The French have the fragrant lavender fields of Provence, Moroccans can lay claim to precious Argan oil and the Chinese revere the rare white lotus flower. But few countries can rival Australia when it comes to biodiversity – the many native plants, seeds and oils have been used for thousands of years by Indigenous populations for a range of medicinal purposes, from the vitamin-C-packed Kakadu plum to the anti-oxidant rich Quandong to the vitamin-E-rich Tasmanian mountain pepper.
Native ingredients are appearing on our dining tables more and more, and now in skincare too, as Australian companies and consumers seek out local, non-synthetic ingredients. Here are eight brands to look out for, including key ingredients and hero products for every skin type.
Nicole O’Sullivan began making her own oils and skincare products after making the tree change from Sydney to the NSW town of Mudgee. At the heart of her range is a three-ingredient “superfruits complex” of Kakadu plum, Burdekin plum and Illawarra plum. Both Kakadu and Burdekin are high in vitamin C, which promotes cell turnover and collagen production, while Illawarra plum has antioxidants to protect the skin from free-radical damage. O’Sullivan, who is herbalist trained in nutrition and botanical medicine, says they work together to stimulate hyaluronic acid (HA) and collagen production to moisturise and plump the skin.
Hero product: Wild Berry Cleanse Exfoliant Masque
This honey-based cleanser, with crushed native hibiscus petals and organic Australian wildflower honey, will gently exfoliate dead skin cells. Other ingredients include halloysite and zeolite clays, as well as maqui berries (native to Chile and Argentina), which are high in antioxidants. The result? Radiant and deeply nourished skin.
Best for dry skin: Wild Plum Illuminating C Complex
This is a concentrated mix of active vitamin C, knotgrass extract and HA (which is said to reduce wrinkles as it draws moisture to the surface of your skin). It’s formulated to repair and protect the skin from sun damage and ageing.
Best for oily skin: Neroli Cleansing Oil
It also contains grapefruit and ylang-ylang to balance oil production. For best results pair with the Native Hibiscus Polish mask to refine and deep-cleanse pores, too.
Best for combination skin: Wild Berry Cleanse Exfoliant Masque
This is great for all skin types.
Sodashi, which launched in WA in 1999, is one of Australia’s most successful skincare exports, supplying top luxury spas here and overseas (it’s even favoured by Naomi Watts, who co-founded the Onda beauty stores in Sydney, London and New York). Founder Megan Larsen’s vegan range includes natives such as fragrant agonis, honey myrtle and rosalina.
Hero product: Brightening Marine Mask
This once-a-week treatment with spirulina, Australian yellow and white clays, and ultrafine zeolite clay helps cleanse pores and is a fave with make-up artists.
Best for dry skin: Nourishing Repair Treatment.
This night cream has a blend of oils – avocado, rosehip, carrot and apricot kernel – so it’s ultra-rich. It can double as a day cream for those with seriously parched skin.
Best for oily skin: Clay Cleanser With Lime.
This works to prevent and heal blemishes without stripping your skin of moisture. Use it with Sodashi’s Balance Moisturiser for even more hydrated skin.
Best for combination skin: Cell Renewal Drops
This intensive treatment contains rosewood, lemon, lavender and geranium, which balance the skin’s natural oils. And it smells amazing.
Think pink. Millennial pink, that is. James Hachem and Manny Barbas are the two 20-something men from Melbourne behind this multi-million-dollar skincare brand built on pastel branding and micro-influencers. When they noticed clay masks were trending on Instagram, they decided to create their own – and the brand’s signature Australian Pink Clay Mask, using kaolin clay from South Australia, has been going strong on the ‘gram (and in bathroom cabinets) ever since. The range now includes other products with ingredients such as emu apple, finger lime, desert limes and lilly pilly, but it’s the mask – which promises to clarify and reduce inflammation – that remains the bestseller.
Hero product: Australian Pink Clay Mask
Kaolin clay contains a rich mix of minerals including quartz, mica and montmorillonite, which help generate the pastel hue. But this mask is more than just a pretty colour – the minerals also offer a deep clean.
Best for dry skin: Vitamin C Serum
Lilly pilly, Kakadu plum and finger lime extract are among the native ingredients in this serum, which promises to relieve parched skin with a blend of HA and vitamin C.
Best for oily skin: Australian Pink Clay Mask
Use it every second day to clear blocked pores.
Best for combination skin: Australian Native Berries Moisturiser
Apply this soothing lotion after the mask to reap the benefits of antioxidant-rich pepper berries and lilly pilly.
Mukti’s name originates from Sanskrit – according to the company’s website it “means to liberate oneself from fear, ignorance and false knowledge”. That philosophy underpins the brand’s commitment to sustainable, ethical and organic principles, and to eschew “miracle” product claims. Along with Kakadu plum and Davidson’s plum, the Queensland brand adds quandong for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which complement mountain pepperberry from Tasmania. Rutin, an antioxidant that’s said to strengthen capillaries and protect the skin from ageing, is in there too.
