First, I need you to know that I devoured a 60-page document about Bio-Oil usage, the product’s history, ingredients and clinical trial excerpts before writing this post. When I told you in the headline that this would be a No-B.S. Guide to Bio-Oil benefits, I wasn’t kidding — because I dug deep. For hours.
There’s a lot to cover and whether you’re here just for the surface stuff — like how to use Bio-Oil — or want to dive into some of the nitty gritty — like all of the Bio-Oil ingredients — I’m pretty sure I have you covered.
Because there’s so much information here, feel free to jump to the sections that interest you most. In order of appearance, here’s what you’ll find below:
- A brief Bio-Oil history
- Clinical trials overview
- Bio-Oil usage info
- How to use Bio-Oil (and how not to use it!)
- Bio-Oil ingredients (which includes Bio-Oil benefits, too)
- Bio-Oil side effects
A bit about Bio-Oil’s beginnings…
In the 1970s, the original owner of Bio-Oil (Dieter Beier) was researching skincare oils based on his experience with a vitamin-enhanced Swiss skincare line. He was making monthly business trips to Zimbabwe at the time, suffering from climate-induced dry, itchy skin. Only the oil-based product in the Swiss line was effective and he decided to research its use for not only dry skin relief but also as a treatment for other skin issues.
Beier’s formulation was centred around vitamins and plant extracts, mixed with a base oil. Including plant extracts was a natural extension of his interest in homeopathy. Selecting the vitamins and plant extracts was the easy part, but creating the right base oil (that could house the vitamins and plant extracts but provide a non-greasy application) is what took time.
The breakthrough was PurCellin Oil, an ingredient that’s the foundation of Bio-Oil benefits. In short, PurCellin Oil is what makes the formulation non-greasy and it ensures the vitamins and plant extracts aren’t simply left on the skin’s surface as residue.
After years of R&D, Bio-Oil Skincare Oil launched in 1987. It wasn’t until 2000 that it was sold globally.
Clinical trials prove Bio-Oil works
There have been a number of clinical trials, dermatological tests, laboratory tests and user trials over the years to help prove that Bio-Oil does what it says it can do. I’ve read through all of the excerpts, and we’re talking about randomized, controlled, double-blind kind of trials that are scientifically sound with true statistical significance. This isn’t six ladies huddled in a bathroom taking before and after photos with smartphones.
Test after test, trial after trial, has been conducted to substantiate Bio-Oil usage claims.
For the sake of brevity, here are the claims and names of studies should you wish to investigate further. There simply isn’t room here to include all of the excerpts:
- Helps improve the appearance of scars (proDERM 2010, MEDUNSA 2005, Ayton-Moon 2002)
- Helps improve the appearance of facial acne scars (Peking University 2012)
- Helps improve the appearance of stretch marks (proDERM 2010, MEDUNSA 2005)
- Helps improve the appearance of uneven skin tone, pigmentation marks and blemishes (Stephens 2011, MEDUNSA 2005)
- Helps smooth and tone ageing and wrinkled skin on the face and body (Stephens 2011)
- Effective for dehydrated skin / Helps supplement the skin’s natural oils (MEDUNSA 2011)
- Non-comedogenic (Complife 2019)
- Suitable for sensitive skin (Complife 2019)
- Rapidly absorbed (proDERM 2011)
- Occlusivity (Prof Dr J Wiechers 2008)
In many of the excerpts, Bio-Oil benefits are recorded with as little as two weeks of use and often double or triple by the end of an eight or 12-week study.
Many of these studies have also been peer-reviewed and had results published in scientific and industry journals. It’s pretty impressive stuff.
It’s also won more than 300 awards and, in Canada, it’s been recognized for the last six consecutive years as the No. 1 pharmacist- and physician-recommended over-the-counter product for scars and stretch marks. Oh, and midwives and gynecologists around the world also approve!
From cracked heels to scalp treatments to cuticle oil, Bio-Oil benefits are plentiful on both the scientific and anecdotal spectrum. There are probably uses I won’t even touch on here that someone else swears by.
It’s important to note that Bio-Oil Skincare Oil is a cosmetic product. It’s not going to cure any of your clinical conditions, but it may help treat some of the symptoms, providing relief from things like dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis.
