Is cactus from Mexico the next big personal care ingredient?

By Deanna Utroske contact

- Last updated on GMT

Is cactus from Mexico the next big personal care ingredient?
International beauty rituals inspire consumers to use products with novel and seemingly exotic ingredients. Cactus seed oil has been gaining in popularity for years, and now Mexico is looking to export prickly pear derivatives and perhaps some of the country’s mystic.

As an exporter of prickly pear cactus–based ingredients for cosmetics and personal care formulations, Mexico faces competition from Brazil and China. Both countries are already supplying the beauty industry with cactus.

New industry

Much of the prickly pear cactus that Mexico produces is for human consumption.  In fact, “Mexico is the leading producer of fresh prickly pear cactus for human consumption worldwide with 12,000 hectares planted and a production of nearly 825,000 tons per year,” ​according to an item on razon.com.mx.

Now the country is looking to partner with other industries and encouraging the development of cactus products for use in energy, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.

And while local and artisanal production has cachet with consumers, on a global industrial scale it’s simply not competitive. “Mexico needed the public and private sectors to invest more in this area because the production of shampoos, soaps, dietary fiber, and other products derived from cactus were still being crafted in a traditional manner,”​ Clemente Gallegos Vazquez, a researcher from the Autonomous University of Chapingo, tells La Razon.

National competition

Mexico has a diverse array of cacti that could be beneficial as cosmetic ingredients. The Autonomous University of Chapingo, located in Zacatecas, is home to the country’s National Depository of Opuntia and has 410 varieties of cactus from 23 unique species.

In the cosmetics and personal care space now, however, China is apparently the leading provider of ingredients derived from cactus.

Luis Fernando Haro, the General Director of the National Agricultural Council in Mexico tells the press that while only one company in China is in the business “it [has] invested more than $100 million dollars in their cactus crops. The company has 400 hectares of cactus in greenhouses and uses technology to increase their productivity and process the product and to give it an added value.”

Market demand

Cosmetics consumers already enjoy a spectrum of products formulated with cactus oil and specifically prickly pear oil. On labels it’s listed by one of those names or as Barbary fig seed oil, Indian fig seed oil, or prickly cactus seed oil.

Les Sens de Marrakech, a French brand, may have been the first to bring the ingredient to market. That brand’s serum Prickly Pears Seed Oil is marketed for use on mature skin. The company’s portfolio also includes a soothing clay mask made with the oil as well as a hand cream.

The luxury naturals brand Kahina Giving Beauty also sells the oil. Kahina sources it from the Mid-Atlas mountains and explains the nutrient make up as “an excellent source of essential fatty acids (approximately 83%), especially linoleic acid (63%), tocopherols (1000 mg), betalaines, Vitamin K, amino acids and trace elements.”

As the oil grows in popularity, consumer-facing media is highlighting its benefits. In 2015 Victoria Dawson Hoff, writing for Elle.com called it a “natural ingredient on the rise that does everything Argan oil does, but better.”

Her article listed several prickly pear seed oil beauty products, including a cleanser from Sia Botanics, a moisturizing complex from G.M. Collin, a mask from MyChelle, and a hair treatment from Kenza.

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