What Is Cactus Cream? Everything You Need to Know, According to a Dermatologist

From collagen production to hydration and complexion

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cactus cream
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When it comes to new ingredients in the beauty space, we’re no strangers to the wacky and wild. Spermidine supplements and bovine colostrum are trending. Snail mucin is still riding the waves of its heyday. Batana oil kicked castor to the curb. And now, cactus cream is entering the chat. The term has seen a 180 percent increase in search volume, per Google Trends, and beauty industry publication “Cosmetics Business” called cactus extract this summer’s must-have ingredient. We spoke with New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Ryan Turner about why this ingredient is poised to take off and whether or not it really has any “anti-aging” properties.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Ryan Turner is a board-certified, New York City-based dermatologist specializing in cosmetic, general and surgical dermatology, and is the founder of TRNR Skin. Turner is also an assistant professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the former director of dermatologic and laser surgery at Montefiore Medical Center. Dr. Turner received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School.

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What Is Cactus Cream?

Though there are many types of cacti to choose from, Dr. Turner says that prickly pear cactus is usually the plant of choice in skincare formulations. Additionally, it’s used in more than just creams—you’ll also find the ingredient in gels, toners, scrubs and lotions.

“Prickly pear cactus is based in Central American traditional medicine,” Dr. Turner explains. “It can work and be beneficial [in topical applications, thanks to] its potent antioxidant benefits. It's really packed with polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids. And these are awesome because they're strong anti-inflammatory antioxidants.”

The Benefits of Cactus Cream for Skin

According to a 2021 review, prickly pear cactus extract derives most of its benefits from the fatty acids, steroids and antioxidants it contains. Here are some of the potential benefits it can have on your skin.


As Dr. Turner previously noted, prickly pear cactus has strong anti-inflammatory antioxidants, which can help address redness. The extract also contains vitamin K, which he says has the potential to alleviate dark circles under the eyes. (This would probably be most effective if the cause of your under-eye circles are broken capillaries, as vitamin K is known as the blood-clotting vitamin.)

Collagen Production and General Skin Health

 “Antioxidants can [encourage] a bit of collagen stimulation,” Dr. Turner says. “It also contains a high amount of vitamin E, which we know is a great antioxidant and helps with the overall health of our skin.” A 2016 study notes that the vitamin is an effective defense against free radicals and ameliorating under-eye circles.


Cactus extract’s fatty acids can, like other plant extracts, provide ample hydration, Dr. Turner shares.

Wound Healing

Because the antioxidants found in prickly pear cactus extract have strong anti-inflammatory properties, they can make the ingredient effective in wound healing.

“In traditional medicine, the extracts are used because they can help control inflammation,” Dr. Turner says. “When you control and calm inflammation, you allow for different repair processes to start taking place, like collagen building. Because prickly pear is high in antioxidants, [it can help] get rid of free radicals that are in the wound itself.”

He also states that prickly pear has antimicrobial properties that allow it to treat or help prevent infection. The 2021 review reported that data about this feature can be inconsistent but suggests the concentration of the ingredient plays a role in its efficacy.

Blemish and Sebum Control

“Regarding acne, prickly pear is high in a particular fatty acid [linoleic acid, also known as vitamin F] that can help with sebum control,” Dr. Turner says. “It can help balance oil on the skin.” However, he emphasizes that prickly pear extract isn’t going to treat acne directly.

Does Cactus Cream Have Anti-Aging Properties?

Sort of. Dr. Turner tells us that prickly pear cactus extract has potent antioxidants that can address fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating collagen production, “but it’s not going to be a workhorse like retinol.”

How to Choose the Best Cactus Cream

Cream, gel or toner? When it comes to formulation, Dr. Turner advises that products with an oil base will penetrate the skin more deeply, so opt for an oil-based cream if you can.

“Gels are typically quick drying so they may not get as much penetration into the skin,” he says. And as with any new ingredient in your skin care routine, be sure to patch test first.

MW 10

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