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Beauty and cosmetics

Discover the plants that are used in the beauty industry for cosmetics, skincare and fragrances.

Plants are a source of oils used as moisturisers in a variety of products. For example, Cape chestnut seed oil is an ingredient in soaps, and avocado oil, which penetrates human skin readily, is added to products such as moisturising creams. 


Chimonanthus praecox (wintersweet) flowers
Chimonanthus praecox (wintersweet) flowers

Essential oils of wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) are used in cosmetics, perfumery and aromatherapy.

A wide range of species are used to fragrance beauty products. These include essential oils of wintersweet, lavender, lemongrass, basil, oregano and myrrh. Vanilla is one of the most important ingredients in perfumery. Many plant species are also used in aromatherapy.

Other plant products are selected for their physical properties. Oats and rice are used in exfoliating scrubs and sugar cane is used for hair removal. Gum arabic is used as an adhesive in face masks and powders, and to give a smooth feel to lotions.

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Photo of Hoodia gordonii
Hoodia gordonii is widely used in the commercial production of slimming aids.

The chemical properties of species are also important. For example, Aloe vera gel is used in skin products for its healing properties, Hoodia gordonii is used in slimming products, and rice starch and oil are used for their alleged anti-ageing properties.

Other species are used as a source of dyes for skin and hair products, for example Cape chestnut.

Antiseptic oils from species such as tea tree, eucalyptus, sweet wormwood and alang-alang are used in a wide range of toiletries.