IN THIS ARTICLE
- What are prickly pears?
- How is prickly pear seed oil made?
- What makes prickly pear seed oil such a wonderful ingredient?
- Who is prickly pear seed oil good for?
- Prickly pear seed oil in Graydon Skincare products
*The descriptions below only reflect the quality of the raw ingredient.
Other names: Opuntia Ficus-Indica Seed Oil
What it is: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, occlusive/moisturizing, wound healing
You can find it in: Moon Boost Serum
Graydon Skincare is a brand that’s dedicated to results-driven, plant-powered ingredients. As such. I’m constantly on the lookout for superfoods that can do wonders for your skin.
I’ve found an ingredient that’s so exceptional I’m surprised not a lot of people are talking about it. That said, maybe there aren’t a lot of brands using or talking about it because it's ridiculously expensive. In fact, it’s so costly that it’s even touted as one of the most expensive beauty oils in the world.
But hey, I promise it’s worth it! This thorny fruit contains a wealth of beneficial properties. So let’s talk about this little-known, yet excellent superfood ingredient: prickly pear seed oil.
What are prickly pears?
Surprisingly, prickly pears aren’t grown on trees. In fact, they’re actually a type of cactus that’s native to the Western Hemisphere, such as parts of the US, Mexico and South America. It also flourishes in Africa, Australia and the Mediterranean. However, it’s been reported that the best prickly pear oil is sourced from Morocco.
This cactus can grow as wide as 18 feet. It has large yellow flowers that will go on to bear white, yellow, or reddish-purple fruits. Our hero ingredient, prickly pear seed oil, is derived from the hard seeds of these fruits.
How is prickly pear seed oil made?
The process to obtain prickly pear seed oil is quite tedious, normally taking three or four days.
Since the seeds are tiny, they must be carefully hand-gathered. Furthermore, only about 18–20% of the peeled fruits are seeds, and the seeds contain only about 3–5% oil. As such, it takes a ton of this cactus’ fruits (like literally one ton) to produce a mere one litre of oil. Not to mention, the season to harvest the fruits only lasts for a few weeks to a couple of months (depending on the location).
All of these factors combined give prickly pear seed oil its deluxe price tag.
As for the oil-making process itself, the prickly pear oil we use is obtained by cold pressing, refining and standardizing with non-GMO vegetable oils to enhance oxidation stability. It then goes through a filtering and purifying process. This helps remove any unwanted smell or colour and enhances the shelf life of the oil.
What makes prickly pear seed oil such a wonderful ingredient?
There’s a reason why we call prickly pear seed oil a superfood ingredient: It just seems to do so much for the skin!
Now, I must admit that more clinical research still needs to be done on this wonderful oil. After all, its high price and rarity mean that it’s just not readily available for research. As it is right now, we have a limited understanding of its skincare benefits.
However, from what I’ve researched, it’s an incredibly promising ingredient. So far, here’s our understanding of the effects of prickly pear seed oil:
Oxidative stress is the enemy to our overall health and, in particular, our skin. It can cause fine lines and wrinkles by breaking down our collagen and elastin (the essential proteins that give our skin its suppleness and elasticity). It’s caused by free radicals as a natural byproduct of the metabolism process, as well as by environmental stressors, such as pollution and UV rays. To combat this, we need a healthy amount of antioxidants.
Research has shown that prickly pear seed oil has a high amount of antioxidants, thanks to compounds such as polyphenols and vitamin E (tocopherol).(1) However, it goes even deeper than that. It’s been shown that the phenolic profile of this beauty oil is highly complex, with more than 20 compounds detected, all of which are highly correlated to its antioxidant activities.(2) However, it’s worth noting that the extraction method of this oil matters, as it directly influences the performance of the oil.
Inflammation is an issue that many people deal with. It’s our skin’s natural defence mechanism against infectious microbes, irritants and allergens. It can also be a reaction against an internal disease or health condition. The causes of inflammation are complex, but the result can be red patches on the skin.
This is where the anti-inflammatory properties of prickly pear seed oil come into play.
According to a 2020 in-vivo study,(3) prickly pear seed oil was observed to be particularly effective in treating acute inflammation thanks to its bioactive compounds (fatty acids, vitamin E and phytosterols). It does this by regulating inflammatory mediators and oxidative stress markers. This is especially impactful since the study compared prickly pear seed oil to pumpkin and linseed oils.
Antimicrobial and wound healing
As you may know, our skin is home to something called a microbiome. It is a complex ecosystem of thousands of microorganisms with over 1,000 different types of bacteria and roughly 80 different types of fungi. And if you’ve already heard about these little monsters, then you know that a happy microbiome equals happy, healthy skin!
One way for us to keep our microbiome happy is with the use of antimicrobial ingredients. True to the name, these are ingredients that can suppress bacteria growth and its ability to overproduce.
This is where our new favourite beauty oil comes into play again.
