Mighty Macadamia

Kakadu Plum

Kakadu PlumAlthough it was considered a delicacy when Australia’s Aboriginal people first discovered it thousands of years ago, spa-goers are only now clueing in to its appeal. A rich yet lightweight texture and a bounty of benefits have turned macadamia into the hottest prospect in the current crop of beauty-oil contenders. 

According to chief brand officer Cherie Jackson, Australian line Jindilli is a pioneer in the macadamia-oil business. “Our company was the first in the world to press macadamias for oil more than 30 years ago,” she says. “Although it was initially used for culinary purposes, local massage therapists started sourcing the oil to use in their services, and that’s when we discovered how skin-compatible the oil is.” In the intervening years, its star has only risen—pure macadamia oil is now the most commonly used product in the spa and wellness industry in its native Australia, where an estimated one in three spas use it as their preferred massage oil, says Lynne Ziehlke, marketing development manager for the Australian Macadamia Society. “Over the last five years, there has been a significant increase in the understanding of the curative properties of macadamia oil, which has led to a massive increase in the use of macadamia oil in new product formulations, especially in Australia, France, Korea, and the U.S.,” says Ziehlke. “Hundreds of new products containing macadamia oil as the main active ingredient have been released to the market, and the product categories that have seen the greatest growth have been facial skincare and hair products. Worldwide, approximately 70 percent of all macadamia oil is used by the cosmetic industry.”

In a Nutshell

Credit for the current macadamia boom must go to the nut’s intrinsic virtues—by all accounts, its nutritional profile is off the charts, especially when the nuts are cold-pressed. The resulting oil is primarily composed of fatty acids, says Ziehlke, three of which make up the vast majority of its content: omega-9 oleic, omega-7 palmitoleic, and saturated palmitic. “Macadamia’s profile resembles the oil that skin naturally produces,” says Janel Luu, CEO of PurErb. “It also contains important levels of [omega-6] linoleic acid, pantothenic acid, and phytosterols.” According to Luu, omega-9 reduces inflammation and seals in moisture. Omega-7 helps prevent lines and wrinkles, firm skin, and keep it supple to delay the signs of aging. Omega-6 helps prevent moisture loss, and phytosterols help repair the skin’s barrier function, promote absorption of nutrients, and slow down collagen loss.Kakadu Plum

Amal Elbahnasawy, founder and creator of Artisanskin, looked to that high phytosterol count when developing her Skin Medicine Body Oil. “Phytosterols have a calming and healing effect when applied to the skin, working as an anti-inflammatory and aiding in skin recovery, all of which are extremely beneficial to sensitive skin types,” she says. A multipurpose oil suitable for skin ailments as wide-ranging as stretch marks and diaper rash, it has found “a rather large yogi cult following” and is in fact Artisanskin’s number-one seller, says Elbahnasawy. It’s been so successful that the brand is launching a facial mist with macadamia this spring. “Every client that has used this oil has said they’ve noticed an instant difference in the texture of their skin after the first use,” she says. “I even have older clients who swear they’ve felt an improvement with the arthritis in their knees after applying our body oil.”

While claims that it alleviates joint pain may be a bit of a stretch, it’s not overstating matters to say that with so many positive side effects, macadamia oil is a versatile ingredient to have in the arsenal. “Oils with oleic acid are richer and heavier, so they are especially suitable for very dry skin, as they are extra occlusive and can seal in moisture really effectively for smooth, supple skin,” says Andrée Austin, founder and co-director of Pure Fiji, and “palmitoleic acid supports numerous skin functions, like boosting collagen production, protecting against oxidative damage, and rejuvenating skin cell membranes.” Palmitoleic acid is naturally found in sebum, and it functions in a similar manner, promoting skin health and dissipating with age. Ziehlke says that loss can be counteracted, though. “Macadamia oil contains the highest level of palmitoleic acid of any known food product, so by applying macadamia oil to the skin, we are able to replace some of the palmitoleic acid that has been lost naturally over time.” Macadamia oil is also ideal for sensitive and mature skin, says Luu, who selected the ingredient for PurErb’s Vitality Deep Cleansing Oil, Serenity Calming Facial Oil, and Purity Renewing Facial Oil. “It absorbs quickly without leaving a greasy residue, reduces skin irritation and inflammation, restores and maintains moisture levels, and soothes dehydrated, chapped, and cracked skin,” she says.

