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What Is It: Cactus Pear

July 7, 2012 Reviewed by admin 4 Comments

It’s green, prickly, and unexpectedly good for you. What is it?

Marta first noticed cactus pear extract in Skin Nutrition's Cleansing Gel as a potent ingredient. Cactus pear, which bears the name 'nopales' in Mexico, and is scientifically known as Opuntia (of varying species), can be found in the Western hemisphere in temperate and subtropical climates. The plant boasts some surprising properties such as being able to suppress tumor growth in nude mice and helping prevent a severe hangover.

According to WebMD, prickly pear cactus is also used medicinally for type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, colitis, diarrhea, benign prostatic hypertrophy and to fight viral infections. To combat hangovers, the extract can alleviate symptoms such as dry mouth and nausea.

As a cancer fighter, cactus pear is impressive.  In studies, tumor growth inhibition was comparable to the synthetic retinoid N-(4-hydroxyphernyl) retinamide (4-HPR), which is currently used as a chemopreventive agent in ovarian cancer chemoprevention.

That isn't all. Cactus pear has plenty of antioxidants, such as ascorbic acid, carotenoids, reduced glutathione, cysteine, taurine, and flavonoids such as quercetin, kaempferol and isorhamnetin. More recently, studies have also found betalains (betanin and indicaxanthin) which are a kind of pigment that are especially responsible for the plant’s antioxidant potency. As Marta found, people who ate 500 g fruit pulp daily for two weeks showed decreased lipid oxidation and improved antioxidant status (doing a better job than vitamin C on it's own, according to one study).

For your skin, these antioxidants are sure to be helpful with free radicals. Skin Nutrition gives cactus pear extract credit for providing potent antioxidant and purifying, soothing and calming the skin to help prevent the appearance of redness and blotchiness.

Given the high levels of antioxidants and it's other medicinal benefits, it would be nice to see more of it in skincare products. Marta sees it as an up-and-coming botanical to watch, so heed her advice and keep an eye out for it!

  • February 11, 2016

    by Matthew

    It disgusts me that all three of you on here are advertising so off putting

  • January 21, 2016

    by Michele

    Hi everyone! I have been using Cactus based skincare since a Mother introduced me to this incredible and natural regime very young. Since 1977 the company TOVA Beverly Hills (they were the first Beauty Company to introduce Cactus Skincare) has been making their Cactine Skincare line. It was off the market for a little bit recently as they are re-packaging however I just got word that on their website they have started selling again. ( I just bought the Cactine Beauty Bars which are the most amazing soaps I have ever used! Word from their Customer Service dept is the Cactine Emollient (great for this time of year) will be available in next few days too. Nothing compares to TOVA's skincare line.

  • October 14, 2015

    by Josephine25

    I think that there is company providing this in Europe, not sure if it is bottles or bulk but they seem to have both prickly pear and argan. I think their url is:

  • January 29, 2014

    by Gunnar

    After buying tamanu oil for the first time, I was hooked on facial oils. I love how the right oils not only control the ph balance in the skin and protect from bacteria inflammation in the skin, they also keep moisture locked in, reduce inflammation, over time return skin's healthy lipid barrier, prevent free radicals, and correct past damage (hyperpigmentation, scars, elasticity, wrinkles, texture).

    I have a lot of favourites -- tamanu oil, emu oil, prickly pear seed oil, marula oil, macadamia nut oil, pomegranate seed oil, red raspberry seed oil (spf of 25-50), baobab oil, argan oil, coconut oil -- each tackling different problems, but if I could choose just three oils, it would be baobab oil, coconut oil, and prickly pear seed oil.

    And, if skin was the main concern (if not, coconut oil can't be beaten), I would pick prickly pear seed oil first, every time. It's fixed my skin like nothing else, and I've found it's perfect to use after using the YBF Prep/ Ultra Renew Plus.

    (If you want to learn the difference between oils and their respective properties, I've found this site really helpful when trying to decide which oil is best for the skin's needs:

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