Watermelon seed oil: Benefits for skin and hair

Nowadays people are a lot more conscious of what goes on their skin and hair. No wonder there is an increasing demand in the cosmetic industry for natural oils with high health-improving qualities.

As such, rare oils like watermelon seed oil are becoming more popular and feature as star ingredients in cosmetic products. Known for its antioxidant, moisture retention properties, and light texture, the watermelon seed oil is recommended for skin and hair care formulations.

In this article, we look at all the benefits of this powerhouse ingredient and how to add it to your skin and hair care routines.


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What is Watermelon seed oil?

Watermelon seed oil originates from the southern parts of Africa (Kalahari desert area). From there, it was exported to other parts of Asia, Europe, and North America. It is commonly known in Africa as Ootanga or Kalahari seed oil and has been used for its medicinal properties for over 5000 years.

The oil is extracted through the cold press of the watermelon seeds after these have been dried. It has a light yellow colour and a slightly nutty scent. It is generally available in its refined form that can sometimes be odourless.

There are typically two varieties of watermelon seed oils used in the cosmetics industry; Citrullus lanatus seed oil and Citrullus vulgaris.

The former is obtained from wild watermelons grown in southern Africa (also called Kalahari melon), while the latter is obtained from the common red and green watermelons found globally. Both share similar properties and benefits for the skin and hair.

Watermelon seed oil composition and properties

Watermelon seed oil comes with many properties beneficial not only for the skin but also for hair:

Moisturizing properties

In a 2017 study published in the South African Journal of Botany, watermelon seed oil was found to have a fatty acid profile mainly made up of: linoleic (51%), oleic (36%), stearic (5%), and palmitic acids (6%).  

Linoleic acid is a fatty acid that helps the skin build up its lipid barrier, stay hydrated, and protect itself from aggressions. Its combined action with oleic acid makes this oil capable of preventing transepidermal water loss. It does this by sealing moisture within deep levels of the dermis.

Antioxidant properties

A recent 2020 study revealed that the oil from the watermelon seed has a high concentration of vitamin E and other phenolic compounds. It also contains traces of vitamin A. These antioxidants help to protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals when exposed to UV radiation and other environmental factors. These compounds equally help to regenerate skin cells by stimulating the production of collagen.

Anti-inflammatory properties

The combination of fatty acids and tocopherols in the watermelon seed oil gives it the ability to soothe and calm down irritations. This makes it an effective anti-inflammatory ingredient for personal care products.

Benefits of watermelon seed oil for the skin

When it comes to the skin, watermelon seed oil has the following benefits :

Moisturizer for all skin types

Watermelon seed oil is one of the most versatile moisturising oils on the market. Its properties are such that they meet the needs of all skin types.

Dry skin: The fatty acid composition of watermelon seed oil makes it a super-emollient for dry skin. Its capacity to trap moisture within deep levels of the dermis helps repair the moisture/lipid barrier of anyone suffering from dry or dehydrated skin.

Oily skin: The linoleic acid present in this oil helps regulate sebum in oily skin. Its light texture makes it easy to absorb into the skin without the risk of clogging pores.

Sensitive/mature skin: Its high vitamin E and linoleic acid content make it a soothing moisturiser for skin types that often show signs of irritations.  

Anti-ageing effect

Photo ageing is one of the main causes of premature skin ageing. The watermelon seed oil contains vitamins A and E and other phenolic compounds that give it a strong antioxidant effect. The linoleic acid found in this oil helps protect the skin from damage caused by exposure to the sun. For this reason, it can be associated with collagen-stimulating ingredients like retinol to improve the skin’s elasticity.

Evens the skin tone

The watermelon seed oil contains traces of vitamin A and other minerals that help improve hyperpigmentation. The Vitamin E present in it helps improve blood circulation and reduces dark circles around the eyes.


With a comedogenic rating of 0-1, the watermelon seed oil is unlikely to clog pores and is suitable for all skin types. It quickly gets absorbed by the skin leaving a non-greasy feeling once applied. This oil is well suited to acne-prone skin.


One of the problems people suffering from acne face is an unbalanced moisture barrier. Dr. Zeichner, MD, a New York-based dermatology, explains that:

“Linoleic acid is produced at lower-than-normal levels in patients who have acne, so using watermelon seed oil can help restore an abnormal and inflamed skin barrier in acne patients.” This is made possible due to the action of linoleic acid deep in the skin. It gets rid of dead skin cells and other impurities, as well as excess sebum accumulated in the pores.

Is watermelon seed oil good for lips?

