Barbary fig seed oil is a light, stable and versatile clear to pale yellow oil with a slightly nutty smell. It spreads and absorbs easily and quickly into the skin, improving skin elasticity and its overall quality. This oil is a powerful moisturizer and leaves the skin feeling velvety and soft.
The oil of barbary fig, also know as prickly pear fruit is obtained by cold pressing the Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) plant seeds, which are contained in its fruits.
Prickly Pear seeds are separated from the pulp and are then dried before being cold pressed.
Within the edible part of each barbary fig there are numerous seeds. The seed amount can vary from 30% to 40% on a dry weight basis.
Barbary fig oil is extracted from these nutrient-rich seeds and then used as carrier oil or ingredient in cosmetic and skin care products.
The seeds of barbary fig contain less than 5% oil, it takes a remarkable 10,000 seeds to produce 1 litre of oil or, 8 tonnes of cactus pears are needed to produce just 1 liter of seed oil. This, in turn, makes the cost of barbary fig seed oil extremely high. Around $2,000 per liter (approximately 34 US fluid ounces), so, it is the most expensive carrier oil on the market.
About Opuntia ficus-indica L. (Barbary Fig)
Barbary Fig (Opuntia ficus-indica L. Mill) is a member of the Cactaceae family and is a genus consisting of about 200 species of cactus that mainly grows in arid and semi-arid zones.
Also know as Prickly pear, Barbary fig is native to Mexico and South America, but that are grown in many areas of the world, including South Africa, Australia, United States of America, Tunisia and it also grows in the desert in southern Morocco.
It has been introduced in almost all (sub) tropical areas where it is cultivated or can freely develop.
Although prickly pear fruit and stem are traditionally utilized for medicinal and cosmetic purposes, as forage, building material, and as a source for natural colors, its use is still mainly limited to the preparation of an alcoholic beverage and fresh fruit consumption.
The nutritional importance of the fruit mostly results from its content in antioxidants, fibers and free amino acids.
Traditional Uses of Barbary Fig
Although just recently research has begun to show how barbary fig seeds can greatly benefit our skin, its therapeutic benefits have been used by different ancestral cultures throughout history.
For example, Opuntia ficus indica has been used by the Aztecs, They used to extracted the milky juice from the plant and mixed it with honey and egg yolk to provide an ointment to treat burns.
Also, prickly pear cactus has been used for wounds, edema, hyperlipidemia, obesity and catarrhal gastritis.
In Mexican traditional medicine, prickly pear cactus (nopal) is used for the treatment of diabetes and high cholesterol. Besides, alcoholic extracts have been indicated for anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, and antiviral purposes.
The Chinese dressed abscesses with the fleshy pad of the plant and the American Indians used the fruit for food and also made syrup from it to treat whooping cough and asthma.
Chemical Composition of Barbary Fig Seed Oil
The fatty acids in barbary fig seed include a high content (up to 61%) linoleic acid) and up to 25% oleic acid.
Also, it is very rich in Tocopherol (a form of Vitamin E), and sterols (approximately 10g per kg), which gives it a special ability to protect skin against free radicals, as Vitamin E is an antioxidant.
Prickly pear seeds are a good source of several minerals, including calcium (with 470 mg per kg), potassium (with 533 mg/kg), magnesium (with 117 mg/kg) and phosphorus (with 1,627 mg/kg).
Of any carrier oil on the market, barbary fig oil contains the highest percentage (88%) of unsaturated fatty acids, which are essential to stimulating healthy cell production and turnover. It also has the highest level of tocopherol, which protects the skin and helps it retain moisture.
Fatty Acids in Barbary fig seed oil
The constitution of its essential and non-essential fatty acids (EFAs) provides the following benefits to our skin:
60.5% Linoleic acid (An omega-6 EFA)
Linoleic acid nourishes, repairs and strengthens the skin barrier, allowing it to better retain moisture. This fatty acid fights inflammation while healing. It also has anti acne properties and helps soften the skin.
Linoleic acid can even help heal cold sores and minor burns. Nails, cuticles, and hair also benefit from this amazing natural moisturizer.
20.6% Oleic acid
Also found in avocado oil, almond oil, and olive oil, this fatty acid seals in moisture, and helps other beneficial ingredients more easily penetrate the skin.
13.9% palmitic acid
Research has found that this acid owns antioxidant and healing properties, and can even help with dermatitis and eczema. It is found naturally in our skin, but quantities diminish as we age.
