Almond oil has a number of benefits, most of them cosmetic; it is perhaps most commonly used as a moisturizer for both skin and hair, but also has antimicrobial properties, which makes it suitable for use as a healing agent as well. It can also be rubbed into the skin to aid in muscular pain relief or diffused into a room as aromatherapy, mainly to promote a sense of calm and wellbeing. The specifics of use often depend on the type of oil being used, namely sweet or bitter. Each comes from a different variety of almond tree, and in most cases the oils aren’t interchangeable. They aren’t always safe for all people, either, and should usually be used only after a bit of research to avoid allergic reactions or interactions with medications or other natural supplements.
Differentiating Available Types
In general there are two primary types of almond oil. Sweet almond oil is most common for use in cosmetics and skin and hair care, and comes from the blossoms and nuts of the amygdalus variety of almond tree, which is usually the type cultivated for human consumption. Bitter almond oil, by contrast, is from the amara variety of tree. This tree also produces nuts, but they tend to be smaller and aren’t normally sold commercially the way sweet almonds are. The oil is typically more concentrated and is most commonly used in essential oils for aromatherapy and medicinal uses.
As a Skin Moisturizer
Sweet almond oil is a natural moisturizer that can be used topically to treat dry and flaky skin, and because it is easily absorbed by the top layer of the skin it’s often used as lubricating massage oil. It tends to be rather heavy, but it is a natural emollient that is not very greasy and is quickly absorbed. This rapid absorption is key in helping to repair dry, cracked or flaky skin and in smoothing patches of hardened skin, particularly on the elbows, heels, and knees. When used regularly as a moisturizer, it makes skin soft and supple, and it has been found to be a soothing agent for various skin inflammations. It can also be used to reduce the appearance of dark circles under the eyes. Gently rubbing a drop of almond oil under each eye at night will rehydrate the delicate skin and reduce puffiness.
A related benefit of almond oil concerns medical problems with the skin. Sweet versions have been used since ancient times for the treatment of chronic dry skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. Two plant-derived compounds in almond oil, oleic acid and ursolic acid, are known to have anti-inflammatory properties and a restorative healing effect on the outer layer of skin. It is also rich in the skin-nourishing vitamins A and E, as well as in vitamins B1, B2 and B6, so it is prominent in many soaps and beauty products, particularly moisturizers.
For the Hair
The benefits of almond oil for the hair are almost as numerous as those for the skin. Besides helping dry and brittle hair to become thicker and stronger with its moisturizing properties, almond oil nourishes hair cuticles and adds a healthy sheen to even the dullest hair. It’s also a good cleansing agent for hair and can help support healthy hair and a healthy scalp. The regular use of almond oil as a scalp lubricant has even been found to facilitate hair growth.
Almond oil has natural antimicrobial properties and can be used to treat minor wounds, sunburn, and infections. In addition to helping ward off infection, it can help moisturize the skin and thus help in the body’s natural regeneration process. It’s also a common ingredient in products designed to relieve acne since it can help stop the spread of bacterial infections that are so often the cause.
Muscular Pain Relief
Rubbing almond oil directly onto the skin has also been shown to provide relief from mild muscular pain. Its rich emollient qualities allow it to penetrate deep below the surface of the skin and, with the right pressure and with sustained application, can help release tension and promote relaxation of muscular fibers. Almond oil is similar to olive oil in its makeup of essential fatty acids, monounsaturated fats and omega-3. As such, it’s often used as a substitute in salad dressings and recipes that require oil, such as stir-fry dishes.
Of the two types of almond oil, only bitter almond oil is an essential oil — sweet almond oil is a base, or carrier, oil. Base oils don’t normally do well in diffusers since they aren’t as concentrated. Bitter almond oil is common in aromatherapy, whether in diffusers or sprays, and is often said to promote a sense of calm and reinvigoration.