Product Reviews

Weleda Arnica Massage Oil | Does it Work? Science talks

Weleda Arnica Massage Oil in its green bottle with its orange label with its orange box to the left.
Weleda Arnica Massage Oil ($23)

You’ve probably heard a lot about Weleda’s Natrue Certified Arnica Massage Oil.

But, what does the oil actually do? Is there any benefit to using it before or after a workout? Let’s take a look at each ingredient and see what the science has to say.

Table of Contents

Gen Info

Fast Facts | General Information about Weleda’s Arnica Massage Oil

Cliff Notes | Assessment of the Science vs Company Claims

Company Claims & Ingredients | Benefits and Complete Ingredient List

Science Stuff

Sunflower Seed Oil | Base Oil

Olive Oil | Base Oil

Arnica Montana Flower Extract | Herbal Extract for Pain Relief

Betula Alba Leaf Extract | Herbal Extract as an Anti-inflammatory

Parfum & Essential Oil Fragrance | Information on EO scents



General Info

Fast Facts

  • Signature product Arnica Massage Oil was created in 1923 and is one of its best-selling products, along with Weleda’s Skin Food. It is beloved by masseuses and athletes alike.
  • Hero Ingredient Arnica is hand gathered in the Carpathian mountains of Romania. In addition, it is also composed of Sunflower Oil, Olive Oil, Birch Extract and Essential Oil derived scents.
  • It’s widely sold on its website, on Amazon, or in Target for $22.50.
  • It is Natrue certified, Cruelty Free and Vegan.


Cliff Notes

  • As with many botanical ingredients, the science is still out on whether Arnica reduces pain or prevents swelling. It has however, been a traditional remedy for fever, inflammation and pain among others.
  • Sunflower Seed Oil has proven benefits for skin hydration and is the primary ingredient in this oil.
  • Olive oil is present and has been shown to possibly delay skin barrier recovery. However, since there is a high percentage of Sunflower Seed Oil, it is also possible that its high linoleic acid might help counter this.
  • Sunflower and Olive Oil also have been shown to help wound healing and inflammation.
  • Arnica is a possible pain reliever and anti-inflammatory although the science is mixed
  • Birch Leaf extract is a anti-inflammatory and has been used to treat skin diseases.
  • I’m cautiously in the buy side for this, despite sensitizing fragrance and confusing science. Still, take a look for yourself and see what you think.

Company Claims & Ingredients

Warming muscle massage with arnica extract. Before and after sport or strenuous activity, warm up or slow down with a vigorous arnica oil massage.

Sunflower Seed Oil Olive Oil Fragrance 1 Arnica Montana Flower Extract Betula Alba Leaf Extract Limonene 1 Linalool 1 Geraniol 1 Coumarin 1
1 from natural essential oils

Science Stuff

Sunflower Seed Oil

Sunflower Seed oil is beneficial to the skin in many way. Scientific studies have noted that it hydrates, reduces inflammation, aids wound healing and help heals the skin barrier. Its a frequently used carrier oil. 

Olive Oil

Olive oil helps in wound healing and delays skin cancer development. However, olive oil has been shown to delay skin barrier recovery. It is also a frequently used carrier oil.

Arnica Montana Flower Extract

Arnica is widely known as a pain reliever but the science can be a bit confusing. I believe it is possible that Arnica can reduce pain and help in inflammation, but the jury’s still out. 

  • An overall view of scientific literature suggests that arnica doesn’t actively relieve pain. However, a second review said that Arnica’s effectiveness couldn’t be proven or disproven. Several studies showed effectiveness, but more high quality ones were less likely to do so.
  • A double blind placebo controlled trial showed that oral arnica had no effect upon 64 adults who had elected to have carpal tunnel surgery. Results were recorded after 4 days by the McGill Pain Questionnaire, bruising at site, swelling and analgesic medication taken.
  • Another double-blind randomized study found less pain in the arnica group among 37 patients who had also undergone carpal tunnel syndrome. A separate study also found pain reduction in randomized double blind controlled study of 20 males 72 hours after exercise.
  • Perhaps Arnica’s effectiveness is due to its anti-inflammatory effect.

