Kakadu plum is one of the hottest ingredients in anti-aging products because of its high concentration of vitamin C. But is this “miracle” ingredient worth all the hype? Let’s take a look at the evidence and uncover the TRUTH.
What is a Kakadu Plum?
The Kakadu plum (Terminalia ferdinandiana) is a species of plum native to Australia and has been used for 40,000 years by its indigenous people as both medicine and food. The bark of the tree has been used for wounds and boils and the green fruit eaten on long treks for nourishment.
In the 1980s, Army Major Les Hiddens was introduced to the fruit by the native peoples during the filming of a documentary. Intrigued, he had it analyzed and found it contained 2300-3150 mg/100 g of vitamin C – compare that to the 50 mg/100 g for an orange and you can see why some were so excited.
Mary Kay Patent Attempt
One of those entities that was excited about Kakadu Plum was Mary Kay Cosmetics who saw its potential as an antioxidant for use in their anti-aging serums. Mary Kay began adding Kakadu plum extracts into its Timewise line of products, but controversy erupted when the company attempted to patent the Kakadu.
Indigenous groups strongly opposed the move, which they said may prevent them from using it as medicine. While the patent was eventually withdrawn the surrounding publicity helped put the Kakadu on the international radar. Now at last count 17 companies are using Kakadu in their products, creating a cash crop for the Aborigines.
Vitamin C and Skin
There is no doubt that vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that has an important role in our skin and overall health and wellbeing. We need vitamin C to form collagen in our bones, skin, muscles, and blood and we get this from foods such as oranges, strawberries, and broccoli. Usually 1 cup a day of these is enough to give us the 65-90 mgs we need to stay healthy. However, The Linus Pauling Institute notes the full benefits of vitamin C are not well understood due to limited research.
This is especially true for its use as a topical application on the skin – the Mayo Clinic states it lacks a clear anti-oxidant effect. And while Linus Pauling Institute says there is some research that shows vitamin C can help reduce photodamage, dark spots, and wrinkling, its effects are not apparent in everyone. One study found less of an effect of topically applied vitamin C in women that had a high dietary intake.
The other thing about vitamin C is that it can be highly unstable and loses its potency when exposed to light. And for some people, putting it on the skin can cause irritation or itchiness.
Does Kakadu Plum Work?
Now that we’ve talked about what is known about Kakadu plum and vitamin C, does the added concentration in this fruit really do anything special when applied to the skin aside from raise the cost?
Aside from the fact that it has high vitamin C levels, we couldn’t find any studies conducted specifically on the Kakadu plum investigating its alleged anti-aging benefits.
In addition, if you judge by the reviews of a Dark Spot Corrector containing Kakadu plum left by customers who have tried it over at our sister publication Highya, the results are less than spectacular.
“I have faithfully applied dark spot corrector to my arms and chest twice a day for 2 months, using 6 bottles of product. I have seen absolutely no improvement in hyper pigmentation,” reads one.
Out of the 67 reviews so far, 20 have given it 5-stars, 12 4-stars, and 32 have given it 1-star for a 2.8 average.
Kakadu Plum: Concluding Thoughts
Kakadu plum does indeed contain a lot of vitamin C and has been in use as folk medicine for thousands of years. But it hasn’t ever been used to fight the effects of aging until the cosmeticeutical industry got ahold of it.
Vitamin C itself is essential to our health, but the benefits of ingesting it through the skin or in a supplement is still under investigation. Because the cosmetics industry is essentially unregulated by the FDA, vitamin C or Kakadu plum doesn’t not need to be proven effective.
The amount of Kakadu plum in a cosmetic can be unclear, as these products often don’t list their concentrations and are rarely validated by outside laboratories. So while it may say “Kakadu plum” it may only contain a tiny bit that barely justifies the name.
So, if you are thinking about a cream that contains Kakadu plum or vitamin C:
- Don’t worry so much about the source, just make sure the bottle lists L-Ascorbic acid, the only type of vitamin C our skin can really absorb.
- Make sure it comes in a dark bottle and try not to expose the cream to too much light, or you may make the vitamin C inactive without knowing it.
- Have patience. These types of creams may work, but they take many weeks and consistent applications.
- This means that you could have to buy a lot of bottles, which can get expensive.
- In our investigation of cheap versus expensive skin creams, we found that the price of the cream was often opposite to its effectiveness.
- Keep your expectations low, because in spite of all the hype and research there is still NO Fountain of Youth!
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