Here are some of the ways you can use Bio-Oil:
- General scars — scars are for life, that’s just a fact, BUT you may be able to improve the appearance of new or old scars, whether from surgery, accidents, burns, insect bites, scratches or chickenpox. Although newer scars will have a greater chance of improvement, older scars have been shown to benefit, too
- Burn scars — Bio-Oil can help with scar management and alleviate something called pruritis, which is common in burn victims and produces excessive itchiness
- Acne scars — you should be able to reduce the redness of newly formed acne scars and improve the overall condition of acne-scarred skin. The good news is that using Bio-Oil for acne scars does not cause or aggravate acne or increase sebum production
- Keloid scars — although you won’t likely affect its shape or size, you may be able to reduce the colour of a keloid scar and soften the skin around it
- Stretch marks — helps improve the appearance of existing stretch marks (caused by pregnancy, growth spurts or weight gain) and may even help stop those suckers before they start. The likelihood of developing stretch marks varies depending on skin type, race, age, diet and more; keeping your skin well-hydrated is the best defence because it’ll help it maintain maximum elasticity (and, as you’ll read in the Bio-Oil side effects section, it’s safe during pregnancy)
- Aging skin — Bio-Oil Skincare Oil can help “plasticise” skin, making it smoother and more supple, and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Dehydrated skin — I have been using Bio-Oil products on my hideously dry legs all winter and on Miss Q’s itchy winter skin and what a difference it makes! Without it, I’m like a scaly dragon lady. Water vapour is naturally lost through our skin’s surface; Bio-Oil works by locking in moisture to reduce that loss
How to use Bio-Oil (and how not to use it!)
OK, don’t just slap this stuff on and call it a day. Start with clean skin. You’re supposed to use a circular massage-like motion to apply Bio-Oil Skincare Oil on your face or body, and keep going until it’s fully absorbed into your skin. Don’t just do it once or twice, either! The recommendation is to apply it twice a day for at least three months. And, for crying out loud, don’t mix it with other products (or water) in hopes of making it go further — all you’re doing is messing with its efficacy.
If you want to use other moisturizers or you’re putting on sunscreen, make sure you do so AFTER the Bio-Oil is totally absorbed.
Miss Q really likes having Bio-Oil Skincare Oil slathered on after a shower, and it takes me back to those precious baby days when I would lovingly massage my kids after a bath before getting into PJs. It’s a bit of a process with a nine-year-old body rather than a nine-month-old body, but I’ll take it while I can get it.
For the love of Pete, do NOT apply it on open wounds and broken skin.
Bio-Oil Skincare Oil has been classified as safe for all uses, except for contact with mucosal membranes. So while you can use it on your lips and undereyes, take special care not to get any IN your eyes or mouth. Don’t use Bio-Oil on episiotomy scars or for perineal massage.
Bio-Oil ingredients (and more Bio-Oil benefits)
Bio-Oil’s production facility is, and always has been, in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The formulation is heavily plant-based, vegan, not tested on animals, free of all the Big Ps — phthalates preservatives, phytoestrogens and parabens — and is also certified Halaal and Kosher.
The ingredient list is categorized into base oils, vitamins, plant extracts, anti-inflammatory and other ingredients, and I want to take you through each of them because there’s a lot of misinformation out in the Internet’s wild west.
- Pharmaceutical-grade mineral oil — this is not a “by-product” of petroleum, but a specifically isolated and highly purified fraction of it with specialized applications and an excellent safety record
- Triisononanoin — a synthetic oil blend mainly made up of triglycerides that act as a delivery vehicle with PurCellin
- PurCellin Oil — a mixture of two ingredients (both esters); with Triisononanoin, it helps deliver the vitamins and plant extracts into the skin. It’s also an emollient, making the skin softer and smoother, and helps maintain natural water vapour permeability of the skin so it can breathe properly
- Vitamin A — has well-known skin-renewing properties. It increases the skin’s thickness (especially mature skin) and promotes the formation of new collagen. As we age, WE WANT ALL THE COLLAGEN WE CAN GET, PEOPLE! Vitamin A can improve the appearance of UV-damaged skin, too, by helping increase elasticity
- Vitamin E — a bit of a wonder vitamin with its primary benefit being an antioxidant (these help reduce free radicals that attack healthy cells and can cause yucky stuff like premature aging). It also increases skin’s moisture content, making it feel smooth, and is shown to help the wound-healing process, too
- Chamomile oil — an anti-inflammatory that can calm skin in distress
- Lavender oil — it can help improve firmness and complexion, and has a mild astringency that cleans the skin by constricting pores. It’s also a natural antiseptic that can kill common bacteria
- Rosemary oil — used as a skin conditioner because of its soothing benefits and mild antiseptic properties
- Calendula oil — it’s got cell-regeneration capabilities and is suitable for sensitive, damaged and sunburned skin. Calendula extract is commonly used for minor skin infections and rashes. I actually used to use it on my kids’ bottoms for diaper rash! (I’m so glad those days are behind us. Behind, GET IT!?)
