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The Brilliance of Borage

A Star is Born

As far as skin oils go, there’s one that’s quickly becoming beauty’s best friend. You might even call it a superstar. Borage seed oil is one of the most effective treatments for hydrating and healing the skin, and it has the research to back it up.

About Borage

The borage plant is in the Boragaceae family. It’s native to the Mediterranean region but is now cultivated just about everywhere. The shrubby herb produces stunning star-shaped blue flowers, giving it the nickname “starflower.” In the garden, it not only adds beauty, but it also attracts pollinators and beneficial garden insects. It makes a great companion to tomato, cabbage, squash, and strawberries.

Borage has its roots in history going back to Roman times. The leaves and flowers have been used medicinally for nearly 2,000 years. In fact, it has been believed to relieve melancholy and grief by many including Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, Greek physician Dioscorides, and famous herbalist John Gerard. It was also given to soldiers as a flavoring in their wine because it was thought to give them courage before going into battle.

Skip to modern times, and borage is now known more for the oil from its seeds than for its vegetative parts. Borage seed oil is a star among skin oils because of its high Gamma Linoleic Acid, or GLA, content. In fact, borage has the highest amount of this omega-6 fatty acid of any known plant, with about 18-26%. Keep reading to find out why GLA is vital to beautiful healthy skin.

What is GLA?

GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid. Omega-6 is an essential fatty acid, meaning we must get it from the food we eat because our bodies can't produce it. It’s mostly found in vegetable oils. While most omega-6s are considered pro-inflammatory, GLA is anti-inflammatory. 

GLA and other essential fatty acids are an important part of the structure of skin cell membranes. These membranes act as a protective barrier and also regulate what goes in and out of the cells. When the membranes are healthy, your skin appears smoother, more hydrated, and younger looking.

Skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, and “cradle cap” (sebhorric dermatitis in babies) are said to be the result of GLA deficiency. Though we can’t make it ourselves, our bodies are able to convert linoleic acid obtained from food into gamma linoleic acid. But this isn’t always an efficient process. It requires our bodies to have sufficient amounts of an enzyme called delta-6-desaturase (D6D). However, D6D is slow and is easily disturbed by many factors, including aging, stress, and poor diet. When we’re deficient in D6D, we become deficient in GLA.

Another problem with a lack of GLA is that moisture can easily escape through the membrane, leaving your skin cells dry and deflated. If enough GLA is available, it is further converted into a compound called prostaglandin E1. PGE1 is a powerful anti-inflammatory that also helps protect our skin from injury and damage, which is necessary to avoid water loss through our skin cells. 

How to use GLA

GLA can be effectively integrated into skin cell membranes either by supplementation or by applying it topically.

Borage seed oil is available as a dietary supplement in capsules. When taken as a supplement, research shows that it can be effective at reducing skin dryness and irritation. One study performed on 29 healthy elderly adults showed that after taking borage oil capsules daily for 2 months, there was a significant improvement in transepidermal water loss, itchy skin, and reported dryness. (Be aware that there may be side effects, and always check with your doctor before adding a supplement.)

Another study where the subjects consumed GLA-rich foods found that there was improvement in transepidermal water loss and inflammation stemming from mild atopic dermatitis.

Borage seed oil used topically is a highly effective way to treat dry skin and inflammatory conditions like eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis and rosacea. In a study done on 32 children with atopic dermatitis, kids who wore undershirts coated with borage oil for 2 weeks showed significant improvement in redness and itch, as well as a reduction in transepidermal water loss.

Overall, borage seed oil is an excellent addition to your skincare because it helps maintain the integrity of your skin cells, prevents moisture loss, and helps heal common skin disorders.

If you struggle with inflammatory skin conditions or extreme dryness, borage seed oil should be on the top of your list. Healthy skin that holds in moisture and is free from inflammation is the gold standard. With this superstar oil, relief can be within reach.

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