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baobab tree

Baobab - A Potential Cosmetic Goldmine

Reviewed by SarahK June 5, 2011 6 Comments

It's easy to become a product junkie when you work for a beauty website. But I have to say, I see a lot of the same as I scrutinize the ingredients labels that adorn bottles and containers, and that takes the edge out of my excitement over products. Recently, though, I've been seeing an unfamiliar ingredient pop up in products that has caught my attention: Baobab. TIA has referred to it a couple of times, and Marta has mentioned that the African Baobab tree, also known as Adansonia digitata, is one of her favorite trees. But limited references didn't satiate my curiosity, so I dug a little deeper.

The enormous tree, sometimes known as “the upside down tree” since it gives off the curious impression that its roots reach towards the sky, is found in several African countries including Namibia and Botswana.

French Botanist, Michel Adanson, for whom the tree is named for, once remarked that of all the trees he had studied, the Baobab “is probably the most useful tree in all.” Apparently, he credited consuming Baobab juice for his good health. In fact, people have been consuming various parts of the Baobab since ancient times for its extremely high concentration of calcium and vitamin C. In addition, parts of the Baobab contain high levels of protein and vitamin A.

Interestingly, the Baobab’s Integral Antioxidant Capacity (IAC) “is ten times higher than orange pulp due to the abundant presence of ascorbic, citric, malic and succinic acids.” The IAC represents the combined capacity of hydrophilic and lipophilic antioxidants; one study found that all parts of the Baobab (including the pulp, leaves and seeds) not only have higher IACs than orange pulp, but also higher IACs than strawberry, bilberry and kiwi pulp. The Baobab is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Yet another study listed extracts of Adansonia digitata as being an antioxidant and displaying “significant radical scavenging properties.” Of fourteen species of “wild edible fruits,” those from Adansonia digitata came in second place for highest phenolic and flavonoid content.

There hasn't been much written about Baobab's use in cosmetics; I believe it is fairly new. I first encountered it as I was reading the back of Alaffia's Baobab & Shea Butter Skin Renewal Face Cream. Incidentally, Alaffia has been highly reviewed and recommended several times by Marta, both for the company's fabulous ingredients and for its commitment to giving back to Africa. Baobab leaf extract and Baobab bark extract are listed as the very first ingredients in Alaffia's face cream, while Baobab oil is listed a few ingredients later. Alaffia also sells a serum made of pure unrefined Baobab oil.

A major plus in terms of practicality when it comes to cosmetics is that supposedly Baobab pulp has the ability to "remain stable in air tight containers for very long periods despite its own moisture levels." I hope to see more Baobab products popping up, and will be testing an Alaffia product that contains it as a main ingredient over the next few weeks.

Update March 2014: Two new products to the TIA shop that contain Baobab are:
La Vie Celeste Extra Rich Face Cream
Elizabeth Dehn for One Love Organics Vitamin C Active Moisture Serum

Baobab Oil Facial Serum Ingredients: Unrefined Baobab oil

Baobab & Shea Butter Skin Renewal Face Cream Ingredients: Baobab Leaf (Adansonia digitata) Extract* (Aqueous), Baobab Bark (Adansonia digitata) Extract* (Aqueous), Handcrafted Shea (Butyrospermum parkii) Butter*, Vegetable Emulsifying Wax, Handcrafted Cocoa (Theobroma cacao) Butter*, Palm Stearic Acid, Baobab (Adansonia digitata) Oil*, Essential Oils of Rose Geranium and Ylang Ylang, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Limonene (from essential oil), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C).

  • October 17, 2016

    by Hilary

    I was doing some research as I came across this ingredient in the Neal's Yard Remedies (NYR Organic) Frankincense Intense Concentrate. I'm thrilled with what I've learned. Thanks for your interesting article.

  • September 13, 2011

    by J.Alex

    Alaffia's shampoo(s)/conditioner(s) are certainly one of my favourite new finds.

  • June 11, 2011

    by Justd

    I have been using Shea Butter African Black Soap and it's too early to tell what the overall results may be, but I do like the product in that it doesn't totally dehydrate my body should I get distracted and don't immediately moisturize. It doesn't leave my skin feeling tight and thirsty. This sounds very interesting. Good review and details, SarahK, gives me something else to put on my list of considerations, LOL. Thank you.

  • June 9, 2011

    by Kira

    Sarah, I can personally vouch for most of the products produced by Alaffia, they keep it simple but the few ingredients they do use are high quality.

  • June 7, 2011

    by Debbie

    Interesting...! My belief is the ingredients given to us by Mother Nature should be taken in their most natural form to be beneficial, but I would be interested to try a product containing ingredients from the Baobab tree.

  • June 5, 2011

    by Alison

    I have been using Alaffia unrefined shea butter for years and it's great stuff.

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