Apricot Kernel Oil Health Benefits: Hair, Skin, And More!
I have always had a strong love of apricots -- whether dried or in their natural form. They’re a tasty addition to any lunch or breakfast -- or even as a snack on their own. Personally, I love adding chopped bits of dried apricot to my morning muesli or yogurt for their taste and texture.
They’re a fantastic source of Vitamin A, C, E and K (which is really good for maintaining heart health), and also add fiber to your diet -- making them a great natural digestive.
They’re sweet, juicy and relatively cheap, so you won’t need to bust the bank to incorporate them into your diet. One of the most important aspects of the apricot for me is that it’s chocked full of potent and enriching antioxidants, which will help you detoxify your body and strengthen your immune system over a long term. This makes them excellent for a variety of other uses as well -- which I’ll explain below.
What is Apricot Kernel Oil? Where Does it Come From?
The apricot tree is known to have originated from China -- however, was spread to Europe from Armenia. The most commonly cultivated tree is known as Prunus Armeniaca (derived from the it’s place of origin at the time -- Armenia) and produces the a fruit known as the ‘sweet apricot.’ This is the apricot we know and love, and is the most commonly cultivated genus of the fruit.
The oil of the fruit is produced from the kernel contained in the center of the fruit. The kernel is usually covered by a hard outer casing, followed by a shell and then the kernel. Generally the oil is cold pressed from kernel -- which basically means that they are subjected to extreme pressures (in an industrial press). This pressure removes the oil that is contained in the fiber of the pit (kernel).
At this point, it’s important to note that you should always inquire about the source of the apricots when buying apricot kernel oil -- because there are two types of kernels that occur within the apricots. The sweet apricot kernel -- which is most commonly found, is safe for consumption and oil production; they have been likened in taste to that of almonds (a good indicator that you’re eating sweet kernels).
However, some apricots produce bitter kernels which can be toxic when ingested as they contain trace amounts of cyanide -- a chemical I think needs little explanation. Always make sure that any apricot products you buy don’t contain any elements of bitter seeds in them as they can make you ill -- common symptoms include headaches, nausea and general dizziness.
Some companies are actually starting to sell bitter almonds separately as there’s a growing demand for them as a cancer and ulcer treatment. However, not enough is known about the health benefits of bitter almonds for them to be used regularly. Personally, I would suggest sticking to the sweet kernels -- just to be on the safe side.
Once you’ve ascertained that the oil you’re using is of the sweet variety -- feel free to use it liberally for a variety of reasons: from cooking and baking (one of it’s more common uses and a wonderful substitute for almond oil), to skin and hair treatments (which I’ll explain in the next few paragraphs).
Using Apricot Kernel Oil For Hair And Hair Loss
Apricot oil shares many qualities and attributes with almond oil and is best used as a hair treatment when combined with almond oil. Apricot oil can even be used to help prevent or slow hair loss in both men and women.
The rich vitamin E and K content is great for nourishing and strengthening your hair follicles from the roots and also acts as a natural moisturizer. Vitamin K works to thicken your blood cells and tighten your skin, which means that more nutrients pass into your hair follicles and ensures that your scalp has a tighter grip on the individual hairs, helping to reduce hair loss.
For men specifically, the high vitamin E content found in the oil also helps to reduce and inhibit a chemical called alpha 5 -reductase, which is the result of testosterone that gathers in the scalp. It can block and ultimately starve your follicles of nutrients that are essential for maintaining healthy hair and can stunt hair growth and even lead to hair loss if it’s not treated soon enough.
By inhibiting the alpha 5 -reductase, you basically increase the amount of nutrients that reach your hair follicles and allow for regulated, healthy growth to continue -- effectively preventing alopecia (or male pattern baldness).
For best results try a hot oil treatment -- but this is not a necessity. By applying the oil in this way, you allow the nutrients to pass deeper into your scalp and penetrate the follicles more effectively. To do this, heat some carrier oil (almond, lemongrass or coconut oil) and add roughly 6-8 drops of the apricot oil to this mixture. Stir to mix and then allow to cool -- the oil should be warm, but must not burn you.
Now, put some of the oil into your hands and massage it into your scalp, in circular motions, working your way down to the end of your hair. Wrap your hair with a plastic cover (sandwich wrap will do) and again with a towel. Leave to soak for at least 30 minutes. You can even leave it in overnight. Then simply rinse the oil out and wash/condition as per normal. Repeat this process roughly 3 -- 4 times a week for best results, but even 2 a week will have an effect.
