The Skin Benefits of Topical Cranberry Seed Oil

  1. Cranberry Seed Oil
    • Origin

The word ‘cranberry’ is a contraction of the phrase ‘crane berry’. The American cranberry, also called Vaccinium macrocarpon, was used by the North American Indians for the treatment of urinary tract infections (UTIs). European cranberry, blueberry, and lingonberry are other members of the cranberry family that have some of the basic components in common. (Hisano et al., 2012)

  • Composition

Cranberry seed oil is derived from cranberry seeds and is non-greasy and light in nature. Commercially, cranberry seed oil is utilized in the production of facial serums, lip balms, lotions, and creams. The cold press method of oil extraction is a better option than other extraction methods owing to lower nutrient loss and higher oxidative stability of the cranberry seed oil.

The oil comprises a unique mixture of polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids), antioxidants, and tocols such as tocotrienols and tocopherols. The antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties of cranberry seed oil are attributed to phenolic acids, tannins, flavonoids, and anthocyanins. These properties make cranberry seed oil integral to the cosmeceutical industry. (Mahdi et al., 2022; Ramadan, 2019)

The essential fatty acids found in cranberry seed oil along with their percentage composition are listed in the table below.


Constituent Compounds

Characteristic Features



α-linolenic acid

Anti-inflammatory substance



Linolenic acid (n3 fatty acid)

Protects the skin barrier and anti-inflammatory agent



Oleic acid (n9 fatty acid and free fatty acid)

Healing substance



Palmitic acid (free fatty acid)

Anti-inflammatory substance



  • Uses

Cranberries have been used for different therapeutic and nutritional purposes. The rich essential fatty acid composition of cranberry seed oil makes it an important component of cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. The oil is also used for the treatment of blood poisoning, wounds, diabetes, UTIs, and diarrhea. (Ramadan, 2019)

  1. Skin Benefits of Topical Cranberry Seed Oil

2.1 Antioxidant Properties of Cranberry Seed Oil

 The cranberry seed oil has strong chelating properties that help lower the levels of transition metals and suppress the oxidative reactions mediated by free radicals. This property enables cranberry seed oil to protect the skin against free-radical mediated oxidative damage. The cold-pressed cranberry seed oil also demonstrates radical scavenging activity which helps prevent radical-mediated damage to the DNA, proteins, and membrane lipids of the cells. (Yu et al., 2005) Vitamin C or ascorbic acid regulates the redox-sensitive signaling in the skin cells and increases the survival of the skin cells. Vitamin C reduces oxidative damage to the cellular DNA and lipids as well as modulates the release of inflammatory cytokines. (Michels, 2011)

The topical application of vitamin E accumulates in the cell membranes and extracellular lipid matrix in the stratum corneum of the skin, contributing to the antioxidant defenses of the skin. The vitamin has a sunscreen effect as it absorbs the UVR of the sun and suppresses the formation of UVR-mediated free radicals and reactive oxygen species, therefore, protecting the skin against oxidative damage. (Michels, 2012)

2.2 Photoaging and Photoprotection

The cranberry seed oil comprises several micronutrients including vitamins and minerals. Vitamin A content of cranberry seed oil helps prevent photodamage to the skin and promotes the healing of damaged skin. Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) of the sun affects collagen homeostasis and increases the expression and formation of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), enzymes that degrade different skin components such as fibrillin and collagen. Pretreatment of the skin with tretinoin suppresses the expression of MMPs and prevents photodamage of the skin exposed to UVR. Topical retinoids stimulate histologic changes in the dermis and epidermis, giving rise to fine lines, coarse wrinkles, freckles, roughness, and mottled hyperpigmentation of the skin. These changes include the correction of hyperkeratosis, clustering of melanocytes, and flattening of dermoepithelial junction. Vitamin A also improves the vascularity of the papillary dermis, makes the stratum corneum compact, and increases the thickness of the epidermis. Vitamin A promotes the production of collagen in the papillary dermis of photodamaged skin. The topical application of vitamin A also increases the extent of the subepidermal repair zone characterized by newly formed bundles of collagen. (Angelo, 2012c)