Another one of the Bio-Oil ingredients is Bisabolol, which is an anti-inflammatory and effective when skin is stressed by either internal or external physiological conditions. However, Bisabolol contains an allergen called Farnesol, which experts say should be avoided by those with a hypersensitivity to ragweed pollens. (On a personal note, I am highly allergic to ragweed and don’t react to Bio-Oil, so this may be a trial-and-error situation.)
Other Bio-Oil ingredients:
- Tocopherol — a high-purity grade synthetic antioxidant
- Fragrance — that delicate rose scent in your Bio-Oil Skincare Oil is made of both natural and synthetic ingredients. It’s approved by the International Fragrance Association and sits well below the limits for safe use. And although I would love to see a fragrance-free version, the parfum used in Bio-Oil is at least free of phthalates
- Allergens — the Bio-Oil ingredients lists a total of 11 possible allergens, most of which are present in the plant oils and fragrance. That said, for more than 30 years, Bio-Oil’s safety record has been excellent. So, if you feel like you’ve had an allergic reaction related to Bio-Oil usage, it’s most likely that you have a sensitivity to one of the allergens present in the fragrance and/or plant oils. Be sure to check out the side of the box carefully when you buy it if you normally have serious skin sensitivities
- Colourant — like the fragrance, I’d rather have a colour-free product than one coloured with any kind of dye, but consumers like pretty smelling and looking things…so here we are. Bio-Oil uses an oil-soluble cosmetic dye known as Red No. 17
Thankfully, none of the ingredients (including the dye) seem to stain clothing or other fabrics. If you do get some Bio-Oil Skincare Oil on your clothes, you should be able to pop it in the washing machine’s warm cycle or dry clean it. Just be sure you follow the fabric’s label.
Bio-Oil side effects
A qualified toxicologist classified Bio-Oil as safe for adults when used as intended, including both pregnant and lactating women as well as children three years old and up.
Bio-Oil Skincare Oil’s derma testing also tells us it’s suitable for sensitive skin. In fact, during a 12-month period, for 100,000 units sold, there was less than one adverse reaction. I think of my skin as somewhat sensitive — I’ve had SERIOUS reactions to skincare products in the past, including chemical burns — and I haven’t had a single reaction with Bio-Oil.
Rosemary oil — one of the plant extracts in Bio-Oil — can, in very high concentrations, provoke menstruation and potentially induce early labour. An expert panel conducted an independent toxicological assessment on rosemary oil and found that up to 0.2% is safe for topical usage; Bio-Oil Skincare Oil has a concentration of only 0.05% rosemary oil, so it’s completely safe to use topically.
At the end of the day, we’re all different and our bodies react in unique ways to everything we put in and on ourselves. What I can tell you is that my personal experience with Bio-Oil has been a positive one, and I’m comforted by the research when putting it on my most precious people of all — my kids.
DISCLAIMERS: Bio-Oil compensated me for this post. Please note that to comply with country-specific regulations and to provide a name that resonates with consumers, the brand name has been adapted in some markets — such as Japan, where it is called Bioil, and certain European countries, where it is called Bi-Oil. All of the Bio-Oil usage and benefits included in this post still apply. Information that pertains to physiology of the skin is not intended to replace academic texts or provide medical advice. It is advisable for people suffering any medical conditions to seek the advice of a medical practitioner before using Bio-Oil Skincare Oil.