How Prickly Pear Seed Oil Hydrates, Soothes, & Rejuvenates the Skin
Read Time: 3-4 Minutes
Prickly pear seed oil—a moisturizing, soothing oil derived from the prickly pear cactus—is quickly gaining momentum in the skin care world, and for good reason. At once gentle, healing, and protecting, this oil has been used for centuries to treat everything from burns to illnesses. Extremely Rich in vitamin E and brimming with antioxidants, prickly pear seed oil is one of the most powerful, luxurious skin care ingredients on the market.
What is prickly pear seed oil, anyway?
Also referred to as barbary fig oil or indian fig oil, prickly pear seed oil comes from the beautiful prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica, in Latin), a member of the cactus family. The plant is comprised of pads, seeds, flowers (usually yellow, red, or purple), trunks, and, of course, the fruit. Like other cactuses, they have also have prickles. Prickly pear cactuses can reach anywhere from 1 foot to 6-7 feet in height.
Where and how is prickly pear seed oil sourced?
While the prickly pear is native to parts of the United States, Mexico, and South America, and also flourishes in Africa, Australia, and the Mediterranean, the best prickly pear seed oil for skin care is sourced from Morocco. (We get ours from the same local women-run cooperative that provides us with our argan oil). To procure the precious oil, the seeds are typically extracted by hand and then run through complex machinery specifically designed for this purpose.
How has prickly pear been used historically?
Used for healing and culinary purposes for centuries, the prickly pear’s versatility is truly extraordinary: The Aztecs used it to treat burns, the Chinese used it to dress abscesses, and Native Americans ate the fruit and made syrup out of it to treat whooping cough and asthma. In traditional Mexican medicine, it was also used to treat diabetes and high cholesterol. Mexicans have even used it for painting churches and homes, as well as marking property lines. More recently, prickly pear seed oil has become popular for use in skin care.
Why is prickly pear seed oil so costly?
Although the prickly pear fruits contain about 150-300 seeds each on average, the seeds themselves are tiny and only contain about 5% oil. It takes a whopping 8 tons of prickly pear fruits to produce just 1 liter of oil. Although the oil is costly, prickly pear is an incredibly sustainable crop.
What are the benefits of prickly pear seed oil for the skin?
Who better to explain this unique oil than MŪN’s founder, Munemi Imai? Skin care expert and a professional makeup artist in the fashion industry for over 20 years, Munemi discovered prickly pear seed oil’s benefits during a trip to Morocco. She was so impressed with the results on her own skin that it spawned MŪN’s first product, Aknari Brightening Youth Serum.
Below, Munemi explains of the power of prickly pear:
“[Prickly pear seed oil] reduces the appearance of fine lines, helps prevent premature wrinkle formation, brightens dark under-eye circles, calms redness, helps relieve sunburn, and brightens and evens complexion. The vitamin E found in prickly pear seed oil is the highest of any plant oil on the market (3 times higher than argan oil). Prickly pear seed oil is also very high in linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid), which is proven to lighten sun-induced hyper-pigmentation, protect the skin barrier, lower water loss, and increase moisture.”
Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, keep reading—there’s more.
“Other beneficial components,” Munemi continued, “include Vitamin K, which helps brighten under-eye circles, even out skin tone and reduce broken capillaries, and zinc, which helps reduce redness and inflammation of acne lesions and decrease oil production. It’s also high in phytosterols, especially beta-sitosterol, which provides antioxidants and antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The combination of phytosterols and natural essential fatty acids works well for anti-aging concerns and encourages new collagen production.”
What are the components of prickly pear seed oil that make it so effective?
All vegetable oils (yep, prickly pear is a vegetable and a fruit—the green pods are a veggie, the pears are a fruit) contain nonessential and essential fatty acids (EFAs). When the skin doesn’t get enough EFAs, its barrier is affected, and we’re at risk of dry, irritated, or dull complexions.
Of any beauty oil on the market, prickly pear contains the highest percentage (88%) of unsaturated fatty acids, which are essential to stimulating healthy cell production and turnover. It also contains the highest level of tocopherol, or vitamin E, which protects the skin and helps it retain moisture.
The constitution of prickly pear seed oil’s essential and non-essential fatty acids (EFAs) are worth delving into a bit further:
- 60.5% linoleic acid – An omega-6 EFA, linoleic acid at once nourishes and repairs. Linoleic acid strengthens our skin’s barrier, allowing it to better retain moisture. Sometimes referred to as vitamin F, this fatty acid fights inflammation while healing. It also has acne-reducing properties and helps soften the skin. It can even help heal cold sores and minor burns. Nails, cuticles, and hair also benefit from this wonder moisturizer.
- 20.6% oleic acid – Also found in avocados, almond oil, and olive oil, this fatty acid seals in moisture and helps other beneficial ingredients more easily penetrate the skin.
- 13.9% palmitic acid – Also found in palm tree oil, research has found that this acid has antioxidant and healing properties, and can even help with dermatitis and eczema. It’s found naturally in our skin, but quantities diminish as we age.
Tocopherols (Vitamin E)
Prickly pear seed oil contains almost 150% more vitamin E than argan oil. Wild, right? (Vitamin E is found in tocopherols, a class of eight different organic chemical compounds.) This naturally occurring antioxidant acts as a free radical scavenger, preventing them from causing damage that leads to signs of aging. It also has serious anti-inflammatory properties, helping wounds heal faster, and can even repair damage caused by UV rays and environmental pollution. It’s great for sunburns and redness as well.
Vitamin E is a superb moisturizer, hydrating skin while preventing further water loss. This can diminish the appearances of wrinkles and fine lines. Great anti-aging agents, tocopherols protect the skin cells that make collagen and elastin (a protein that helps skin keep its shape) and can fade acne scars.
This component of prickly pear seed oil is similar to cholesterol, as it binds to water. This is great news for our skin—when applied topically, water-binding phytosterols help the skin retain moisture, making for a strong, healthy skin barrier. They also assist in collagen production, keeping our skin youthful and soft, and have even been found to reverse the effects of aging.
These compounds are a real powerhouse: Not only do they boast antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic properties, but they also fight oxidative stress—an imbalance between free radical production and the body’s ability to defend against them. Like tocopherols, they are also free radical scavengers. Polyphenols prevent and treat sun damage, and can help with redness and irritation.
Okay, recap time. What can I expect from using prickly pear seed oil on my skin?
- Restored elasticity
- Brightened and more even-toned complexion
- Softer, nourished, and moisturized skin
- Tightened pores
- A reduction in the appearance of dark under-eye circles
- A reduction in the appearance of fine lines
- Prevention of premature wrinkle formation
We are proud to be pioneers in introducing this rare, unique ingredient to the world of skin care. Prickly pear seed oil’s extraordinary anti-aging and soothing qualities inspired us to create our inaugural product, Aknari Brightening Youth Serum, which led to the inception of the MŪN brand and continues to shape our philosophy of sustainability for healthy living and beautiful skin.
Ideal for use both in the morning and at night, this serum is gentle enough for all skin types and ideal for under-eye use. Aside from prickly pear seed oil, Aknari’s argan oil further hydrates, while Bulgarian rose essential oil aids absorption and makes for a luxurious aromatherapeutic experience.