Allow us to introduce you to the next miracle skincare ingredient: kigelia, a powerful acne-clearing and redness-soothing extract from the kigelia africana tree. While kigelia may be relatively unknown in the U.S., indigenous Africans have relied on it for years to heal skin and even perk up breasts—talk about a multitasker. We came across the ingredient thanks to Luxe Botanics founder and former biotechnologist Jené Roestorf who uses the extract in her excellent natural skincare line and raved about how it helped clear her easily congested skin. After testing out her kigelia serum and moisturizer for ourselves, we had to agree: there was something special about kigelia. The super-light, almost-watery moisturizer left our skin feeling tightened but not tight, and over the week, we noticed a conspicuous absence of new acne flare-ups. To get the lowdown on this promising botanical powerhouse, we asked Jené to explain what makes kigelia so incredible. (She’s a scientist, so this gets pretty detailed!)
What is kigelia and where does it come from?
Kigelia is sourced from the sausage-shaped fruit of the kigelia africana tree, which is common in West, Central, and South Africa. Due to the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties of kigelia, local healers have traditionally used the fruit to remedy skin-related conditions such as fungal infections, acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Kigelia has even been proven to aid in the treatment of skin cancer, as it also has DNA-repairing powers. Our kigelia is certified organic by the Soil Association and handpicked by the local community in Malawi, where profits are used to plant new kigelia trees or to support community enhancement projects.
What skin type is it good for?
It’s excellent for blemish-prone skin and those that experience redness or irritation, as kigelia keeps skin smooth and clear when hormones, stress, weather changes, lifestyle, or diet trigger blemishes and irritation. While it works to clarify, it is also diminishes signs of premature aging through its natural firming properties. And it’s an excellent healing treatment for sunburn!
Who isn’t it good for?
Kigelia is a very versatile botanical that can target a number of skin concerns, but if you have skin that rarely experiences blemishes, redness, or irritation, then you probably don’t need a calming and repairing extract. On the other hand, kigelia does have fantastic firming properties and is used by women in Africa on their necks and chests to stay perky!
How does it help our skin?
Kigelia africana fruit extract has potent antibacterial activity which fights acne-causing bacteria while also helping to calm inflammation. Kigelia boasts a number of powerful skin-friendly compounds, including flavonoids, fatty acids, steroids, and saponins. Flavonoids are known for their potent antioxidant benefits, which are crucial in fighting free-radical damage to minimize the signs of aging. Free radicals cause a negative cascade in molecules, triggering wrinkles and other unwelcome outcomes (the worst is cancer). Steroids are known to soothe skin conditions like eczema, while saponins create uplifted, taut skin. Fatty acids are popular for moisturizing and plumping the appearance of skin.
How is kigelia traditionally used?
Healers in Africa have been using various parts of the kigelia africana tree in cosmetic and medicinal preparations for centuries. Cosmetically, it’s been applied by African women to the face, neck, and chest to firm the skin while ensuring a blemish-free complexion. Healers have traditionally applied it to treat everything from boils, ulcers, acne, and fungal infections to psoriasis and eczema, even using it to dress wounds and sores. It has also been used internally to treat malaria, dysentery, worms, genital infections, gynecological disorders, and pneumonia.
What does the research say?
Kigelia has proven antibacterial properties against several types of bacteria, including the bacteria that causes blemishes and acne. Kigelia’s antibacterial activity has been compared to broad-spectrum pharmaceutical antibiotics. The kigelia africana tree’s stem bark and fruit extracts have also been tested in clinical studies for the treatment and prevention of skin cancer, including melanoma, due to its tumor-reducing cytotoxic activity.
Did you personally notice a difference in your skin after using kigelia?
Yes! I have struggled with acne since a very young age and have tried various topical and oral antibiotics and isotretinoin many times over. Three years ago, I finished my last course of isotretinoin and decided I’d had enough of monthly blood tests and dry lips, so I started to research African traditional remedies. As a biotechnologist by training, I was very skeptical of anything I found that didn’t have peer-reviewed scientific literature to back it up, so when I came across kigelia africana, I was stunned to learn about its proven benefits. I’ve been using our clarifying serum twice a day now for two years and have seen a significant improvement in my skin—not just in a reduction of inflammation and infection, but in overall quality and tone as well. That was the moment when I truly experienced the power that nature has to nurture.
Anything else people should know before they start using kigelia?
I am always quick to remind people that there are six billion skin types in the world, so it’s hard to recommend something that will work for everyone. My best advice is to take the time to get to know your skin and how its needs change day to day, and then research ingredients best-suited to you and try them.
Have you used or even heard of kigelia extract before? Tell us your thoughts below.