This nut isn’t a tough one to crack—such assets are a boon for formulators and spa menu planners alike. Although tree-nut sensitivities can be a concern, allergic reactions to macadamia are rare, say experts. “Macadamia offers clients instant comfort from dry, itchy skin, as it mimics skin’s natural hydration makeup,” says Tiffany McLauchlin, director of education for Lira Clinical. Her line’s Bio Caviar Crème includes the oil, and has become a favorite among rosacea, pigmented, and dehydrated clients, and those in dry, windy climates—even oncology patients have found it helpful. Hypoallergenic Jindilli products, all of which rely on “abundant amounts of macadamia oil,” have been a hit with customers who previously suffered from irritated skin caused by psoriasis and eczema, says Jackson, and they’re used in Australia “in aged-care facilities and in hospitals for burn victims.” The Hydra~Opulence body lotion, in particular, has had “a dramatic effect in reducing the incidence of tears and improving integrity on the most fragile skin,” she says.

Macadamia might be inherently beneficial, but it also has the ability to amplify the properties of other ingredients, as well. “It’s often referred to by the skincare industry as a carrier oil because it absorbs into the skin so well,” says Ziehlke. For that reason, it’s often combined with ingredients that don’t absorb as easily, because it facilitates the process. Macadamia is a great partner for other natural ingredients like avocado, banana, bicarbonate, honey, and royal jelly, particularly in face masks where it brings deep benefits, says Emilia Aguirre de Gottschamer, cofounder of Valhalla (Sacatepequez, Guatemala) and its house line Emilia Aguirre Natural Skin Care.

A Star is Born

It plays well with others but is still strong enough to stand on its own? Little wonder there are entire product lines built around the nuts—Jindilli even chose an Aboriginal word for macadamia as its namesake, and its wares feature prominently at spas around the world. Multiple Jindilli products are used in the Macadamia Moisture Medley (starting at $145, 90 minutes), a therapy that includes a body scrub and a massage, at The Spa at Madonna Inn (San Luis Obispo, CA). To start, the skin is primed with Pure Macadamia Oil, then layered with Lime Blossom Body Scrub. Because the scrub is dissolvable, the skin “maintains all the benefits of the macadamia oil,” says spa director Alexandra Sutton. A massage follows, conducted with a combination of macadamia oil and Body Melt. “The lasting hydration is incredible, and you don’t feel sticky afterwards,” Sutton says, adding that the treatment has been such a success that the spa is exploring the possibility of a macadamia facial. “Our clients love the hydrating aspects of this treatment. We’ve been using macadamia oil for two-and-a-half months, and it’s already one of our top two services.”

Pure Fiji’s entire line contains macadamia, as well. It’s included in the blend of oils, alongside cold-pressed coconut, dilo, and kukui, used in nearly every product the company makes. The powerful botanical cocktail possesses “a multitude of vitamins and anti-aging benefits,” and macadamia plays its role, says Austin. Its high oleic- and palmitoleic-acid content fits the company’s fatty-acid profile for its products. At the brand’s Pure Fiji Spa (Suva, Fiji), the Tropical Massage ($50, 30 minutes; $83, 50 minutes; $138, 80 minutes), among others, is conducted with the spa’s Nourishing Exotic Oil, a blend that combines virgin coconut and macadamia nut oils.

Haircare companies have also jumped on the macadamia nut bandwagon. Every hair product from Macadamia Professional contains a blend of argan and macadamia oil, “and macadamia oil is the lead because it’s the closest to natural sebum,” says Karrie Fonte, assistant vice president of global education. When you brush your hair, she says, you’re “taking the oil that the body creates at the scalp and bringing it through the hair strands, and because it’s natural and the body makes it, it will absorb into the hair strand. Rather than lying on top and weighing it down, it heals and nourishes from the inside out. It’s the same with macadamia oil.” At Moana Lani Spa (Honolulu), client-favorite Macadamia Professional Moisture Masques are part of the Uhiwai treatment ($80, 25 minutes), an indulgence that begins with a hair mask and finishes with gentle scalp, neck, shoulder, and foot massages. “Uhiwai is the mist that lingers on the mountainside and creates the lush green mountains in Hawaii,” says spa sales manager Shannon McAneeley. “This mist nourishes the macadamia tree and becomes the water that runs through the streams that form the smooth, round ili’ili (stones) used in the massage. In this treatment, we use all that Uhiwai nourishes.” 

