Although most people think first of oranges when it comes to being a rich source of vitamin C, a little known fruit is poised to take over that title. Native to Australia, kakadu plum, also referred to as gubinge, murunga, bush plum and billygoat plum, is produced by terminalia ferdinandiana, a flowering tree grown throughout the tropical woodlands. Regardless of what you call it, kakadu plum is garnering attention for its potential health benefits, much of which can be attributed to its high levels of vitamin C. Despite the current buzz, the fruit has long been valued by Australian Aboriginal people who often relied on the round yellow-green plums as a source of food for their walkabouts. The bark of the tree was also used to treat a variety of skin conditions, such as infections and wounds. Today, kakadu plum is appearing in various skincare formulations thanks to its powerful anti-aging benefits, and spas are taking note with products and treatments that incorporate the nutrient-rich ingredient.
It’s really no surprise when you consider vitamin C has always had a coveted place in skincare. According to Audrey Kunin, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dermadoctor, it helps protect against pollutants as well as oxidative stress and free-radical damage. “It plays an essential role in supporting collagen production, which helps improve skin elasticity, firmness, and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” she says. The high vitamin C content of the Australian fruit makes it an especially effective ingredient, which is why Kunin chose to make it the focus of her Dermadoctor Kakadu C Collection. And she isn’t alone in recognizing its potential. Vitelle Dermatology Laboratories features it in several products, including its popular Eye Serum with Sqisandryl. Aleks Vranicic, vice president of sales and technical training for the company, credits its skin-nourishing properties.
“Kakadu plum is a vitamin C powerhouse that contains the highest concentration of vitamin C of any known plant on the planet,” says Nicole Chadwick, creative director of Coast to Coast, an Australian skincare line. “The Outback region of Australia is one of the driest places on earth with extreme weather conditions, and because of this, these superfruits contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals in order to survive the elements.” It’s that wild environment that contributes to the fruit’s rich vitamin content. Trees grown in more hospitable conditions are shown to produce significantly lower levels of vitamin C. While intense UV rays are usually best to be avoided, Daniel Clary, director of global education for MyBody Probiotic Skincare, says those rays are responsible for giving the fruit a powerful self-defense mechanism, with the highest concentration of botanical vitamin C available, 100 times more than an orange. “There was a study conducted by the Australian government in 2009 that shows kakadu plum to be the world’s richest source of natural vitamin C,” says Kimberly Parry, founder of Kimberly Parry Organics. “No other plant in the world has the same levels of antioxidants, bioactives, and vitamin C. Kakadu plum is unique, because it contains both hydrophilic, or water-soluble, and lipophilic, or oil-soluble antioxidants; ellagic and gallic acids; and vitamin B9. ” While the numbers may vary on exactly how much vitamin C the fruit possesses, there is no denying the fact that kakadu plum is beneficial to the skin.
“Modern technology has been able to extract the heart of this powerhouse fruit, while science has proven it to be a workhorse anti-aging active,” says Clary. “Clinically validated results include stimulation of collagen synthesis, increased hydration levels, protection against skin-damaging free radicals, and a significant, immediate boost to skin luminosity and radiance.” According to Janel Luu, CEO of Le Mieux and PurErb, kakadu plum also helps minimize the appearance of dark spots. “Vitamin C helps minimize hyperpigmentation, because it inhibits tyrosinase activity, which helps control the production of melanin,” she says. “It also provides powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, which help in slowing the signs of aging.”
Formulating with the ingredient for years, Parry made it a key active along with green tea in her company’s Brightening Serum. Spa-goers at the Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas canexperience the product as part of the Kimberly Parry Organic (starting at $195, 50 minutes; $265, 80 minutes), a firming, toning, and hydrating facial that helps to turn back the clock. Kakadu plum is also a staple of the PurErb line, which is used in a variety of treatments at Rituals Aesthetic Skincare (Burlingame, CA) and Jiva Living Wellness Sanctuary (Folsom, CA).
