Light, highly absorbent, high in vitamin E and antioxidants, prickly pear seed oil is wonderful skincare oil to reach for no matter what your skin type.

The catch….

It’s not always easy to find or particularly affordable.

When I was wrapping up the final edits for my book Power of the Seed I was just starting to see this exotic-sounding oil from a few select suppliers (actually just one supplier) at what seemed like an astronomical price.

At the time I was still deep in creating products for my skincare line and so prickly pear seed oil, both the cost and finding a reliable supplier put this oil out of reach.

And, I thought, I could add this oil to the book before I send it off, but ultimately I didn’t. I thought the high price and the scarce availability would keep prickly pear seed oil from gaining a following.

I was wrong.

In the years since I’ve written the book, prickly pear seed oil has become important, loved and a much sought after oil. It is my daughter Olivia’s favorite skincare oil and it is becoming one of mine too.

Here are a few reasons why this oil has stolen our hearts around here.

It absorbs rapidly and feels light on the skin

Prickly pear seed oil absorbs quickly and completely helping protect against the forces that tend to age our skin; weather, dryness, and time. This makes it a wonderful oil for summer when temperatures rise and we tend to sweat more.

Skin supporting fatty acids

It supports supple skin and elasticity by supplementing the skin’s natural lipids (fats). And, its skin-supporting fatty acids help to maintain a smooth even complexion.

The fatty acids are predominantly unsaturated with 60% essential linoleic acid as well as small amounts of palmitoleic and essential Alpha-linolenic acids, both vital for skin health.

It’s high in vitamin E

Possessing some of the highest levels of vitamin E, the tocopherols, prickly pear seed oil provides antioxidant protection that helps to stabilize and protect skin cells from damage. It is also helpful in lightening up dark spots on the skin. This is related to the high density of plant nutrients, including vitamin e present in an unrefined or lightly refined prickly pear seed oil.

Adapted to the Desert

Prickly pear seed oils’ ability to protect and maintain moisture in the skin is, I think, directly linked to the plants’ native habitat. Prickly pear cacti grow in arid, dry and often harsh desert conditions. The tiny seeds from the prickly pear fruit are tiny but packed with nutrients to support the new plants during germination and early growth. These same tiny, nutrient-dense seeds give us a nutrient-dense oil. Seeing these patterns and correlations in nature and the oils is something I love about my research and study into these lipid oils.

Common names and native regions

Prickly pear seed oil has a number of popular names including India fig, Opuntia, Barbary fig seed oil, Indian fig seed oil, and prickly cactus seed oil. It is a member of the cactus family, Cactaceae and a native of Mexico, but the plant is now grown in arid and semi-arid regions all around the world. Many suppliers source prickly pear seed oil from India and Morocco. In general, I find this oil sourced from India to be slightly less expensive than the Moroccan sourced oil, but all these elements are in constant flux as new suppliers emerge and competition increases.

prickly pear in bloom
Prickly pear flowers before they turn into seed-producing fruits.

Fatty Acid Profile

Fatty Acids Found In Prickly Pear Seed Oil: the percentages below are representative of the species but not exact.

Linoleic Acid 60.5%
Oleic Acid 20.6%
Palmitic Acid 13.9%
Stearic Acid 3.2%
Palmitoleic 1%
Linolenic 1%
Tocopherol 895 mg/kg

Adding prickly pear oil to your skincare routine

Apply the oil to clean skin and massage it into the face where it absorbs just enough yet leaving a protective lipid film on the surface. It is not oily or greasy and has a full-bodied feel on application. A single application in the morning keeps my skin feeling great all day. Extra dry skin could benefit from a second application when feeling tight or dry.

Do you use prickly pear seed oil? I’d love to hear what you think and your experience with this oil in the comments below.