Macadamia has infiltrated a number of spa menus in tropical locales like Hawaii, where the nuts are both a local industry and a popular souvenir. At Hualalai Spa at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai (Kailua-Kona, HI), an onsite apothecary offers guests an array of Hawaiian components, including macadamia, to customize treatments. “Much of the inspiration for our ingredients and treatments come from our Kupuna (island elders), who have shared their healing traditions and knowledge of native plants and minerals,” says spa director Crystal Poe-Cabatbat. “We would be silly to overlook using this island-grown ingredient in our treatments.” Macadamia oil is particularly helpful for those guests who might have overindulged in the island sunshine, says Poe-Cabatbat, and in therapies such as the Hulali Experience ($250, 80 minutes), clients can select the nuts as an exfoliant for use in a Hawaiian body scrub and moisturizer.

Over on the island of Oahu, at Mandara Spa at Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort (Honolulu), the locally produced scrubs and lotions—manufactured on Maui for the private-label Mandara line—are among the spa’s highest-selling retail goods, says regional vice president of Hawaii and Pacific Darryll Leiman. “Although not indigenous to Hawaii, macadamia nuts are very much associated with the island,” says Leiman. “They provide a rich moisturizing oil and work well as an ingredient for our scrubs.” A client favorite is the chocolate-macadamia body scrub used during the Exploration in Chocolate ($415, 2 hours 15 minutes), a side-by-side couples massage and an application of the polish. The spa even offers a packet of chocolate-covered macadamias upon completion of services, along with a hot or cold beverage and a steamed, scented oshibori towel. At home in domestic skincare lines and in spas as far-flung as Fiji and Guatemala, one thing is clear: Whether it’s presented as a local treat or as an exotic delicacy, spa-goers are nuts for macadamia.

Repair the skin and provide long-term hydration with these macadamia nut products that are rich in essential fatty acids.

1. Elemis Frangipani Monoi Body Cream: Enriched with macadamia oil and fragranced with frangipani flowers, this nourishing cream leaves skin silky smooth and delicately scented. www.elemis.com

2. Emilia Aguirre Natural Skin Care 100 Percent Pure Macadamia Nut Oil: Cold-pressed from pure macadamia nuts, this finely filtered oil helps to preserve skin elasticity and reduce the appearance of fine lines. www.emiliaaguirreskincarecom

3. Fleur’s Nutri-Enhancing Oil: Achieve ultimate skin softness with this lightweight dry oil, which is formulated with buriti, macadamia nut, pomegranate, and sesame seed oils that repair the skin. www.fleur-s.com

4. Jindilli Hydra-Opulence: Calming and hydrating, this rich body lotion contains pure macadamia oil to nourish the skin. www.jindilli.com

5. Lira Clinical Bio Caviar Crème with PSC: A hydrating blend of caviar extract, macadamia and kukui nut oils, madonna lily plant stem cells, and vitamin C restores skin. www.liraclinical.com

6. Macadamia Professional Nourishing Moisture Masque: Loaded with argan, macadamia, and tea tree oils, this treatment revitalizes and repairs hair for stronger, shinier strands. www.macadamiahair.com

7. Nature Pure Labs Tangerine Creamy Sugar Scrub: This rich botanical formula exfoliates away dead cells and impurities while macadamia oil heals and protects to reveal fresh, rejuvenated skin. www.naturepure.com

8. Nelly De Vuyst Dry Skin Cream: This emulsion, formulated with bisabolol, essential fatty acids, macadamia oil, and sweet orange essential oil, provides immediate and long-lasting hydration, leaving skin feeling soft and looking radiant. www.nellydevuyst.com

9. Pevonia Dry Oil Body Moisturizer: Revitalize, nourish, and hydrate with this easy-to-apply spray-on formula containing lavender and macadamia nut oil. www.pevoniapro.com

10. PurErb Purity Renewing Facial Oil: Featuring a blend of skin-perfecting oils such as abyssinian, argan, carrot seed, dilo, juniper, macadamia nut, and patchouli, this facial elixir moisturizes and promotes a flawless, natural glow. www.purerbskincare.com

11. Pure Fiji Coconut Milk and Honey Nourishing Exotic Oil: This hydrating oil combines four botanical oils­­—dilo, macadamia nut, sikeci, and virgin coconut—to rejuvenate the skin’s cells for healthier and younger-looking skin. www.purefiji.com

12. Sothys Paris Anti-Ageing Cream Grade 2: Repair weakened skin with this daily moisturizing cream, which contains macadamia nut oil to soothe, moisturize, nourish, and soften skin. www.sothys-usa.com