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The Chemistry of Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp seed oil is amazing for your skin—and the reason why is the chemistry behind it.

By Kimberly M. Lincoln, Ph.D.Published 5 years ago 4 min read

Hemp oil has a very unique look to it, especially if it's unrefined. It’s a bright greenish yellow liquid that visibly stands out compared to other oils on the market. That bright glow should be a subtle clue that it could be the one oil unique enough to give your skin a new, more lively look. Its chemical makeup is what makes it a uniquely powerful ally for anyone who wants to have fresh, clear skin.

Hemp oil is chemically composed of a blend of amino acids, saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, plus a variety of terpenoids, carotenoids, tocopherols, phytosterols, vitamins, minerals, and trace amounts of cannabinoids. Together, all these different elements help make skin look amazing and lock in moisture.

Having studied the chemistry of hemp seed oil and its effects on skin at length, it’s been amazing seeing all the great things hemp oil can do for you. Here are what some of the key ingredients in hemp oil offer on a chemical level.

Amino and Fatty Acids

Hemp oil contains essential amino and fatty acids required by the human body for maintaining proper nutrition and metabolism. What makes this unusual is that the fatty acid content in the oil is greater versus the natural product content. So, it’s a stronger punch of vitally important compounds your body needs to stay healthy.

Hemp seed oil contains alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid as the main omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in a ratio of approximately 3-to-1, respectively. This is often considered to be the best ratio for these acids.

The nutritional and health benefits of a diet supplemented with hemp seed oil are well-documented because of their richness in amino and fatty acids.

Beta Carotene and Chlorophyll

The unrefined form of hemp seed oil is mildly fluorescent due to the presence of phytochemicals like beta-carotene and chlorophyll. Chlorophyll and other naturally-occurring ingredients are rich in anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant compounds that protect the skin from water loss, UV radiation and free radical damage, redness, and environmental toxins.


Beta-carotene and chlorophyll aside, hemp oil boasts a huge range of skin-nurturing anti-oxidants. What makes anti-oxidants so important to skin health is the way they help prevent damage from the sun’s UV radiation as well as other oxidative damage. Exposure to UV radiation results in skin cancer, hyperpigmentation, and premature wrinkles.

UV radiation divides into three categories. UVA, UVB, and UVC. Of these three categories, UVB radiation is the most damaging and initiates photo-oxidative damage to DNA, proteins, and lipids. Sadly, UVB is also what tends to be the one we are most exposed to.

The use of anti-oxidants in skin products is an effective approach towards preventing and lessening aging of the skin. Cold-pressed, unrefined hemp seed oil is reported to protect skin cells from UVB and UVC radiation.

However, hemp oil is both light and air-sensitive because of those same properties. This means that you’ll need to store your hemp oil carefully to ensure the best results you can get.

Most people have heard about polyunsaturated fats, primarily because they are important to skin health and are naturally buttery moisturizers. The natural polyunsaturated fatty linoleic, alpha-linolenic, and eicosanoid acids contribute to the anti-inflammatory traits that hemp oil already has.

Eicosanoids work to help your skin reduce redness, pain, swelling and mediate effects induced by inflammation. In plain English, eicosanoids and polyunsaturated fats can help reduce symptoms associated with auto-immune skin conditions of eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, and lupus.


The most commonly discussed aspect of the chemistry of hemp oil are its vitamins. More specifically, anti-aging vitamins A, E, and C are the most commonly reported to date. These vitamins are known for having excellent benefits for your skin.

For example, vitamin E, also known as alpha-tocopherol, plays an important role in wound healing and has dual anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Vitamins A and C are anti-oxidant and UV active and provide defense from radical-induced damage.


Hemp oil contains plenty of healthy minerals, too. Minerals found in this oil are zinc, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, and sodium, to name a few. These natural compounds are vital to maintaining proper metabolism, cellular health, collagen production, and for the function of metalloenzymes that help your body’s regular biochemical functions happen smoothly.

The Conclusion

In conclusion, the benefits of hemp and oil as a remedy for treating dermatological conditions is a highly unexplored area of both chemistry and biology—and that’s a shame. Hemp oil has a lot of ingredients that make it a serious force in the world of skincare, and it’s time to look further.

Future work should aim to define the specific role of hemp oil when it comes to maintaining skin health and to reducing the side effects associated with auto-immune disorders, cancer, and other skin conditions.


About the Creator

Kimberly M. Lincoln, Ph.D.

Dr. Lincoln is a chemist, inventor, natural product advocate, and founder of the hemp beauty company GLAUX CHEM®.

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