Mamey sapote oil is one of the rare finds as it is an excellent serum for the hair. The oil is extracted from the seeds of a fruit called mamey sapote. It is a bright reddish colored fruit similar to papaya. Only recently are we beginning to fully appreciate its efficacy in providing nutrition and strength to our hair and also the skin. One of the reasons for its relative obscurity till now has been the fact that the tree is native to the deep, gloomy evergreen forests of Central America.
Mamey sapote fruit has a bright reddish colored flesh under a very thin skin which gets peeled off easily. The flesh tastes slightly sweet and inside it lies a large seed. The seeds of ripe fruits are sorted out, dried and then expelled using a cold press. This produces the brilliant orange colored organic, cold pressed mamey sapote oil. It is also known as sapuyulo oil (or sapayul oil), or even simply sapote oil. Very few vegetable oils have such a remarkable color and this may be because of the presence of a unique set of carotenoids (forms of Vitamin A) in the fruit.
The tree which yields these fruits is a tropical evergreen, very tall growing species belonging to a family that contains other sapotes like Sapodilla. It is biologically identified as Pouteria sapota. The fruit and its seeds are utilized in local cuisine as well as in making traditional soaps, and in some herbal medicines as well.
Color and Aroma
The color is not orange, strictly speaking. Its base color is golden yellow with hues of reddish compounds which impart it the orange shades. Its smell is fantastic, similar to almonds when they are made into confectioneries like marzipan. So, the aroma is a concoction of sweet and nutty.
Presently, we know very little about the therapeutic abilities of this oil as it has not gained prominence. But we do know certain things precisely.
- Revitalizer – It strengthens the hair from the root itself and invigorates the hair. 
- Emollient – A good proportion of oleic acid allow it to lock moisture within the skin.
- Anti hairfall– It has demonstrated ability to control the loss of hair when it is caused by seborrhoeic dermatitis of the scalp. 
- Nutrient – Linoleic acid (LA) present in mamey sapote oil is essential for our body, which it needs through foods. When we apply any natural product that contains LA, it gets absorbed into our body through the skin quite easily.
- Sedative – used in traditional medicine to relax the eyes and ears. 
Health Benefits and Uses
Mamey Sapote Oil’s Benefits for Hair
This oil is remarkable for its ability to specifically reverse the damage caused to naturally curly hair by the excessive use of products like hair straighteners and shampoos that strip off the body’s own oils, like sebum. It can be applied directly to the hair in two ways.
Firstly, one can either massage it directly into the hair roots about 40 minutes before going to the shower. A gentle massage with the finger tips not only delivers the oil effectively throughout the scalp, it also reduces stress and feels so relaxing. After about 5 to 10 minutes of massage, it should be left in for about 30 minutes and then one should shower it off using a shampoo. If you are pressed for time, even a sit in time of 15 minutes would do fine. This method effectively provides the revitalizing benefits of sapote oil and it also aids in dissolving out dandruff flakes. Some people also experience relief from scalp itching.
Another method is to apply it onto damp hair after a shower. Herein, more emphasis is paid to the hair shafts, instead of the roots. Take about a tablespoon of organic mamey sapote oil and gently run it into the hair. It aids in detangling the hair, making them smooth, shiny and curly. If hair feels more oily than desired, excess can be wiped off using wipes. The benefit of this treatment is that sapote oil locks in the hydration provided to the hair during the shower. Air and sun are often harsh and they dry out our wet hair leaving them looking lifeless and even frizzy. The oleic acid is a powerful moisturizer which does not let the desiccating (drying) elements of mother nature affect the hair. Point to note here is that some people may not like to do this because cold pressed Mamey oil is thick in consistency, so it may feel more like a serum than an oil, per se. To make the texture oily (and not like a paste) add a requisite amount of olive oil to enable the mixture to flow freely, which would make it less greasy.
Is it beneficial for hair growth?
Mamey sapote oil has been proven to help in restricting the further falling of hair if someone is suffering from seborrheic dermatitis. In this condition, the skin develops reddish, mildly swollen, itchy, inflamed patches. It looks and feels quite like other inflammatory conditions of the skin, like eczema or psoriasis, although there may be lesser peeling off of the skin. When these patches develop on the scalp, they weaken the hair follicle and the follicle eventually loses the strength to bind the hair. This often leads to rapid hair loss within the patches. Once the hair is gone, it is very difficult for the follicle to regrow hair. Therefore, such a condition should be taken quite seriously and advice of the dermatologist should be adhered to.
Presently, we don’t know how to use Mamey sapote oil to check the hair fall, but if the dermatologist agrees, then one can directly apply it on the patches.
There are certain rumors regarding its ability to even regrow hair, but these are nothing more than marketing gimmicks with some logic but not yet proven by trials or research. It may help with faster hair growth, but that can’t be said with certainty.
