If you’ve never heard of moringa oil, well, you’re about to. The ingredient, derived from a tree indigenous to India, is popping up in every corner of the natural beauty industry, with people putting it in creams, serums, shampoos, conditioners, and even makeup. Listening to natural beauty brands, you’ll hear that moringa is the next star, that it’s a miracle in a bottle, that it will Mari Kondo your apartment and change your life. OK, obviously we’re overstating, but beauty folks are freaking out about this ingredient — so we set out to learn why.
Moringa oil is an essential oil culled from moringa oleifera, which is a vegetable tree grown in Africa, Central and South America, the Indian subcontinent, and South East Asia. The tree itself is somewhat miraculous, with one modern researcher calling it “one of the most useful trees in the world,” not only because it’s drought resistant and can yield cooking and lighting oil, but its seeds can also help purify water. And while more studies are needed, it’s thought that the leaves of the moringa oleifera contain more calcium than milk, 3/4 the iron in spinach, and more vitamin A than carrots.
The oil, as equal a multitasker as the tree from which it’s culled, has been used for centuries — like, all the way back to ancient Egyptian times — and for cooking, medicine, and cosmetics. And based on the impressive make-up of the oil, it’s easy to understand why both pharoahs and natural beauty brands can’t get enough of the stuff. “The oil from the seeds is 40 percent monounsaturated fatty acids, with 70 percent of that being oleic acid,” says Cybele Fishman, a board-certified dermatologist who practices integrative dermatology in New York City.
Moringa is also ideal because it’s similar to the oil your skin produces naturally, helping to balance and nourish all skin types. “Unlike other oils that sit on the surface of the skin and leave a greasy after-feel, moringa absorbs deep into the skin,” explains Emily Cunningham, co-founder and COO of Moringa Connect, a company that includes beauty brand Hosannawind and True Moringa.
“Most of the benefits are based on traditional use and small laboratory studies.” And of the studies done in a lab, many of them are looking at the benefits of moringa oil when consumed, not applied topically, and with rats as the subjects, not humans.
But that hasn’t stopped brands from jumping on the moringa bandwagon, and for many natural beauty enthusiasts to sing the oil’s praises (I mean, if it was good enough for pharaohs, then there’s gotta be something to it.) There are even skin-care lines created entirely around the ingredient, like True Moringa or Hosannawind, whose skin care package at organicasap.com is well-loved for its moisturizing properties.