Although it was considered a delicacy when Australia’s Aboriginal people first discovered it thousands of years ago, spa-goers are only now clued in to its appeal. A rich yet lightweight texture and a bounty of benefits have turned macadamia into the hottest prospect in the current crop of beauty-oil contenders.
According to chief brand officer Cherie Jackson, Australian line Jindilli is a pioneer in the macadamia-oil business. “Our company was the first in the world to press macadamias for oil more than 30 years ago,” she says. “Although it was initially used for culinary purposes, local massage therapists started sourcing the oil to use in their services, and that’s when we discovered how skin-compatible the oil is.” In the intervening years, its star has only risen—pure macadamia oil is now the most commonly used product in the spa and wellness industry in its native Australia, where an estimated one in three spas use it as their preferred massage oil, says Lynne Ziehlke, marketing development manager for the Australian Macadamia Society. “Over the last five years, there has been a significant increase in the understanding of the curative properties of macadamia oil, which has led to a massive increase in the use of macadamia oil in new product formulations, especially in Australia, France, Korea, and the U.S.,” says Ziehlke. “Hundreds of new products containing macadamia oil as the main active ingredient have been released to the market, and the product categories that have seen the greatest growth have been facial skincare and hair products. Worldwide, approximately 70 percent of all macadamia oil is used by the cosmetic industry.”
In a Nutshell
Credit for the current macadamia boom must go to the nut’s intrinsic virtues—by all accounts, its nutritional profile is off the charts, especially when the nuts are cold-pressed (this is true for many other plant oils, such as olive oil - cold pressing is optimal). The resulting oil is primarily composed of fatty acids, says Ziehlke, three of which make up the vast majority of its content: omega-9 oleic, omega-7 palmitoleic, and saturated palmitic. “Macadamia’s profile resembles the oil that skin naturally produces,” says Janel Luu, CEO of PurErb. “It also contains important levels of [omega-6] linoleic acid, pantothenic acid, and phytosterols.” According to Luu, omega-9 reduces inflammation and seals in moisture. Omega-7 helps prevent lines and wrinkles, firm skin, and keep it supple to delay the signs of aging. Omega-6 helps prevent moisture loss, and phytosterols help repair the skin’s barrier function, promote absorption of nutrients, and slow down collagen loss.
Amal Elbahnasawy, founder and creator of Artisanskin, looked to that high phytosterol count when developing her Skin Medicine Body Oil. “Phytosterols have a calming and healing effect when applied to the skin, working as an anti-inflammatory and aiding in skin recovery, all of which are extremely beneficial to sensitive skin types,” she says. A multipurpose oil suitable for skin ailments as wide-ranging as stretch marks and diaper rash, it has found “a rather large yogi cult following” and “Every client that has used this oil has said they’ve noticed an instant difference in the texture of their skin after the first use,” she says. “I even have older clients who swear they’ve felt an improvement with the arthritis in their knees after applying our body oil.”
While claims that it alleviates joint pain may be a bit of a stretch, it’s not overstating matters to say that with so many positive side effects, macadamia oil is a versatile ingredient to have in the arsenal. “Oils with oleic acid are richer and heavier, so they are especially suitable for very dry skin, as they are extra occlusive and can seal in moisture really effectively for smooth, supple skin,” says Andrée Austin, founder and co-director of Pure Fiji, and “palmitoleic acid supports numerous skin functions, like boosting collagen production, protecting against oxidative damage, and rejuvenating skin cell membranes.” Palmitoleic acid is naturally found in sebum, and it functions in a similar manner, promoting skin health and dissipating with age. Ziehlke says that loss can be counteracted, though. “Macadamia oil contains the highest level of palmitoleic acid of any known food product, so by applying macadamia oil to the skin, we are able to replace some of the palmitoleic acid that has been lost naturally over time.” Macadamia oil is also ideal for sensitive and mature skin, says Luu. “It absorbs quickly without leaving a greasy residue, reduces skin irritation and inflammation, restores and maintains moisture levels, and soothes dehydrated, chapped, and cracked skin,” she says.
This nut isn’t a tough one to crack—such assets are a boon for formulators and spa menu planners alike. Although tree-nut sensitivities can be a concern, allergic reactions to macadamia are rare, say experts. “Macadamia offers clients instant comfort from dry, itchy skin, as it mimics skin’s natural hydration makeup,” says Tiffany McLauchlin, director of education for Lira Clinical.
Macadamia might be inherently beneficial, but it also has the ability to amplify the properties of other ingredients, as well. “It’s often referred to by the skincare industry as a carrier oil because it absorbs into the skin so well,” says Ziehlke. For that reason, it’s often combined with ingredients that don’t absorb as easily, because it facilitates the process. Macadamia is a great partner for other natural ingredients like avocado, banana, bicarbonate, honey, and royal jelly, particularly in face masks where it brings deep benefits, says Emilia Aguirre de Gottschamer, cofounder of Valhalla.
Look for it on the ingredient lists of your favorite beauty products.
Excerpt from American Spa - Maya Stanton