A Natural Star
While it may seem that there is no shortage of buzzworthy new ingredients, kakadu plum looks to have real staying power. “Natural products are trending, but not all botanical extracts are potent enough to really make a difference when they are included in skincare,” says Luu. “Kakadu plum extract, however, has been shown to provide effective anti-aging results without causing skin irritation.” As a result, many are jumping on the bandwagon. “Naturally sourced actives are always exciting when discovered,” says Clary. “There is nothing wrong with synthetically created molecules, as oftentimes they are more functional, bioavailable, and stable in formulations. However, when such a powerful molecule can be isolated from something found in nature, it proves the endless possibilities that nature can ultimately provide in our anti-aging objectives.”
Although the ingredient stands strong on its own, it also works well as a team. According to Clary, research shows that it pairs well with other molecules that help protect the skin. As a result, the company incorporated kakadu plum into its Glowbiotics Probiotic Instant Resurfacing Pads and HydraGlow Cream Oil. “We knew the pairing with our probiotic technology would inherently provide us a cocktail that would have a marked and rapid benefit for the health of the skin,” she says.
Both Kunin and Vranicic suggest pairing it with ferulic acid and vitamin E. According to Kunin, they are both ingredients that work well with vitamin C. “These antioxidants work together to boost each other’s efficacy,” she says. The Dermadoctor Kakadu C Collection also incorporates other native bush ingredients, such as lilly pilly, an evergreen tree; kangaroo paw, a popular house plant; and muntari berry, a low-growing shrub. “Because kakadu plum is so beneficial in brightening and evening out the skintone, it also pairs well with botanicals such as black elder extract, licorice extract, and rosehip oil, which also aid in addressing pigmentation,” says Sara LaBree, education manager, North America for Jurlique.
Regardless of what other nourishing ingredients you pair it with, kakadu plum is proving to be a hot commodity in skincare. It’s only a matter of time before we start to see more stand-alone treatments highlighting the vitamin C-rich fruit. Says Parry, “This powerhouse of a plant, backed by science, is a powerful weapon against premature aging.”
Check out these products infused with the vitamin C-rich Australian fruit that smooths, brightens, plumps, and provides free-radical protection.
1. Australian Pure Face Be Nourished Daily Moisturizer: Enriched with native Australian kakadu plum extract and vitamin E, this moisturizer leaves skin soft, supple, and nourished. www.naturesorganics.com.au
2. Coast to Coast Skin Brightening Red Clay Mask: Powered with antioxidant-charged superfruits, including desert quandong and kakadu plum, this multitasking mask replenishes dry skin and revives radiance. www.coasttocoastaustralia.com
3. Jurlique Herbal Recovery Night Cream: Infused with kakadu plum and powerful botanical extracts, this nourishing cream helps minimize the appearance of fine lines. www.jurlique.com
4. Kevin Murphy Hydrate-Me Rinse: Ideal for color-treated hair, this conditioner with kakadu plum helps strands to retain moisture while vitamins B7 and C stimulate the production of elastin and collagen. www.kevinmurphy.com.au
5. Lewin & Reilly Kakadu Plum Face & Eye Serum: Reduce scars and pigmentation with this serum, which blends kakadu plum and tamanu oils to help produce collagen. www.lewinandreilly.com.au
6. Mukti Hydrating Moisturiser: Improve skin elasticity and hydration with this day cream, which relies on kakadu plum and pomegranate to provide a smoother, renewed complexion. www.muktiorganics.com
7. Niko Organics Kakadu Super C: Minimize sun damage and protect against free radical damage with this powerful vitamin C serum containing kakadu plum that works to stimulate collagen synthesis. www.niko.com
8. People for Plants Eye Cream: This fragrance-free eye cream containing calendula, chamomile, and kakadu plum helps to reduce puffiness and minimize wrinkles and dark spots. www.peopleforplants.com.au
9. PurErb Serenity Calming Moisturizer: Soothe and hydrate stressed skin with this cream filled with botanical extracts, including baobab, bulgarian rose, edelweiss, kakadu plum, and marula. www.purerbskincare.com
10. Swisse Kakadu Plum Brightening Serum: Protect skin against damage and help brighten with this anti-aging serum containing kakadu plum extract. www.swisse.com
11. WEI Brown Sugar Ready Glow Exfoliating Mask: Kakadu plum fades dark spots while raw sugar in this nourishing mask naturally exfoliates skin. www.weibeauty.com
12. Yurrku Kakadu Day Cream: This delicate kakadu plum-enriched moisturizer absorbs quickly into the skin, resulting in a youthful glow. www.yurrku.com