Why Aguaje?

Traditional Use by Amazonian Peoples

Traditionally, indigenous Amazonians used aguaje oil to protect skin against sun damage, restore vibrancy to the skin, and to treat many other skin conditions.

Aguaje oil comes from the fruit of the aguaje tree, which grows in the Amazon Rainforest. 

Composition of Aguaje (Antioxidants)

Chemical analysis of aguaje oil shows that it contains a lot of antioxidants and nutrients. These substances occur naturally in the oil. Some of them, including Provitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Omega 3-6-9 fatty acids, are beneficial for skin health.

Below is a more complete list [1] for those of you who want to know more about the composition. You will see that there are a lot of antioxidants! In case you are not familiar with some of the terms, here is a very short explanation: carotenoids are pigments that give colour to plant parts, but they are also antioxidants; phenolic compounds and flavonoids are plant chemicals that are major contributors to plants’ antioxidant activity [2]; vitamins C and E are also antioxidants; phytosterols are plant chemicals related to cholesterol. 
































Ascorbic acid


Quinic acid


Caffeic acid


Chlorogenic acid


Ferulic acid


P-coumaric acid


Protocatechuic acid


(+) catechin


(-) epicatechin
























Oleic acid   (omega 9)


Palmitic acid


Linoleic acid (omega 6 )


Arachidonic acid


Palmitoleic acid


Stearic acid


Myristic acid


Elaidic acid


Linolenic acid (omega 3)


Margaric acid









Composition of Aguaje (Fatty Acids)

The specific properties of plant oils depend on the proportions of fatty acids and other substances in the oil. Because aguaje oil is a natural plant product, its composition will vary somewhat, depending upon the variety and maturity of fruit, climate, and growing conditions. Typically aguaje oil contains 70% oleic acid, 18% palmitic acid, and 7% linoleic acid [3].





Linolenic (omega-3)


Linoleic (omage-6)


Oleic (omega-9)


Beta Carotene (Provitamin A) in Aguaje 

Aguaje oil is known to have one of the highest concentrations of provitamin A (beta carotene) in the world. Often the amount of beta carotene in aguaje oil will be compared to the amount present in carrots. It may be confusing when you see different numbers being reported, so I wanted to explain this. The quality of the fruit is what ultimately determines the amount of beta carotene in the oil. However, the method of extracting the oil from the fruit can influence this. Then there is the method of measuring the beta carotene – not all methods produce the same results. Finally, there are different ways of reporting the results – different units of measurement may be used, and reports may express the level of “total carotenoids” instead of the individual carotenoids (e.g., beta carotene). When I reviewed the scientific literature I found there was a wide range of concentrations for beta carotene being reported – but there was still a lot of beta carotene!

What Differentiates Imaya Beauty's Aguaje Oil

To ensure the highest possible concentration of beta carotene in our oil, we use only ripe fruit, and only the best aguaje varietals. As fruit ripens, the concentration of beta carotene increases [4]. Our fruit is sourced from artisanal suppliers in the Kokama community of north-eastern Peru. It has been shown that fruit from artisanal suppliers yields higher concentrations of beta carotene than fruit from industrial suppliers [5], possibly because artisanal suppliers select only the best fruit that is grown in the wild. Our fruit is hand-pressed and left in its natural state, unrefined. Refining the oil will significantly reduce the concentration of beta carotene compared to crude oil [6]. Besides, our goal is to keep this oil natural, with no additives or preservatives whatsoever.

Aguaje oil as a Natural Retinol Alternative 

Aguaje oil is one of the richest sources of beta carotene in the world [7]. Aguaje oil is a natural retinol alternative because of the beta carotene. In addition to its direct role as an antioxidant in the skin [8], beta carotene has an indirect role as a retinoid, because it is metabolized to retinol by enzymes found in the skin [9]. When ex vivo human skin (skin removed from patients during “tummy tuck” surgery) and in vivo mouse skin are treated with topical applications of beta carotene, the concentrations of beta carotene and retinoids in the skin increase when measured 24 hours later. Retinyl esters (a storage form of retinol) increased 10 fold in human skin and 3 fold in mouse skin. This demonstrates that beta carotene is converted to retinyl esters in the epidermis. Other studies using in vitro methods support this finding [10].

Why Choose a Natural Retinol Alternative

The problem with synthetic retinoids, including retinol (and naturally derived retinoids that have been purified and concentrated), is that they can irritate the skin and make the skin more susceptible to the damaging effects of UV radiation [11]. If you are not using sunscreen daily and reapplying it every 2 hours [12] as recommended when using retinoids [13], you may actually be doing more damage to your skin [14]. There are also other health concerns related to use of retinoids [15].

