Confused About the Benefits of Evening Primrose Oil for Skin? Here’s the Tea

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Famous as not only a natural medicine but a beauty secret too, evening primrose oil is a source of essential fatty acids. These acids can benefit the body in a number of ways, so this oil has become hugely popular in pill form. But rather than taking it as a capsule, many women are opting to apply it directly onto their skin to hydrate and soothe.

So what does evening primrose oil do for your skin exactly? Is it worth your money? And how should you use it? Today we’ll answer these questions and go into exactly how to use evening primrose oil for skin happiness.

What is evening primrose oil?

For the uninitiated, evening primrose oil (or EPO) comes from the plant Oenothera biennis, historically famed for its medicinal properties. It’s a pretty yellow flower that grows naturally in North America.

As with the Vitamin A and fatty acid-rich rosehip oil, EPO is extracted from the seeds and is a great alternative to heavier oils such as olive oil.

Taken orally evening primrose oil can ease feminine issues such as PMS or menopause symptoms. It can even be used to induce labor! So steer clear of EPO capsules if you’re pregnant.

Today though we’re talking about the skin benefits of evening primrose oil. And boy are they worth knowing about!

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What does evening primrose oil do for your skin?

People of all ages and skin types can benefit from a little EPO because it wards off dryness, helping your skin barrier be less prone to everything from acne to premature aging! But how?

Here’s a rundown of the goodies in evening primrose oil:

  • Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) helps to reduce inflammation. This makes it great for soothing the pain of acne flares, or even eczema irritation.
  • Linoleic acid (also found in other goodies such as Argan Oil) helps your skin’s barrier perform at its best.
  • Fatty acids like palmitic acid, oleic acid, and stearic acid help to strengthen your skin from the outside. As well as aiding hydration, these wonder acids support your skin’s structure and overall health.

According to Paula’s Choice, the fatty acids in evening primrose oil can even “Reduce UV-induced photodamage and signs of aging” – head over to PC’s resource on evening primrose oil for the full lowdown!

How to use evening primrose oil for skin


Evening primrose oil should be applied just like any other facial oil: before your moisturizer, on clean skin. Remember to layer your products from thinnest to thickest, which means oils go near the end of your skincare routine!

Use enough to smooth one thin layer over the skin, concentrating on dry areas. (And don’t forget your neck!). You can use a cotton pad or, if you want to be more environmentally friendly about it, just use your fingers!

Don’t do this more than once a day, as one application should be more than enough to help you reap the benefits.

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Should I use EPO in the morning or at night?

Whether you use it in the morning or at night doesn’t really matter as this oil doesn’t lose efficacy in contact with sunlight like retinol or AHAs. That being said, we’d say nighttime is probably best.

And there’s a scientific reason for this. At night our skin loses more hydration through Transepidermal Water Loss, soproducts like EPO that aid hydration are great for adding that extra needed moisture.

Expert tips

If you’re a skincare fanatic, you might already know some of these, but here are some expert tips to keep in mind.

  1. Evening primrose oil is not a standalone moisturizer. Use it in conjunction with your regular moisturizer, after any serums or essences, for maximum hydration.
  2. With your fingertips, gently press the oil into your skin, rather than rubbing it, as tugging the skin can cause wrinkles. (This goes for applying any skincare product of course!)
  3. Don’t use evening primrose oil every day. While it’s unlikely that this oil will clog your pores, it’s best not to use the same active ingredients every day. This approach will help you avoid any potential irritation.

Can evening primrose oil cause irritation?

Short answer? No. When taken orally, evening primrose oil is “generally well tolerated”, and the same goes for topical skin application. You shouldn’t have to worry about rashes or flare-ups of any kind.

Some people even use this oil on their eczema! Which makes sense as it’s very soothing and hydrating. As’s article on evening primrose oil says, there’s not a whole lot of scientific evidence to back it up, but there’s no harm in trying it!

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While evening primrose oil isn’t a harsh ingredient by any means, everyone’s skin is different. So if you’re prone to irritation, always do a patch test first.

It’s also always a good idea to introduce one new product at a time while switching up your skincare. That way, if irritation does occur, you’ll know for sure what product or new ingredient is the culprit!

Can I use evening primrose oil if I have oily skin?

Overall, evening primrose oil plays well with all skin types. Yes, really – even ones already suffering from excess oil production!

There’s a fallacy that if you have oily skin, you should avoid oil in your skincare altogether. But the truth is that not all oils are created equal.

Some oils are comedogenic, and some aren’t. Evening primrose oil is largely non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores like coconut oil or olive oil.

The final verdict

If you ask us, there’s no reason not to have a little evening primrose oil in your skincare arsenal. It’s gentle, unlikely to cause irritation, and supports your all-important skin barrier!

While as an ingredient it might seem old-fashioned, the benefits of evening primrose oil for skin simply cannot be ignored. Just make sure what you’re buying is 100% primrose oil from a retailer you trust, and you’re good to go!

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