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Ingredient Focus: Sea Buckthorn Berry

When we first heard about the sea buckthorn berry, we were pretty sure it was the name of one of the Little Mermaid’s gadgets and gizmos aplenty. In fact, the fruit doesn’t have anything to do with the ocean at all – it grows on land, and it’s the star ingredient of cult haircare brand, amika. Increasingly widely used in beauty, nutrition and medicine, sea buckthorn juice was actually the official drink of Chinese athletes at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Oh, and its oil has been used by Russian astronauts to reduce the effects of radiation. Let’s delve into why this little berry is being heralded as a big star…

A.K.A.: Hippophae rhamnoides L., seaberry, obliphica

Derived from: The berries grow on yellow-flowered shrubby trees during the spring and summer. Edible? Yes, but you definitely don’t want to eat them raw – they’re tart! Instead, the oil from each berry is extracted and concentrated into the form you’ll see it in your skincare, body, and hair products.

History: Tale as old as time? Check. It’s been reported that sea buckthorn berry was used for centuries in Europe and Asia to lower fever, reduce inflammation, and fight the common cold. The berry’s Latin name, Hippophae rhamnoides, also loosely translates to “bright horses” or “shiny horses,” a reference to the fruit being fed to the animals in ancient Greece.

Characteristics: The berry boasts a richly pigmented orange exterior due to a high concentration of beta-carotene, but you’ll find small black seeds on the inside.

What it does: A lot. We often hear about the fatty acid benefits of omega-3, -6, and -9, but sea buckthorn berries also have the highest known natural potency of the more rarely found omega-7, also known as palmitoleic acid. Omega-7 is a natural component of skin, and when used in skincare products combats dryness, wrinkles, and loss of collagen and elasticity.

Sea buckthorn is also rich in vitamins A and C (in addition to B1, B12, C, E, K, and P), which supports scalp health and shiny, vibrant hair. Haircare line amika has a self-proclaimed obsession with the berry’s benefits — they use its oil in every single one their hair products (as their bright orange packaging indicates!). Check out the Perk Up dry shampoo, Soulfood nourishing mask, Un.Done volume & texture spray, or The Wizard detangling primer.

Other uses: Due to it being loaded with antioxidants (like flavonoids, lycopene, and phytosterols), sea buckthorn berry has been used to treat sunburns, wounds, and to ward off cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to a study in International Scholarly Research Notices (ISRN) Pharmacology, although more research is needed.

Shop the full amika collection at The Birchbox Shop for your full sea buckthorn berry fix.