Why prickly pear oil is becoming an increasingly popular skincare ingredient

The prickly pear offers a range of skincare benefits. Picture: Supplied

The prickly pear offers a range of skincare benefits. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 8, 2024


South African-grown and harvested prickly pear seed oil is fast becoming a leading skincare ingredient.

This cactus-looking desert plant boasts a unique composition of vitamins, antioxidants and fatty acids that can do beautiful things for your skin, founder and purveyor of Afrika Botanicals Gary Scallan explained.

He added that the unique and powerful skin benefits and growing popularity of the fruit oil has seen it declared as their 2024 “Oil of the Year”.

Also known as the Opuntia ficus-indica, the prickly pear plant grows profusely in the Free State and Northern and Eastern Cape.

The seeds are then harvested, dried and stored and then cold-pressed.

Prickly pear oil has been declared the ‘oil of the year’. Picture: File

Scallan explained that extracting prickly pear seed oil requires immense amounts of the tiny seeds, due to their low oil content.

“It takes approximately 1 000 to 1 500 seeds to make just 30ml of oil.”

He added that some estimates also suggest that over 500,000 seeds, equal to around three tons of prickly pear fruit, are needed to make 3.8 litres of high-quality oil.

“This makes it a labour-intensive process that yields a somewhat scarce, but premium botanical ingredient.”

Scallan said that there are several benefits to adding this fruit oil into your beauty regime.

“Firstly, this oil is loaded with Vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that helps protect skin cells from damage caused by UV radiation and environmental pollutants,” he said.

“Vitamin E can help reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and age spots, and it's also anti-inflammatory, which means that it can help calm irritation and redness.”

Prickly pear oil also contains a good amount of Vitamin K, which can help fade dark circles and puffiness around the eyes.

“The oil is rich in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that helps strengthen the skin's barrier function and lock in moisture,” Scallan said.

“This makes this oil incredibly nourishing for dry skin.”

And when it comes to moisture, this oil can be a saviour for super dry complexions.

“It's an occlusive oil, meaning it forms a protective seal over the skin to prevent water loss, so it helps keep skin plump and dewy rather than tight and flaky.”

He added that the fruit oil is also a great natural option for people with eczema or highly parched skin that is in need of an ultra-hydrating boost.

In addition, prickly pear oil has anti-ageing benefits as it contains Vitamin C and betalains, which are powerful antioxidants that can help neutralise free radicals and oxidative stress that lead to premature ageing.

“Using prickly pear oil over time may help reduce the look of wrinkles and improve skin's elasticity,” Scallan said.

From serums to moisturisers and facial oils, you can find prickly pear oil in various skincare products.

“It has a silky feel and absorbs beautifully into the skin without leaving a greasy residue,” said Scallan.

He added that this oil works well for all skin types, even acne-prone skin as it is non-comedogenic.

It is recommended that you massage a few drops into clean skin before applying your regular moisturiser for an antioxidant, anti-ageing and hydration boost.

And according to some medical professionals, applying prickly pear oil after surgical procedures may also help diminish the visible appearance of scars as they heal.

“It is a perfect oil for post-inking maintenance and care for tattoos too,” added Scallan.