All over the world, succulents have made their place in natural medicine and beauty. Primarily a moisturizer, succulents contain many antioxidants and minerals that can benefit your skin and hair. As the latest botanical trend, here are some of our favorite succulents to use in everyday beauty!
Like herbs and other plants, succulents have a detailed folk history regarding their use in cosmetics and medicine. Aloe Vera, for example, is primarily used to treat burns and has been for centuries by the people who live in its natural environment. In Kenya, Ethiopia, and Nigeria, Aloe is also used as a natural laxative, antibacterial agent, and even an alternative to mouthwash. Agave, in some forms, also has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used as a treatment for nausea.
Common Succulents Used in Beauty Products Today
Today, we still use succulents in medicine and for skin health, but instead of using the raw plant, its properties are mixed into creams, lotions, and other products to achieve similar effects.
1. Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is one of the most popular botanical ingredients since the gel has been a sunburn treatment for years. Aside from sunburn, Aloe Vera is also an excellent treatment for first and second-degree burns and to lock in skin moisture. The plant contains antioxidants that reduce inflammation and soothe the skin and collagen-boosting agents to help heal cuts and promote skin elasticity.
Yucca contains vitamin C and Folic acid, which can help the body produce collagen and recover from hyperpigmentation. In addition, Yucca extract contains anti-inflammatory antioxidants and is often used as a skin soothing agent in hair care products– especially for dandruff or dry scalps. In addition, Yucca has recently been shown to hold some photoprotective properties, which can help block dangerous UV rays from the sun. Perhaps we’ll see it more often in sunscreens soon!
3. Prickly Pear
Just like Aloe Vera, the Prickly Pear fruit, derived from the Prickly Pear Cactus, is considered a superfood for its antioxidant properties. Extracts from the Prickly Pear contain retinoids, vitamins C, K, and E, and plenty of fatty acids to aid skin health in many ways. Prickly Pear extract is primarily used as a skin brightening agent, anti-inflammatory antioxidant, and skin softener. In hair care, Prickly Pear extract is a natural conditioner that promotes hair growth and shine.
Agave is another antioxidant-rich succulent known to soothe the skin and reduce inflammation. Although best known for its use in alcohol, Agave has properties similar to Aloe Vera and can treat burns. It contains flavonoids and genins, which reduce acute cases of inflammation, making it a fantastic ingredient for treating chronic skin conditions like eczema.
5. Hens and Chicks
Sempervivum succulents have also found their way into modern skincare as an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, moisturizing agent. Unlike Aloe and Agave, none of the Sempervivum varieties are toxic to humans or animals. This makes it a welcome addition to organic skincare regimens not only for burn and wound treatment but also to reduce redness and acute inflammation, skin brightener, and acne treatment.
6. Cactus Seed Oil
Most commonly known as Argan Oil, Cactus Seed Oils are primarily moisturizers. Its high Vitamin E content is what most beauty gurus love since the vitamin is essential for locking in moisture. Like all other succulent ingredients on this list, Cactus Seed Oil also contains plenty of antioxidants, allowing it to act as a minor anti-inflammatory and anti-aging agent.
What to Look for When Choosing Succulent Based Beauty Products
If you’re looking to use succulents in your beauty routine, there are some things you’ll need to look out for when shopping around:
1. Read your Ingredients!
First, you’ll need to place as much importance on reading ingredients as possible. Since succulents are plants, an allergic reaction is always possible when you use a product. Before buying something for your skin, make sure you know what goes into it– fortunately, most succulents go by their scientific names. Look for ingredients like “aloe vera gel” or extracts containing a familiar succulent’s name on your label, “Sempervivum Tectorum extract” for example. For cactus seed oils, look for the ingredients “linoleic acid,” “gamma-tocopherol,” and “oleic acid.”
2. Always go Organic
We’ve thrown around the term “botanical” a few times, but what exactly does that mean? In medicine (and skincare), botanicals are ingredients that come directly from plants. Typically, botanicals contain many chemical compounds and must be harvested using extracts or seed oils. You’re most likely to find botanical ingredients in organic cosmetics– when shopping, look for labels that mention “organic” products to ensure you’re getting the plants you paid for.
3. Don’t Harvest from Your Own Plants
Although you may be tempted to rub a fresh Aloe leaf all over your skin, we don’t recommend it. Botanical ingredients are sourced from expert scientists, who know exactly what to harvest from a plant and which plants to harvest it from. Unless you’re 100% positive about your succulent’s species and how to extract oils from it, don’t do it– you may end up with acne or a rash. For plants that are easy to harvest, like Aloe Vera, make sure you’re aware of your plant’s species before harvesting to avoid any potential mix-ups.