Rosehip Oil – It Matters How You Handle It


Nothing worth doing is easy, and working with natural products is no exception.  The way you handle them makes a difference.  I have just come across a good example, rosehip oil.  When I was growing up rosehip syrup was routinely administered to growing children.  I particularly remember a spoonful of it being added to a bowl of rice at school.  We used to like it because it was sweet and had a nice flavour.  I don’t think I realised at the time that we were being given it not as a treat but because it was particularly rich in vitamins.

The world has moved on and in the developed world most of us are not short of vitamins so rosehip syrup doesn’t have the special place it used to.  But rosehip oil is still used in skincare and falls into the narrow category of things that might actually do some good.

The ingredient in rosehip oil that is interesting is the all trans retinoic acid or tretinoin as it is usually called.  Tretinoin is a close relative of vitamin A and is used at high levels in pharmaceutical treatments for acne.  It is a delicate molecule and needs very careful treatment.  It is often handled in yellow light and sometimes stored under argon gas to keep it away from the oxygen in the atmosphere which breaks it down..

Tretinoin at lower levels has been shown to have a real anti-aging effect.  However it also has some side effects and is classed as a drug and not a cosmetic, so you can’t buy cosmetics with clinically effective levels of tretinoin in them, and quite rightly.  But you can use rosehip oil.  This has only a trace of the level of tretinoin you’d get from a pharmaceutical cream.  But it is there and although nobody has ever demonstrated a benefit in a proper clinical trial, it doesn’t seem too far fetched to me to imagine that you might see some modest improvement in the signs of ageing if you use rosehip oil on your skin.

Which brings me to my main point.  Molecules of the same chemical are identical to one another so the tretinoin in rosehips is just as sensitive as the tretinoin in pharmaceutical premises.

There are three different ways of extracting rosehip oil.  You can extract it with solvents, you can cold press it or you can treat it with enzymes and then cold press it.  It turns out that the simple cold pressing technique gives you seven times more tretinoin in the final oil than using a solvent.  This is far from a trivial difference.

There might well be a difference between organic and non-organic oils as well.   Growing plants under different conditions does affect the chemicals they produce.  As far as I can tell nobody has measured the difference.  I think it is as likely that the organic grades are lower in tretinoin than higher, but without an analysis there is no way of knowing.  (More on this in my blog post on essential oils.)

So if you are interested in rosehip oil or products that contain it, do research how it is made.


Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology Volume 15, Issue 4, Part 2 , Pages 836-859, October 1986• Topical tretinoin for photoaged skin Albert M. Kligman, M.D., Ph.D., Gary L. Grove, Ph.D., Ryoji Hirose, M.D., James J. Leyden, M.D.

Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society 2006, Volume 83, Issue 9, pp 771-775 Effect of rosehip extraction process on oil and defatted meal physicochemical properties J. Concha, C. Soto, R. Chamy, M. E. Zúñiga

15 thoughts on “Rosehip Oil – It Matters How You Handle It”

  1. Hi Colin!!

    Thank you again for your insightful article! I was wondering if you could talk about aluminium in deodorants? I have read many articles saying women with breast cancer that used alum-based deodorants had more aluminium around the chest area, is that bad? what are your thoughts?

  2. Dear Colin
    Lots of my clients are asking for my opinion on The Body Shop’s new Oils for Life Facial Oil, which contains a blend of 99% natural seed oils and essential oils – you may have seen the rather clever advert on tv. Can you tell me if the ingredients are concentrated enough to provide sufficient hydration and nourishment for a mature dehydrated skin?

    Full Ingredients

    Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (Emollient), Olea Europaea Fruit Oil/Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil (Emollient), Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil/Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil (Skin Conditioning Agent – Occlusive), Camelina Sativa Seed Oil (Emollient), Rosa Canina Fruit Oil (Skin Conditioning Agent), Camellia Oleifera Seed Oil (Skin Conditioning Agent – Emollient), Nigella Sativa Seed Oil (Emollient), Parfum/Fragrance (Fragrance Ingredient), Tocopherol (Antioxidant), Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-t-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate (Antioxidant), Limonene (Fragrance Ingredient), Linalool (Fragrance Ingredient), Citronellol (Fragrance Ingredient), Geraniol (Fragrance Ingredient), Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil (Fragrance Ingredient), Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Oil/Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary Leaf ) Oil (Fragrance Ingredient), Origanum Majorana Leaf Oil (Refreshing Agent), Anthemis Nobilis Flower Oil (Fragrance Ingredient), Coumarin (Fragrance Ingredient), Lavandula Angustifolia Oil/Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil (Natural Additive), Lavandula Hybrida Oil (Fragrance Ingredient), Citral (Fragrance Ingredient), Citrus Aurantium Dulcis Peel Oil/Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil (Fragrance Ingredient).

    Thank you

    1. It certainly looks like a formulation that should be very moisturising, but the only way to be sure is to give it a try.

    1. If you put the same weight of oil on as a moisturiser, the oil would create a better barrier and be more moistursing. Where moisturisers score is that they are easier to use and you can apply more and more often. You also get a dose of humectant with a moisturiser which some people find very beneficial.

  3. Does tretinoin in rosehip oil stimulate more collagen production than 1% retinol in creams? Also in which order do I apply oils: before or after day/night cream?

    1. The only way to know is to do some trials, but I doubt rosehip oil would have anything like the effect of 1% retinol. I don’t think the order in which you apply things would make a huge difference, but again it would need a trial to be sure.

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