Borage Oil Acne Benefits and How to Use It to Clear Acne Breakouts


Usually triggered by factors such as hormonal changes, stress, and poor diet, acne is ranked top among common skin conditions. It affects as many as 50 million people every year in the US alone. With the widely acclaimed anti-inflammatory benefits of borage oil (starflower oil), you may wonder, “Does borage oil help with acne?” You are about to discover borage oil acne treatment benefits and the different ways in which you can use the oil to treat acne breakouts. Most importantly, you will also learn the side effects associated with using borage oil for acne treatment and other medicinal purposes.



Where Does Borage Oil Come From?

You can use Nature's Way borage oil for acne
Before you use borage oil for acne, you would probably want to know what it is and why on earth you should care about it.

Borage oil (also known as starflower oil or borage seed oil), is a golden liquid that looks pale green when looked closer. As you probably guessed by now, it comes from the seeds of borage plant (Borago officinalis).

Also known as bee plant or starflower or bee plant, this annual flowering plant is native to Syria but now grows in most parts of the world.

The medicinal qualities of borage have been recognized for more than 1500 years. Borage leaves, flowers and oil (from the seeds) can be used for medical purposes but borage seed oil is most commonly used today.

With the highest known concentration (24%) of Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA), an omega 6 fatty acid that reduces inflammation, borage oil is used for treatment of many health conditions ranging from arthritis to eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, stress, diabetes, alcoholism, premenstrual syndrome, inflammation (pain and swelling), and more recently acne.

Borage Oil Acne Benefits

To understand borage oil acne benefits more clearly, consider how acne is triggered for starters. Acne breakouts are triggered when dead cells from your skin, excess sebum, and bacteria clog the pores and trigger inflammation in the skin. Borage oil contains high concentration of Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) which has been found to exhibit anti-inflammatory action on the body.

According to Dr. Dennis T. Sepp, a PhD chemist from the University of California at Santa Barbara and the creator of Shikai line of products, our body naturally synthesizes GLA from Linoleic Acid (LA), an essential omega 6 fatty acid. Almost all vegetable oils are rich sources of linoleic acid.

In the body, linoleic acid is enzymatically converted into GLA with the help of Delta-6-Desaturase (D6D). GLA is then further converted into prostaglandin 1 (PG1) which has been found to have potent anti-inflammatory action on the skin. PG1 also helps to curb moisture loss from the skin while protecting against and aiding in the healing of the skin after injury or damage.

Problems often arise when D6D enzyme becomes slow in performing its role or gets impaired completely leading to lower levels of GLA in the body and consequently, reduced production of the anti-inflammatory prostaglandin 1. Taking borage oil can help to supply GLA in its direct form and thus restore the natural anti-inflammatory action along with the other benefits of PG1 to the skin.

For acne prone skin in particular, you may reap the following benefits from using borage oil topically or orally as a natural supplement:
  1. Borage oil helps to reduce inflammation in the skin: This is the single most stated benefit of using borage oil for acne. By exerting anti-inflammatory effect on the skin, borage oil helps to reduce the swelling and redness that characterize acne pimples, cysts, and other lesions. 
  2. Borage oil helps to keep the skin moisturized: Oily skin is most commonly linked to acne breakouts but dry skin is not a solution either. Dry skin worsens the problem by making the skin produce more sebum in effort to counteract the dryness, which end up clogging the hair follicles some more. The Prostaglandin 1 derived by the body from borage oil’s GLA helps to keep the skin hydrated by keeping the moisture trapped in. 



  3. Borage oil helps to protect and heal the skin from injury and damage: Acne damages the skin and sometime lead to scarring. Severe cystic acne is especially more likely to cause acne scars. Applying borage oil as part of your acne treatment regimen helps to minimize damage to the skin cells and thus reduce the appearance of scars.
  4. Borage oil alleviates stress: Stress fighting ability of borage oil can constitute a part of borage oil acne treatment. This is because stress has been shown to trigger acne breakouts in people who are prone to this skin problem.

These borage oil acne benefits are supported by a study published in the Acta Dermato-Venereologica Journal. The study showed positive improvements in mild to moderate acne after supplementation with borage oil over the course of 10 weeks.

The 45 participants were divided into three groups of 15 each and each group supplemented with either omega 3, borage oil (omega 6), or nothing. The groups supplemented with omega 3 and GLA showed improvement in the appearance of both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesions.

