Spring. When the days grow longer and entice you to spend your time outdoors. Even though we’ve heard or read that it’s important to spend less time in the sun and the reasons are oh so obvious. Sunburn is no fun: it hurts and has effects that’ll plague you years later. This is why there are a thousand and one sunscreens out there. Some brands even formulated cosmetics such as foundation, lipstick, or eye shadow with SPF. Yet there’s a movement toward natural skin care including sunscreen. So, how do brands cater to this new need?
They get inspired by nature and incorporate a plant oil like buriti oil. Rich in carotenoids, vitamin E, and fatty acids, it provides additional sun protection and boosts the effectiveness of the SPF you’re wearing.
A little bit about the ingredient
Buriti oil is derived from the seed of the buriti palm. This plant is also known as moriche palm or its botanical name Mauritia flexuosa. It’s native to the Amazon rainforest. It grows in and around swamps and can reach 35m in height with large leaves crowning its top.
Its fruit has an oval shape with ribbed skin, looking like it’s covered with shiny scales. When ripe, the fruit has a reddish to dark brown colour. Then it looks like a pinecone had a baby with a chestnut. The fruit flesh is deep yellow and surrounds a hard, oval nut. The fruit and nut have a unique aroma.
The plant plays a vital role for the indigenous people. That’s why the scientist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt called it the “tree of life” when he documented the tree. And the name stuck.
As you can imagine of the “tree of life”, it’s not only the fruit or nut that was used and eaten.
- The flower buds are a local delicacy
- The sap can quench the thirst (it’s drunk fresh or fermented)
- The tree fibres can be twisted into threads and ropes
- The leaves can be used as natural organic fertiliser
- The leaves are versatile and can be turned into mats and hammocks or chords and baskets
- The trunk is sturdy and useful as construction material
Of course, people ate the fruit. It can also be used to make juice, jam, ice cream, dessert, and a fermented beverage.
Meet buriti oil
The burity oil is obtained from the seed of the buriti palm. The seeds are cold pressed to obtain an oil that is one of the richest source of beta carotene. It’s even richer in beta carotene than carrot oil, containing 5 times more. Just for the sake of completeness, about 4’000 mcg per 100g beta carotene can be found in a carrot but buriti oil contains around 19’500 mcg beta carotene per 100g.
Beta carotene is a precursor to vitamin A. When it hits your skin or when you ingest something containing beta carotene, your body converts it into vitamin A. This vitamin is important for cell growth and regeneration. You surely have heard your mum or grandma tell you to eat more carrots because it’s good for your eyes. They had a point because beta carotene boosts your immune health and indirectly soothes eye inflammation and so decreases your chance of getting eye inflammation.
Other bioactive compounds present are vitamin B complex and tocopherols (vitamin E complex). The different vitamin Bs all contribute to your overall bodily functions. They’re important for your energy levels, brain function, and cell metabolism.
Buriti oil is rich in alpha tocopherol (vitamin E). It’s a fat-soluble antioxidant that is a component of the sebum your skin makes. As such, it keeps your skin lubricated and healthy while protecting your skin from damage caused by free radicals. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduces swelling and redness of too much sun exposure.
Buriti oil is made up of essential fatty acids. Fatty acids are part of your skin’s composition. As building blocks of cell membranes (the “skin” of cells) that regulate what can pass through or not. They play a crucial role in how your skin looks and functions and also help stimulate collagen and elastin regeneration. The main fatty acids in buriti oil are:
- Oleic acid (72 %) – omega 9 is a monosaturated fatty acid responsible for hydrating and lubricating. It’s also known for its antioxidant effect but can be comedogenic.
- Palmitic acid (22 %) – is a saturated fatty acid. It helps the skin maintain and repair your skin’s natural barrier structure. As an emollient, it forms a protective barrier that protects against external aggressors.
- Linoleic acid (4%) – omega 6 is known as an anti-inflammatory. It also helps wound healing and fights against zits
- Stearic acid (2 %) – is known to be an emollient that can also cleanse your skin
Thanks to the beta carotene, buriti oil is golden orange to reddish brown. It has a creamy nut almost earthy aroma and can be used to make a flavour-full salad dressing – or in skin care.
Why add it to your skin care
Although being in the sun lifts our mood among other benefits such as helping our bodies produce vitamin D, overexposure can have unwanted effects. You can protect yourself by applying sunscreen products. They absorb most of the UV rays but some may still rich your skin.
Your skin protects itself with antioxidants so that it can stop or reduce the damage done by free radicals. But that may lead to depleting the reservoir of antioxidants and eventually, there’s too little antioxidant to neutralise the free radicals. This may lead to inflammation, photo-ageing, and worse yet, skin cancer.
Indigenous people in the Amazon have used buriti oil for UV protection because it’s so rich in antioxidants and has natural UV filter properties. That said the US FDA doesn’t approve it as SPF. But you can use it as to boost your SPF as studies have shown its photo-protective qualities.
Seeing buriti oil’s fatty acid profile and how rich it is in antioxidants, it can aid your skin in repairing the skin barrier, lower inflammation after too much sun, and improve your skin’s tone and texture.
When your skin is dry as well as dehydrated, you see it crack or flake. This fears fissures and cracks between the skin cells. As an emollient, buriti oil goes in-between the open spaces between the skin cells and fills them with lipids. It makes your skin smoother and forms a barrier that prevents water from evaporating from your skin. As it has around 70 % oleic acid, it’s better suited for dry and mature skin (then oily or acne prone skin).
Natural SPF booster
Buriti oil has been shown to shield from UVA and UVB rays. It acts as a sun filter and so protects your skin from sunburn, and photo-ageing – think wrinkles and sun spots. Although you shouldn’t wear it alone, you can enhance the SPF you’re already using.
Reduce redness and swelling
Beta carotene in buriti oil is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory qualities. As an antioxidant, it can help shield your skin from free radicals caused by the sun. And it can act as an after-sun to soothe and relieve redness and swelling.
Reduce dark spots and fine lines caused by sun exposure
Again, thanks to beta carotene, buriti oil is so helpful as sun protection. Remember that beta carotene is a precursor of vitamin A? When your skin is exposed to the sun, UV rays penetrate your skin and damage it. It damages the collagen and elastin fibres that keep your skin firm and elastic allowing your skin to sag and wrinkles to develop. The UV rays also cause your skin to speed up melanin production.
As buriti is abundant in fatty acid and beta-carotene, it can help restore your skin’s elasticity as well as lighten dark spots caused by the sun.
How to use
Use buriti oil as you would argan oil. A few drops goes a long way. You may want to apply it directly to your skin or add it to your favourite SPF or moisturiser.
Store the oil in a dark bottle and in a dark and dry place so to keep it at its best for longer.
Since buriti oil is abundant in beta carotene just like carrot oil, it can stain fabrics if not fully absorbed into your skin. It can also stain your skin, so you may want to dilute it with jojoba or rice bran oil.
Since buriti oil is abundant in vitamins A, E, and essential fatty acids, it’s a great way to protect your skin and repair damaged skin cells.
But, its comedogenic rating is 2 (the comedogenic scale goes from 0 to 5 with 5 being very likely it will block pores). Also, seeing that its oleic to linoleic acid proportion is 72 % to 22 %, it’s better suited for dry or mature skin.