Meadowfoam, or Limnanthes alba is a small and soft-stemmed herbaceous winter-spring annual that grows natively in grassy areas along the waterways of northern California, southern Oregon and Vancouver Island. It is closely related to the mustard family of plants and other families within the Brassicales order. Meadowfoam gets its name from the resemblance of its creamy white blossoms to seafoam adorning rolling waves as the wind sweeps through its flowering ranks. Known to botanists since the early nineteenth century, Meadowfoam has long been cultivated as an ornamental, admired for its pretty blooms and pleasantly sweet scent.
Despite the long pastoral history that would suggest an incidental spread of this wildflower's value through quaint folk traditions, the story of Meadowfoam seed oil's rise to mainstream popularity is a lot more clinical. Flagged for its value as an agricultural crop in the 1950s, Meadowfoam held promise for the US Department of Agriculture when it sought a renewable raw material source for industrial applications. After extensive research and development into the crop's potential that lasted throughout the 60s and 70s, commercial development of Meadowfoam for oil production began at the beginning of the 1980s. Much like the oil, this development has been undergoing refinement ever since.
The refined oil produced by Meadowfoam has similar properties to rapeseed oil, with which it competes directly for operations in the industrial oilseed market. What sets Meadowfoam seed oil apart is its chemical makeup of long-chain fatty acids which give it exceptional stability for a variety of applications. It is in high demand today because it is one of the most stable plant oils for both industrial and cosmetic uses. While research into the industrial and biotechnology applications of this oil is ongoing, Meadowfoam Oil skin benefits and haircare applications are well known, and these have generated a lot of buzz in the beauty business.
In natural cosmetics and body care, Meadowfoam seed oil is lauded as an extremely powerful emollient. Emollient substances maintain hydration by locking moisture into the skin and hair. This helps to maintain a soft and supple look and feel. Meadowfoam seed oil is known to work in a similar way to the sebum the skin produces naturally, which makes it particularly effective at sealing in moisture. It also helps to balance the skin's natural oil production, contributing to a more even complexion.
As an added benefit, compared to many oils, Meadowfoam has a uniquely velvety texture that does not leave behind a greasy residue. This gives it more versatility in topical applications, as it is suitable for all skin types, and has made it an even more popular choice to include in cosmetics. It is further considered safe to use daily and in conjunction with other skincare oils and butter.
Antioxidants and fatty acids are the stars of Meadowfoam seed oil that make it a feast for the skin and hair, endowing it with rich moisturizing properties and a luxurious texture. This oil also contains the glucosinolate derivatives, 3-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate (MBITC) and 3-methoxyphenyl acetonitrile, which have been demonstrated in controlled laboratory studies to inhibit the enzymes that degrade collagen in the skin and to help offset the impact of UVB light exposure. This has made Meadowfoam oil a popular ingredient in rejuvenating beauty formulations and protective sun care products.
In addition to its rich softening properties, Meadowfoam seed oil skin benefits include helping to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, scars, fine lines, and wrinkles to promote an energized and rejuvenated appearance. Used in haircare, this oil is known to help manage brittleness, tangles, dullness, and frizz, promoting a silky-smooth texture and vivacious sheen.
The highly stable nature of Meadowfoam seed oil makes it an even more attractive ingredient in body care products. Among other commercial plant oils, Meadowfoam has the highest concentration (about 98%) of the long-chain fatty acids Docosenoic acid and Docosadienoic acid, which are rare in vegetable oils and which are most resistant to rancidity when exposed to oxygen or heat. This affords the oil a long shelf life without compromising its effectiveness.
Meadowfoam thrives in the cool, wet climate of the Pacific Northwest and is adapted to poorly drained soils, as it has a very low tolerance for water stress. Ideal temperature for cultivating this herb ranges from 17 to 26 degrees Celsius. Seeds are sown in late spring and ideal planting conditions place seeds at a depth of 0.6 to 2 cm in soil with a temperature below 12 degrees Celsius and a pH level of 5.5 to 6. For large scale crop cultivation, rows are planted between 15 and 20 cm apart at a density of about 33 to 40 seeds per hectare. Once harvested, this translates to a production rate of about 110,000 seeds per kg of crop. Under optimal conditions Meadowfoam grows to a height of about 25 to 46 cm and due to its shallow fibrous roots, it can be easily transplanted at any stage of growth.