Vitamin C reduces UVR-induced development of skin tumors and wrinkling of the skin. The topical application of vitamin C reduces erythema response, the number of photodamaged cells, and DNA damage caused by exposure to UVR. Vitamin C modulates the production and hydroxylation of collagen which supports and stabilizes the epidermis. The application of vitamin C also reduces the production of elastin, the protein which is produced in greater amounts in photodamaged skin. This helps reduce wrinkles and roughness as well as improve the overall appearance of the skin. (Michels, 2011) Vitamin E reduces UVR-mediated damage to the DNA and inhibits the development of skin tumors. Alpha tocopherol reduces the peroxidation of lipids with subsequent reduction in the UVR-induced damage to the skin. This compound also reduces erythema, edema, swelling, and pigmentation of the skin. Vitamin E also prevents the immune system from activating and further damaging the skin. (Michels, 2012) Following are the different forms of vitamin E found in cranberry seed oil.


Constituent Compounds

Weight per 100 grams 


Alpha tocotrienol

21.3 mg


Beta tocotrienol

1.05 mg


Gamma tocotrienol

202 mg


Alpha tocopherol

5.82 mg


Gamma tocopherol

7.6 mg


Flavonoids in the cranberry seed oil also contribute to the photoprotection of skin and slow the onset of photoaging. Topical green tea polyphenol extract reduces UVR-induced DNA damage, production of reactive oxygen species, and inflammation. Flavonoids also reduce the risk of carcinogenesis of the skin and suppress hyperproliferation of the epidermis. Flavonoids absorb the UVR of the sun and prevent them from damaging the cellular components of the skin. Topical flavonoids improve the vascularity of the skin and increase the thickness of the epidermis. (Angelo, 2012b)

The topical application of essential fatty acids modulates the inflammatory elicited upon exposure to UVR. It also induces dermal expression of fibrillin-1, procollagen, and tropoelastin, which have positive effects on extrinsic and intrinsic aging of the skin. (Angelo, 2012a)

            2.3 Wound Healing Properties of Cranberry Seed Oil

The deficiency of vitamin A in the skin impairs the functioning of the immune system and delays the process of wound healing. The topical application of vitamin A accelerates wound healing. (Angelo, 2012c) The deficiency of vitamin C is associated with impaired wound healing. Restoring the levels of vitamin C helps promote the production of collagen and reduces the levels of free radicals. Vitamin C also strengthens the epidermal barrier, promotes the differentiation of keratinocytes, and restores the integrity of the stratum corneum. These effects contribute to proper and accelerated wound healing. (Michels, 2011) Similar to vitamins A and C, vitamin K also plays an important role in the process of wound healing. The topical application of vitamin K increases the formation of fibroblasts, blood vessels, and collagen fibers as well as accelerates wound contraction. It also promotes wound healing by modulating the coagulation system of the blood. The antioxidant properties of vitamin K suppress the formation of reactive oxygen species and free radicals, further promoting the healing of cutaneous wounds. (Pazyar et al., 2019) Vitamin K also increases the tensile strength, promotes re-epithelization of the wound, and causes contraction of the wound. (Hemmati et al., 2014) Flavonoids promote wound healing and reduce scar formation by promoting the expression of MMP-1. (Angelo, 2012b)

            2.4 Cranberry Seed Oil for Treatment of Acne

Acne vulgaris involves the pilosebaceous unit of the skin and occurs due to abnormal growth and differentiation of keratinocytes, increased production of sebum, inflammatory reactions, and colonization of the hair follicles by Propionibacterium acnes. The topical application of tretinoin is effective for the treatment of mild to moderate acne. (Angelo, 2012c) The topical application of vitamin C reduces the inflammatory lesions of the skin and helps treat acne. Vitamin C also suppresses the production and oxidation of melanin, thus, promoting the lightening of the skin. (Michels, 2011)

2.5 Cranberry Seed Oil for Moisturization of Skin

Vitamin C enhances the production of barrier lipids that reduce the permeability of the skin barrier and suppresses transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Retention of water content promotes moisturization of the skin while improving skin dryness and roughness simultaneously. (Michels, 2011)

