This cactus thrives in dry conditions, which actually makes it the perfect ingredient to soothe and nourish your skin.
We’re spotlighting all the skin care benefits of the opuntia ficus indica—AKA prickly pear or barbary fig. Prickly pear is a plump, pear-shaped fruit that grows on a paddle cactus in desert climates.
Usually deep purple in color (though sometimes red), the prickly pear fruit itself is covered in lots of thorns, but the fleshy inside is rich in fiber, antioxidants, and carotenoids. It’s even turned into edible jams and tastes like a mashup between strawberry and raspberry.
In addition to being an edible fruit, prickly pear is harvested for topical skin care purposes. It’s usually the oil that’s extracted, which is then turned into a soothing, hydrating facial oil or cream. Let’s dive into the details!
Prickly Pear Skin Care Benefits
“Facial oil made from the prickly pear cactus can help fight against free radicals. These are responsible for breaking down the collagen in your skin, resulting in fine lines, wrinkles, and blemishes,” says Heather Nicole, celebrity esthetician based in Los Angeles. “Prickly pear is also extremely hydrating, has antibacterial properties, and is loaded with omega fatty acids and vitamin E.”
Interestingly, prickly pear contains one of the highest percentages of unsaturated fatty acids compared to other skin care oils. This makes it an incredibly powerful oil for skin health. Specifically, its high linoleic acid content makes it a “dry oil,” which means your skin happily soaks it up without leaving behind any sort of oily film. (To contrast, coconut oil is not a dry oil, and it’ll sit on your skin for a very long time until it’s eventually rubbed away.)
“Prickly pear oil also restores elasticity, reduces redness and hyper-pigmentation, and brightens the complexion,” notes celebrity esthetician Sarah Akram. “Additionally, its high antioxidant activity stimulates cell renewal, and those essential fatty acids keep the collagen layer of your skin moist and healthy.”
Skin Types That Benefit Most from Prickly Pear
Prickly pear is a super gentle ingredient. It’s non-astringent, free of harsh chemicals, and doesn’t have exfoliating properties. This makes it an excellent ingredient for any skin type, but especially those who want to satiate dry skin. Nicole also says it’s an ideal ingredient for those with acne-prone, sensitive, inflamed, or mature skin types.
“It helps to reduce inflammation and restore the protective barrier of your skin,” she explains. “I love incorporating essential fatty acids into skin care. It’s often an oversight, but they’re important in keeping your skin healthy.”
Try Prickly Pear Yourself
Eager to try some prickly pear goodness for yourself? We recommend the Inward Purple Plant Cream Mask, a four-in-one purifying mask that contains extracts from the prickly pear. This wash-off mask moisturizes, hydrates, and soothes skin while also helping reduce the appearance of pores and brightening your complexion.
The Neogen Pink Cactus Liftmax Knit Mask contains prickly pear extract and oil. You’ll like the unique knitted cotton texture of the sheet mask itself, which allows a higher concentration of ingredients to hit your skin. In addition to prickly pear, it contains jania rubens algae, one of the rarest cactus oils out there.