Prickly Pear Seed Oil is fast becoming a favourite when it comes to skin care
Prickly Pear Seed Oil is fast becoming a favourite when it comes to skin care
Image: Supplied

You may know the prickly pear as the funky-looking cactus fruit with spikes that must be carefully peeled before eating. Did you know that oil extracted from the seeds of this desert plant is gaining popularity as a skincare ingredient? Prickly pear oil boasts a unique composition of vitamins, antioxidants and fatty acids that can do beautiful things for your skin. In fact, natural oil cosmetic brand Afrika Botanicals has declared South African prickly pear seed oil as its “Oil of the Year” for 2024. The announcement comes as the oil extracted from the iconic South African cactus plant is gaining global attention for its unique and powerful skin benefits.

The Opuntia ficus-indica (prickly pear) plant grows profusely in the Free State and the Northern and Eastern Cape. The seeds are harvested, dried and stored by farmers and then cold-pressed in South Africa.

Extracting prickly pear seed oil requires immense amounts of the tiny seeds due to their low oil content. It takes about 1,000-1,500 seeds to make just 30ml of oil. Some estimates suggest more than 500,000 seeds, equal to about three tonnes of prickly pear fruits, are needed to make 3.8 litres of high-quality oil, making it a labour-intensive process that yields a somewhat scarce, but premium botanical ingredient.

Adding prickly pear to your beauty routine


The oil is loaded with vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that helps protect skin cells from damage caused by UV radiation and environmental pollutants. Vitamin E can help reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and age spots. It's also anti-inflammatory, so it can help calm irritation and redness.

Prickly pear oil also contains a good amount of vitamin K, which can help fade dark circles and puffiness around the eyes. The oil is rich in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that helps strengthen the skin's barrier function and lock in moisture. This makes this oil incredibly nourishing for dry skin.

When it comes to moisture, this oil can be a saviour for super dry complexions. It's an occlusive oil, meaning it forms a protective seal over the skin to prevent water loss. So, it helps keep skin plump and dewy rather than tight and flaky. It's a great natural option for people with eczema or highly parched skin who need an ultra-hydrating boost.

Prickly pear oil
Prickly pear oil
Image: Supplied

In addition to its moisturising prowess, prickly pear oil has anti-ageing benefits. It contains vitamin C and betalains, which are powerful antioxidants that can help neutralise free radicals and oxidative stress that leads to premature ageing. Using prickly pear oil over time may help reduce the look of wrinkles and improve skin elasticity.

You can find prickly pear oil in various skincare products, from sera to moisturisers to facial oils. It has a silky feel and is well absorbed by the skin without leaving a greasy residue. This oil works well for all skin types, even acne-prone, as it is non-comedogenic. Massage a few drops into clean skin before applying your regular moisturiser for an antioxidant, anti-ageing and hydration boost.

According to some medical professionals, applying prickly pear oil after surgical procedures may help diminish the visible appearance of scars as they heal. It is a perfect oil for post-inking maintenance and care for tattoos.

So, if you're looking to revive a dull complexion and keep your skin looking youthful and radiant, consider adding this desert plant oil to your routine. Afrika Botanicals only sources the highest-grade oil which is scientifically analysed and certified. To buy this oil or for more information on other natural oils, visit

This article originally appeared in Sunday Times Lifestyle. 

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