Hedge Apples: the accidental skin care and hair care ingredient

By Deanna Utroske contact

- Last updated on GMT

hedge apples, Osage Healthcare, Pomifera, skin care, hair care, natural
hedge apples, Osage Healthcare, Pomifera, skin care, hair care, natural

Related tags: Hair care products, Cosmetics

Seed oil from the Maclura Pomifera, a common Midwestern tree fruit, has found its way to the beauty market in professional hair care products and as a facial oil from the legendary New York City cosmetics retailer Alcone.

Osage Healthcare, a personal care ingredient and product company based in Burlington, Iowa, makes hair care products for the professional market under the Pomifera brand and supplies Alcone with the seed oil that goes into that company’s One Drop Wonder oil. 

The ingredient went under the radar as a folk remedy for decades. “Johnson recalled a story from his great-uncle about cutting open hedge balls during the Great Depression and rubbing them on skin cuts and abrasions to help them heal,” ​reports George C. Ford of The Gazette, a daily newspaper out of Cedar Rapids.

Johnson is Todd Johnson, the company’s president and CEO, whose early career was in pharmaceutical product development.

Nutrient benefits

Pomifera oil fits in neatly with the current industry trend to sustainably source natural ingredients.

Salon professionals at Cost Cutters and at Iowa’s beauty and cosmetology school Capri College use and sell the oil. The company’s shampoos, conditioners, hair oil, and hair gel are growing in popularity. “By infusing the pure vegan oil during the coloring process, I am able to pull the lighteners out to the end of the hair and provide a reconstructing chemical service for my customers,” ​Renee Ellsworth, a beautician for over 30 years, tells Ford.

It’s an anecdote that validates observations Johnson made along the product development pathway. “Having grown up in southern Iowa, I remembered that squirrels and deer eat the seeds of a hedge apple and leave the rest scattered around…. With my pharmaceutical background, I knew that mammals eat seeds because they have nutrition…amino acids, proteins and high-value oil in them,” ​Johnson tells Ford.  

And the fruit’s use as a folk remedy suggested a potential that scientists have documented, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant properties, according to The Gazette article.

Growing availability

Alcone launched LimeLight, an all-natural luxury skin care line just last year. The company has been around since 1950 when it supplied Broadway performers with cosmetics.

Alcone, which has expanded considerably since then, still operates a shop near the theater district in New York City that does a very good business with makeup artists, performers, and industry insiders.

The LimeLight brand product portfolio comprises skin care, makeup, and application tools. And, One Drop Wonder facial oil is simply and entirely Pomifera Oil from Osage Healthcare. Half an ounce of the product retails for $84.

That’s in contrast to a preproduction price of $180 for a ton of the raw fruit, which Osage buys from “local farmers, 4-H groups and the Amish,” ​according to The Gazette. The fruit grows in abundance along the property lines of farmland in and around Iowa, since the trees were planted as a natural fence several decades ago.

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