Hinoki Oil – A Natural Cosmeceutical

Hinoki Oil
Hinoki is well known in Japan

One of the good things about the job I do is that I come across interesting stuff all the time.  For example Hinoki Oil, which is the oil obtained from the leaves and roots of Chamaecyparis obtuse, Cupressaceae. The shrub from which it is derived is commonly known as either Hinoki or Hinoki Cyprus and is common in Japan. The wood from it is used to make incense sticks.  So it is something that is quite exotic to me, but presumably is commonplace in Japan.

The interesting thing about it is that it is under investigation for its medical properties.  A couple of papers show that it has some interesting if unspectacular effects against acne and inflammation.  I don’t think that the results are enough to get pharmaceutical companies tremendously excited, but it might be worthwhile for a cosmetic product.

Cosmetics are often sold on strong claims, and in a crowded and busy marketplace this is understandable.  But I wonder if there is an angle for a more zen approach.  Rather than saying ‘solves your problems overnight’ perhaps they should be saying ‘gradually creates an environment where your problems slowly sort themselves out’.  After all that is how a lot of things do get sorted out.  So rather than looking for a way to get rid of your spots instantly, change things over time so that you end up spot free.  A product that has a mild effect could be part of this.

I don’t think that this approach will ever appeal to marketing departments looking for big wins and quick returns.   But it might be a good one for consumers.  And an ingredient like hinoki oil that doesn’t do much at first but whose benefits build over time might be just the ticket.  And that it comes from a country that has a lot of buddhist influence on its culture seems to fit.


Dermatology. 2014;229(2):102-9. doi: 10.1159/000362491. Epub 2014 Sep 6. Comparison of clinical and histological effects between lactobacillus-fermented Chamaecyparis obtusa and tea tree oil for the treatment of acne: an eight-week double-blind randomized controlled split-face study. Kwon HH1, Yoon JY, Park SY, Min S, Suh DH.

Mol Med Rep. 2016 Apr;13(4):3335-41. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2016.4905. Epub 2016 Feb 18.
Anti-inflammatory effects of essential oils extracted from Chamaecyparis obtusa on murine models of inflammation and RAW 264.7 cells. Park Y, Yoo SA, Kim WU, Cho CS, Woo JM, Yoon CH.

photo credit: The Year of Mud shofuso: japanese house 04 via photopin (license)

4 thoughts on “Hinoki Oil – A Natural Cosmeceutical”

  1. Mrs Jason M. Crawford

    This may be an absurdly silly question, but I would expect there to be a difference between the essential oil and a lactobactillus-fermented extract (and only the latter seems to have been tested on acne). Are they the same thing? And if not, would they be expected to both have the same effect topically?

    1. A good point Mrs Jason. I try to keep these posts as straight forward as I can so I sidestepped that complication. Extracts often do work very differently depending on the way they are extracted so you can’t assume that these two different extracts will have the same effect. You can’t even be sure that the same extract will work in the same way the next time you extract it. But that is the drawback of using natural products. If you can’t accept that then you can’t really use them at all. Speaking personally I’ll live with a bit of variability in cosmetics, but not in medicines. But everyone will have their own view.

  2. I just finished reading the same article that you linked to on PubMed and some further researching on the matter led me to your page here. I’m really curious about the use of lactobacillus-fermented Chamaecyparis obtusa for acne treatment as referenced in the study … I’d love to try it! My problem is … I don’t fully understand what it is? Is it a fermented version of the essential oil? Is that even possible? I would love to hear any further insight you may have (if any!) on this topic.

    Thanks much : )

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