Most people wouldn’t think to associate a cactus with a name like prickly pear as being an effective skin soother. However, you may want to start once you learn how this natural ingredient can benefit the skin. Often found in desert conditions, prickly pear grows in Africa, Australia, the Mediterranean, Mexico, South America, and the U.S. Nopal and barbary fig, as it’s also called, features paddle-shaped leaves that produce long sharp spines and blooms that transform into edible fruit. In addition to being a source of food, it has long been used in a variety of folk remedies. Today, it is better known as a popular skincare ingredient. As such, there are several reasons you may want to offer prickly pear products and treatments in your spa.
As spa-goers continue to gravitate to more natural ingredients, prickly pear stands out for its unique attributes. “It withstands harsh temperatures, winds, and a long life growing in the wild,” says Shannon McLinden, founder of FarmHouse Fresh. “The fact that we can harness some of that and help skin defend against inflammation—one of the first steps of aging—is what makes it so remarkable.” Its adaptability also lends itself to its skin-saving abilities. “Like other succulents, prickly pear has adapted to extreme climatic conditions, and its stem can hold large amounts of water,” says Sara LaBree, education manager for Jurlique. “It’s this adaptability and versatility that make prickly pear ideal for all skin types and conditions. It’s comparable in nature to aloe vera, as it has intense soothing and hydrating properties, making it great for any spa, no matter what the climate or season.”
Not only does it thrive in dry conditions, prickly pear also provides a solution for dry and dehydrated skin. “People normally don’t think that something derived from a green prickly cactus can be so good for you,” says Nick James, founder of Body Bliss. “However, prickly pear is highly moisturizing and skin-softening. It is extremely high in omega 6 and 9 essential fatty acids and the natural antioxidant vitamin E.” It’s no surprise then that James chose to incorporate the ingredient into Body Bliss’s Native Botanicals Collection, which features 13 prickly pear products.
That’s A Wrap
Found in the Prickly Pear Butter Wrap ($165, 60 minutes: $245, 90 minutes) at Mii amo (Sedona, AZ), Body Bliss products give a local spin to the treatment thanks to their use of prickly pear, which is indigenous to much of the Southwest. The treatment begins with a sea-salt and jojoba body polish also made with prickly pear and white magnolia oils and is followed with a prickly pear butter massage and wrap in warm sheets. A neck and head massage concludes the relaxing service.
Guests at The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Austin (TX) can also take advantage of the soothing and anti-inflammatory ingredient with the Prickly Pear Pomegranate Body Wrap ($205, 80 minutes). “Pomegranate is loaded with vitamins and antioxidants and helps keep our complexions smooth and radiant,” says James. “The two work in tandem to restore skin to its maximum state of health and hydration.” The Texas-style treatment relies on Body Bliss Prickly Pear Jojoba Body Butter and Prickly Pear Pomegranate Restoring Body Oil. “As our services have always been regionally relevant, we wanted to reach a bit further and work with some more interesting indigenous plants and flowers,” says spa director Mary Kate Piotrowski. “Growing up in the Southwest, prickly pear has long been a favorite of mine for its balanced sweetness in taste and smell, and, of course, its naturally hydrating properties.” The idea behind the service was to create a pampering experience that would also appeal to time-conscious spa-goers. “We developed this service to maximize the guest’s experience by including a dry exfoliation, a nourishing scalp treatment, a hydrating wrap, and a full-body massage into one 80-minute service,” says Piotrowski.
It can also be found in the Soothing Agave Ritual ($175, 75 minutes) at Sagestone Spa & Salon at Red Mountain Resort (Ivins, UT). The treatment relieves tension with a sea-salt scrub, a warm cactus gel wrap using FarmHouse Fresh’s Cactus Toning Wrap, and a massage with Agave Nectar Ageless Body Oil. “As this stimulating prickly pear cactus gel warms on the skin, blood circulation increases, improving skin’s elasticity while helping to firm and tighten the surface,” says McLinden.
Not just for the body, prickly pear is also found in a number of facials, such as the Skin Soothing Facial ($95, 50 minutes) at Jurlique Spa (New York City). It relies on Jurlique’s Calendula Redness Rescue Restorative Treatment Serum, which contains prickly pear extract. “Prickly pear extract is derived from the cactus stem and is a rich source of essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids,” says LaBree. She recommends pairing it with calendula, as both possess calming and soothing properties.
