How to Use Japanese Camellia (Tsubaki) Oil

Hair Care     Skincare     Body Care     Benefits     Varieties

Collage of women using Japanese Camellia oil for skin, body and hair care

If you are looking for a single product for your hair, skincare, and body, you should consider Camellia oil. It is an easy-to-use, nutrient-rich moisturizer that also acts as an emollient to keep your skin and hair soft and supple.

Camellia Oil Benefits

Japanese Camellia oil is a rich source of Oleic, Linoleic, and Palmitic fatty acids, plus numerous anti-aging polyphenol antioxidants. It is non-greasy and an excellent all-around moisturizer/emollient for the skin and hair.

Aya Japanese Camellia hair and body oilApproximately 82% of its fatty acids are composed of Oleic fatty acid (Omega-9), a remarkable transdermal carrier and very effective in enhancing skin and hair's ability to retain moisture.

Camellia oil absorbs very quickly. It permeates deep into lower layers of skin, promoting cell growth, and giving skin support and flexibility.

Japanese Camellia oil is best when cold-pressed from seeds of yabu-tsubaki, the wild variety of Camellia japonica flower (yabu means wild in Japanese, tsubaki means camellia). 

Camellia Oil for Hair Care

Camellia Oil for Skincare and Facial Use

Camellia Oil for Body Care

Camellia Japonica and Other Varieties

Camellia Oil for Hair Care

Japanese woman in bathrobe caring for hair

With its golden color and creamy texture, Japanese Camellia oil has been responsible for the classic, legendary beauty of Japanese hair for centuries.

In Japan, Camellia oil is commonly used as a leave-in, best when applied to damp hair such as after showering. How much to use is a matter of personal preference. A little goes a long way, though you can use more if you like. Geishas and maikos apply a lot for the distinct Japanese traditional glossy hair look they prefer.

If you have difficult, unmanageable hair, you can apply Camellia oil before washing to untangle and make it more manageable.

The list of Camellia oil benefits for hair is long:

  • Soften hair and make it more manageable
  • Restore hair's natural sheen
  • Retain moisture
  • Form a barrier against environmental pollutants
  • Repair breakage and split ends
  • Ease dry scalp and itchiness
  • Prevent dandruff
  • Treat damage from perms and coloring

How to Use Camellia Oil for Hair Care

How to Use Camellia Oil for Hair Care in 3 Steps

For the Japanese, the most common use of Camellia oil is to apply it to hair after washing.

  1. Towel dry hair after washing.
  2. Put a few drops of Camellia oil into your palms and spread well.
  3. Starting from the top, apply into hair and scalp using fingertips.

Pay special attention to hair ends; they tend to be drier and more subject to breakage and damage.

OK to apply to dry hair on days you do not wash hair.

Deep Treatment Pack

As a deep hair treatment pack, Camellia oil helps restore brilliance to dull and damaged hair.

  1. Apply a few drops into hair before washing hair.
  2. Cover with a shower cap, and wrap with towel for 30 minutes
  3. Shampoo and rinse as usual.

Seaweed Hair Cleanser

You can apply Camellia oil as moisturizer and conditioner after washing hair with seaweed hair cleanser.

Pack of Funori seaweed hair cleanserJapanese seaweed hair cleanser is fine-powdered seaweed. When you mix with water, you get a gel-like mixture.

You can apply it in different ways. The traditional Japanese way is to use it by itself. You can also use it as a deep treatment pack, or mix it with your shampoo.

  1. Mix 1/2 tsp of seaweed powder with 3 Tbsp of hot water.
  2. Let mixture cool down.
  3. Apply into hair and onto the scalp.
  4. Rinse well.
  5. Towel dry hair.
  6. Apply Camellia oil.

Apply Camellia Oil With a Tsuge Wood Comb

Applying Camellia oil to hair by hand is OK. Going over it with a wood comb results in a much better and more even coverage. Let hair dry before combing, as you should never comb your hair when it is wet.

Japanese traditional combs are made from Tsuge (Boxwood) — one of the densest, hardest types of wood.

Japanese traditional combs are made from Tsuge (Boxwood) — one of the densest, hardest types of wood. They are polished, one tooth at a time, to a very smooth finish.

The wood teeth have microscopic pores which pick up and re-distribute Camellia oil in a thin, even layers throughout hair. This promotes natural shine and gloss while using less Camellia oil.

Tsuge combs do not snag since their teeth are seamless. They are also anti-static as not to cause frizz when combing.

Camellia Oil for Skincare and Facial Use

Japanese woman applying camellia oil to face and neck

Camellia oil is a fast-absorbing moisturizer which penetrates deep into the skin and restores bounce and elasticity. It has a silky, creamy texture and is non-comedogenic (does not block skin pores).

Camellia oil is a transdermal carrier of collagen and elastin. It repairs damage caused by dryness, sun exposure, and aging.

How to Use Camellia Oil for Skincare

  1. Pump a small amount into the palm of your hand.
  2. Rub your palms together to spread the oil into a thin layer.
  3. Pat the oil over your face and neck. Do not rub hard.
  4. Spread the oil in small circular motions till absorbed.

To diminish small wrinkles and blemishes, add a small drop to your fingertips and apply directly on the areas you need.

Using Camellia and Rice Bran Oils in Combination

Rice bran oil is an excellent source of Tocotrienols, the "super" vitamin E, as well as an anti-aging antioxidant called Gamma-oryzanol. You can apply Camellia oil in combination with rice bran oil to take advantage of their different benefits.

Mixing the two oils is OK, but not the best way to go. It is better to apply them separately. Both get absorbed into the skin rapidly, and you can apply either one in a few minutes after applying the other.

Vitamin E and Sunblock Properties

Although there are numerous claims that Camellia oil is rich in vitamin E, such claims are simplistic at best and can be misleading.

