Native Americans were experts at using what nature provided for their medicine cabinet and personal care. No matter where they roamed, they sought out indigenous plants with healing and beauty benefits. The tribes that inhabited the area that is now Sedona, Ariz., were particularly adept at using aloe, agave, juniper, prickly pear, and yucca to care for their skin and hair.
Did You Know?
The natural compounds that keep desert plants hydrated can work the same wonders on your skin and hair.
Desert-dwelling Native Americans used aloe vera gel to expedite wound healing, soothe sunburn, and hydrate skin. Cooling aloe is antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and it contains antioxidants. Aloe also has phytosterols that help soothe itches and irritation. The bioactive compounds in the plant are rich in vitamins A, B, C, D, and E as well as magnesium, potassium, and zinc that aid healing.
Best known as the tequila plant, many species of agave thrive throughout the Southwestern desert. Agave nectar is antimicrobial and was mixed with salt by Native Americans to heal skin conditions. Agave’s sugars soften skin and lock moisture inside hair. These sugars form complex bonds with internal proteins to add strength, resiliency, and elasticity to skin and hair.
3. Prickly Pear
Native Americans ate the prickly pear and used oil from the fruit’s seeds to help strengthen skin and hair. The oil contains twice as many proteins and fatty acids as argan oil, and is rich in vitamin E, making it an excellent remedy for damaged or mature skin and dry hair. Linoleic and oleic fatty acids help moisturize and restore skin’s elasticity. The vitamin K in prickly pear helps to brighten dark spots and undereye dark circles.
Native Americans discovered that juniper berries produce a stimulating, astringent, and detoxifying oil. They used it to remove impurities. Today, juniper oil is a key ingredient in detox skin products. It can balance oily skin and open blocked pores and keep them clear. Juniper improves circulation and reduces swelling, making it an ideal ingredient in massage oil.
Native Americans used the juice from the yucca root to make soap and shampoo because of its ability to lather. Since it’s packed with vitamin C and other antioxidants that soothe and nourish the skin and scalp, they also used it to treat ailments from acne to hair loss. Yucca is also anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and detoxifying.
- Quench parched skin while you cleanse with Andalou Naturals Coconut Water Firming Cleanser. Prickly pear seed oil hydrates and nourishes dry, depleted skin, helping minimize wrinkles and hyper-pigmentation for a lifted, firmer look. Enzymes, vitamin C, and coconut water electrolytes in this foaming cleanser gently remove dirt, impurities, and dull surface cells.
- Revive and soothe your skin with John Masters Organics Rose & Aloe Hydrating Toning Mist. Aloe helps skin retain moisture, and Damascan rose water, white tea, and gotu kola tone and clarify while calming redness and irritation. Use on clean skin to tone or mist over your finished makeup to set and refresh.
- Revitalize your hair and scalp with therapeutic Desert Essence Tea Tree Replenishing Shampoo and Conditioner. Yucca and eucalyptus help reduce flaking and add moisture and shine to dry, dull hair. Tea tree oil cleanses without stripping hair’s natural oil, while peppermint oil soothes the scalp. The addition of South American murumuru butter in the conditioner removes tangles and minimizes breakage.
- Detox from daily pollution with Abra Therapeutics Grapefruit & Juniper Cellular Detox Lotion. Detoxifying juniper berry and root extracts of burdock, comfrey, dandelion, and ginseng protect skin from free radical damage caused by air pollution. Essential oils of grapefruit and juniper tone and refresh skin.
- Get glistening skin from head to toe with FarmHouse Fresh Agave Nectar Ageless Body Oil. Agave, soybean, and sweet almond oils are paired with extracts of sandalwood, barley, and Phellodendron amurense bark to help skin retain moisture. Use this light oil immediately after showering for soft, scented skin that doesn’t feel greasy.
Traditional Native American healing treatments inspire the massages and integrative therapies at L’Apothecary Spa at the tranquil, creek-side L’Auberge de Sedona in Arizona (lauberge.com). Their “Quiet Mind” treatment helps turn off mental chatter to better experience a deeply relaxing massage. Desert-blooming bird of paradise and other indigenous botanicals in the massage oil support letting go of distraction and dissolving muscle tension. Guided meditative breathing accompanied by gentle facial acupressure helps calm the mind.