Top 5 Kukui Nut Oil Benefits For Skin And Hair

Written by Payal Karnik , MSc (Biotechnology), Diploma In Nutrition

Kukui nut oil has been gaining popularity in the beauty world for its cosmetic applications. The benefits of kukui nut oil can be attributed to its moisture-locking and skin-repairing properties. The oil can help soothe dry skin, slow down signs of premature aging, reduce hair problems, and calm sunburns.

The range of vitamins, antioxidants, and essential fats in this oil help treat and prevent many skin and hair problems. This article explores the benefits of kukui nut oil for skin and hair and how to use it. Keep reading.

What Is Kukui Nut Oil?

Candlenut (Aleurites moluccanus), or kukui as it is called in Hawaii, is a tree nut species indigenous to the Indo-Malaysia region. It grows well in warm tropical regions and extensively features in Indonesian and Malaysian cuisines (1).

Certified Nutritionist, Anju Mobin, says, “Kukui oil is produced in Hawaii by cold pressing the oil from the nut of the kukui tree.”

Kukui nut contains a high percentage of oil (30-60%). The clear yellow oil is extracted by cold pressing the nuts or through the solvent extraction method. Each method yields a different amount of nutrients (2).

Mobin adds, “Hundreds of years ago, Hawaiians used it to protect the skin of babies. It is believed to get readily absorbed by skin resulting in smooth, moisturized skin. In modern days, it has been used in various skin care cosmetics.”

Its benefits go beyond skin care. Cosmetologist Ghanima Abdullah says, “Kukui nut oil has been known in Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures for its beneficial effects on hair. It is a staple in the hair care routine for both men and women in the islands.”

Kukui nut oil contains various nutrients, which makes it beneficial for the skin and hair.

Kukui Nut Oil Composition

Kukui oil contains (3):

  • 8.1% saturated fatty acids
  • 15.3% monounsaturated fatty acids
  • 43% linoleate
  • 33% linolenate

Pure kukui nut oil goes rancid quickly because of linolenate, the most unstable fatty acid in the oil. That is why the oil is stabilized before using in cosmetic formulations.

In cosmetics, fatty acids serve primarily as emulsifiers, which allow oil and water to blend well, remain stable, and thicken the creams and lotions (4). In addition, they also have multiple benefits. Continue reading to discover how kukui nut oil can benefit you.

Why Kukui Nut Oil Is A Must-Have

1. Repairs Dry Skin

Kukui nut oil contains saturated fatty acids that can repair the stratum corneum (top layer of the skin). The fatty acids moisturize the skin and form a semipermeable barrier to help the moisture get absorbed deep into the skin layers (3).

2. Boosts Hair Vitality

Abdullah says, “The most common use of kukui nut oil for our hair is as a moisturizing treatment. It is applied to dry, brittle, and damaged hair to add suppleness and softness. Kukui nut oil for hair can be used as a scalp treatment as it is non-comedogenic. It can also be used as a serum or moisturizer. It detangles hair and reduces frizz.”

3. May Heal Eye Burns

An animal study found that kukui nut oil could heal ocular burns, regenerate corneal epithelium (a barrier to protect the cornea), and reduce inflammatory cells (5). Some of the eye drops contain oil, which is often recommended for dry eyes. Kukui nut oil shows a promising effect in protecting the eyes. However, more human studies are required to evaluate its beneficial effects.

4. May Prevent Stretch Marks

Kukui nut oil is a part of Hawaiian folk medicine and is widely used as a massage oil to prevent stretch marks and relieve joint pain (6).

5. May Help In Wound Healing

Kukui oil is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acid linoleic acid. Animal studies found that oral administration of linoleic acid could promote tissue repair and improve hydration and elasticity (7).

The fatty acids present in this oil may also help prevent split ends, dandruff, wrinkles, and blemishes. Here is how you can incorporate kukui nut oil into your daily routine.

How To Use It

You can directly apply kukui oil to hydrate your skin or to revitalize your hair. Rub a small amount of the oil on your face or massage your scalp with it for the best results.

You can follow the package instructions for proper usage. Its application is as varied as the benefits of this oil. You can blend kukui nut oil with other natural ingredients to make nourishing face masks and hair masks.

Ghanima Abdullah adds, “Hawaii produces both kukui nut and coconut oil, and some like to mix kukui nut oil with coconut milk for a super-rich hair conditioner.” Both kukui nut and coconut oils are excellent hydrators. However, there are subtle differences between the two.

Kukui Nut Oil Vs. Coconut Oil

Ghanima says, “The main differences between the two products are that coconut oil is a heavier oil that sits on the surface of the hair. So, unless your hair has super texture, you won’t be able to apply coconut oil without rinsing it out. Kukui nut oil, on the other hand, can be added to tame frizz without weighing down your hair.”

From a practical standpoint, coconut oil products are cheaper and easier to find than kukui nut oil. However, an important factor is that coconut oil is highly comedogenic and may clog the pores and aggravate acne, while kukui nut is not (8). However, you still have to be careful while using the latter.

Side Effects of Kukui Nut Oil

There is no data on whether kukui nut oil triggers allergic reactions. However, possibilities cannot be ruled out. Some users have experienced hives, itching, and red bumps on their skin after using the oil. Therefore, it is better to do a patch test to prevent allergic reactions.

Ghanima Abdullah adds, “Like with any oil if you apply too much kukui nut oil to your tresses, they will become greasy. Limit use to 3-5 drops on wet or dry hair.”

The Final Word

Kukui nut oil is packed with essential fatty acids and vitamins. The indigenous Hawaiian people use it to protect and nourish their skin and hair. The oil can moisturize and hydrate the skin and hair and keep them healthy. However, do a patch test to avoid any allergic reactions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does kukui nut oil clog pores?

No. Kukui nut oil is non-comedogenic, meaning it does not clog pores.

What does kukui oil smell like?

Kukui oil has a subtle nutty smell.

Is kukui nut oil a carrier oil?

Yes. The fatty acids present in kukui oil resemble the skin’s natural oils.

Are kukui nuts poisonous?

Raw kukui nuts can be toxic as they contain saponins and phorbol.

Is kukui oil edible?

No. While the oil is not toxic, if it is past its shelf life or has been exposed to excessive heat, it can cause stomach discomfort, nausea, and diarrhea.

Is kukui oil good for curly hair?

Yes. Kukui oil makes curls shiny and tames the frizz.



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  1. Aleurites moluccanus
  2. Candlenut oil: review on oil properties and future liquidbiofuel prospects
  3. Emollient action of kukui nut oil
  4. Chapter 12 – The Role of Fatty Acids in Cosmetic Technology
  5. Ocular Burn: Rinsing and Healing with Ionic Marine Solutions and Vegetable Oils
  6. Indigenous Hawaiian Nonmedical and Medical Use of the Kukui Tree
  7. Wound Healing and Omega-6 Fatty Acids: From Inflammation to Repair
  8. Comedogenicity of Oils
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