Research(4) shows that prickly pear seed oil has antimicrobial, anti-yeast and anti-fungal effects. Perhaps thanks to this exciting ability, it was also observed to assist in the wound healing process, being able to improve the healing of laser-induced skin burns and prevent bacterial skin infections. It also promotes the scarring process thanks to its pro-collagen and angiogenic properties,(5) helping wounds to heal faster.
In addition, according to our supplier, prickly pear seed oil is an incredibly rich source of vitamin K! Also known as phytonadione, vitamin K is a well-tolerated fat-soluble vitamin. It is also often referred to as vitamin K1.
Despite being relatively under-studied, especially in comparison to other well-known vitamins such as vitamin A or C, vitamin K is known to have wound-healing effects.
This is perfectly demonstrated by a study performed in 2019.(6) During the study, 63 participants who had all undergone a procedure that uses heat from an electric current to destroy abnormal tissue, leaving behind scars, were randomly divided into three groups. Each group was assigned either a vitamin K cream, a phenytoin cream or a Eucerin cream. After a 2-week period, a dermatologist evaluated the wounds of all participants. The results showed that the group that used the vitamin K cream saw a significant improvement in wound healing as compared to the other two groups.
Prickly pear seed oil contains up to 70% linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid).(7)
Early studies(8) indicate that acne-prone individuals tend to have sebum that's lacking in linoleic acid, making prickly pear seed oil a beneficial skincare addition for those with acne-prone skin.
Who is prickly pear seed oil good for?
Thanks to its many amazing properties, pretty much anybody can benefit from this wonderful oil.
Its antioxidant properties help to counteract damage-causing free radicals. And thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, antibacterial properties, linoleic-rich profile, and vitamin K, prickly pear seed oil should also be particularly helpful at healing wounds and alleviating breakouts.
Furthermore, its high level of linoleic acid gives prickly pear seed oil emollient and occlusive properties; meaning that it has the ability to moisturize the skin while also preventing excessive water loss. This leaves the skin feeling soft and hydrated!
Prickly pear seed oil in Graydon Skincare products?
If you’re like me and find prickly pear seed oil irresistible and can’t wait to add this superfood oil to your skincare routine, then you’re in luck!
You can find it in our new Moon Boost Serum!
This velvety-smooth, multivitamin serum is formulated with non-comedogenic, nutrient-dense superfood oils, including prickly pear seed oil, and infused with seven vitamins!
This revolutionary serum helps to nourish, support and bring out the best in your skin!
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Main image by: brebca
Prickly pear cactus image by: HHelene
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(1) Koubaa, M., Mhemdi, H., Barba, F.J., Angelotti, A., Bouaziz, F., Chaabouni, S.E. and Vorobiev, E. (2017), Seed oil extraction from red prickly pear using hexane and supercritical CO2: assessment of phenolic compound composition, antioxidant and antibacterial activities. J. Sci. Food Agric., 97: 613-620. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.7774
(2) Chougui N, Tamendjari A, Hamidj W, Hallal S, Barras A, Richard T, Larbat R. Oil composition and characterisation of phenolic compounds of Opuntia ficus-indica seeds. Food Chem. 2013 Aug 15;139(1-4):796-803. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2013.01.054. Epub 2013 Jan 30. PMID: 23561175.
(3) Bardaa, Sana et al. “The Effect of Prickly Pear, Pumpkin, and Linseed Oils on Biological Mediators of Acute Inflammation and Oxidative Stress Markers.” BioMed research international vol. 2020 5643465. 2 Aug. 2020, doi:10.1155/2020/5643465
(4) Khémiri, Ikram et al. “The Antimicrobial and Wound Healing Potential of Opuntia ficus indica L. inermis Extracted Oil from Tunisia.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2019 9148782. 14 Apr. 2019, doi:10.1155/2019/9148782
(5) Koshak, Abdulrahman E et al. “Wound Healing Activity of Opuntia ficus-indica Fixed Oil Formulated in a Self-Nanoemulsifying Formulation.” International journal of nanomedicine vol. 16 3889-3905. 9 Jun. 2021, doi:10.2147/IJN.S299696
(6) Pazyar, Nader et al. “Wound healing effects of topical Vitamin K: A randomized controlled trial.” Indian journal of pharmacologyvol. 51,2 (2019): 88-92. doi:10.4103/ijp.IJP_183_18
(7) Ennouri, Monia & Evelyne, Bourret & Laurence, Mondolot & Hamadi, Attia. (2005). Fatty acid composition and rheological behaviour of prickly pear seed oils. Food Chemistry. 93. 431-437. 10.1016/j.foodchem.2004.10.020.
(8) Letawe, Boone, and Pierard. “Digital image analysis of the effect of topically applied linoleic acid on acne microcomedones.” Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, 23, 1998. pp. 56-58. DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2230.1998.00315.x