Apricot oil will also moisturize and help to soothe an irritable scalp -- which is often the leading cause of dandruff. By massaging the oil into your scalp and combing it regularly (followed by a rinse), you’ll help to alleviate the itchiness and the dry flakes of hair that generally come as a result from scratching your irritated scalp.
I recommend utilizing the hot oil treatment though, if you wish to get rid of your dandruff quickly and more effectively. It contains a great deal of strong antioxidants (such as catechins, hydroxycinnamics and caffeic acid) which will also remove and treat the buildup of harmful chemical agents that may linger on your scalp due to continued use of chemical hair products (such as hair-sprays) or general pollutants, and can cause irritation or hair damage.
Apricot Kernel Oil For Skin, Wrinkle And Acne Treatment
I’d like to reiterate at this point, that as good as apricot kernel oil is for your skin and body -- it works doubly as well when combined with almond oil. Apricot oil contains strong antioxidant properties that, when applied topically, penetrate the surface of your skin and removes harmful bacteria and free-radicals that can lead to infection or cause general skin irritation and dryness.
By penetrating beneath the surface skin layer, the oil also nourishes and replenishes moisture and vitamins that are lost throughout the day. This will restore your skin’s natural luster and keep it looking healthy.
When applying apricot kernel oil to your skin, it’s important to note that it does have a mild comedogenic quality (a rating of 2). This means that it can block up pores and lead to blemishes and blackheads -- so it’s important to rinse your face with water water and dry pat with a clean towel after applying the oil. I do however, still recommend that you use the oil for treating your face -- so long as you do so in small amounts.
The healthy nutrient and vitamin content of the oil helps to nourish your skin, and the antioxidants will remove and germs that could lead to infection or worsen the symptoms of acne. The high Vitamin K, E and Omega 6 content found in apricot oil also helps to relieve the signs of dark circles that occur under the eyes.
The oil allows the nutrients to penetrate the surface of your skin and nourish your blood cells. In order to have a stronger effect on relieving the dark circles and fight the signs of aging on your skin, I recommend adding lemongrass, bergamot or orange essential oil to the apricot oil in order to stimulate blood circulation.
Some of the leading causes of dark circles is a lack of nutrients in the blood cells and a stagnation of the flow of the capillaries. The skin layer is thinner in that area and patchiness will show through -- hence the darkening of the skin. Treat regularly as a means of speeding up the recovery process and prolonging the effects.
Apricot Kernel Oil vs. Sweet Almond Oil
As mentioned earlier, both oils are equally effective in treating hair and skin issues and both have strong health benefits when ingested orally. In fact, they’re very similar in many regards: they taste almost the same, they both contain similar vitamin types (A,C,E, K etc.), they both have high levels of linalool and they both act as natural antioxidants.
However, sweet almond oil is a bit better for use on your face (or more sensitive skin types) because of its low comedogenic rating. This means that it will not block your pores or create unwanted blemishes or blackhead when applied.
However, apricot oil works very well as a massage oil and penetrates the skin much deeper than almond oil. This makes it more effective for treating muscle and joint pains and for relieving dry, cracked skin. Both have their pros and cons, but really -- they work best when used together.
Why Is Cold Pressed Apricot Kernel Oil Best?
Cold pressed apricot oil is generally considered the best option for regular use and consumption because it contains the highest amount of pure nutrient extracts and vitamin content. Organically sourced apricot oil is even better as some commercially cultivated apricots are treated with harmful pesticides that can penetrate the flesh of the fruit and in some cases even enter into the kernel. Any chemicals that make it into the kernel will show up in the oil -- so be sure to source naturally grown apricot oils for the best results.
How To Make DIY Apricot Kernel Oil
Apricot kernel oil generally cannot be produced at home as you need industrial machinery to provide the best results. However, you’re in luck because I took the effort of researching the industrial method and figured out a way to reverse-engineer the process -- just for you! Although, it’s still quite costly and time consuming and will wind up costing you a lot more than just buying the ready made product -- but for those among you who enjoy a challenge, or are looking for a new hobby, try this on size.
Firstly, you have to obtain roughly 500 grams of sweet apricot kernels or seeds (they look roughly like almonds). Let the apricot seeds soak in water for at least 20 minutes so that they become nice and soft. Now, crush the seeds with a mortar and pestle. Make sure that you get them as fine as possible. You need to get them down to a powder-like state, so keep crushing.
