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Inside the delicious fruits of the prickly pear are seeds that contain oil carrying different types of fatty acids, phenols, nutrients such as vitamin E, phytosterols, and antioxidants. Several companies now extract prickly pear oil and sell it as skin care products suitable for all skin types, including acne-prone and dry skin.
Prickly pear oil is not an essential oil. Instead, it’s commonly used as a carrier oil to dilute more potent essential oils, or simply on its own to boost skin health.
What is prickly pear?
Prickly pear cacti, also called nopal and opuntia, grow across parts of the Americas, Australia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean islands.
While people have eaten the sweet pink fruits of this cactus for hundreds of years, prickly pears have only recently been touted as a superfood.
There isn’t a large body of research on prickly pear oil yet. However, early findings suggest the contents of prickly pear oil can indeed boost skin health across different skin types.
Some of the better-studied benefits of prickly pear oil include:
Antioxidant and antibacterial properties
Antioxidants are well known to prevent skin damage from sunlight, aging, and other stressors. Antibacterial substances are known to cleanse skin and stop acne breakouts.
Research has shown that prickly pear oil contains high levels of antioxidants and has antibacterial properties. This suggests it could be used to prevent skin damage and future breakouts.
An effective carrier oil
In another study, scientists combined prickly pear oil with vitamin A and applied the mixture to human and rat skin samples. They found that the fat content of prickly pear oil was highly effective at delivering vitamin A into the skin samples.
Vitamin A has well-studied skin benefits, but when used alone, it often causes skin irritation. The research concluded that prickly pear oil is a suitable and safe carrier for delivering other nutrients that can’t be directly applied to the skin, including vitamin A.
Research on the chemical properties of prickly pear oil also reveals that it contains a high content of linoleic acid. Linoleic acid helps the skin retain water, keeping it hydrated.
More research needs to be done to prove the hydrating effects of prickly pear oil. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s highly effective at hydrating the skin by boosting the skin’s water-retaining properties.
Several reputable brands sell prickly pear oil. You can find this oil in health food shops and online. You should look for products labeled “100% pure prickly pear oil.” Products labeled “unrefined,” “cold-pressed,” “virgin,” and “organic” may be of higher quality than those that are not.
How to use prickly pear oil on its own
To use undiluted prickly pear oil, splash one to two drops of prickly pear oil into your hand, and gently rub the oil into your skin.
How to use prickly pear oil as a carrier
To use prickly pear oil as a carrier oil, mix the prickly pear oil with several drops of a selected essential oil. The amount of essential oil you add will determine the strength of the oil mixture. For example:
- Add 1 drop essential oil to 1 tsp. prickly pear oil to create a 1 percent essential oil solution.
- Add 2 drops essential oil to 1 tsp. prickly pear oil to create a 2 percent essential oil solution.
- Add 5 drops essential oil to 1 tsp. prickly pear oil to create a 5 percent essential oil solution.
To use prickly pear oil as a carrier oil, splash one to two drops of the mixture into your hands and gently rub into your skin.
How to store prickly pear oil
When not in use, prickly pear oil is best stored in your refrigerator. For best results, use it within 1 to 2 years of the purchase date, or by the expiration date printed on the label.
Prickly pear oil is generally safe for healthy people of all skin types and ages to use. If you have a known allergy to prickly pears or other fruits, you should avoid using this product.
If you have sensitive skin, do a patch test by applying a small amount of undiluted prickly pear oil to your wrist, then wait 24 hours. If you have a bad reaction within this time frame, don’t use this oil.
If you’ve browsed the selection of prickly pear oils that are available, you might have noticed their high price point. It takes a lot of prickly pear seeds to produce prickly pear oil, so it tends to be on the pricier side. That’s one consideration to make before incorporating it into your daily skin care regimen.
If you’ve decided prickly pear oil isn’t for you and you’d like to find a natural oil with some of the same properties, here are some other options:
- coconut oil, which is antibacterial and ultra hydrating
- argan oil, which is a great everyday moisturizer, even for those with acne-prone skin
- rosehip seed oil, which is hydrating and prevents skin damage
- marula oil, which is antibacterial and prevents skin damage while hydrating the skin
- jojoba oil, which helps fight acne, moisturizes, and protects the skin from sun damage
Prickly pear oil contains many healthful compounds known to have hydrating, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. Research suggests that the contents of prickly pear oil can reduce skin inflammation, as well as prevent skin damage and acne.
There are no risks to using prickly pear oil undiluted or as a carrier for other essential oils. However, if you find prickly pear oil isn’t for you, there are several other natural oils you could use as alternatives.