Hero product: Antioxidant Facial Oil
Suitable for all skin types, it’s a cocktail of oils, Kakadu plum, kangaroo flower, sandalwood, chia seed, pomegranate and sea buckthorn, which Mukti says promotes cellular renewal, calms stressed skin and imparts a healthy and hydrated glow.
Best for dry skin: Marigold Hydrating Crème
This rich and reparative cream can be used as a night cream and applied all over your body. It’s infused with native extracts of Kakadu plum and willowbark to promote suppleness, while calendula flowers, gotu kola extract (a herb in the parsley family used in Ayurvedic treatments) and Roman chamomile calm redness and irritation.
Best for combination skin: Orange Blossom Mist
An uplifting citrus spray blended with pomegranate and native botanicals (including finger lime and aniseed myrtle). Apply before moisturiser to assist with penetration.
Best for oily skin: Balancing Cleansing Gel
This gentle foaming gel cleanser works to balance and soothe combination skin, thanks to flame tree and mountain pepperberry extracts, and calming botanicals such as chamomile and aloe vera.
The Jojoba Company
Every product created by father-and-daughter team Ian Turner and Vicki Engsall contains wadi-wadi jojoba, which is grown on the family farm in south-western New South Wales. Engsall says jojoba oil is technically not an oil, but a wax ester. In contrast to plant oils, the wax ester forms a unique protective, moisturising barrier for your skin. It also contains vitamins A, D and E, as well as omegas six and nine, and is often used to soothe eczema and calm inflammation. Other natives in the mix include desert lime extract, lilli pilli, banksia-seed oil and baobab.
Hero product: Ultimate Youth Potion
It might not live up to its name, but with manuka, baobab and argan oil added to the jojoba, this little bottle deeply moisturises and nourishes the skin.
Best for dry skin: Ultimate Night Cream
Use it day or night to hydrate – it contains HA, Riboxyl, and (of course) jojoba.
Best for oily skin: Skin Balancing Oil
A lightweight mix of parsley seed oil, juniper berry oil and grapeseed oil.
Combination Skin: Daily Light Moisturiser
Avo isn’t just for toast – slather on this avocado-extract cream to rectify an oily T-zone, reduce shine and hydrate skin.
This Melbourne-based apothecary and herbal beauty boutique has been crafting bespoke products since 1977, and owners Valli Shubere and Vito Cozza have extensive knowledge of herbal medicine and holistic therapies. The duo work with organic growers in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales to create botanical face and body treatments with herbs, extracts and essential oils, including thyme, oregano, peppermint, gotu kola and eucalyptus. If you can’t make it to their clinic in South Yarra, you can shop online or at Mecca.
Hero product: Skin Rescue Paint
Powered by a blend of anti-bacterial botanicals, plus echinacea, calendula and myrrh, this treatment is formulated to heal blemishes and acne and reduce scarring.
Best product for dry skin: Moisturising Balm
This supremely nourishing balm uses a blend of anti-inflammatory herbs such as calendula, chamomile and arnica to soothe and protect from irritation, flakiness and tightness.
Best product for oily skin: Moisturising Rescue Balm
This light moisturiser soothes and helps to reduce oiliness and refine pores with ingredients such as echinacea, calendula and myrrh.
Best product for combination skin: Hydrating Regen Toner
Rose, equisetum and helichrysum are the invigorating ingredients in this mildly astringent toner, formulated to revitalise all complexions.
Ere Perez created her eponymous brand in Sydney in 2002, after a childhood spent in Mexico with her traditional medicine-man grandfather and her mother’s home remedies and beauty recipes. With make-up as well as skincare, Perez’s brand has a less-is-more philosophy that’s drawn a cult following.
Hero product: Moringa All-Beauty Creme
This multitasker moisturizes and balances – and thanks to its light, easily-absorbed texture, it also makes for a great make-up primer. Moringa is said to accelerate cell renewal with vitamin A and amino acids, while the lemon balm and prickly pear adds antioxidants and vitamin E.
Dry skin: Australian Blue Cypress Face Nectar
Hydrate parched skin awith blue cypress oil, a powerful botanical traditionally used for its moisturising and soothing properties. Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties are a bonus, and you can layer it with moisturiser or a mask if you really want to up the hydration.
Oily skin: Quandong Green Booster Serum
Think of this serum as a green smoothie for your face (it gets its colour from spinach). Quandong, found in the central and southern deserts, contains a high level of antioxidants as well as vitamin C, E and magnesium. The formula is lightweight, so it won’t clog oily skin, but it sure packs a punch.
Combination skin: Moringa All-Beauty Crème
To paraphrase a certain cereal catchphrase, this classic all-rounder is not too heavy and not too light – it’s just right.