Nature meets skincare: How this Kiwi brand harvests its powerhouse skincare ingredient

A potent essential oil from the East Cape is stirring up the skincare scene.

It’s no secret that essential oils are powerful. Healing essences from roots, shoots and stems have been heralded for millennia, slathered on everything from scrapes to fine facial lines. Science is now backing up what humans have known through trial and error.

Studies show that one particular oil, sourced only from the East Cape of New Zealand, is an overachiever when it comes to battling bad bacteria, fighting free radicals and containing anti-aging properties.

Enter mānuka oil from the East Cape, the new kid on the block in the skincare scene. The naturally potent elixir, derived from mānuka trees through steam distillation, has been gaining favour among experts since research on the ingredient began in the 1980s. While mānuka flowers are key for mānuka honey, a sweet ingredient famed for its medicinal properties, the oil within East Cape mānuka branches and leaves offers a far more dynamic skincare solution.

ManukaRx, a New Zealand-owned skincare brand, saw untapped potential in mānuka oil harvested exclusively on the East Cape. Mānuka essential oil from the East Cape contains a higher level of β-triketones (the compounds that kill or stop microorganisms) than mānuka from any other region. With more than 1000 internationally peer-reviewed publications on the ingredient so far, science is demonstrating that the East Cape is growing a particularly special ingredient.

“Science shows that East Cape mānuka oil is an incredibly powerful skincare ingredient that has awesome antioxidant and anti-ageing properties,” says Dr Suki Harding, director and head of R&D at ManukaRx.

Dr Suki Harding, surrounded by native mānuka trees.

The results speak for themselves. ManukaRx’s hero ingredient contains 80 different active compounds and is 1000 times more effective than its honey counterpart against bacteria. While often compared to Australian tea tree oil, East Cape mānuka oil is in fact 30 times more effective against Gram-positive bacteria (bad skin bacteria).

And for a clearer, brighter skin, the benefits of East Cape mānuka oil go above and beyond. When combined with other ingredients (think rosehip oil), the potency of both ingredients is amplified.

ManukaRx’s must-have Pro-Aging skincare collection.

Says Dr Harding: “East Cape mānuka oil reduces wrinkles and skin thickness caused by sun damage. It is also a wonder product in the treatment of acne. It kills acne bacteria, reduces skin inflammation, calms the skin, accelerates wound healing and reduces scarring by stimulating collagen production. In short, it is a complete skincare treatment.”

ManukaRx is in the business of natural skincare that works as hard for the skin as it does the community. The mānuka industry has grown from a desire to provide employment options on the East Cape. Mānuka oil is sustainably sourced from wild mānuka trees on local farms and from new, sustainable plantations created to meet rising demand.

Local workers run the leaves and twigs through a chopper before compacting it by foot in large tanks. Steam distillation gently opens pockets of oil contained in the botanicals, and after five or six hours, the delicate process yields a pure essential oil.

East Cape mānuka oil is at the heart of all ManukaRx products, which are formulated based on everyday, blemish-prone or pro-aging skincare needs. Since launching its flagship antibacterial ointment in 2018, ManukaRx has expanded with a range of balms, moisturisers and creams that are all natural, backed by science and made right here in New Zealand.

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