Tocopherol (Vitamin E)
Barbary fig seed oil contains almost 150% more vitamin E than argan oil. Vitamin E is found in tocopherol form, a class of eight different organic chemical compounds.
This naturally occurring antioxidant acts as a free radical scavenger, preventing them from causing damage that leads to signs of aging. It also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, helping wounds heal faster, and can even repair damage caused by UV rays and environmental pollution. Tocopherol is great for sunburns and redness as well.
Vitamin E is a superb moisturizer, hydrating skin while preventing further water loss.
On the other hand, it can decrease the appearances of wrinkles and fine lines, thanks to its great anti-aging agents.
Tocopherols protect the skin cells that make collagen and elastin (a protein that helps skin keep its shape) and can fade acne scars.
It is also high in phytosterols, especially beta-sitosterol, which provides antioxidants, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
The combination of phytosterols and natural essential fatty acids works well for anti-aging purposes and stimulates new collagen production.
Besides, when applied topically, water-binding action of phytosterols help the skin retain moisture, making for a strong, healthy skin barrier.
They also assist in collagen production, keeping our skin youthful and soft, and have even been found to reverse the effects of aging.
Polyphenols are abundant in barbary fig. The growing interest in polyphenols results from their antioxidant potential which is involved in health benefits such as the prevention of inflammation, cardiovascular dysregulation, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Polyphenols are free radical scavenging and have also proven anticancer activity.
All parts of the cactus plant are rich in members of the polyphenol family such as various flavonoids and phenolic acids.
The polyphenol contents found in barbary fig seed oil not only do they boast antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic properties, but they also fight oxidative stress (an imbalance between free radical production and the ability of the body to defend against them).
Additionally, polyphenols prevent and treat sun damage, and can help with redness and irritation.
Vitamin K is other beneficial component of barbary fig seed oil, which helps brighten under-eye circles, even out skin tone and reduce broken capillaries.
Zinc, on the other hand, also an important constituent, helps reduce redness and inflammation of acne lesions and decrease oil production.
Properties of Barbary Fig Seed Oil
With large amounts of linoleic acid, Vitamin E, phytosterols, and polyphenols, prickly pear seed oil stimulates healthy cell production and turnover, provides protection, and helps skin retain moisture.
These components are what give this wonderful oil its properties, which include:
- Anti aging
Uses of Barbary Fig Seed Oil
The main use of barbary fig seed oil is to rejuvenate and restore the skin, adding a slight lifting effect to the face. It can be used alone, and is also a valuable addition to other anti-aging products.
Barbary fig oil is suitable for all skin types, even oily skin as it is a dry oil with a comedogenic rating of 0-2. However, for very dry skin, it is recommended to blend with another carrier oil that provides extra moisture to improve the results of the application. Almond oil, avocado oil or Sea Buckthorn oil can be good alternatives.
Also, barbary fig oil can be used to repair, soften and hydrate cuticles, damaged/dry hair and split ends.
Benefits of Barbary Fig Seed Oil
Barbary fig seed oil provides instant hydration in contact with the skin, without feeling greasy or heavy. Its easy absorption allows it to quickly reach the deepest layer of the skin with all its natural rich nutrients such as vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids.
Within a few applications, the skin will look and feel more luminous, smooth, velvety, and revitalized.
With its regular use, besides to protect against free radicals, it will improve skin elasticity and help to diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, hyper pigmentation and age spots.
In short, barbary fig oil:
- Lightens dark spots/age spots
- Balances skin, especially oily or combination skin types
- Protects skin against free radicals
- Stimulates the regeneration of skin cells
- Brightens skin tone complexion
- Restores skin elasticity
- Calms redness and rosacea prone skin
- Helps relieve sunburn
- Reduces hyper pigmentation
- Helps wounds heal faster and even boosted collagen levels nearby
- Tightens pores for a smooth and refined skin texture
- Prevents premature aging and wrinkle formation
- Brightens under-eye shadows
- Nourishes, moisturizes, and softens the skin
- Reduces the appearance of fine lines
- It is not comedogenic, which means that it does not clog pores
Where to buy Barbary Fig Seed Oil (Prickly Pear Oil)?
The oil of prickly pear is relatively new (if compare with other oils like argan oil, for example), which makes it a little difficult to find in specialized natural herb stores, or herbalist shops.
Do not forget to keep your oils in a cool and dry place, away from sources of heat or direct sunlight. The refrigerator is a good place to store some oils and extend their shelf life.