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There's no denying that Salma Hayek has the face of an angel. She's ageless. Now in her 50s, the Mexican actress has the skin we dream of having at any age. And whenever people look as youthful and fresh-faced as they did 20 years prior, we are desperate to know their antiaging secret. So we were highly intrigued when Hayek revealed in an interview that she doesn't use Botox, pills, or fillers—and that her secret weapon is instead a Mexican botanical called tepezcohuite (sometimes also called tepescohuite in scientific journals). "It's used in Mexico for burn victims because it completely regenerates the skin, and there's no one in the States who is using this ingredient," she told Elle. If life were a cartoon, that would have been the moment our wheels revved in place until we sped off in search of all of the tepezcohuite ever to slather over our faces 10 times a day until the end of time. Naturally, we had to know more about this little-known, exotic ingredient Hayek says is responsible for her flawless skin. So, we spoke with dermatologists Patricia Farris and Rajani Katta, and cosmetic chemist Vanessa Thomas, for their takes on tepezcohuite.
- Type of ingredient: Anti-microbial.
- Main benefits: Moisturizes, and could potentially promote burn- and wound-healing.
- Who should use it: In general, anyone with dry or irritated skin.
- How often can you use it: Not enough scientific studies have been conducted to determine appropriate usage.
- Works well with: Aloe and tea tree oil.
- Don’t use with: Harsh exfoliators such as glycolic acid, and astringents, as doing so may irritate the skin.
What is Tepezcohuite?
Also known as "mimosa tenuiflora," tepezcohuite is a bark tree found in Southern Mexico that resembles a fern. The tree does well at regenerating itself in the aftermath of forest fires, and natives of Mexico refer to it as the "skin tree." It was administered by the Mayan culture thousands of years ago to treat skin lesions such as burns, by grinding the bark up into a powder. In 1984, after a horrific gas explosion in Mexico City killed 500 and left more than 5000 with severe burns, the Red Cross treated the burn patients with tepezcohuite. It was so effective at healing their wounds and regenerating the skin that a year later, when an earthquake caused a series of explosions and fires, tepezcohuite was again used to treat victims.
Benefits of Tepezcohuite for Skin
Tepezcohuite has plenty of benefits, all of which some say make it a skincare miracle. Anecdotal evidence suggest it's been effective in reducing scars, though experts are quick to point out that it hasn't undergone many scientific studies. "Tepezohuite is known for its antibacterial activity and has been used for wound healing," says Farris. "The bark of the tree has also been made into an extract and formulated into anti-aging creams. It’s important to say that none of the anti-aging products with tepezcohuite have been studied in human clinical trials so at this point we really don’t know if has any beneficial effects on the skin."
Farris adds that certain compounds in the bark could be of value in treating aging skin. "It has flavonoids that are powerful antioxidants that can benefit skin by neutralizing free radicals," she notes. "Free radicals cause oxidative stress in the skin and contribute to skin aging. It’s important to understand the all plants have antioxidants in them, which is why you find so many botanical ingredients in skincare products. The bark extract also has tannins, which are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds so they may provide a soothing or calming effect on the skin. It also contains lipids that could benefit skin by improving skin barrier function."
Thomas notes that some research has shown that the bark has anti-microbial and wound healing properties, but "it is not very efficacious against anti-fungal effects."
Unfortunately, because it hasn't been widely adopted by the west, scientific studies to determine exactly all the ways tepezcohuite works are sorely lacking. However, if you look through enough beauty blogs, there should be a satisfying amount of anecdotal evidence as to the efficacy of this not-yet-hyped ingredient.
Side Effects of Tepezcohuite
Because it has been studied so little, the jury's still out on whether or not tepezcohuite has any side effects. "Because this ingredient has not been studied we don’t know if there are any other products to avoid or not use it with," cautions Farris. "As for negative side effects, this has also not been studied. It does cause birth defects in ruminant animals that graze on this tree and has psychoactive compounds that that may also be of concern."
Katta goes one step further, saying that its long history of use in South America isn't compelling enough to recommend it for everyday use. "We lack clear research on who might benefit and the risk of potential side effects such as allergic reactions," she says. "While it has shown some promise in laboratory studies, we have very limited research in humans, and the research we do have has not been promising. In one lab study it appeared to encourage the growth of fibroblasts, which are cells that play an important role in wound healing. However, a small study with human volunteers found that a hydrogel containing this ingredient worked no better than a hydrogel without it when it came to healing of the leg ulcers."
How to Use It
"This bark has been notoriously used in Mexican and South American remedies and products," says Thomas. "Unfortunately, there are no actual clinical trials that have been conducted for this extract, so that actual side effects and information in regards to usage requirements have not been established."
As the safety of products that contain tepezcohuite has not been verified, Thomas advises "the restriction of usage until more clinical data can be obtained on this if the consumer is pregnant or nursing. You can consult with a licensed health professional, but as there are not much conclusive data surrounding this extract, the answer may not be definitive. As with any new extract or product, just because it is plant-based does not mean it is necessarily safe for human consumption especially in combination with other ingredients."
The Best Products With Tepezcohuite
This ultra-healing cream is especially helpful after an AHA or BHA peel and helps soothe skin and balance PH. It's also a solid choice for men, as it's been found to calm skin irritation, post-shave.
A hydrating, natural, and non-greasy formula for use on skin rashes, fine lines, dark spots and dry patches. Spiked with CBD, the product also helps with inflammation and soreness.
Highly potent and meant to be used in conjunction with the brand's tepezcohuite cream, this serum soothes eczema- and acne-prone skin.
This granular facial scrub is packed with antimicrobial tea tree oil, aloe to soothe, and a host of other good-for-you ingredients (think grapeseed and camellia seed oil).
Ingredients like mango and aloe sooth damaged skin, while tepezcohuite and camelia seed oil nourish and moisturize.
This soothing balm combines tepezcohuite and shea butter to relieve itch and calm skin post-rash or trauma. It's also paraben- and scent-free, so it's ideal for sensitive skin.
Not only does this oil combat dryness and roughness, it also serves as an anti-fungal, protecting against harmful skin infections.