Facial oils, once shunned by the skincare and beauty community in the early aughts, is now a product that is a must have on your shelf. There is pretty much an oil for every type of skin concern — balancing oil, hydrating skin, tackling fine lines and wrinkles, improving acne and hyperpigmentation scars. You name it, there’s an oil for it. Today, we’re going to give the deets on a pretty common oil that flies under the radar: soybean oil.
Soybean oil doesn’t have the name recognition of, say, argan oil, or the luxe connotations of something like rose oil, but it can be just as beneficial for certain skin types (especially dry skin).
One of the most widely processed and sold oils in the world after palm oil, this ingredient can be found up in barrier-boosting, rich moisturizers for dry or sensitive skin. We spoke to skin experts about what it is, who it’s for (and not for), and of course, highlight some of the best products that contain it.
TYPE OF INGREDIENT: Oil
MAIN BENEFITS: Improves moisture retention, reinforces moisture barrier, anti-inflammatory
WHO SHOULD USE IT: In general, soybean oil is great for dry and sensitive skin. It is not recommended for oily skin.
HOW OFTEN CAN YOU USE IT: You can use soybean oil and products containing it twice a day.
WORKS WELL WITH: Soybean oil works well with emollient and humectant ingredients.
DON’T USE WITH: In general, soybean oil works well with most ingredients.
What Is Soybean Oil?
Soybean oil is a vegetable oil extracted from crushed soybeans—20% of the soybean produces oil, while the rest often becomes animal feed, expains Dr. Amelia Hausauer. It is typically found in moisturizers and hydrating face masks.
Soybean oil contains linoleic acid which helps strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier (helps deliver essential fatty acids that can help maintain the skin barrier, decrease water loss, and aid skin hydration) and Vitamin E, which provides antioxidant and environmental protection for the skin,” says Dr. Dendy Engelman.
Benefits of Soybean Oil for Skin
- Improves moisture retention: One small study (like, only six people) found that “soybean oil applied to the skin penetrated its top layers and provided occlusion—so there was less water loss and better moisture retention,” Hausauer says. “Interesting,” she adds, “that they compared it with petrolatum, i.e., Vaseline and a major ingredient in Aquaphor, both of which, however, do still provide more occlusion,” she explains. Linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid found in soybean oil, also acts as a building block for ceramides, strengthening the skin’s barrier to help keep moisture in and irritants out.
- Provides antioxidant protection: Soybean oil is rich in vitamin E, essential fatty acids, lecithin, and genistein, all antioxidants that work to help “protect the skin cells from pollutants and toxins and help them repair themselves,” notes board-certified dermatologist Morgan Rabach.
- Helps boost protection against ultraviolet-B light skin inflammation: “Another study showed that soybean oil helped protect against Ultraviolet B light skin inflammation,” Hausauer says, explaining that “it likely minimizes inflammation by way of high antioxidant content, helping to limit the free radicals known to harm DNA and cause sun damage.” This, of course, does not negate the need for a proper SPF, but it’s always helpful to have multiple defenses against the sun. In fact, all that being said, “Oils in general create reflection and can actually intensify sun (think of tanning oils), so always apply sun protection, even with face oils,” board-certified dermatologist Ellen Marmur says.
- Acts as an anti-inflammatory: Not only an antioxidant, vitamin E is also an anti-inflammatory that works to help calm the complexion, soothe skin, and reduce irritation.
- Great for dry skin and combination skin: Soybean oil can benefit dry skin and combination skin, and can even be useful for healing post-treatment skin. “It is especially great for dry and sensitive skin,” says Engelman.
- Reinforces moisture barrier: Oils help make the skin supple and pliable. Since they are quickly absorbed, they help to reinforce the skin barrier, making it stronger and less vulnerable. “I’ve been seeing more clients than ever come to me with a damaged moisture barrier,” says Renée Rouleau, celebrity esthetician. This, she explains, is “mostly due to the access consumers now have to products that can compromise the barrier. (Prescription retinoids and over-exfoliation are too culprits.).”
- Mimics natural lipids found in skin: Soybean oil mimics the natural lipids found in the skin, which, Rouleau notes “is ideal in protecting and repairing the moisture barrier of the skin.”
Side Effects of Soybean Oil
Soybean oil is not recommended for oily skin as it’s high on the comedogenic scale. “Because of its occlusive properties, soybean oil can clog pores,” Hausauer says. In fact, vitamin E in high concentrations, which soybean oil is rich in, can also be linked to breakouts, she notes.
However, using soybean oil within a formulation can also help prevent any of the potential pore-clogging factors, as it may be in a lower concentration or paired with other ingredients that help counterbalance it.
How to Use It
Soybean oil is often found in hydrating products (like moisturizers). “This is mainly because when you formulate a moisturizer, you not only get the benefit of using soybean oil, but you’re also getting other ingredients, emollients, and humectants, which all skin types can benefit from,” explains Rouleau.
For dry skin, however, it can also be used as a “sealant,” working to help trap in the benefits of the rest of your skincare, which Rouleau refers to as a “top coat,” a perfect analogy. Rouleau recommends using an oil like this as the “very last step in your routine so the largest molecule is on top. Anything with a smaller molecule may have a harder time being able to penetrate through a larger molecule,” she explains.
The Best Products With Soybean Oil
Remember what Renée Rouleau said about those compromised skin barriers? The soybean oil–fortified Phytolipid Comfort Creme is made to help combat skin troubles from post-retinol flaking to sunburn to rosacea to Accutane to environmental stressors, leaving skin calm and moisturized.
This beautiful overnight cream is all about cocooning the skin with comforting ingredients while you get your beauty sleep. In addition to antioxidant-rich soybean oil and hydrating hyaluronic acid, it contains botanical ingredients like rosehip, tomato seed, apricot, and chia oils.
Thanks to its deeply moisturizing properties, soybean oil is a perfect fit for overnight treatments, such as this lipid-restoring mask that also contains vitamin C and glycablend—a proprietary complex made from chia, blueberry, and strawberry seed oils.
This ultra-soothing and hydrating toner is formulated with both fermented soybean extract and fermented soybean oil — both of which help strengthen your moisture barrier and prevent moisture loss.
This incredibly moisturizing cream is all about nourishing your moisture barrier and soothing your skin. It’s also formulated with a lush blend of Korean herbal extracts and hydrolyzed soybean extract and is the perfect treat for those with dry skin.
Is soybean oil safe to use on skin?
Yes, soybean oil is safe for use on skin and has been certified non-toxic by the EWG.
Does soybean oil cause acne?
Soybean oil on its own can clog pores, thanks to its high rating on the comedogenic scale. However, it might have less of that effect in product formulations.
Is soy harmful to use in skincare?
While soy might have a bad rap in the wellness and diet world, soy is safe to use topically and does not contain any harmful ingredients that can be absorbed into the skin.