Why Is Canola Oil Showing Up in Massage Products? – Universal Companies
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Why Is Canola Oil Showing Up in Massage Products?

October 11 • Massage

If you’ve looked at product ingredient declarations recently, you may have noticed that sunflower oil has disappeared or is being used in combination with other plant oils, such as canola. Canola oil is usually indicated on labels as rapeseed oil, Brassica napus seed oil, or Brassica campestris seed oil. There are very good reasons for the inclusion of canola oil.

Ukraine supplies 46% of the world's supply of sunflower and safflower oil.2,5 Due to the war, there’s a global shortage. This scarcity has required manufacturers to adjust their formulations with other plant oils, including canola.

To match the same feel and performance of products that previously contained sunflower oil, formulators are carefully choosing substitutions, including coconut, soy, canola, safflower, grapeseed, and apricot kernel. However, other factors go into this decision as well, such as cost, allergy sensitivities, and other rising shortages.

Why Is Canola Oil a Popular Substitution?

In addition to canola offering a similar look and feel as sunflower oil, there are other reasons why a brand may choose it as a substitute.

For manufacturers who make organic products, canola may be the only USDA organic oil that's consistently available. Additionally, because it's cost-effective, it helps manufacturers maintain reasonable pricing for customers. Allergy sensitivity to canola oil is also very low. It’s not listed on the FDA's food allergen list, which means it’s less likely to cause topical allergies. Lastly, canola benefits the skin (more on this in a bit!).

What Is Canola Oil?

Brassica napus and its forms, subspecies, and varieties are commonly known as “rapeseed” and “canola.” Unlike many other crops, rapeseed and canola don’t come from a single plant species or even refer to the same variety. Rapeseed refers to oilseeds from the species B. napus and B. rapa, while the term "canola" refers to specific varieties of rapeseed bred for ediblity.4

The name “rapeseed” is derived from the Latin word rapum (turnip). Along with kale, broccoli, cabbage, and mustard, rapeseed is a member of the Brassicaceae plant family. It’s not a new plant either. It has long traditional use in folk medicine for strengthening the skin and alleviating stiff joints.1

Myths About Canola Oil?

Canola oil isn't without controversy, however. There are some myths that surround it. Here are the most common misconceptions, along with the facts:

Myth 1: All canola oil is GMO.

Fact: Non-GMO canola oil does exist, and it can even be found in products bearing the Non-GMO Project Verified seal. Canola began as a hybrid crop. In the 1970s, the University of Manitoba began crossbreeding rapeseed plants to address its high levels of erucic acid (connected to heart problems) and glucosinate (bitter taste). The hybrid plant was trademarked Canola ("Can" from Canada and "ola" for "oil, low acid").3 GMOs didn't emerge until the mid-1990s.

Myth 2: Canola oil is meant for industrial use, not food or cosmetics.

Fact: Canola was developed as a food oil. Like sunflower and soy, it's also used in industrial applications as an alternative to petroleum-based oil.

Myth 3: All canola is produced using petrochemical solvents.

Fact: Though most canola is extracted with hexane, cold-pressed and expeller-pressed varieties are also available. Some manufacturers will distinguish this on their labels, though not all do.

Skin Benefits of Canola Oil

Canola oil contains essential fatty acids, plus vitamins E and K–all good for the skin. It's also lightweight and non-comedogenic. Similar to other plant oils, canola oil can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, as it softens skin, making it supple.

We hope this post helped explain why some of our vendor partners have chosen to use canola oil as a substitute for sunflower oil. Thank you for your patience as they work through supply chain challenges during this time. As always, we're here to support you.


  1. 1. “Brassica napus L.” Purdue University Center for New Crops & Plant Products. October 10, 2022. https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/duke_energy/Brassica_napus.html
  2. 2. Ngo, Hope. "Why Some Stores Are Limiting the Amount of Cooking Oil You Can Buy." Tasting Table. May 2, 2022. https://www.tastingtable.com/850046/why-some-stores-are-limiting-the-amount-of-cooking-oil-you-can-buy/
  3. 3. Schaufler, Karoline, et al. “GMO Feature: Canola.” Living Non-GMO. October 6, 2022. https://livingnongmo.org/2019/02/19/gmo-feature-canola/
  4. 4. “The Biology of Brassica napus L. (Canola/Rapeseed).” Government of Canada. October 6, 2022. https://inspection.canada.ca/plant-varieties/plants-with-novel-traits/applicants/directive-94-08/biology-documents/brassica-napus-l-/eng/1330729090093/1330729278970.
  5. 5. Vesoulis, Abby. "How the Ukraine-Russia Conflict Will Raise the Price of Snack Foods." Time Magazine. March 7, 2022. https://time.com/6155095/sunflower-oil-russia-ukraine/

Universal Companies is proud to have a team of experienced spa advisors on staff and welcomes you to consult with our professionals about spa products and supplies, including ingredients, equipment, and retail. Dedicated to the success of spa professionals everywhere, we're grateful to be recognized with multiple industry awards (thank you!) and proud to support the spa industry through mentorship and sponsorship.

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