Kawakawa: Benefits for Skin Explained!


Kawakawa, a plant native to New Zealand has been traditionally used by Māori as an aid for healing and health. Kawakawa benefits for the skin and body can be obtained in different ways. As Rongoā Māori (traditional medicine), kawakawa leaves have many uses to relieve discomfort – did you know?

This potent natural plant is increasingly recognised in the skincare world, from anti-ageing serums to soothing kawakawa ointment. In this post, we’ll explore what makes this underrated natural ingredient so special and how you can incorporate it into your daily beauty routine!

What Is Kawakawa?

Kawakawa’s scientific name is Macropiper excelsum. This unique shrub is endemic to New Zealand, where the many health benefits are recognised and used in Rongoā Māori. It definitely has a long pedigree of usage, which is why so many skincare brands are adding it to their repertoire!

This plant is distinguished by its heart-shaped leaves with holes. It is commonly found in New Zealand’s North Island bush, forests, and coastal areas. It is also present in some areas of the South Island. 

One fun tidbit about this plant is the holes in the leaves. The more holes there are, the richer it is in beneficial active compounds. The holes are caused by a certain type of caterpillar that feeds on this plant. As a natural response to being eaten, it releases more piperine and myristin to defend itself against the caterpillars!

What Is Kawakawa Used For?

This plant has been used for centuries by many iwi for its various medicinal properties. This includes treating wounds, soothing skin irritation, and supporting digestive health. 

A common use is to steep leaves in boiling water to make tea – this is the main way to help get the digestive health benefits, but it also serves as a general health tonic. Chewing the leaves to relieve tooth pain was another frequent use for this plant. Kawakawa benefits the whole body – not just the skin!

Another natural remedy was using the plant’s leaves to make poultices. These were applied to the skin to reduce inflammation and encourage the healing of minor cuts and scrapes. This leads to the benefits that the plant and its extracts are used for today!

Kawakawa Uses: Tea, Balm, And More

The most common uses these days are as a herbal tea and natural skincare ingredient. You’ll find it formulated in skincare products such as serums and balms!

Kawakawa balms are popular for reducing the look of inflamed, irritated skin. They can reduce redness and alleviate inflammation – making them popular remedies that reduce the symptoms of eczema and flaky skin. I get pretty itchy, easily irritated skin from my watch if I’m not careful! I’ve tried a fair few soothing creams and have found that nothing touches Kawkawa for how quickly it gets rid of the itchy feeling and flaky skin.

The one I have on hand is the Kara Kawa Kawakawa Healing Balm – it has a rich, balmy texture and smells amazing.

Natural skincare brands are taking notice of Kawakawa’s anti-inflammatory benefits and incorporating this effective natural ingredient into skincare products. One fantastic example that has a regular spot in my skincare routine is the Gaia Facial Oil from Pantheon Apothecary.

Along with Kawakawa, it features a Squalane Oil base with a unique form of Vitamin C that’s even more effective than traditional L-Ascorbic Acid. I absolutely adore Vitamin C in any shape or form – so I’m thrilled to have it in a nurturing facial oil combined with a naturally soothing, anti-inflammatory superstar ingredient.

What Are The Kawakawa Benefits For Skin?

Many New Zealand skincare brands are adding Kawakawa to their products for its notable anti-inflammatory effects. Kawakawa leaves are especially high in myristicin. This is a natural compound found in other herbs and spices but occurs much more highly in this New Zealand native.

Myristicin reduces inflammation on the skin, which is what makes kawakawa such a special natural skincare ingredient!

I know what you’re thinking – inflammation? That’s only one thing, right?

The truth is, inflammation relates to a pretty wide range of skin concerns:

  • Sensitivity
  • Redness
  • Eczema
  • Acne

By reducing inflammation, you restore skin to its optimal state: healthy, free of redness, and resilient against external irritants. That’s what makes kawakawa balms so popular for relieving irritation. 

I’ve definitely relied on them before – to amazing results! If I’m not careful, I can get a rash from my Apple watch. It’s usually scaly, red, dry, and itchy; super gross! One of the only things to help calm down that red, grumpy skin was my kawakawa balm!

Kawakawa is also rich in natural antioxidants, which defend your skin from harmful particles called free radicals.

Free radicals can cause premature signs of ageing to appear, such as wrinkles and uneven skin tone. By defending your skin against them with antioxidant skincare ingredients, you give your skin the best chance of resisting early wrinkles and ageing. 

Will you add this powerhouse natural skincare ingredient to your routine any time soon?

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