With new products, brands, and categories appearing every day, the beauty can be a bit overwhelming. Back to the roots is our rudimentary beauty series that serves as a crash course in the science behind some of the best formulations in the game.
Certain ingredients are so commonly used and widely recognized that they are almost becoming synonymous with skin care themselves. Ingredients like hyaluronic acid, retinol, and peptides are all good examples. Others are not so widely recognized, but they are steeped in history and cultural significance. Examples include mugwort, which has a long history of use in Korean culture, prickly pear, which is revered in Latinx culture, and yucca for skin and hair. Native cultures have used the latter throughout the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico for many years.
Used in traditional medicine as a remedy for diseases and conditions such as digestive disorders, inflammation, and even dandruff, this ingredient can also be found in a variety of popular skin care and personal care products.
According to Dr. Ava Shamban, Los Angeles-based Certified Dermatologist and Founder of Ava MD Dermatology, SkinFive Medical Spas and The Box by Dr Ava, “It is a perennial plant primarily native to the hot, dry regions of the Americas. with almost 50 known species – not all of which are as potent as others for skin care, but all with high value medicinal activities. Most often, the Mojave Yucca grape is used for skin care. It is a copious desert treasure that can be found throughout the American Southwest.
Cece Meadows, founder and CEO of Prados Beauty, says the plant has a myriad of uses. “Yucca is often confused with yuca because the two have a difference in visibility and use. Yuca looks more like a large peanut-shaped vegetable and can be cooked and eaten in different ways. Yucca is an ornamental plant. which has very thorny and pointed leaves [and] is found prominently in the warmer climates of North America and Mexico. Yucca grows fruits, seeds, and flowers that can be eaten or used for traditional medicine in native cultures.
What are the traditional uses of yucca?
As a Xicana and indigenous woman, Meadows has personal and family ties to the plant. “The yucca in my family was used to treat arthritis, wounds, itchy scalp, and acne,” she says. “My grandparents had a house in Mexico on their traditional lands and the yucca grew abundantly in their garden. When they arrived in the United States, they transplanted some of the plants to their home in Arizona, as the climate was perfect for their growth. My grandfather fell from a horse in the late 80’s and was weakened and suffered excruciating pain for years, while not a fan of painkillers, the yucca plant was used as a anti-inflammatory and healing. My grandmother would also put it in our hair when she gave us scalp treatments and hair masks!
She says it continues to be used today by indigenous peoples. “I use it at home to treat my acne, my wounds, my hair and the days my old softball injuries kick in. We have Yucca plants growing outside and inside my house. For plants that grow indoors, they tend to get smaller, allowing you to extract the ingredients more easily. I like to boil mine, then mix them in the blender for an additive to my face masks. I also like to use the boiled parts as a tea that can be ingested or placed in my hair care routine.
Why Should You Consider Using Yucca Products?
According to Shamban, the benefits of yucca are both varied and profound. “While it may not be as popular as other roots, plants, or herbal remedies, it offers powerful protection and skin benefits. Yucca is very rich in antioxidants which protect against free radical damage and oxidative stress. The extract is extracted from the root of the plant, often referred to as soap root, due to its clarifying, cleansing and antiseptic components. Also rich in folic acid and super potent vitamin C, it’s essential for supporting fibroblast activation and collagen production in the dermis.
Cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson of BeautyStat.com also praises its high antioxidant content as well as its saponin content. Saponin is a natural plant compound that has properties similar to soap, which is why it is also traditionally used as a shampoo and hair treatment. “Yucca can remove buildup, dead skin cells and fight environmental sludge, as well as relieve dryness, flaking and dandruff,” Shamban explains.
Dr. Geeta Yadav, Certified Dermatologist and Founder of Skin Science Dermatology, says you can add anti-inflammatory and photoprotective properties to yucca’s long list of benefits as well. “It can help prevent sun damage – just don’t replace your SPF with yucca! “
Are there any risks?
While relieving dandruff, providing antioxidant protection, and minimizing inflammation are all proven benefits of yucca, be careful not to overdo it on your skin if you are sensitive. According to Dr Geeta Yadav, saponins “have the potential to be sensitizing. Consider performing your own patch test – or better yet, seeing your dermatologist – before starting your new routine.
Overall, however, yucca is an effective ingredient for skin and hair products. It offers natural anti-inflammatory and antiseptic benefits, and it may even help protect your skin from free radical damage.
Coming up, check out three expert recommended yucca skin care products to buy now.
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