Bio Oil is a cosmetics brand that makes “specialist skincare products.” The company’s specialty is stretch mark reduction, and they refer to Bio Oil as the “world's leading scar and stretch mark product.”
But does the product actually contain ingredients proven in medical studies to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, or is this just a marketing claim? Does Bio Oil contain any unhealthy ingredients? How do real users respond to the treatment?
In this article we’ll answer all of these questions as we review the ingredients in Bio Oil’s most popular products: Bio Oil, Bio Oil Natural, and Bio Oil Dry Skin Gel. We'll also share before-and-after images from a real user, and explain whether or not the products are safe to use on the face.
Bio Oil Skincare Oil Review
Bio Oil’s most popular product is called Bio Oil Skincare Oil and is their original formulation. It’s been proven in a clinical trial published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science to reduce scar appearance by 20%. A full 61% of trial participants using Bio Oil claim that their skin appearance improved.
One of the first-listed ingredients in this formulation is sunflower seed oil, which has been shown in medical research to enhance skin barrier function.
In the linked study, sunflower seed oil was shown to improve the microbiota of the skin, which refers to the bacterial colonies on the surface of the skin. Researchers used to believe microbiota were only important in the gut, but now we’re beginning to learn how important they are to healthy skin function.
Tocopheryl acetate is a form of Vitamin E that’s been shown in animal studies to be photoprotective, which means it can reduce skin damage from UV ray exposure. This makes it another effective ingredient inclusion for skin lotion.
Lavender oil was found to reduce psoriasis scars by nearly 75% in an animal study. The researchers noted that it had a strong anti-inflammatory effect.
Another effective botanical ingredient in Bio Oil is rosemary leaf oil, which was documented in a medical review titled “Plants used to treat skin diseases” to have a photoprotective effect and also to have anti-acne effect.
Unfortunately, while Bio Oil has many effective ingredients, it also has several questionable additive ingredients, including fragrance.
A medical review of fragranced consumer products published in the Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health journal concluded the following: “Results of this study provide compelling evidence that everyday fragranced products can impose serious risks to human health, environmental quality, businesses, and society.”
We recommend avoiding products with fragrance entirely, and thankfully more fragrance-free skincare products are emerging every year to meet consumer demand.
Bio Oil also contains artificial dye Red 17. We don’t understand why an oil used to treat stretch marks would need to have an artificial colorant. There are documented toxicity concerns with artificial dyes in cosmetics, and we recommend avoiding them.
We believe that Bio Oil is likely to be effective for reducing stretch marks and scars, because it's been proven so in a legitimate clinical trial and has many effective ingredients, but we don't recommend the product overall due to the use of fragrance and artificial dye.
One of the most popular YouTube reviews of Bio Oil is published by a channel called "Dr Dray" and has achieved over 400,000 views at the time of updating this article. The creator is a dermatologist who reviews everything from the claims made by the brand to the essential oil ingredients, and the video appears unsponsored:
Bio Oil Before and After
Since the core value proposition of Bio Oil involves stretch mark reduction, consumers are often curious about before-and-after pictures from real Bio Oil users.
A YouTube creator named Meli Rodriguez shared before-and-after images of her stretch marks after 6 months of continuous Bio Oil use:
Can I Use Bio Oil On My Face?
Bio Oil’s website doesn’t provide any instructions on whether any of their products can or should be used on the face, nor do the Warnings on their ingredients label.
This suggests that Bio Oil deems facial use of their products acceptable.
We would recommend against using Bio Oil Skincare Oil and Bio Oil Dry Skin Gel on the face. The original Bio Oil contains “known allergens” according to Bio Oil’s own founders in an Allure interview. The fragrance and dye in the dry skin gel may be sensitizing or irritating to facial skin, which is thinner in many places than skin on the body.
For consumers that plan to use Bio Oil on the face, we’d recommend using Bio Oil Natural, because there are no ingredients in that product which we consider likely to be sensitizing or harmful to skin or health.
Interested consumers can check out Bio Oil Natural at this Amazon link.
Bio Oil Natural Review
Bio Oil sells a “Natural” version of their popular oil, which the brand claims was developed for pregnant women, who often seek to reduce their exposure to questionable skincare additives like fragrance.
This product has a much superior formulation to the original Bio Oil in our opinion. Not only does it contain many of the effective ingredients from the original formulation like sunflower seed oil and lavender oil, it also contains safflower seed oil (listed as Carthamus tinctorius seed oil) which was proven in a recent clinical trial to have natural anti-bacterial and antifungal effects. The study authors also noted that safflower seed oil contained various “skin restructuring” and “regenerating” compounds.
The most important difference between the two oils is that Bio Oil Natural contains no fragrance, no artificial dyes, and no potentially sensitizing or allergenic ingredients.
