Did you know that ghee is not only a highly nutritious food, but also an excellent skin care ingredient? In this post, you’ll learn all of the skin care benefits of ghee!
What is Ghee?
Ghee is a type of clarified butter.
Butter is composed of three main components:
Heating butter until it melts cause the water to evaporate, and the solids, having nowhere else to go, break down and float to the surface where they can be skimmed off.
The process of creating traditional clarified butter is complete once the water is evaporated and the fat (clarified butter) is separated from the milk solids. However, the production of ghee includes simmering the butter, which makes it nutty-tasting and aromatic. According to Healthline, ghee was originally created to prevent butter from spoiling during warm weather.
Since ghee does not contain water, it has a very long shelf life and does not need to be refrigerated. In fact, according to ayurvedic teaching its quality and healing properties improve with age. Ayurveda recognizes ghee as an essential part of a balanced diet and is considered to be the very best oil one can eat. It has been used for centuries as a digestive and elimination aid, as well as for energy, sexual vitality, skin and eye health, as a lubricant for the joints and for alkalizing the blood.
Ghee is completely free of the milk sugar lactose and the milk protein casein, whereas butter contains small amounts of each. Therefore, ghee is considered to be safe to use for those who have allergies or sensitivities to these dairy components.
Ghee is composed almost entirely of fat, 62% of which is saturated fat. Palmitic acid and oleic acid are two of the main fatty acids in ghee. Palmitic acid is the most common saturated fatty acid found in animals, plants, and microorganisms. Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid that occurs naturally in various animal and vegetable fats and oils, for instance, olive oil.
Another type of fatty acid in ghee is butyric acid. Butyric acid is a saturated short-chain fatty acid. In addition to ghee, butyric acid can be found in butter, milk, animal fat, and plant oils. It’s also formed in the human colon through the bacterial fermentation of carbohydrates like dietary fiber. Butyric acid supports digestion and promotes healing of cells in the small and large intestine. Butyric acid also provides benefits to the skin, which I will discuss in detail below.
Yet another beneficial fatty acid that can be found in ghee is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Linoleic acid is the most common omega-6 fatty acid. According to Healthline, the “conjugated” prefix has to do with the arrangement of the double bonds in the fatty acid molecule. There are 28 different forms of CLA. While the majority of research on CLA is on the ability of this fatty acid to support weight loss, there is emerging research that suggests CLA can benefit aging skin when applied topically.
Ghee also contains a significant amount of cholesterol (approximately 250 mg per 100 grams of ghee). Cholesterol can be classified as a sterol, a type of lipid molecule. It is an essential structural component of all animal cell membranes, functioning to maintain both membrane structural integrity and fluidity. Cholesterol is also naturally found in the stratum corneum (the uppermost layer of skin).
Ghee contains the fat-soluble vitamins A, E, and K. All three of these vitamins have potent antioxidant activity, which I will discuss in detail below.
Ghee Skin Benefits - Moisturizing
Ghee functions as an excellent moisturizer for all skin types, especially those with dry skin. It works by replenishing the skin’s natural barrier. The skin barrier is composed of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids combined with corneocytes (dead skin cells). A strong, intact barrier is important to keep moisture in, as well as keep things like allergens, bacteria, and irritants out.
When the barrier is weakened, these intruders can pass through the top layer of skin, causing damage that ultimately leads to common skin conditions such as acne, rashes, sensitive skin, and even signs of aging. A weak barrier also allows moisture to escape from the skin’s surface, leading to dry, flaky skin.
Topical application of ghee provides fatty acids and cholesterol, which both work to replenish the skin’s barrier. Additionally, the conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in ghee helps skin retain moisture by boosting ceramide synthesis. Overall, ghee fortifies the skin barrier, resulting in hydrated, soft, smooth skin that is better protected from harmful environmental factors.
Ghee Skin Benefits - Anti-Aging
According to StyleCraze, “Ghee is considered as one of the best natural anti-aging solutions.”
I’d have to agree with them.
Since I have been applying ghee to my skin I’ve noticed that my complexion is brighter and that my skin looks (and feels) softer and more plump.
The anti-aging skin benefits of ghee are thanks to several different components. First, the fatty acids, cholesterol, and CLA help to keep the skin moisturized (as mentioned above), which is crucial since the skin loses moisture with age.
Additionally, ghee contains that antioxidant vitamins A, E, and K. Antioxidants work by scavenging and neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals are the unstable molecule that can react with our important cellular components, such as DNA, proteins, carbohydrates, or the cell membrane. When this happens, the cells become dysfunctional or undergo apoptosis (cell death). Collectively, the damage to cells in our body is referred to as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress in skin cells leads to premature signs of aging, such as lines, wrinkles, and age spots. Antioxidants help to prevent signs of aging because they break the chain of reactions caused by free radicals.
Ghee Skin Benefits - Calms Inflammation
Have you ever heard the term “inflammaging”?
I hadn’t until I started to research the skin benefits of ghee.
“Inflammaging” is a term used to describe chronic, low-grade inflammation that is associated with age-related changes in the body. Inflammaging has been linked to numerous age-related diseases, one being skin aging.
One way to combat inflammaging as it relates to skin aging is to incorporate anti-inflammatory ingredients in your skin care routine. There are several anti-inflammatory compounds found in ghee, such as butyrate and conjugated linoleic acid.
Research performed on cell cultures has demonstrated that butyrate does reduce inflammation. According to SelfHacked.com, butyrate suppresses the activity of cells and proteins driving inflammation. It also strengthens barriers between the cells, thus preventing invasion of microbes.
The conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in ghee also helps to calm inflammation. It is believed that CLA isomers have the ability to inhibit the transcription of pro-inflammatory cytokines by the upregulation of PPARγ expression. Pro-inflammatory cytokines are signaling molecules that promote inflammation. By reducing the transcription of these molecules, inflammation is reduced.
The ability of ghee to help calm skin inflammation not only helps reduce signs of aging, but can also alleviate the symptoms of other inflammatory skin disorders. Examples include acne, eczema, rosacea, etc.
Personally, I have noticed that if I apply ghee on a blemish, the redness and inflammation surrounding the blemish is diminished.
Overall, I think the skin care benefits of ghee are pretty impressive. If you are looking for a natural moisturizer, I’d pick up a jar of organic ghee (I purchased mine on Amazon for $11.95) and try making a DIY moisturizer.
There are several how-to videos on YouTube, such as this one: