The skin care ingredients from the Amazon coming to a serum near you

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Having spent time in the Amazon, Nicola Connolly, founder of new beauty wellness brand Nunaïa, is passionate about natural skincare and ingredients that work. Here she lets us in on the best skin care ingredients the Amazon has to offer. 

I was 24 when I first discovered the magic of plants. I was sitting on the mud floor of a thatched hut in the middle of the Ecuadorian Rainforest with a group of incredible indigenous women. They were developing a range of soaps and I was there to help them export their products to the U.S. On the first morning, one of the women stood up barefoot and went outside into the jungle to harvest the sap from a tree. Out poured a thick, blood red liquid that she then mixed into her soap to help soothe and heal damaged skin.

Related: What does 'vegan' really mean when used in beauty?

I was born and bred in Dublin, so seeing first-hand the incredible ancestral wisdom and connection to nature that these traditional tribes had been using for thousands of years to keep their bodies, minds and skin healthy, in extremely harsh environments, was a complete eye-opener.


I stayed for over a decade to research this ‘natural pharmacy’ and the tools they used to stay healthy and balanced. Plants from the Rainforest provide 25% of our modern pharmaceuticals so it’s been exciting to discover little known, high-performance plant botanicals that also have incredible skin benefits. Nunaïa, our new superfood skincare range is the result of this journey. Here are some of my favourite active ingredients that we discovered in the Rainforest and Andes Mountains of Peru, and that we use in our Nourishing Radiance Serum.

Sacha Inchi

This magical superfood is one of the vital actives in our Nourishing Radiance Serum. It’s been used for thousands of years by local communities in the Peruvian Rainforest as a source of protein in their diet and to moisturise and heal their skin. Women in Amazonian tribes would grind up the sacha inchi nut into an oil and then mix it into a paste to regenerate and revitalise their skin.  

The science:

Sacha Inchi contains the amino acids needed to build proteins, one of the fundamental building blocks for healthy skin. It’s also rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids – omegas 3, 6 and 9 as well as antioxidant vitamin A (natural retinol) and vitamin E.

The skin benefits:

  • Helps to maintain natural skin cell regeneration and collagen production.
  • Helps to resist free radical damage.
  • Helps to improve the skin barrier function.


The maracuja plant from the passionfruit family is rich in vitamin C. Maracuja juice has been a daily source of vitamin C for many people in Peru for hundreds of years – it smells and tastes divine.

The science:

Vitamin C plays a key role in the regulation of collagen production and is also a potent antioxidant that protects the skin from free radical damage. Most synthetic forms of Vitamin C are unstable and quickly become oxidised when exposed to UV light and oxygen. Our maracuja active is a complete plant form of Vitamin C so is more stable than synthetic forms. It contains the potent piceatannol molecule which gives that lovely brightening effect on the skin and is rich in vitamin E.

We also love that it is a sustainable ingredient. The active is extracted from the seeds that would otherwise be thrown away.


Skin Benefits:

  • Helps to brighten skin.
  • Helps to give skin a regenerated and structured appearance.


Chia is now a popular superfood in Ireland. But did you know that chia is a resilient plant that grows at high altitude in the Peruvian Andes in extremely harsh conditions with extreme temperature swings? As a result, it stores up as many nutrients as possible to survive and is packed full of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals that have incredible skin benefits.


The science:

This Aztec seed contains omega 3 and omega 6 in an ideal 3:1 ratio to help maintain natural lipid balance and boost the skin’s moisture levels. Rich in polyphenols and the antioxidants quercetin and myricetin to help reduce inflammation and combat environmental stressors.


Skin benefits:

  • Helps maintain natural lipid balance and boost the skin’s moisture levels.
  • Helps to reduce redness and the appearance of inflammation.
  • Helps to combat environmental stressors.


The star ingredient on every brunch menu in hip eateries around the country, avocado is a superfood par excellence. Originally of Mayan descent, it was known as ‘tree butter’ and was a key source of good fats, vitamins and nutrients in their daily diet.

The Science:

Abundant in moisturising fatty acids and very similar to the composition of sebum, this tropical fruit helps to protect the skin from moisture loss. Rich in antioxidant B vitamins, vitamin E, and vitamin A (natural retinol) it helps to smooth and soften the skin.

Skin benefits:

  • Helps to plump and smooth the skin.
  • Helps to regulate skin function.
  • Protects from free radical damage.


Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash

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