According to Caroline Rushworth, education director for Sothys USA, prickly pear has an added benefit in that it promotes exfoliation and cell renewal. “It restores the equilibrium of the epidermis and the barrier function, resulting in more luminous skin,” she says. Spa-goers at L’Institut Sothys, New York can take advantage of such results with the Secrets Soin Excellence Facial Institute Treatment ($200, 75 minutes), which incorporates Secrets de Sothys Total Anti-Age Destressing Serum and Cream. “Prickly pear extract boosts natural skin functions that deteriorate with age, so it’s an excellent active in an anti-aging program,” says Rushworth. “Its natural exfoliation properties are well tolerated by all skin types, even mature, fragile, and thin skin, and those with rosacea and sensitivity.”
At Alvadora Spa at Royal Palms Resort and Spa (Phoenix) and The Spa at Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley (Park City, UT), spa-goers can choose from a host of facials that feature prickly pear in Kypris products. While founder Chase Polan originally sourced it from northern Africa, she soon realized how readily available it is in the Southwest. After teaming up with a local wildcrafting group, she began incorporating prickly pear into an oil for use in Kypris’s three Beauty Elixirs. According to Polan, it also has the added advantage of being eco-friendly. “Prickly pear grows in near-drought conditions and requires only a few years to bear fruit from which the seeds are harvested,” she says. “As long as the team harvesting the plants is treated well and the whole pear is used, it is a very sustainable source of constituents, whole extracts, and oils that are phenomenal skin saviors.” Despite its name, there is nothing prickly about this skin soother.
Check out these prickly pear-packed products that enrich the skin with a host of rejuvenating properties.—Darby Radcliff
1. Aromatherapy Associates Soothing Skin Tonic: This gentle toner with arnica, prickly pear, and Roman chamomile refreshes the skin after cleansing, leaving it looking refined and revitalized. www.aromatherapyassociates.com
2. Biologique Recherche Renovateur 14: Formulated with prickly pear extracts, this serum moisturizes the upper layers of the epidermis. www.biologique-recherche.com
3. Body Bliss Turquoise Sage Jojoba Body Butter: This rich, whipped jojoba and shea butter cream made with pomegranate extracts and prickly pear repairs and hydrates the skin. www.bodybliss.com
4. Clarisonic Refining Skin Polish: Soften and exfoliate rough, dry skin with this paraben-free body scrub containing açaí fruit extracts and prickly pear. www.clarisonic.com
5. FarmHouse Fresh Cactus Wrap Toning Treatment: Nourish and firm the skin with this stimulating prickly pear cactus gel, which improves skin elasticity. www.farmhousefreshgoods.com
6. GloTherapeutics Retinol CS Serum: Minimize the appearance of fine lines, pores, and uneven texture with this complex containing glycolic acid, prickly pear, and retinol. www.gloprofessional.com
7. G.M. Collin Nutriderm Replenishing Complex: Developed to replenish and protect the skin, this nourishing elixir is formulated with revitalizing prickly pear. www.gmcollin.com
8. Kypris Beauty Elixir III Prismatic Array: Boost luminosity with this formula featuring CoQ10 and prickly pear seed oil, which improves skin elasticity. www.kyprisbeauty.com
9. Natura Bissé NB Ceutical Tolerance Enzyme Peel: Recommended for sensitive skin, this gel formula contains prickly pear, which stimulates skin’s enzymatic functions, promoting cellular renewal and exfoliation. www.naturabisse.com
10. Shea Terra Organics Berbère Fig Beauty Oil: This pure cold-pressed oil composed of prickly peer seed contains high concentrations of vitamin E and fights free radicals. www.sheaterraorganics.com
11. Sisley Paris Radiant Immediate Lift With Botanical Extracts: Designed to improve radiance, this pearlized gel made with prickly pear revitalizes the skin’s surface. www.sisley-paris.com
12. Yon-Ka Paris Essential White Daily Bright & Peel Solution: Enriched with prickly pear and glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids, this formula brightens and stimulates cellular renewal of the skin. www.yonkausa.com