What Is Prickly Pear For Skin? Benefits, Uses, Best Products of 2022

There always seems to be some buzzy beauty ingredients taking over the industry with promises to improve an array of conditions. This year, one of those is prickly pear for skin, which, like ceramides, was named an ingredient to watch out for in 2022 by the Whole Foods Trend Council.

“Skin-care fanatics are always looking for natural ingredients that have some clinical evidence of helping the skin barrier as well as provide antioxidant properties strong enough to have an effect on the skin,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Nava Greenfield of prickly pear’s rise in popularity in cosmetics. But what even is it?

Below, experts unearth how prickly pear is beneficial to the skin along with the best ways to incorporate the ingredient into your beauty routine.

What Is Prickly Pear and How Does It Benefit the Skin?

“Prickly pear seed oil is a highly moisturizing oil derived from a cactus,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King. “The prickly pear cactus, also called nopal or Opuntia, is native to the Americas and is often used as food.” She continues that it’s rich in essential fatty acids, omega-6 and -9, and vitamin E—additionally offering antioxidant protection from free radicals, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties. “It’s also high in amino acids, which stimulate collagen production and promote faster cell turnover. And it contains vitamin K, which contributes to skin elasticity and some believe it may help brighten under-eye circles,” she says.

Essentially, as Greenfield puts it, this means that the cactus-derived ingredient has been shown to have beneficial effects on the skin—moisturizing and supporting the skin barrier while improving elasticity and pigment. “It softens the skin and gives a luminous glow,” says King.

What Is the Best Way to Deliver Prickly Pear to the Skin?

Greenfield explains that those looking to start using prickly pear should use serums, oils, or moisturizers—rather than an alcohol-based product like a toner. She continues that it can take six to eight weeks to see results, just like any skin-care product: “The skin cell turnover is slow, so it takes several weeks to notice an effect.”

Per King, “Unless you are allergic to it, prickly pear seed oil is generally suitable for all skin types. It’s particularly great for dry, sensitive, and mature skin types.” Furthermore, Greenfield notes that it’s especially good for “anyone looking for hydration, antioxidant effects, or has pigment issues on their skin”— even rosacea.

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