While Meadowfoam flowers possess both male and female reproductive organs, these do not mature in sync with one another and so this plant is not self-pollinating. Rather, when flowering, Meadowfoam requires insect pollinators for fertilization. In good weather conditions, Meadowfoam requires at least 5 bee colonies per hectare of crop for effective pollination. Weather conditions are important, as they can limit pollinator activity and negatively impact fertilization if they are unfavorable. Inefficient fertilization in turn can have a significant negative impact on crop yields. Another factor that can negatively impact eventual crop yield is competition from other species; Meadowfoam is highly vulnerable to weeds, particularly while in the early stages of growth. Taken together, these circumstances make successful large-scale cultivation of Meadowfoam a complex process requiring careful planning and maintenance for the plants to reach maturity.
Harvest takes place when 90% of the plant’s seed pods are mature; this is indicated by the stems turning a greenish-yellow color. Moisture content in mature seeds should have reached about 42% by the time they are ready for harvest. Crops are machine cut and swathed into windrows to dry naturally. Integrity of the crop is maintained by windrowing early in the morning when dew is present; this helps to prevent unwanted shattering, which is when ripe pods spontaneously drop their seeds. Once cut, Meadowfoam is left to dry for 7 to 10 days to reach a target moisture content of 12-16%. Plants will be brittle by the time the target moisture content is achieved. Lower moisture content facilitates more efficient threshing when the crops are processed for oil production. This plant stores very well once harvested, provided temperature and humidity levels are kept in a low range.
Each Meadowfoam flower contains five seeds, each of which contains about 20 to 30% oil. Once seeds have been cleaned and their shells removed, oil is extracted from the kernels through a process of cold expression, in which they crushed under a high-powered mechanical press. Prior to pressing, seeds are broken up into meals by grinding, flaking, or rolling to facilitate the process.
Depending on the design of the press, exerted pressure can reach as high as 30,000 pounds per square inch and about 60-65% of a seed's oil can be extracted. Oil yield can be increased up to about 90% with seed conditioning pre-treatments, however, this may entail altering some of the oil's chemical properties with the addition of heat and moisture. Cold pressing is the preferred method for extracting oil from nuts and seeds, as it is known to produce the purest oil. After pressing, the residual material - referred to as the 'cake' – may be exposed to a volatile solvent to dissolve the remaining oil (about 5 to 15%). The oil can then be recovered from the solution by evaporating the solvent and the solvent can be recovered for reuse.
Once expressed, Meadowfoam seed oil is refined for optimal use in its various applications. Typically, it is neutralized, lightened, and deodorized. Leftover Meadowfoam seed meal may be treated to produce compounds that may be added to the oil for industry-specific benefits. For cosmetic purposes, the secondary metabolite glucolimnanthin (GLN) can be enzymatically converted into 3-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate (MBTC) and 3-methoxyphenyl acetonitrile (MPACN). These compounds may then be added to the oil to endow it with enhanced properties for skincare.
Leftover seed meal that is not repurposed for refining the oil can be used in feed for livestock (though it may require additional processing to be safe for certain species). It can also be used in agriculture as a green manure and to help control for weeds, as GLN is known to have herbicidal effects.
Meadowfoam seed oil is extremely versatile and shows up in a wide variety of products. Because it absorbs easily and has strong staying power on the skin, it is well suited for products meant for outdoor use and can afford the skin some protection against the stress of the elements. Some of its many common applications include suntan lotions, massage oils and lotions, hand and facial creams, hair and scalp products, cuticle repair creams, foundations, rouges, face powders, lipsticks, and balms, shampoos, shaving creams, and various other body balms.
Meadowfoam seed oil can be applied directly to the skin or the hair to moisturize and maintain hydration. As a carrier oil, it can be added to body care formulations or used as a base for aromatherapy massage. Meadowfoam seed oil is particularly well suited to formulations because it blends nicely with many other ingredients and enhances the consistency and texture of moisturizing products. Due to its extremely high stability, it is also known to extend the shelf life of less stable ingredients, which makes it an excellent addition to a variety of blends for bath products, make-up, skincare, and haircare. Blended with other less stable but highly valuable carrier oils such as almond or evening primrose, it can help to maintain their quality, drawing out their use and ultimately saving you money. It also makes a great substitute for jojoba oil with a slightly richer texture at a lower price point, so those who are fans of jojoba may consider trying Meadowfoam seed oil in lieu.
