Beauty Secrets of the Desert
Hold back the sands of time with these exotic ingredients.
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
The plants that mysteriously thrive in the desert have evolved and adapted to extreme temperatures and dryness in order to survive. These resilient properties make them rich in hydrating ingredients and protective antioxidants, ideal ingredients for healing skin, hair, and scalp products.
“The plants that thrive in the Sonoran Desert, in particular, are prickly, gnarly, and tough, but this is exactly what makes them so ideal for skincare,” says Christina Mahar, founder of Sia Botanics, based in Tucson, Ariz. “In order to survive the extreme temperature changes of the Sonoran Desert, which range from well below freezing to well above 120 degrees, the plants in this region have created adaptations. These include super-concentrated nutrients, strong sun protection, phenomenal antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities, and a perfect balance of trace minerals to hold moisture in and maintain cellular health.
“The balance of trace minerals inside and outside of a skin cell is what keeps the cell wall from heating and deteriorating. A cool cell is round and plump. Many misshapen cells equal wrinkling, lines, and loss of elasticity. One of the reasons that cacti live for thousands of years is because of this trace mineral balance and the slowing of cell deterioration.”
Desert-dwellers with distinctive beautifying benefits include:
Prickly Pear Cactus
The superior antioxidant and hydrating properties of this plant help prevent fine lines and wrinkles. According to Mahar, “The fruit from this cactus contains the highest levels of betelains of any plant on earth. Betelain is a super antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that is responsible for its rich, deep fuchsia red and purple color. The red and purple tones of beets, pomegranates, açai, and cranberries come from this antioxidant, and are the reason they have such a healthy reputation.”
Tip: “Prickly pear juice, which can be found in some health food stores, is a great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant drink for your skin and overall health, but don’t apply this juice directly to your face. The pH is very alkaline and will probably make you break out. This is one ingredient that you will want to buy blended into a skincare preparation,” says Mahar.
Jojoba oil comes from the seeds of this desert plant, and is packed with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Similar to the sebum that the body naturally produces, jojoba oil is light and absorbs quickly. “Jojoba doesn’t just hydrate, it also helps balance both oily and dry skin. Jojoba oil also has the highest concentration of squalene of any plant, which is extremely hydrating.”
Tip: “Jojoba is expensive, and many companies only use a little jojoba and lots of cheaper oils in products that they label jojoba oil or jojoba cream. To get the full benefit, make sure that jojoba is the first oil listed in the ingredients,” notes Mahar.
Sage has the ability to clarify skin, balance oil, and battle bacteria, all without drying your skin. “Many skin products for men contain sage because of its clean smell, plus it helps control ingrown hairs by increasing cellular turnover and controlling bacteria,” she says.
Known for its ability to soothe and heal cuts and burns, as well as moisturize, aloe vera can be applied directly to the skin. “Pure aloe leaves a slightly tacky feel so this works best if you use it like a mask,” adds Mahar.
Did You Know?
Desert plants provide super-concentrated nutrients, strong sun protection, phenomenal antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities, and a perfect balance of trace minerals to retain moisture and maintain cellular health.
1. Mad Hippie Cream Cleanser moisturizes while removing impurities. Organic jojoba oil, orchid extract, organic macadamia oil, algae extract, and green tea clean, nourish, hydrate, repair, and protect normal to dry skin.
2. Earth Science Clarifying Herbal Astringent leaves oily skin feeling fresh and toned without disturbing its natural moisture balance. Extracts of sage, rosemary, and witch hazel help remove soap residue and trapped oil, while minimizing pores.
3. Desert Essence Organic Jojoba Oil for Hair, Skin & Scalp is a concentrated multi-tasker that penetrates quickly to quench dry skin without leaving an oily residue. Use to remove makeup, cleanse clogged pores, soften hands and feet, and nourish hair and scalp. Smooth a few drops of jojoba oil on frizzy hair, massage scalp to help get rid of dandruff, or moisturize after shaving.
4. Sia Botanics Prickly Pear Rescue Cream is an SOS for dry and distressed skin. Prickly pear, organic aloe vera, and organic green tea intensely hydrate while also helping to reduce inflammation and speed cellular turnover of parched skin.
5. Alba Botanica Hawaiian Marula Miracle Cleansing Conditioner is a low-lather, creamy shampoo-and-conditioner-in-one that freshens hair between washes. Extra dry hair that is too stressed for frequent shampooing will benefit from this combination of moisture-replenishing aloe vera and wild-harvested, fair trade marula oil, which also helps rebuild resiliency and shine.