Discovering the relevance of prickly pear.

Prickly pear has been used in the beauty rituals of North African and Amazigh women for centuries. Able to withstand extreme heat, the prickly pear grows abundantly around the Mediterranean. In recent years, several cosmetics brands have realized the value of this product to their ancestors and have decided to use the benefits of this fruit in their body and hair products.

But why is prickly pear so sacred, and what makes it so special? KHAMSA has done its research to tell you the story of this fruit with ancestral benefits.

١. History and Fabrication

Prickly pear is a fleshy berry produced by a cacti native to North America, particularly the desert of Mexico. This fruit is actually a symbol which is represented on the national Mexican flag. It grows wild all over North Africa, but was unknown there before the discovery of the Americas in 1492, and didn’t spread on a large scale until the 19th century.

Brought back to Europe by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to the New World, the Mexican cactus quickly acclimatized to all Mediterranean shores. Tolerant of aridity, prickly pear adapts easily to very dry, poor soils. Today, the world’s three largest prickly pear growers are Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

Source: Wikimedia

In North Africa, prickly pear can be called “taknarit” in Arabic. In other regions, it’s known as“hanndi” – meaning Indian – or “kermus in nsara” – meaning Christian fig. The fruit also grows in the rest of the Mediterranean rim, as well as in warm Italian regions such as Sicily, Sardinia and Puglia. In Italy, it’s known as fico d’india – literally, “Indian fig”.

Prickly pears can be eaten fresh or in juices, jams, jellies and syrups, but they are also used in the production of a variety of other products, especially in the cosmetics industry to make skin and hair care products. Indeed, in recent years, international trade in prickly pear has grown significantly due to the growing demand for natural and exotic products that recall ancestral rituals.

٢. How-To: Uses and Benefits

Source: Pinterest

Prickly pear is a sustainable resource that is able to grow in the driest climates and that conserves many benefits. Indeed, North African women and Amazigh women have been using this fruit for their hair, face and bodies for centuries. It was part of their beauty rituals.

So, what are the benefits? First, it is very rich in vitamin E and Omega 6, which is great for nourishing skin and hair. Prickly pear is rich in water, making it an excellent skin hydrator. Topical application of products containing prickly pear oil can help maintain skin hydration, especially in dry environments or for dry skin. It is also a significant source of antioxidants, including vitamin E, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds. These antioxidants help protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals, thus reducing signs of premature ageing and aiding in maintaining youthful skin.

The oil extracted from prickly pear seeds is rich in essential fatty acids, such as linoleic and linolenic acids. These fatty acids are important for maintaining the integrity of the skin barrier, which helps prevent moisture loss and maintain skin suppleness. But that’s not all, some compounds have anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe skin irritations and reduce redness. Finally, the seeds found in prickly pear can be used as a gentle exfoliating agent to remove dead skin cells, leaving the skin softer and smoother.

Because the Prickly Pear can grow on extremely arid lands, it could play a key part in maintaining a thriving local circular economy. Some scientists estimate that the Prickly Pear Cactus will soon become one of the world’s most important plants due to climate change.

٣. Our Selection of Prickly Pear Products

The Haircare Spray – Shaeri

Made of Jojoba, Lemon and Avocado Oils, this daily hair care spray will regenerate, soften and revitalize hair. It gently moisturizes and protects hair with a hydrating and nourishing formula for all types of curly, dry hair, even beards and locs. Apply in the morning and throughout the day to keep curls separated, hair shiny and to eliminate “frizz”. Available here.

Prickly Pear Oil – Azul Cosmetics

The ultimate antioxidant, it fights the free radicals responsible for skin ageing. Daily application helps prevent the appearance of wrinkles by firming and regenerating the skin. This dry oil is suitable for all skin types. Available here.

Wrinkles and Fine Lines Eye Cream – Typology

Concentrated in coenzyme Q10, this one moisturizes and prevents the appearance of the first wrinkles around the eyes. Available here.

Organic Prickly Pear Seed Oil – Soraali

Packed with vitamin E and essential fatty acids, this exclusive oil reduces wrinkles, fine lines and pigmentation spots, revealing visibly younger-looking skin in just 28 days. Available here.

Selma Chougar is a French independent journalist of Algerian origin who writes for several magazines based in Paris, London, and Dubai. Culture and societal phenomena in the Arab world are her areas of expertise. She contributes to both French and English-language magazines.