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Ingredient Showcase: Evening Primrose, the Natural Anti-Inflammatory That Soothes and Softens Skin

This vivid and bright North American wildflower blooms in late spring, and often covers wide areas of grasslands and prairie, though you may also see it in rougher areas like road cuts and rocky hillsides.

Evening primrose has been used to soothe rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, menopausal symptoms, and diabetes. The plant also has a long reputation as a miracle worker in skin care, because it is a powerful anti-inflammatory. For hundreds of years populations have used it as a remedy for eczema.

Today, we know that in addition to taming inflammation, evening primrose soothes dryness, redness, and itchiness, and nourishes skin with important fatty acids that help soothe, soften, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Evening Primrose

This bright little plant may help soothe your itchy, dry skin while reducing the appearance of fine lines.

A Little Bit About the Ingredient Itself

What's Your Skin Score?

Scientifically called Oenothera, evening primrose is also known by the names “sundrops” and “suncups,” most likely because of the bright and sunny appearance of the little flowers. A perennial species, it blooms between May and June, but the individual flowers last only about a day—typically opening within less than a minute of evening, which is where the plant got its name.

Flowers are commonly yellow, but may also be white, purple, pink, or red, with four petals that form an X-shape in between. The leaves are narrow and lance-shaped, and up to six inches long with many short hairs on the surface, while the plant as a hole grows in a low, sprawling manner.

Health Benefits

Evening primrose is edible—the roots work as a vegetable and the shoots can be eaten in salads. The plant has been used to help improve many conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome, asthma, diabetes nerve damage, irritable bowel syndrome, and during pregnancy to prevent pre-eclampsia and late deliveries. It’s also reputed to help ease the symptoms of PMS, endometriosis, and menopause.

According to the National Institutes of Health, current research shows evening primrose may be effective for easy breast pain, and when combined with calcium and fish oil, for helping to improve osteoporosis. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine adds that studies have found evening primrose oil may benefit eczema, rheumatoid arthritis and breast pain.

Benefits to the Skin

Evening primrose is a good source of linoleic acid, which is one of the essential fatty acids we need for healthy looking skin. It’s absolutely critical to the maintenance of a healthy skin barrier—the outside layer that protects the rest of the skin. When this outside layer becomes dry, cracked, and damaged, that’s when we suffer from itchiness, dryness, scaling, wrinkles, and fine lines.

Did you know that if you have acne or dermatitis, you may have reduced levels of linoleic acid in your skin? Without that critical nutrient, the sebaceous glands produce sebum with oleic acid, which is irritating to the skin—promoting blockages that cause blackheads, whiteheads, and acne. In fact, studies have shown that linoleic acid can help reduce acne breakouts and redness.

Evening primrose is also a powerful anti-inflammatory, helping to calm the skin and reduce inflammation, taming redness, rosacea, and rashes. This property, together with the linoleic acid, helps restore the skin’s protective moisture barrier, helping you to enjoy soft, smooth, and more youthful-looking skin.

Try It!

I added evening primrose extract to both of these products, where it helps restore the skin’s outer layer, increases hydration, and reduces acne and eczema outbreaks.

How do you use evening primrose? Have you had success with these products? Please share your story.

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“Evening Primrose Oil,” Medline Plus Supplements,

“Evening Primrose Oil,” National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, April 2012,

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