One of the simplest ways to incorporate this oil into your beauty routines is to add a few drops to a daily moisturizer after cleansing the skin. As it is non-comedogenic, it is suitable for use on all skin types. It can also be used in conjunction with other skincare oils or butter. For those with dry skin, it is recommended to apply a few drops of pure Meadowfoam seed oil to freshly cleansed skin for extra hydration at night. Alternatively, you can make a moisturizing and balancing face mask by adding a few drops of this oil to a facial mud or clay. Applied on an ongoing basis, this mask can help to regulate oil production and manage breakouts while hydrating and softening the skin.
Meadowfoam seed oil is a great base for an exfoliating body scrub to cleanse and polish the skin while promoting a satiny texture. To keep the luxury treatment going, this oil can be massaged into the skin after a bath for a powerfully penetrating all-over body rub that will leave you feeling sensually soft and smooth without a slick residue. To boost this after-bath body rub with some mood balancing benefits, blend with a few drops of a calming essential oil such as Lavender or Frankincense.
You can also make a deeply hydrating body butter to smooth the skin and help reduce the appearance of stretch marks by combining ¾ cup of Meadowfoam seed oil with 1 cup cocoa butter. You can adjust the ratio to ½ cup Meadowfoam seed oil and ¼ of another carrier oil if you prefer. Melt the cocoa butter in a hot water bath and blend with the oil. Allow the mixture to cool and then, if desired, add about 10-15 drops of some preferred essential oils for fragrance. Refrigerate the blend to solidify and then blend with a hand mixer to reach a fluffy, whipped consistency. Massage into the skin immediately after a bath or shower for best results.
For a moisturizing hair mask, massage a few drops of Meadowfoam seed oil into damp hair and let it stand for a few minutes before washing out. The moisturizing properties of the oil will help to manage dryness and brittleness that your regular routines may not adequately address. For a quick treatment to help revitalize dull-looking hair and bring out its natural lustrousness, add a small amount of oil to a single use amount of your regular conditioner and apply to wet hair. Leave in for 15 minutes before rinsing to promote a shiny look once the hair is dry. To address unwanted tangles or frizz, a few drops of this oil can be massaged directly into affected areas when the hair is already dry.
Since Meadowfoam seed oil is beneficial in outdoor products, it makes a great base for a moisturizing lip balm to help counter the impact of wind and cold. Combine the oil in an equal ratio with a cosmetic grade beeswax for a blend that will help to manage cracks and chapping while keeping lips feeling soft and supple. Melt the beeswax in a hot water bath and then blend with the Meadowfoam oil. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a mold or container to solidify.
Botanical Name: Limnanthes alba
Country of Origin: Canada
Processing Type: Refined
Hydrate and soften skin to promote a supple appearance
Help to balance the skin's oil production to maintain a vibrant complexion
Help manage dull, tangled, and frizzy hair to maintain a silky texture
Enhance hair's nature lustrousness
Smooth the skin to reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scarring
Reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines to promote a rejuvenated appearance
Meadowfoam seed oil is an increasingly popular carrier oil with a wide range of applications. To learn more about the nature of carrier oils and the characteristic benefits of some popular varieties, have a look at our articles Carrier Oils 101 and Carrier Oils: A Detailed Guide. These will provide you with a strong foundational understanding of how to use various carrier oils in your aromatherapy and beauty blends. If you are looking for more information about a specific carrier oil, or for a comprehensive listing of a wide variety of oils, be sure to visit our product pages to explore how our selection of carrier oils can meet your needs and preferences.
As with all other New Directions Aromatics products, Meadowfoam Carrier Oil is for external use only. Topical use of this product may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction in some individuals. To minimize the risk of experiencing an adverse reaction, we recommend performing a skin patch test prior to use. The test can be performed by applying a dime-sized amount of Meadowfoam Carrier Oil to a small area of skin that is not known to be sensitive. In the event of an adverse reaction, immediately discontinue use of the product and see a medical healthcare professional for appropriate remedial action.
Meadowfoam Carrier Oil must not be used near the eyes, inner nose, ears, or on any areas of the skin that are known to be sensitive. This product should always be stored in an area that is inaccessible to children, particularly those under the age of 7.