Mamey sapote oil for Skin
Although the fruit was used to make homemade soaps for the local community, there are hardly any modern cosmetics containing it. But it is known to be useful in imparting smoothness to the skin. Hence, it is ideal for application directly onto heels, ankles, elbows, knees and other such areas of the body where the skin tends to get rough. It is a potent moisturizer and revitalizer of skin. It is also used to treat sunburns. The efficacy against sunburn may be because of carotenoids in the oil which are profusely used in creams and as supplements to protect against strong ultraviolet rays of the sun.
Nutritional and Medicinal Information
The fatty acid profile of sapote oil is quite simple yet intriguing. It is mainly made up of four fatty acids.
|Fatty acid||Carbon notation||Percentage by weight|
|Oleic acid||C 18:3||60.32%|
|Stearic acid||C 18:0||25.95%|
|Palmitic acid||C 16:0||7.22%|
|Linoleic acid||C 18:2||6.52%|
This data is based on fruits grown in Yucatan, Mexico. These four natural fats together make up about 99% of the oil. It contains such an amount of stearic acid which is usually not seen in seed oils.
Stearic acid’s role in maintaining a supple skin
Stearic acid is a saturated fatty acid which is naturally present in the stratum corneum. This is the outermost layer of the epidermis, which itself is the outermost layer of our skin. Stratum corneum is mainly made up of a well-known protein called keratin and its most important role is to maintain the barrier function of the skin. This layer helps to absorb water through the skin and prevent water from getting evaporated, thus our skin looks hydrated and taut. Stearic acid, when applied topically restores the natural barrier function of the skin and is crucial for proper hydration. It is often used in creams and lotions in combination with linolenic, oleic and alpha-linolenic acids which add emollient character and essential nutrition. Stearic acid is also used as a cleansing agent because it is a natural surfactant. It dissolves out dirt and grease and excess sebum. When it is washed off or wiped, the skin is visibly cleaner and healthier looking. The grainy texture of mamey sapote oil is also because of stearic acid, which feels like wax at room temperature. Many other products that are excellent for the skin contain stearic acid, like cocoa butter and shea butter.
There is also a study which points to a beneficial role played by stearic acid in reducing the size and severity of lesions caused by chemical burns in rats. It can be possible that the efficacy of sapote oil in healing sunburns could be due to the more abundant stearic acid in it than the scarce carotenoids. 
Stearic acid balances the pH of the skin, which means that if the skin turns more acidic or alkaline than what it should be (often caused by the use of harsh soaps), then stearic acid will buffer it back to balance. Healthy skin is usually slightly acidic, with pH nearing around 5.5 which is necessary for the skin to prevent harmful chemicals from damaging its cells. 
Other important parameters of a vegetable oil are its physico-chemical properties. These are tests done to identify how much of the oil is unsaturated, what is its initial acidity and rancidity, all of which are important from a chemical point of view when using it in formulations.
|Iodine Value||174 gm of I2 per 100 gm of oil|
|Acidity Index||4.44 mg KOH per gm of oil|
|Peroxide value||5.45 meq O2/kg of oil|
Based on the above data only, it is believed that sapote oil may be used in the future as an edible oil but not without adequate refining. There is still a lot of research that needs to be done to ensure that it is safe and healthy to be ingested internally or used for cooking purposes.
Side Effects and Toxicity Issues
Sapote oil can cause skin sensitivity in some people, which may lead to irritation and inflammation. Some people are allergic to it, too. They should strictly avoid it. Moreover, it is not to be ingested at all. Although, it contains mostly healthy fats, there is no major study on the safety of eating mamey sapote oil or using it on foods. Neither should it be used as a cooking oil.
It is quite costly, mainly because of the remoteness of the tree from which it is obtained. We should also use it responsibly in order to preserve and sustain the rainforest. Countless species of animals, birds, insects etc. depend on such trees for their survival. It is we who have to ensure that our needs do not put too much strain on nature.
It has a shelf life of 2 years and tolerates heat better than other oils. It is also less prone to rancidity. But, there can be an issue of adulteration, as it can be mixed with cheaper oils. Therefore, it is essential to buy from a reputed manufacturer that has quite some years of experience in responsibly harvesting oils from the evergreen rainforests.
- Edible Medicinal And Non-Medicinal Plants: Volume 6, Fruits, By T. K. Lim.
- Chemical composition of crude oil from the seeds of pumpkin (Cucurbita spp.) and mamey sapota (Pouteria sapota Jacq.) grown in Yucatan, Mexico. Victor Moo-Huchin et al,CyTA Journal of Food.
- Topical application of docosanol- or stearic acid-containing creams reduces severity of phenol burn wounds in mice. Khalil et al, Contact Dermatitis.
- Evaluation of the Quantitative and Qualitative Alterations in the Fatty Acid Contents of the Sebum of Patients with Inflammatory Acne during Treatment with Systemic Lymecycline and/or Oral Fatty Acid Supplementation. Adilson Costa et al, Dermatology Research and Practice.