            2.6 Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cranberry Seed Oil

Vitamin E is an important anti-inflammatory constituent of cranberry seed oil. Vitamin E mediates the signs of inflammation – swelling, edema, thickness, and erythema of the skin. Gamma tocotrienol and alpha tocopherol reduce the synthesis of prostaglandins and interleukins in the keratinocytes. Vitamin E also suppresses the activity of NADPH oxidase, nitric oxide synthase, and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). (Michels, 2012)

            2.7 Cranberry Seed Oil and Xenobiotic Metabolism

Xenobiotic metabolism of the harmful substances in the skin prevents these substances from damaging the skin and other tissues. Flavonoids target the phase I and phase II enzymes of xenobiotic metabolism, preventing the activation of carcinogenic substances. (Angelo, 2012b)

            2.8 Cranberry Seed Oil Strengthens the Skin Barrier

The polyunsaturated fatty acids in the cranberry seed oil restore the normal levels of fatty acids in the skin. These fatty acids augment the production of ceramides, strengthening the skin barrier. An intact skin barrier reduces excessive water loss and prevents harmful substances from penetrating the skin. This also helps regulate the normal functions of the skin. (Kendall et al., 2017)

  1. Cranberry Seed Oil for Dermatologic Conditions

The topical application of vitamin K is an effective strategy for the treatment of steroid-induced rosacea. Vitamin K improves non-transient erythema, dryness, telangiectasia, flushing, and burning of the skin in steroid-induced rosacea. (Abdullah, 2020) Phenolic compounds in the cranberry seed oil have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anticancer, and antiaging properties. Flavonoids help treat psoriasis owing to their anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties. Flavonoids suppress the release of IL-4, IL-13, and histamine from mast cells and basophils, thus, exhibiting anti-allergic effects against allergic contact dermatitis. (Działo et al., 2016)



Abdullah, G. A. (2020). The effectiveness of topical vitamin k cream 1% in the treatment of steroid-induced rosacea. Group, 4(38.2), 25.

Angelo, G. (2012a). Essential Fatty Acids and Skin Health.

Angelo, G. (2012b). Flavonoids and Skin Health.

Angelo, G. (2012c). Vitamin A and Skin Health.

Działo, M., Mierziak, J., Korzun, U., Preisner, M., Szopa, J., & Kulma, A. (2016). The Potential of Plant Phenolics in Prevention and Therapy of Skin Disorders. Int J Mol Sci, 17(2), 160.

Hemmati, A. A., Houshmand, G., Ghorbanzadeh, B., Nemati, M., & Behmanesh, M. A. (2014). Topical vitamin K1 promotes repair of full thickness wound in rat. Indian J Pharmacol, 46(4), 409-412.

Hisano, M., Bruschini, H., Nicodemo, A. C., & Srougi, M. (2012). Cranberries and lower urinary tract infection prevention. Clinics (Sao Paulo), 67(6), 661-668.

Kendall, A. C., Kiezel-Tsugunova, M., Brownbridge, L. C., Harwood, J. L., & Nicolaou, A. (2017). Lipid functions in skin: Differential effects of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on cutaneous ceramides, in a human skin organ culture model. Biochim Biophys Acta Biomembr, 1859(9 Pt B), 1679-1689.

Mahdi, W. A., Alam, P., Alshetaili, A., Alshehri, S., Ghoneim, M. M., & Shakeel, F. (2022). Product Development Studies of Cranberry Seed Oil Nanoemulsion. Processes, 10(2), 393.

Michels, A. J. (2011). Vitamin C and Skin Health.

Michels, A. J. (2012). Vitamin E and Skin Health.

Pazyar, N., Houshmand, G., Yaghoobi, R., Hemmati, A. A., Zeineli, Z., & Ghorbanzadeh, B. (2019). Wound healing effects of topical Vitamin K: A randomized controlled trial. Indian J Pharmacol, 51(2), 88-92.

Ramadan, M. F. (2019). Fruit oils: Chemistry and functionality. Springer.

Yu, L. L., Zhou, K. K., & Parry, J. (2005). Antioxidant properties of cold-pressed black caraway, carrot, cranberry, and hemp seed oils. Food chemistry, 91(4), 723-729.

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