9 beauty buys with a surprising plant extract that soothes irritation and calms redness

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Chances are you’ve been using it without even realising. 

If you thought banana extract was a surprising addition to the world of skincare ingredients, prepare for another: cactus extract. Frequently listed in beauty and skincare ingredient lists, cactus extract is celebrated for its hydrating, anti-inflammatory properties. Here’s what you need to know about the hydration hero. 

What are the benefits of using cactus and cactus extracts in skincare?

“People seem to think cactus, which is originally native to Mexico, is a hidden little secret hydrating and soothing ingredient, when in fact we have been using it for over 500 years,” says Dr Uliana Gout, founder of London Aesthetic Medicine Clinic and Practitioner of the Year 2021. 

“The cacti family have an amazing ability to retain water – they are filled with antioxidants, amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamin E and vitamin K, and therefore have anti-inflammatory, anti-redness and soothing properties.”

Is the cactus ingredient used in skincare the same as the one on our windowsills?

“In a sense, yes, it’s the same – however beauty products use extracts from the cactus, so there’s no chance of finding any spikes in your skincare!” explains Charlotte Ferguson, founder of Disciple Skincare.

“Interestingly, the prickly pear cactus, which comes from the United States and Mexico, is the most commonly eaten cactus. This is because of its shape and formation of flat, paddle-like branches, which make it easy to eat as long as the cactus has been properly de-prickled.”

Is the amount of cactus in skincare products enough to make a noticeable difference to your skin?

“With any change to a skincare routine, you have to wait four to six weeks to observe changes. However, my experience shows that a notable difference in hydration will be seen by most in a month or so – just be careful you don’t layer too much oil and occlusives in the colder winter months as this can create congestion and outbreaks. Hydration is a state of perfect balance, so don’t overdo it!” says Dr Gout. 

“Also, check what additional ingredients are coupled in the formulation: If you have sensitive or redness-prone skin stay away from perfumed products as they will aggravate the skin and subdue the calming effect of the cactus ingredients.”

  • Disciple Skincare Night Shift Cleanser & Cloth

    Designed to “sort out” stressed-out skin, founder Charlotte Ferguson created this pore cleansing oil to exfoliate and brighten while helping skin maintain moisture throughout. 

    “Specifically, Disciple Skincare utilises prickly pear cactus to formulate our night shift cleanser, as it’s especially good for trans-epidermal water loss,” explains Ferguson. 

    Not heard of TEWL? It refers to the process of moisture being lost from the skin and can be exacerbated with cold weather and increased central heating.

    Shop Disciple Skincare Night Shift Cleanser & Cloth at Cult Beauty, £27

    buy now

  • Freck Cactus Water Cleansing Lactic Acid Toner

    A toner best used after cleansing and before moisturising, it’ll even out your skin tone, gently exfoliate dead skin cells and help protect skin against environmental aggressors. 

    Shop Freck Cactus Water Cleansing Lactic Acid Toner at Beauty Bay, £18

    buy now

  • Weleda Hydrating Facial Mist

    Invested in moisture sandwiching this winter? Weleda’s prickly pear refreshing and hydrating facial mist absorbs quickly, leaving skin soft and supple. Spray away and lock in with a heavier cream, balm or oil. 

    Shop Weleda Hydrating Facial Mist, £16.95

    buy now

  • Natura Bissé Tolerance Enzyme Peel

    Suitable for sensitive and ‘intolerant’ skin, this peel helps to slough away dead skin cells, revealing soft radiance underneath. 

    Shop Natura Bissé Tolerance Enzyme Peel at Space NK, £89

    buy now

  • Ahava Cactus and Pink Pepper Dry Oil Body Mist

    Enriched with jojoba and sesame seed oils, vitamin E and plant oils from the Dead Sea, this dry body oil is richly nourishing, helping to smooth and soften the skin. 

    Shop Ahava Cactus and Pink Pepper Dry Oil Body Mist at Lookfantastic, £30.49

    buy now

  • Philosophy Nature in a Jar Cream-To-Water Body Lotion

    Philosophy is celebrated for its efficacious natural, vegan formulas. This cream-to-water hydrating body lotion melts into the skin to lock in moisture all day long. 

    Shop Philosophy Nature in a Jar Cream-To-Water Body Lotion at Lookfantastic, £25

    buy now

  • Starskin Orglamic Pink Cactus Pudding

    A nourishing ‘pudding’ that can be used both day and night, hydrate and restore your skin, even when the weather cools down. 

    Infused with sacred lotus, cabbage, hyaluronic acid and prickly pear cactus seed oil, it’s the key to putting plump radiance back into your complexion. 

    Shop Starskin Orglamic Pink Cactus Pudding at Lookfantastic, £40

    buy now

  • MOA Queen of the Night Treatment

    Soothing, healing and repairing, Moa’s serum blends hyaluronic acid, squalane and botanical extracts and oils to hydrate and care for your skin.

    Shop MOA Queen of the Night Treatment at Cult Beauty, £35

    buy now

  • Circumference Active Botanical Refining Toner

    Reduce inflammation and even out skin tone with this powerful Active Botanical Refining Toner. It’s cleansing and calming, infused with antibacterial lavender hydrosol to soothe redness and irritation. 

    Shop Circumference Active Botanical Refining Toner at Cult Beauty, £52

    buy now

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