Betula Alba Leaf Extract

Betula Alba Leaf Extract has commonly been used to treat ezcema, psoriasis and other dermatitis. It’s also been shown to retard skin cancer.

  • Major component Betulin is known as an anti-infammatory.
  • It is used to treat dermatitis, ezcema and psoriasis. (Sellar W, The Directory of Essential Oils, 1992)
  • It is comparable to hydrophilic cream (nonionic emulsifying alcohols, 2-ethylhexyllauromyristate, glycerol, potassium sorbate, citric acid and water) in increasing stratum corneum hydration and helping skin erythema.
  • It has also been shown be effective against skin cancer in a number of studies.

Parfum and Essential Oil Fragrance

Scents can be irritating regardless of how it’s derived. Weleda lists several scent ingredients all taken from essential oils. 


Okay, here’s the thing.

While the science is confusing on many skin care products, that’s just par for course.

There aren’t a lot of scientific studies on individual ingredients or on their interactions with each other. Additionally, many studies don’t go into how it was extracted and things such as harvest, time and maturity of the plant. All these things affect potency.

Although there are exceptions, I tend to review products or companies I like and I like Weleda. They make a good effort to be transparent with their product lists and are certified. They firmly believe in organic gardening and make an effort to stay true to their values.

I’ve seen many, many companies really stretch the truth.

Weleda tries really hard not to and this product has a pretty simple ingredient list. It is relatively non-sensitizing (I’m getting to hate perfume as there are just too many studies against it) and beneficial.

I’d buy.


Product Reviews

Weleda Skin Food | The Most Complete Review Ever With Science to Back it Up

Does the science live up to the company claim that it helps dry skin? Each ingredient is presented with the science to back it up to see what works and what doesn’t, this is everything you ever wanted to know about Weleda Skin Food.

Weleda Skin Food Info

Fast Facts About Weleda Skin Food | Interesting Information about Weleda Skin Food

Ingredient Analysis is Complicated | Limitations of Ingredient Analysis

Claims | Company claims about Weleda Skin Food

Ingredients | Complete List of Ingredients as of Jan 21, 2018

Each Ingredient and its Science

Sunflower Seed Oil | Oils 

Lanolin | Wool Wax

Sweet Almond Oil | Oils 

Cera Alba and Hydrolized Beeswax | Wax

Alcohol and Fatty Acid Ester | Not enough information

Glycerin | Humectant

Viola Tricolor Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract | Herbal extracts

Limonene, Parfum, Linalool, Geraniol, Citral, Coumarin | Scents 

Sorbitan Olivate, Zinc Sulfate, Arginine | An Amino Acid and Formula Stabilizers

Summary | What I think about Weleda Skin Food, in a nutshell

Iconic Weleda Skin Food in it green bottle with its box beside it.
BUY Weleda’s Natrue certified Skin Food ($10) 

Weleda Skin Food Info

Weleda Skin Food Fast Facts

  • Created in 1926, it is Weleda’s best-seller.
  • Weleda is Certified Organic/Natural by Natrue, Cruelty Free, GMO Free, and Vegetarian. It also restricts some common chemicals of concern.
  • Available in Target, CVS, Amazon and Weleda online.
  • A favorite of Victoria Beckham, Adele, Julia Roberts, Rihanna, Alexa Chung, Suki Waterhouse. The list goes on and on.
  • This is a rich cream for dry skin, and the ingredients really work towards that.
  • Sunflower Seed Oil and Sweet Almond oils hydrate, moisturize and repair the skin barrier and are all very respectable and well-known.
  • Glycerin attracts moisture and Beeswax retains it.
  • Various plant extracts such as Heartsease, Rosemary, German Chamomile and Calendula help soothe dry skin with anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-pyretic, and antioxidant effects.
  • Zinc Sulfate helps preserve it while Sorbitan Olivate helps stabilize the formula.
  • I’m not a fan of sensitizing fragrance. Weleda has them here through the addition of essential oils.
  • It’d be perfect without the fragrance, but I have to say that this really works well enough already.