How To Use Borage Oil for Skin Problems including Acne 

Borage oil exhibits its medicinal properties both when applied topically and taken orally as a dietary supplement and it is even safe to use on babies.

The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) however cautions against using borage oil for acne or otherwise if you have liver disease or are pregnant (Read more about this in the section on side-effects of borage oil).

Below are guidelines on putting borage oil acne treatment benefits to use for your breakout:

Using Borage Oil Topically

When applied topically to the skin, borage oil not only help to reduce the size of acne pimples, cysts, etc. thanks to its anti-inflammatory action, but also protect the skin tissues against damage. It also helps to maintain skin hydration.

A study involving 48 infants suffering from “cradle cap” (common name for infantile seborrheic dermatitis) demonstrated more than just the fact that borage oil is effective against this condition. Published in British Journal of Dermatology, the study showed that borage oil is effectively absorbed by the skin as to exert its healing action beyond areas of the skin where it is applied.

Here is an outline on how to use borage oil topically for acne:
  1. Cleanse your face with lukewarm water and gentle cleanser. You can as well use a cotton ball soaked with rosewater for the purpose.
  2. Pat the skin dry.
  3. Apply borage oil to a cotton ball and then swab it on the parts of the face affected by the acne breakout, preferably before bedtime.
  4. Give the borage oil time to dry naturally, then rinse it off with water.

Taking Borage Oil Orally (Internally) For Acne Treatment

Borage oil can also be safely and effectively taken orally as a dietary supplement so long as you don’t take it in excess amounts. If taking borage oil internally for treatment of acne, you should ideally take borage oil capsules or softgels with food. This not only helps to enhance the absorption of GLA but also reduce the minimal risk of stomach upsets.

Borage Oil Acne Dosage

As regards how much borage seed oil to take for acne daily, the WholeHealthMD website recommends 1000-1300 mg of borage oil per day. From this, you will be able to get 240-300 mg of Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) and reap from its anti-inflammatory effect and other benefits for acne.

Where to Buy Borage Seed Oil

Now that you know some of the proven and/or claimed borage oil acne benefits and how to use the oil to alleviate the symptoms associated with acne breakouts, it may also interest you to know where to find it.

Borage seed oil is available in most health food stores, usually in softgels or liquid form. You can also buy borage oil on amazon. To avoid the risk of liver damage, make sure that the borage seed oil you buy a high-quality product that is not only 100% pure but also PA-free.

I recommend the one from Nature’s Way. Nature’s way is a very reputable brand and the positive reviews of this product says it all.

Borage Oil Side Effects and Warnings

Before you use borage oil for acne treatment, you should be aware of the side-effects and warnings provided below:

Borage Oil Can Cause Liver Damage

Borage oil may have small amounts of a compound known as amabiline. This pyrrolizidine alkaloid is hepatotoxic meaning that it can cause toxic effects to the liver if taken in large quantities.

To avoid this, ensure you use pure borage seed oil that is free of unsaturated pyrrolizidine alkaloids (UPAs). The label PA-free is often used. According to MSKCC, you should not use borage oil for acne or any other condition if you have liver disease. Instead use evening primrose oil.

Borage Oil Is Not Safe During Pregnancy

According to the MSKCC, borage oil is teratogenic meaning that it can cause birth defects when used during pregnancy. It can also cause premature birth.

Borage Oil Can Hamper Blood Clotting Ability

The GLA in borage oil can slow down blood clotting function and should thus be avoided by people with bleeding disorders.

It can also interact with and enhance the effect of medications that slow down blood clotting including blood thinners (e.g. warfarin), diclofenac (e.g. Voltaren), ibuprofen (e.g. Advil), aspirin, naproxen (e.g. Naprosyn), clopidogrel (Plavix), and dalteparin (Fragmin) among others. This can then increase the risk of excessive bleeding and bruising. Borage oil acne treatment option is not for you if you are on any of these medications.

Borage Oil Can Cause Seizures

Borage oil has been reported to cause seizures when very high doses, between 1500 and 3,000 mg, are used. To be on the safe side, stick to the recommended borage oil dosage of between 1000 mg and 1300 mg of a high quality, PA-free product such as Nature's Way EfaGold Borage Seed Oil.