Beauty + Body

Australian natives in skincare: 3 of our favourite ingredients

A look at some of the incredible Australian native ingredients used in skincare, and how to ensure your product's ingredients are being sourced ethically.

Australian native plants are popular in skincare at the moment, with ingredients such as Kakadu Plum becoming highly sought-after by the clean beauty market.

I was lucky enough to trial some beautiful skincare products that contain native ingredients whilst judging the Clean + Conscious Awards. I also learnt about the dangers of over-harvesting native plants during times of such high demand.

First Nations people have long revered Australian natives for their healing and protective properties. They have cultivated and harvested indigenous plants in a way that respects the land and its people for thousands of years.

It’s always important to choose products that are both ethical and sustainable, but it seems especially so when those ingredients directly impact our own ecosystems and communities.

Here are three of my favourite native ingredients from the 2022 Awards, with tips on how to ensure each ingredient has been cultivated responsibly and in line with First Nations practices.

Kakadu Plum 

Kakadu Plum has been used by First Nations people for centuries, mostly as bush food and medicine. This flowering plant grows in north-western Australia and is also known as gubinge, billygoat plum, mimarral, and many other names. The fruits are handpicked by First Nations farmers who care for the land and draw on generations of knowledge. 

Today, Kakadu Plum is proclaimed as a superfood – and deservedly so! You’ll likely notice it appearing as a star ingredient in many products, including many of the skincare finalist products in our Awards. ⁠I personally love it for its high levels of vitamin C.

So why is this locally grown superfruit in such high demand by skincare companies?

Kakadu Plum has the highest vitamin C content of any fruit in the world, measuring up to 7000mg per 100g of fruit. That’s around 100 times that of oranges! Its high Vitamin C content stimulates the growth of skin collagen, something that our body slows down the production of as we grow older. Kakadu Plum also contains a high level of antioxidants, which protect against free radical damage caused by the sun and environmental toxins.

When choosing a skincare product containing Kakadu Plum, make sure you read the label. First Nations farmers should be fully integrated into the supply chain where they benefit directly. The fruit should also be cultivated sustainably and according to traditional practices.

Lemon Myrtle

The leaves of the Lemon Myrtle tree have been used by First Nations people medicinally and in cooking for thousands of years.  Today, it is loved for its lemony fragrance and flavour. Its oil has antiseptic, calmative, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties, and its germicidal properties have been said to be higher than that found in eucalyptus and tea tree oils.  

When Lemon Myrtle is used in skincare, it works as an astringent to help tighten pores and reduce irritations. Its antibacterial properties assist with inflammation, breakouts and oily skin.

Despite growing naturally within the coastal hinterlands of central and south-eastern Queensland, ​​Lemon Myrtle trees have been commercially farmed in Australia for over a century. In fact, British settlers started farming Lemon Myrtle trees as early as 1888.

The good news? Lemon Myrtle is perfectly suited to sustainable commercial farming. It knows how to live, adapt and thrive in the harsh Australian climate. This makes it a fairly safe pick when seeking a sustainable native ingredients in skincare.

It is, however, important to look for organic certification and to ensure that Lemon Myrtle has been sourced from a farm with sustainable farming practices, such as low water consumption and no pesticides. 

Tasmanian Mountain Pepper Berry 

Mountain pepper berry or Tasmanian native pepper is a shrub that grows in the alpine regions of Tasmania and southeast mainland Australia. It is traditionally used by First Nations people in cooking and medicine, and is exceptionally high in antioxidants – four times that of blueberries!

In skincare, its exceptionally high levels of antioxidants help to protect skin from free radicals and cell damage. Its active compound Anthocyanin helps promote collagen production, while bioflavonoid Rutin regenerates Vitamin C.

Mountain Pepper Berry is not easily commercially farmed like the Lemon Myrtle tree. It can take several years for the trees to begin to fruit, and only half the plants bear fruit. Skincare products usually only contain extractions from its leaves, not its berries.

Mountain pepper berry is alpine, so it must be harvested in a way that doesn’t affect its surrounding environment. Its trees are also very susceptible to heat and dryness – making them extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. 

When seeking a product containing mountain pepper berry, check that it has been sourced sustainably and in consultation with First Nations people.

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