyzed the skin cells from the affected areas to determine if there was any cellular changes.
They discovered that emu oil improved skin healing by 200% on the surgical wounds, but only when the lotion was applied 24 hours later.
The Polysporin, Cortisone and Furasin ointments did not show any improvement in wound healing.
However, while this data looks promising, you should know that the study group was quite small and was using rat models, not humans.
5. Emu Oil Shown to be an Effective Skin Moisturizer
Researchers compared emu oil with mineral oil to see which has better moisturizing and cosmetic properties.
Each oil was rated for the following properties:
- Moisturizing and skin penetration
- Texture and odor
- Amount of any irritation
- Comedogenicity (if it clogs skin pores)
Eleven (11) subjects (9 women and 2 men) took part in this study. All participants had healthy skin and people with eczema and acne were excluded from the study.
This was a double-blind study that had participants using one of the oils for two weeks. They were instructed to use the oil on their face and bodies twice a day.
After two weeks passed, they changed oils and would continue the study for another two weeks.
At the end of the study, the oils were rated for:
- How well the oil penetrates the skin
- Moisturizing abilities
- Skin texture
- Any side effects (acne, odor, skin irritation)
All of the people in the study claimed they liked the emu oil over the mineral oil.
The researchers found emu oil showed better skin penetration than the mineral oil. 50% of the people that used mineral oil developed pimples and this side effect wasn’t seen in the group that used only emu oil.
Researchers concluded emu oil has the following properties:
- it’s completely non-irritating
- has excellent moisturizing properties
- provides a cosmetically pleasing texture
- has a low incidence of comedogenicity
Emu Oil Studies Summary
So while there are only a few emu oil studies to draw from, the results appears promising for using this oil for your skin.
According to the above studies, emu oil may:
- Reduce swelling and seeping in burns.
- Improve the rate of skin healing when used 24 hours after the wound was inflicted.
- Encourage new skin growth on wounds.
- Promote faster skin healing than traditional first-aid skin creams like Polysporin.
- Moisturize better than other oils.
- Doesn’t clog pores.
- May penetrate the skin at a faster rate.
- Leaves a pleasing skin texture.
- Usually doesn’t irritate the skin.
I believe most dermatologists and doctors would recommend using a skin care product that has double-blind studies to support its health benefits; and there are many other skin care products available for you to use from.
If you do choose to use emu oil, here’s a list of over 15 uses for emu oil that you may find helpful. I would recommend using only a highly-refined emu oil that has been manufactured specifically for cosmetic use.
Use these tips in Buyer’s Guide to Emu Oil to help you choose the best kind.
Anti-inflammatory activity and healing-promoting effects of topical application of emu oil on wound in scalded rats. Department of Burns, Nangfang Hospital, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou 510515, China, 2005 Apr;25(4):407-10.
Promotion of second intention wound healing by emu oil lotion: comparative results with furasin, polysporin, and cortisone. Plastic Reconstructive Surgery. 1998 Dec;102(7):2404-7.
Efficacy of Topical Application of Emu Oil on Areola Skin Barrier in Breastfeeding Women. Journal of Evidenced Based Complementary Alternative Medicin. 2016 Jan;21(1):10-3. doi: 10.1177/2156587215588653.
Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study of Processed Ultra Emu Oil Versus Placebo in the Prevention of Radiation Dermatitis. International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology and Physics. 2015 Jul 1;92(3):650-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2015.02.028.