And it turns out that succulents, in addition to being the hip house plant du jour, may be just what your skin's thirsting for. More specifically, cold-pressed oil from the prickly pear—AKA the barbary fig cactus—and the fruit it produces.
"[Prickly pear seed oil] is richer in weight and texture than argan oil [and is] ideal for mature or dry skin, moisturizing and softening while restoring the skin's elasticity," raves Kahina Giving Beauty founder Katharine L'Heureux.
The bright gold oil, which is high in vitamin E, zinc, vitamin K, and linoleic acid (and has a light scent reminiscent of wet hay) has been found to protect skin against free radicals and UV damage, stimulate new cell growth, and calm inflammation—and beauty brands are catching on to it faster than a brush fire.
Here are four "prickly" picks that are actually total skin soothers. —Rachel Marlowe and Melisse Gelula
(Photo: We Heart It)
Kahina Prickly Pear Seed Oil, $38–$150
"I discovered prickly pear seed oil on one of my early trips to Morocco while I was sourcing our argan oil," says Kahina's L'Heureux. And when she learned that the women's cooperative where she sources her argan had planted prickly pear cacti—an ingredient that she loves for its ability to boost skin luminosity and elasticity and brighten even hard-to-erase under-eye circles—she made her move to blend and bottle the natural anti-ager.
"I'm purchasing the oil from the very same providers, so I know it's 100 percent organic and that the same attention to detail is going into the oil," says L'Heureux. "I love the result."
(Photo: Kahina Beauty)
After spending her morning commutes pondering the abundance of cacti along the highway, Chase Polan, founder of Arizona-based Kypris Beauty spent three years working with local wildcrafters and farmers to develop a sustainable source of prickly pear seed oil. Now, all of three of Kypris' Beauty Elixirs contain oil from the wild Opuntia engelmannii, a prickly pear plant native to the American southwest.
"This oil is bursting with minerals, amino acids, and more than 150 percent more vitamin E than argan oil," says Polan. "It improves skin elasticity, suppleness, and really effectively combats damaging free radical formation."
(Photo: Kypris Beauty)
Victoria Fantauzzi, co-founder of La Bella Figura, says she first learned of prickly pear's beauty benefits when researching anti-inflammatory oils to ease sunburns and reverse skin damage. "The fruit grows all across the Mediterannean and North Africa, but when we began looking for oil extracted purely from the seeds, our search led us to a farm in Tunisia."
There the seeds are harvested by hand and separated from the pulp and skin, then cleaned and dried in the sun before the oil is cold-pressed, Fantauzzi explains. "It produces a cleaner, high-quality oil," she says. "We have been stunned at how incredibly fast-acting and effective the oil is. It has become our highest-performing natural ingredient in our formulations."
(Photo: La Bella Figura)
Osmia makes amazing organic facial serums, and its newest brightening elixir—blended with prickly pear, argan, and camellia, and broccoli seed oils for an uber effective cocktail—is the latest star on the natural beauty shelf. It's texture is light, so it's quick to moisturize while it works over time to give you a just-left-yoga-class glow.
Founder Sarah Villafranco, MD, a former emergency medicine physician–turned beauty formulator, was smitten with prickly pear seed's rich back story, and the results of grinding then cold-pressing the seeds to make the antioxidant oil that's full of skin-beautifying fatty acids. (Omega 6 can play a big role in keeping skin hydrated, plump, and younger looking, she explains.) And it's loaded wheatgrass and mushroom extracts, which also help create luminosity. Glow on.
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