Women in One of the Driest Climates Swear by This Ingredient for Hydration

Photo: Getty
How do the people in one of the driest climates on the planet keep their skin and hair moisturized? One way is prickly pear seed oil. I first came across the Moroccan beauty mainstay in the Marrakesh Medina, during a beauty class with Around the World Beauty's Stephanie Flor. The spiny fruit—which is basically a pear, but with spikes (AKA "prickly")—flourishes in the arid climate of the Sahara, and has been an integral part of Berber women's skin-care routines for centuries. They've used it as an antibacterial for medicinal purposes, but they've also made use of it to nourish and rehydrate hair and skin, too.

"The extract contains a lot of vitamin E, oleic acid and linoleic acid. These oils have anti-inflammatory properties and do not clog pores, or cause acne," says board certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare, Purvisha Patel MD. "The fruit also has a lot of vitamin B, beta carotene and iron. This is a great ingredient for acne-prone skin. It is best used as a moisturizer in oil form."

And the plants are basically a fount of plenty of the buzzy beauty perks you'll find called out on skin-care packages. "The plants have a strong polyphenol antioxidant profile," says Moe Kittaneh, CEO of Herbal Dynamics Beauty. "The oil is also rich in omega 6 and 9, amino acids, and vitamins E and K. All of these nutrients help nourish and protect the skin from oxidation in order to maintain its’ health."

As Dr. Patel mentioned, prickly pear seed oil is also high in linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid not produced by the body. This makes it particularly helpful for acne prone skin, because according to Kittaneh, research that shows these skin types tend to have lower surface levels of linoleic acid. It smelled fruity, but not sweet, and wasn't greasy or overly slick when I rubbed it all over my arms and chest in the back of that beauty shop. Argan oil may get all of the credit when most of us think of Moroccan beauty ingredients—and don't get me wrong, that stuff is great, too—but plan to start seeing a whole lot more prickly pear on the shelves of Sephora in the very near future.

In addition to hydrating and helping with acne, the luxurious oil also offers a way to fend off environmental aggressors. "It’s an ideal ingredient to include in products designed to balance oily skin, brighten the complexion," says Kittaneh. "Because it targets free radicals and nourishes with essential vitamins, it also supports youthful-looking skin."

So basically, it does a whole lot for any type of skin. To get the most out of any sort of  prickly pear product, prep your skin with ingredients like retinol, cacay oil, bakuchiol, vitamin A or any sort of alpha hydroxy acid, which Dr. Patel says can "help exfoliate the skin and get the active in deeper to work." Here, seven of our favorite prickly pear products to watch it work its magic for yourself.

Another ingredient we're loving right now? Algae. Plus, why your beauty cabinet deserves the cold-pressed treatment.

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