Ingredient Analysis is Complicated

Scientific studies of sole ingredients and their interactions are not available for every ingredient.

Additionally, how something is extracted is often not discussed. Different extraction methods actually influence a compound and so there’s really a limitation into what we can figure out.

Still, by understanding what the science says about an ingredient we can understand what is possible from our skin care and what we really can expect.


Skin Food is a universal savior of dry, rough skin on faces, elbows, hands and feet. With extracts of gentle viola tricolor, calendula and chamomile, in a rich, thick base of oils and beeswax, Skin Food hydrates skin to give you a healthy-looking glow.


Aqua, Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil, Lanolin, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis Oil, Cera Alba, Alcohol, Fatty Acid Ester, Glycerin, Limonene 1, Viola Tricolor Extract, Hydrolyzed Beeswax, Sorbitan Olivate, Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Arginine, Zinc Sulfate, Parfum 1, Linalool 1, Geraniol 1, Citral 1, Coumarin 1 1 from natural essential oils

Each Ingredient and its Science

Sunflower Seed Oil

In general, Sunflower Seed Oil has been shown to increase hydration and normalize keratinocyte differentiation. They theorize that this is because it is predominantly Linoleic Acid (60 plus %) in composition. It also been as effective as topical steroids in Atopic Dermatitis patients and can reduce inflammation.

Sunflowers in a field.

  • Sunflower Seed Oil (SFO) was applied twice daily to the forearms of a group of volunteers. Hydration increased 12-14% versus baseline without any side effects.
  • Conflicting advice regarding SFO in newborn skincare was noted in 2 separate studies. In a study of 22 newborns, SFO increased Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL), suggesting that SFO might retard the maturation of the skin. In a second study (again in Berlin and with some of the same authors!), SFO was found not to impair maturation of the skin barrier.
  • The majority of studies find SFO beneficial. SFO is more than 60% Linoleic Acid (LA) which is the predominant fatty acid in skin barrier lipids. LA can regulate keratinocyte differentiation through the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha (PPAR-a).
  • SFO reduces inflammation in vitro and in animal models.
  • SFO was found to be as effective as topical steroids in 2 independent studies. In the first, 40 children applied either a hydrocortisone butyro-propionate 1 mg/g and a 2% Sunflower Oil Distillate twice a week for three weeks. Both groups showed improvement. Another study of 86 children compared 0.05% desonide to 2% SOD cream and found the same result.


Lanolin reduces TEWL, accelerates skin barrier recovery, and reduces skin roughness. Reduction in skin roughness lasts even 8 hours after application.

Woolly lambs in a barn.

  • Lanolin is a by-product of wool shearing, and no sheep are killed in its production. (For those that worry animals are harmed in its production 😊).
  • Lanolin is similar in composition to the stratum corneum lipids or the fat in the outermost layer of our skin.
  • It reduced TransEpidermal Water Loss by 32% while petroleum reduced it by 48%. However, it is better than petroleum in skin barrier recovery. (Steel, Ian. Lanolin and the Skin)
  • Also, lanolin’s reduced skin roughness by 25% even 8 hours after application. (Steel, Ian. Lanolin and the Skin)

Sweet Almond Oil

Sweet Almond Oil has some data to show that it is anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and that it protects against photo-aging. In addition, it has many benefits for cosmetic formulations.Shelled almonds on a white background.

  • Almond oil protects against photo-aging. 20 mice were divided into 4 groups, one control, one exposed to UV radiation, one using almond oil and another exposed to UV radiation and using almond oil. Almond oil was found to decrease the number of UVB skin tumors and to inhibit photoaging.
  • It may have some anti-bacterial properties as it reduced bacteria by 98.9% when added to a culture.