If you’re mortar isn’t large enough, you can do it in parts or use a blender. If you find that you’re not achieving the desired results yet, pour the crushed shells out and use a sharp knife or roller blade to chop them into finer pieces and then continue crushing with the mortar and pestle. Add roughly 20 ml of water to the crushed apricots. The seeds are close to being ready for oil extraction when they’re in a paste-like state.
Now comes the tricky part. You need to heat the paste from the mortar in a pan with a tablespoon of coconut or olive oil. Not too hot, just so that you evaporate some of the water from the paste and make it thicker -- more oily. To extract the oil, you need to subject this paste to a large amount of pressure.
I recommend placing some plastic sandwich wrap on the floor or on your kitchen counter (your spillage catchment safety net) and place a cutting board on top of that. Then cover your cutting board with a sheet of the same plastic wrapping and make sure you wrap it underneath the board, so that it stays in place.
Roll the paste out with all your might -- and I mean really, as much pressure as you can apply, even if it means calling a friend or family member who does heavy-lifting/gyms regularly. By doing this, you should see small amounts of oil escaping the paste -- I’m talking tears here. Fret not, pure oil occurs in small amount -- which why I still recommend purchasing ready made oil. But that basically how to do it in a nutshell. Note that this recipe isn’t fool proof and amounts may vary on the results you get or the amount you wish to create.
Apricot Kernel Oil vs. Almond Oil: Which To Use For Skin & Hair?
Firstly, it’s important to note that each skin type isn’t the same and that applies to hair as well. While it might be easy for us to assume that there is a wonder product that treats all skin and hair types simultaneously, there simply isn’t.
So it’ll take a bit of experimenting to find the products or oils that work best for you. However, I can say that both Apricot Kernel Oil and Sweet Almond Oil are terrific for certain skin and hair types. So here’s the breakdown.
Apricot Kernel Oil
Apricot Oil is rich in Linoleic Acid (around 50% to be exact), which makes it highly effective at treating the excess oil that gathers on oilier skin types. Linoleic acid also helps to breakdown the ‘plugs’ that trap excess sebum and dirt in our pores, opening them up and helping to clear our skin. This is the best way to maintain a healthy complexion with oily skin types.
I’d recommend blending it with Hemp Seed Oil or Evening Primrose Oil if you’re looking for a more effective treatment (or if you simply have a very oily skin type). However, when it comes to treating hair, Apricot oil is effective at removing germs and grime buildup but only when used in a careful mixture of other more ‘hair friendly oils.
The issue with apricot oil (and this applies to skin as well) is that it has a slightly higher comedogenic rating than most oils. This means that it tends to leave a layer on the skin that may collect dirt over the course of the day. When applied to your scalp, this could actually worsen the level of dirt and grime that gathers on the scalp and may lead to infection and inflammation.
When used on either the scalp or hair, it’s imperative that you rinse this oil out immediately after use -- to prevent this buildup from occurring. So for oilier skin, and drier hair types -- I would recommend using Apricot Oil.
This is definitely one of my favorite oils and I’ve used it both as a carrier oil and an effective dry skin and hair treatment on it’s own. Almond oil is rich in oleic acids, which help to moisturize and nourish dry irritable skin. This helps to prevent the formation of flaky skin and ultimately the signs of dandruff.
It’s actually suitable for both skin types (oily and dry -- including combination skin types) because it has a very low comedogenic rating. While it may not be as effective at killing off microbes and bacteria as Apricot Kernel Oil, it’s a great carrier oil and can be blended with Eucalyptus, Lemon and Lavender oil to make a more potent mixture.
It is usually used as the base for homemade DIY shampoo recipes (or an active ingredient) and helps to balance out the natural oils in your hair whilst nourishing the follicles from the roots to the tips with Vitamin E and B (which are essential to strong hair). It’s definitely more mild than apricot oil for hair but can be blended with the latter to make a more suitable ‘all-round’ treatment.
At the end of the day you should try to use apricot oil as a blending oil with almond and lemongrass or orange essential oil as it works best when combined. If you’re out of almond oil, then apricot oil will make a fine substitute and can be used in a variety of ways. I don’t use it often (I personally prefer the fruit in its natural state -- but that’s just me), except for when I’m feeling rundown or have dry itchy skin.
It works really well as a massage oil and I recently gave my friend who is a dedicated marathon runner a vial of the stuff to blend with eucalyptus and tea tree oil. It works wonders for penetrating deep beneath the skin and can relieve joint pains and muscle cramps really well. So if you work out regularly or are a keen jogger/runner, I’d always carry a blended mix of almond oil with me for training and race days.