Vitamin E comes in many forms. Notable ones are Tocotrienols, the so-called "super vitamin E," and the more common (and less effective) Tocopherols.
Camellia oil contains moderate levels of the Tocopherols (about 60 mg/1000 g). If you want a high Tocotrienol moisturizer instead, rice bran oil at 600-800 mg /1000 g is an excellent choice.

The all too frequent claims of Camellia oil having significant sunblock properties are exaggerated, to say the least.
All vegetable-based oils, including Camellia oil, have an SPF of about 3-5.

Camellia Oil for Body Care

Japanese woman applying camellia oil to body after bathing

Camellia oil is a nutrient-rich skin moisturizer and softener.It is an excellent all-body moisturizer, and also does a great job to soften rough elbows, legs, knees, and heels, plus helps heal minor scars and stretch marks.

How to Use Camellia Oil for Body Care

  1. Apply a small amount to damp skin after showering or taking a bath.
  2. Apply gently and thoroughly till completely absorbed.
  3. Use in the morning and at night, or as often as needed.

Nail and Cuticles Care

Camellia oil softens dry or brittle nails and rough cuticles. It also helps alleviate discomfort from dry skin under and keeps nails nourished, smooth and shiny.

  1. Wash hands thoroughly with lukewarm water.
  2. Add one or two drops to a cotton pad.
  3. Wipe nails and cuticles with the pad.
  4. Massage in gently.

After a few days, you will notice that your nails and cuticles are softer and smoother and look healthier.

Camellia Japonica vs. Other Varieties

The Camellia family includes a vast number of species. Besides the all-important Camellia japonica (Tsubaki), the Camellia family includes many other plants such as Camellia sinensis (the common tea plant) and Camellia oleifera (notable for its edible properties).

Though they all are commonly referred to as "Camellia," they have significant differences and should not be confused.

The classic Japanese Camellia japonica variety is the traditional red Camellia named yabu-tsubaki (wild Camellia).
Camellia Japonica
Camellia sinensis is called the tea plant. Its leaves are used to produce all teas we drink
Camellia Sinensis
Camellia oleifera is mainly used for making edible cooking oil. It is widely grown in China
Camellia Oleifera

Camellia Japonica

Camellia japonica is the authentic Japanese Camellia, native to southern Japan. It is called tsubaki in Japanese, shortened from tsuya-ba-ki, meaning "shiny leaf tree." The tsubaki tree blooms in winter and early spring, when its much-admired flower is a common sight in cities and countryside.

The classic Japanese Camellia japonica variety is the traditional red Camellia named yabu-tsubaki (wild Camellia). The Camellia oil from its seeds is called tsubaki-abura.

It is easy to recognize yabu-tsubakis. They are dark pink to red, with 5 petals connected at the bottom in a cup shape. The upper-sides of the leaves have a distinct waxy coating which sparkles in the light.

Camellia Sinensis

Camellia sinensis is called the tea plant. Its leaves are used to produce all teas we drink, including green, black, pu-erh, and oolong teas.

Camellia sinensis has two major varieties: var. asamica and var. sinensis. The oil from seeds of Camellia sinensis is called Tea Oil Camellia. 

Camellia Oleifera

Camellia oleifera is mainly used for making edible cooking oil. It is widely grown in China and is similar to olive oil in composition. The oil from its seeds is commonly known as Oil-seed Camellia or Tea-seed Oil.

Collection of Matured Seeds

Women  collecting Camellia seeds by hand after they have fully matured in autumn.The traditional Japanese method for collecting Camellia seeds is to gather the seed pods by hand after they have fully matured in autumn.

The work is an intensely manual process, and can only be done in a small scale.

The seed pods are sun-dried, which causes their woody shells to crack open naturally, exposing the seeds inside.

The oil pressed from the seeds has an intense golden color and a creamy, velvety texture.

Camellia Oil Extraction Methods

Cold Pressing

Cold-pressing camellia oil by handCamellia oil retains its maximum benefit when it is extracted by cold pressing without undergoing any refining process.

Cold pressing is a labor-intensive which preserves camellia oil's natural character and nutritional content.

Cold pressing yields only about 20-30% of the seed's available oil, which accounts for the relatively higher cost and lower availability of quality Camellia oils.

Heat Extraction

Heat extraction is the application of high heat in conjunction with mechanical pressure to extract more oil from the seeds.

Heat extraction increases the yield to 60-70% of the seed's available oil, which reduces production costs. However, heat changes the composition of the oil and degrades its antioxidant and nutritional properties.

Solvent Extraction

To fully extract the seed's oil, some producers use high heat (150° C) and solvents such as ethanol or Hexane. During the process, high pressure is applied to keep the oil from boiling.

The process is followed by distillation to remove the solvents, but residuals can remain in the finished oil in trace amounts.

Solvent extraction increases the yield to up to 98% of the seed's available oil, which further lowers production costs — and degrades Camellia oil's antioxidant and nutritional properties — even more than heat extraction.

Cold-Pressed vs. Cold-Filtered

EU has rigorous standards for using the term cold-pressed, while in the US and Australia, the term cold-filtered is sometimes used as a marketing substitute for the term cold-pressed.

Cold-filtered does not mean cold-pressed, as the oil could be processed at high heat using solvents, and then filtered after being cooled.

Why Unrefined Oils are Better

Unrefined oils are ones which do not undergo high heat and are untainted by chemicals. Refined oils are less expensive to produce. They also tend to lighter in color and texture.

Some producers use various grades of Camellia seeds from different sources, making it necessary to "refine" the oil to control the batch-to-batch differences. Refining allows control of color and scent of the final oil by using a combination of chemical, filtration, or heat processing.