Cera Alba and Hydrolized Beeswax

Beeswax has antimicrobial properties. It seems to be used mostly to retain water and as part of Skin Food’s hydrating base.

  • Cera Alba is purified beeswax while hydrolyzed beeswax is an altered form. It is used to control the thickness of a formula and to retain water in the skin.
  • It’s been shown to have antimicrobial effects although which strain it is effective against can differ with how it is extracted. 

Alcohol and Fatty Acid Ester

Can’t be assessed because the ingredients list doesn’t specify which alcohol or fatty acid ester has been used. Note that not all alcohol is bad for the skin as some can actually help the skin.


Glycerin is actually found on the skin and has proven beneficial actions for dry skin.

Glycerin soap on a loofah.

Viola Tricolor Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract

  • Extracts are parts of plants that have been placed in a carrier, which is usually water or ethanol. Preservatives may be added. It would be interesting to know what was being used.
  • There are a mix of anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, anti-fungal and antioxidant properties in these extracts, as well as wound healing.

Viola Tricolor Extract (Heartsease)

A closeup of the heartsease flower, with its purple petals and yellow center.

Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Extract (Common Rosemary)

Six sprigs of rosemary.

  • Rosemary oils were placed in lipid nanoparticles for better absorption. Significant skin hydration and better elasticity was seen in 10 female volunteers.
  • Rosemary is a known antioxidant.
  • Rosemary is also anti-fungicidal. When a mix of essentials oils with 5% Rosemary was given to 7 cats with ringworm, 4 of the 7 cats recovered and the others showed a regression of lesions. Fungicidal results were good.

Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract (German Chamomile)

A closeup of Chamomile flowers in a field.

Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract (Marigold)

A Marigold with dew on it.

Limonene, Parfum, Linalool, Geraniol, Citral, Coumarin

Fragrance compounds are skin sensitizing but can be added or already part of the essential oils in a product. Based on my understanding, European regulation requires all compounds in a skincare product to be listed regardless of whether they were part of the essential oil or not. Weleda notes that this is from natural essential oils.

Four bottles of perfume or fragrance of different colors shot together.

  • Most customers prefer fragrance despite it being sensitizing.
  • Several studies show fragrance incites contact allergies. Several usual fragrance mixes composed of different fragrance allergens have been tested usually FM1, FM2, HICC or MP (mixes of fragrance compounds). The reactions ranged from2% in British children to 14.5% of over 10,000 dermatitis patients in Belgium.
  • In addition, many compounds are activated outside the skin and on the skin to form new sensitizers.

Sorbitan Olivate, Zinc Sulfate, Arginine

An amino acid and two formula stabilizers

Chemicals in beakers on a lab table with measuring equipment.

  • Sorbitan Olivate is a surfactant that is considered safe for use by the CIR. They are used to help oils and water blend well.
  • Zinc sulfate is used to stabilize a formulation and is a biocide.
  • Arginine is an amino acid that is believed to have anti-oxidant, wound healing, and skin regeneration effects.

Mice who were treated with arginine showed early wound healing. Topical applications of 2.5% arginine hydrochloride also helped decrease dryness. (I couldn’t access this last article, so it was just the article abstract, but this seems in tune with other opinions I’ve read).


I kind of geeked out here.

I’ve been reviewing products for a while and I’ve gotten to know a ton of ingredients.

In fact, I actually keep my own database of ingredients to see how they work and what the science is. Still, I wanted to do a more in-depth study and read the studies and such.

Weleda’s a good product. Solid ingredients choices all around, herbal extracts that would do dry skin good, and safe formula stabilizers.

I’m not a fan of fragrance, but that’s just me.

Ingredients are effective, potent, and generally non-irritating with the exception of scent.

A pretty solid buy.