Watermelon seed oil is used in the formulation of lip oils and balms because of its moisturising and anti-oxidant properties. It helps heal, soothe and smoothen dry and chapped lips. When combined with other powerful ingredients like hyaluronic acid its hydrating effect can be amplified. Lip oils containing watermelon seed oil are ideal to prevent flakiness common during winter periods.

Watermelon seed oil benefits for hair

Watermelon seed oil also has several benefits for hair. These are as follows:

Promotes blood circulation on the scalp

Because it is rich in antioxidants, watermelon seed oil contributes to the regeneration of skin cells. It is equally able to promote blood circulation on the scalp which helps to prevent hair loss by boosting cell growth.

Boosts hair growth

This oil is rich in minerals like copper and potassium. Copper helps the hair keep its color by producing sufficient amounts of melanin. Potassium, on the other hand, boosts cell generation for optimal hair growth.

Additionally, its fatty acid content helps nourish and moisturise the hair and scalp, resulting in less breakage.

Emollient benefits

The oleic and palmitic acids present in this oil give it emollient capacities. It helps keep the hair moisturised as the water gets trapped into the strands for longer periods.

Its ultra-light texture facilitates its absorption into the scalp without blocking hair follicles or causing an accumulation of dirt on the scalp. It equally boosts hair elasticity through collagen stimulation.

How to use watermelon seed oil

Finally, you may want to know how to use watermelon seed oil so that you can get the most out of it.

In general, it’s very simple: you can use it on all skin types as a moisturiser, serum or even as a cleanser. Use little to start with (a few drops) and add more as needed. You can use it day or night.

How to use watermelon seed oil for acne

If you are battling with acne, there are lots of ways you can introduce this oil in your routine to help ease your flare-ups :

  1. It can be applied directly to your skin as a serum after your cleanser and toner.
  2. It can be used as your everyday moisturiser since it is lightweight and won’t make your face shiny.
  3. It can serve as a carrier oil for any essential oil you wish to apply on your face.
  4. Use it in combination with other super oils like rosehip oil in an overnight mask.
  5. It is used in the form of soap as a cleanser at the start of your routine. This is a common practice in India.
  6. Apply it alongside your make-up remover or before your cleanser for double-cleansing. This oil can attract excess sebum and traps dirt to unclog pores.

How to use watermelon seed oil for hair growth

The watermelon seed oil is full of phytonutrients that can help boost hair growth. Here are some ways to use it for your hair care:

  1. As a scalp treatment. You can apply to oil directly to your scalp alone or in combination with other nourishing oils like jojoba oil for a deep scalp massage. The antioxidants and amino acids present in the oil will help boost blood circulation for more favourable hair growth.
  2. When slightly warmed, it can serve as a pre-shampoo treatment. Just let it sit on your scalp for 30 minutes on damp hair then, rinse off.
  3. You can blend it into hair masks or use it like regular hair oil.


What is the shelf life of watermelon seed oil?

When properly stored, pure watermelon seed oil has a shelf life of 2 years. It should be stored someplace cool, dark, and dry.

Can watermelon seed oil be used on pregnant women?

No data suggest that this oil cannot be applied during pregnancy. Although, if pregnant, you should refer to your doctor first before use. However, it’s used as an ingredient in many belly oils to keep the skin on the belly bump healthy. It is also an ingredient in baby oil formulations which is a good indication that this is a quite safe oil to use when pregnant.

Watermelon seed oil vs. rosehip oil: what is the difference?

Both oils strong anti-ageing powerhouses but watermelon seed oil has a slightly lower amount of linoleic acid (51%) than rosehip oil (54%). The watermelon seed oil contains more vitamin E (95% tocopherols) than rosehip oil. While rosehip oil is more suitable for oily and acne-prone skin, the watermelon seed oil is suitable for all skin types.

Is Kalahari melon seed oil different from watermelon seed oil?

The watermelon is a variety of the Kalahari melon. It is grown globally and has a sweet taste. The Kalahari melon, on the order hand, is considered a wild plant. Its fruit has a bitter taste. It can only be found only in the southern parts of Africa around the Kalahari desert.

Both oils have the same fatty acid profiles and contain the same minerals and vitamins. Although, the Kalahari seed oil may have all of those in slightly higher percentages.

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Petra Nakashian (previously Kravos) is a dedicated natural health and beauty blogger, driven by the loss of her parents to cancer, which led her to meticulously research beauty product ingredients. With over 10 years of experience, her in-depth knowledge has made her a trusted expert in the field. Founder of Be Healthy Now and Green Beauty Talk, Petra recently expanded her expertise with Beauty Insights Hub, exploring a wider range of beauty treatments. Committed to transparency and honesty, her work is a vital resource for navigating the complex world of beauty.