It’s composed of safe and effective plant compounds along with Vitamin E.
We recommend Bio Oil Natural, not only for pregnant women but for any consumer looking for a hydrating body oil that can reduce scarring. It's the only Bio Oil product we recommend.
Here's a video interviewing the founders of Bio Oil that explains the ingredient selection process for their cleaner "Natural" formulation:
Bio Oil Dry Skin Gel Review
Bio Oil’s Dry Skin Gel has a somewhat similar formulation to the original Bio Oil. Both products contain sunflower oil, soybean oil, Vitamin E, lavender oil and chamomile oil.
This product also contains sodium hyaluronate, which is one of the most effective ingredients for reducing signs of skin aging. Hyaluronic acid has been described in a medical study as a “skin rejuvenating biomedicine” which improved “skin tightness and elasticity…wrinkle scars, longevity” and more.
Sodium hyaluronate is the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid, and it has a lower molecular weight which allows it to penetrate deeper into the skin to provide hydration and functional benefits.
Niacinamide is another effective and well-studied skincare ingredient in the gel but not the oil. As we discussed in our Crépe Erase reviews article, niacinamide provides both photoprotection and improves skin structure. It can also lighten dark spots caused by skin damage.
Unfortunately, like the original Bio Oil this product contains both fragrance and artificial dye. The dye used in this case is Red 33.
We consider Bio Oil Dry Skin Gel likely to improve skin hydration, resolve dry skin and improve skin quality due to the science-backed ingredients it contains. However, we can't recommend the product overall due to the fragrance and artificial dye.
Our Stretch Mark Product Recommendation
We recommend Dr. Bronner's Organic Lotion for consumers seeking a topical product to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
Its first ingredient is organic coconut oil which was shown in a 2019 medical review to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Coconut oil is one of the most well-studied and effective botanical skincare ingredients.
This lotion contains other natural hydrating and moisturizing ingredients like organic jojoba seed oil and organic hemp seed oil. Most importantly, there are no questionable additive ingredients like fragrance or artificial dye.
Interested consumers can check out Dr. Bronner's Organic Lotion at this Amazon link.
Where to Buy Bio Oil
Bio Oil is available at a number of the largest online retailers in the U.S. such as Walmart, Amazon, Target and CVS. Since the prices vary, we wanted to share where to find the cheapest price. The prices below are for the 6.7 ounce Bio Oil which is the largest size:
Bio Oil Customer Reviews
Bio Oil original has an average review rating on Amazon of 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 85,000 total reviews. We consider Amazon to be a better resource for legitimate customer reviews than a brand's website.
Bio Oil Skincare Oil is the best-selling product on Amazon in the “body oil” category. The brand receives a "C" grade on Fakespot, which is a software tool that detects potentially fraudulent Amazon reviews.
The top positive review from a verified purchaser comes from an anonymous "Amazon Customer" who claims that the product has improved their skin quality:
“I use it as a twice a day, morning and before i go to bed. Small lines have disappeared. My skin is very smooth and seems to glow.”
The top negative review of Bio Oil from a verified purchaser is written by a user named "majinpoh s." who claims that the product caused side effects:
"This product has cause me Lot of rashes all over my face chest and my body . At a point I thought I was having monkey pox but no is as a result of this oil . I also have a rashly face for the first time in my life . My mom is also using it and her entire body is a mess . I did know it was the oil till I stop using it plus the body cream I was using at that time. So my mum ask for this oil and I gave to her after about week she was all cover in rash and red patches all over her body. Please stop sell this product and report it to the manufacturer"
Bio Oil FAQs
Does Bio Oil work?
Bio Oil is proven to work based on legitimate medical research. Our ingredient review also determined that all products sold by Bio Oil are likely to be effective for stretch mark reduction, because they contain ingredients proven effective in medical studies.
This does not mean it will work for everyone; no product does.
Does Bio Oil help with acne scars?
We believe that Bio Oil is likely to help with acne scars, because both lavender oil and safflower seed oil have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-scar effects in clinical trials.
However, Bio Oil isn’t proven in medical research to be specifically effective for acne scars the way it’s proven to be specifically effective for stretch marks and general scarring.
Is Bio Oil Safe for pregnancy?
We would only recommend Bio Oil Natural to pregnant women. Not only was the product specifically formulated for pregnant women, but it's free of questionable additive ingredients like fragrance.
We recommend that pregnant women speak with their doctor or dermatologist before using any new product, to minimize risk of allergic reaction.
Bio Oil Pros and Cons
Here are some benefits and drawbacks of Bio Oil as a brand in our opinion:
- Backed by legitimate clinical research
- All products contain effective ingredients
- Been on the market for decades
- Relatively affordable
- Great branding
- Most products contain fragrance
- Most products contain artificial dye
- Bio Oil doesn’t make it easy to access research