Many hair care products and skin care products are featuring Emu oil as their hero active ingredient. Emu oil is obtained from the Emu bird that is native to Australia. It has a rich history in Aboriginal folk medicine for the treatment of cuts, scars, and dry skin. Emu oil is unique in that it contains 70% unsaturated fatty acids (mainly omega-9), 20% linoleic acid (omega-6), and 1-2% linolenic acid (omega-3). Linoleic and linolenic acid are the essential fatty acids necessary to maintain the skin barrier with deficiency resulting a condition resembling eczema.
Essential fatty acids are most like the protective oily coating that is physically bound to the hair shaft. With chemical hair processing involving permanent dyeing, permanent waving, and permanent straightening, this physically bound sebum-like layer is removed. Emu oil is high in essential fatty acids and is used in hair care products to improve hair appearance by increasing shine. Argan oil is another substance rich in essential fatty acids that is also used for this purpose.