When People Magazine’s Most Beautiful cover girl dishes on her coveted skincare secrets, the world is bound to listen -- but will they make you look just as flawless?
Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o, who’s also famous for her colorful ensembles and silky smooth skin, revealed to Glamour Magazine that she loves to slather Hawaiian kukui oil on her face.
“I like to keep things natural, simple, and straightforward,” says the 31-year-old Mexico-born, Kenya-raised star.
While the product may sound like a new beauty invention, it’s actually been used for centuries. According to a 1993 report from the University of Hawaii, kukui oil is produced in the island by cold pressing oil from the nut of the kukui, specifically to protect the delicate skin of newborns.
“Cosmetic chemists report that kukui oil has an excellent skin feel,” states the report. “They say the kukui oil seems to be readily absorbed into the skin (it does not leave a greasy film). It seems to make chapped or rough dry skin feel smooth, silky, and soft. It seems to prevent scarring when applied to abrasions.”
Sound too good to be true? A 2005 study also reveals that kukui nut oil is loaded with fatty acids, which helps skin remain smooth, supple, and blemish free. It’s no wonder the cosmetics industry is now catching on.
From both creams to hair conditioners, this tropical treat is now popping up on drugstore aisles, all promising a boost of hydration to cure skin and hair woes. There’s the PureCeuticals Kukui Nut Mineral Scrub ($40), which promises to smooth away dead, enhancing rejuvenated, younger-looking features. There’s also the Gentle Cleansing Oil by Origins ($29), a lightweight and non-comedogenic product that gently removes dirt and makeup while protecting the skin’s natural moisture. And for budget-conscious shoppers with bad hair days, there’s the affordable Kukui Oil Shampoo ($7.99), promising to kick frizz to the curb and create “a shimmering gloss to smooth texture and repel humidity, to help make everyday a good hair day.”
One expert agrees with the latest fascination over this golden must-have.
“Kukui nut oil is very hydrating and soothing,” says Elizabeth Tanzi, co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, DC. “Kukui nut oil has oleic and linoleic acids to help soothe and moisturize by locking water into the skin.”
“Kukui nut oil is filled with essential fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants to nourish and hydrate dry skin,” adds Kat Burki, founder and CEO of Kat Burki Skincare & Fragrances. “Because it is able to penetrate deep into the layers of the skin, it heals from deep within–helping to reveal fresh, new, and vibrant skin. It’s naturally derived, lightweight, and non-comedogenic, which means it is easily absorbed into the skin without clogging pores. It also helps to regulate sebum production, making this an ideal ingredient for people concerned with breakouts or clogged skin.”
However, another expert is weary of kukui nut oil’s sudden popularity and recommends that shoppers think twice before splurging.
“There’s really not much scientific studies on the use of kukui oil in the dermatologic literature, and the one study I know of failed to demonstrate any differences between kukui oil and the placebo in treating mild psoriasis,” says Julia Tzu, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine.
But the oil does hold some promise. Tzu also says there is some “anecdotal evidence from its usage in traditional Hawaiian medicine” that it can help alleviate some common skin problems.
“Kukui oil does moisturize the skin to the extent that any oil acts as moisturizer to the skin, by decreasing evaporative water loss,” says Tzu. “Would I recommend my patients to use it as a moisturizer? Until more convincing scientific data demonstrates its superiority over mainstream moisturizers, I will always recommend what I can back up with solid data.”
Even Tanzi admits that while it can quench parched, dry features, kukui oil could possibly clog pores, potentially leading to unwanted breakouts.
“I wouldn’t recommend it for people prone to acne,” she says. “It’s best for people with drier skin types. Avoid if oily.”