This Magical Middle Eastern Skin Oil Is Finally Making Its Way to the U.S.

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Skincare experts agree that millennials are more informed about skincare ingredients and how they function than ever before: Instead of blindly purchasing mystery jars of department store creams like past generations, consumers today want to know exactly what's in their products so they can avoid the chemicals and stuff that tests on animals in favor of simple, active ingredients. Demand for natural, effective skincare and the discovery of formulas that fit those needs naturally go hand-in-hand, so when we catch wind of a new ingredient—or better yet, an oldie but a goodie that simply hasn't made it to the mainstream yet—our antennas perk right up.

A few weeks ago, a conversation with a makeup artist named Aneela Zaman had us intrigued. Zaman recently founded an eponymous skincare line that harnesses the natural, versatile powers of an ingredient called black cumin seed oil. If you're into chemical-free skincare, you probably already own a stash of oils—maybe argan, coconut, avocado, jojoba. But without a doubt, this ancient ingredient, which has been used in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia for centuries, deserves a spot in your collection.

"Black cumin seed oil is a legendary secret of the goddesses like Cleopatra and Nefertiti, who used it as part of their daily beauty regimen," explains Zaman, who is of Southeast Asian descent herself and has used the ingredient regularly her whole life. "It is also known that the pharaoh Tutankhamun was found buried alongside black cumin seed oil almost 3300 years ago." Completely different from the orange cumin you cook with, this product comes from a plant called Nigella sativa, sometimes also called black caraway or fennel flower. Though precious in the East, black cumin seed oil is hardly at the tip of most American tongues. And yet, as the Western beauty industry increasingly turns toward natural and organic skincare methods, black cumin seed oil is catching many brands' eyes. "This is where black cumin seed oil finds its niche in the beauty industry today," says Zaman.

So what specifically is so great about this exotic black elixir? "I like to refer to the three As: antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging," summarizes Andrea Lopez, an esthetician and founder of facial oil brand Bonum Vitae. "I'd suggest acneic or aging skin for this specific oil." (Though, the ingredient is safe for all skin types.) Curious to learn more about the benefits of black cumin seed oil? Then keep on reading.