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 coloured fruit similar to papaya. Only recently are we beginning to fully appreciate its efficacy in providing nutrition and strength to our hair and skin. One of the reasons for its relative obscurity 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 coloured flesh under a fragile skin that gets peeled off easily. The meat 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-coloured 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 unique colour, and this may be because 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 and in making traditional soaps, and in some herbal medicines as well.
Colour and Aroma
The colour is not orange, strictly speaking. Its base colour 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 allows it to lock moisture within the skin.
- Anti-hair fall– It has demonstrated the ability to control hair loss when seborrhoeic Dermatitis of the scalp causes it. 
- 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 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 for about 40 minutes before going to the shower. A gentle massage with the fingertips delivers the oil effectively throughout the scalp, 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 will 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 to 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 the hair feels more oily than desired, the 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. Oleic acid is a powerful moisturizer that does not let the desiccating (drying) elements of mother nature affect the hair. The point to note here is that some people may not like to do this because cold-pressed Mamey oil is thick in consistency so that 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 restrict 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 like other skin’s inflammatory conditions, 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 the dermatologist’s advice should be adhered to.
We don’t know how to use Mamey sapote oil to check the hair fall, but if the dermatologist agrees, one can directly apply it on the patches.
There are certain rumours regarding its ability even to 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. 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 areas of the body where the skin tends to get rough. It is a potent moisturizer and revitalizer of the 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 that is naturally present in the stratum corneum. This is the outermost layer of the epidermis, which itself is the outer layer of our skin. The stratum corneum is mainly made up of a well-known protein called keratin, and its most important role is to maintain the skin’s barrier function. 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 linoleic, oleic and alpha-linolenic acids, adding 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 clearer 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 excellent products for the skin contain stearic acids, like cocoa butter and shea butter.
A study also 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 skin’s pH, 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 a pH nearing around 5.5, which is necessary for the skin to prevent harmful chemicals from damaging its cells. 
Another vital parameters of vegetable oil are its physico-chemical properties. These are tests done to identify how much of the oil is unsaturated, 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 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 with 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 the 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 Oral Fatty Acid Supplementation. Adilson Costa et al., Dermatology Research and Practice.