Part of a plant category that contains botanicals like aloe vera and various cacti, succulents grow in warm, dry regions and are known adaptogens. These plants can survive harsh climates—and many store water in their stems and pads.
Strictly speaking, using succulents to treat skin isn’t new—indigenous people have been tapping them for centuries (and chances are, your mom told you to slather aloe vera on your sunburn at least once as a child). But a slew of recent studies on these wondrous plants has sparked a fresh interest in their powers of resilience and how that can be translated to the skin.
So, what exactly is being harnessed from succulents? On the label, you might see ingredients like a straight-up succulent extract, cactus water or cactus collagen, aloe vera juice, and prickly pear extract, among others. “Prickly pear seed oil is one is of the most expensive and precious ingredients on the market right now,” says Lara Kaiser, an aesthetician at Shen beauty in Brooklyn. “Prickly pear hydrates skin to the max, helps with fine lines and wrinkles, absorbs quickly, tightens pores, brightens dark spots, and creates a radiant, glowing look and feel to the skin.”
Adrienne Penna, director of technology and trends for Make beauty (who just helped launch a duo of succulent products for after-sun care), explains that these plants’ water-storing pads contain a gel that, when applied to the skin, offers powerful soothing and hydrating benefits. “It’s becoming a more popular ingredient because there are people testing these adaptogens to see why they are able to survive and can we use that knowledge to help the skin survive?”
The products hitting the market range from skin-quenching cleansers to lightweight oils to high-tech under-eye patches. And each features this magical natural moisturizer, as well as skin-boosting ingredients like vitamin E and healing natural extracts for supercharged effectiveness. “There isn’t a skin type that doesn’t benefit from these,” concludes Penna. Who can argue with that?
Keep scrolling for a few succulent superstars to add to your skin-care arsenal.
Nopal cactus (AKA prickly pear) is mixed with aloe, honeysuckle, orange oil, green tea leaf, and a host of other botanical ingredients to form this cleanser. It cleans the skin without stripping away natural oils, leaving your complexion clean, brightened, and hydrated.
Rich in free-radical fighting prickly pear, this wonder oil is rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins E and K, and antioxidants. It features a thicker consistency than most other oils, so those with dry and mature skin will see the most benefits. Pat it on and watch as it boosts elasticity, softens skin texture, and brightens tired-looking under eyes.
I’m smitten with these easy-to-use, multi-tasking gel patches. They’re packed with cactus collagen, which is known for its de-puffing and skin-elasticity-boosting benefits. To add an extra punch, they’ve also got vitamin C and E, aloe vera and arbutin to make you look awake and well-rested. Puffiness, dark circles, and fine lines are no match for these small wonders.
Stressed skin—i.e. complexions tormented by acne, sun damage, and pollution—needs a little extra love to bring it back to life. Which is just what this lightweight, oil-free lotion delivers with the help of cactus water, kale extract, aloe vera, and calendula. Use it on your face or body for a calming remedy that brings back the brightness, hydration, and general joie de vivre to your complexion.
This lightweight spray features a blend of prickly pear cactus and aloe vera—plus hyaluronic acid—to offer top-notch hydration sun-exposed and extra sensitive skin. Prickly pear has been shown to be rich in skin-supporting vitamins and minerals, meaning it provides powerful protection against damaging free radicals.
In case you doubted the versatility of succulents, let Smith & Cult’s fashion-forward gloss show you otherwise. The saturated, vinyl-shine lip color is infused with portulaca pilosa, also referred to as “kiss-me-quick” (seriously!), a tiny succulent with big beauty benefits. It infuses lips with hydration and fakes the appearance of plumped-up volume for an ultra-glossy, pillowy pout.
Featuring the impressive sounding leaf-of-life plant from Madagascar, this plumping and radiance-boosting bi-phase serum offers long-lasting moisture retention as well as protection against everyday “thermic shocks” (a dramatic-sounding way to say fluctuating temperatures and humidity). Give it a shake to blend the phases then smooth on the lightweight fluid to quench thirsty skin and create a heavenly soft, satiny complexion.
Skin hydration isn’t the only trick this versatile plant has up its sleeve—it can also be used for exfoliation via a dry brush like this one from Aromatherapy Associates. Made with surprisingly soft cactus sisal bristles, a daily brush session pre-shower (reminder: always swipe upwards, towards your heart) boosts circulation and cell renewal, wiping away dead skin cells and uncovering the bright and beautiful skin hiding beneath.
Now that your skin has its plant-fix, set the mood at home with these intoxicating aromatherapy oils, and find the floral essence to add to your succulent-charged skincare routine based on your zodiac sign.