Natural retinoids work more gradually, allowing the skin to adapt. Studies show that after a couple of months, you obtain the same results regardless of the type of retinoid you are using [16] [17]. With a synthetic retinoid, you may see results faster but you may also be putting your skin at risk.

Research, Evidence & Clinical Studies 


Most of the research on aguaje has been done in national laboratories of Brazil. The primary purpose of the research was to identify the physical and chemical characteristics of aguaje to determine its economic potential. Scientists determined, using in vitro and in vivo tests, that aguaje oil has antioxidant and anti-microbial actions [18]. Many scientists have recommended that aguaje oil be considered for cosmetic purposes due to its antioxidant and emollient properties.

Evidence of Effectiveness & Clinical Studies

The ultimate test of a skincare product’s effectiveness is how it performs on the skin. Indie beauty brands, like Imaya Beauty, do not have the resources to fund clinical studies. The few published clinical studies available show that aguaje oil is non irritating to the skin [19], and maintains the skin’s moisture for about 8 hours and reduces transepidermal water loss [20]. In combination with bisabolol (a botanical), it reduces appearance and depth of wrinkles, improves skin firmness and elasticity [21]. And, in combination with hibiscus (a botanical) it fades brown spots [22].

When there is sparse human data, we use laboratory tests and any existing animal studies to assess a product’s performance. Imaya Beauty does not support animal testing. Another approach is to assess the effectiveness of the individual components of aguaje oil in volunteers. While this method allows us to understand how the individual components perform on the skin, it does not tell us how they all work together. 

Importance of Antioxidants for Skin Health

You’ve probably heard a lot about antioxidants in relation to your diet or use of skin care products and you know that having enough antioxidants is important, but you may not know why.

Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against free radicals, which play a role in various diseases, as well as skin aging. Free radicals are produced during normal biological processes and from external factors such as UV radiation and smoking [23]. When there is an imbalance between the free radicals and antioxidants, the result is “oxidative stress”. Oxidative stress can damage every part of our cells, including the DNA [24].

We get most of our antioxidants from our diet, but skin care products are also able to deliver antioxidants directly to the skin where they are needed for protection against the damaging effects of UV radiation [25]. Examples of naturally occurring antioxidants, present in aguaje oil, are vitamins C and E, carotenoids (beta carotene), flavonoids and phenols.

Plant-based sources of antioxidants are the best. Plants produce antioxidants in response to oxidative stress arising from environmental factors and can accumulate many low molecular weight antioxidants. It has been shown that plants growing in tropical regions contain more flavonoids (antioxidants) than those growing in temperate climates because of exposure to higher levels of UV radiation (sunlight) [26]. As the aguaje tree reaches for the sunlight, towering 10 stories above the rainforest floor, the fruit is exposed to high levels of sunlight. The result is a fruit oil that is rich in antioxidants.

The skin needs antioxidants because UV radiation is known to produce free radicals in human skin, causing oxidative damage (photo-aging). Photo-aging is characterized by changes in pigmentation and degradation of collagen leading to fine lines and wrinkles [27]. 

So antioxidants are essential for keeping the skin smooth, clear and firm. 



Note: Any references that name 'Mauritia flexuosa' or 'buriti' are referring to 'aguaje'. Aguaje is the common same for Mauritia flexuosa in Peru; buriti is the name used in Brazil

[1] Pereira Freire JA, Barros KBNT, Lima LKF, et al. (2016) Phytochemistry Profile, Nutritional Properties and Pharmacological Activities of Mauritia flexuosa. J Food Sci. 81(11):R2611-R2622. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.13529

[2] Tungmunnithum, D., Thongboonyou, A., Pholboon, A., & Yangsabai, A. (2018) Flavonoids and Other Phenolic Compounds from Medicinal Plants for Pharmaceutical and Medical Aspects: An Overview. Medicines (Basel, Switzerland), 5(3), 93. https://doi.org/10.3390/medicines5030093

[3] Formula Botanica (2019) Ingredients Directory.

[4] Skinner M and Hunter D (eds) (2013) Bioactives in Fruit: Health Benefits and Functional Foods, John Wiley and Sons.

[5] Silva SM et al (2009) Characterization of Oil Extracted from Buriti Fruit (Mauritia flexuosa) Grown in the Brazilian Amazon Region. J Am Oil Chem Soc 86: 611-616.

[6] De Souza Aquino, J et al (2102) Refining of buriti oil (Mauritia flexuosa) Origiinated from the Brazilian Cerrado: Physico-chemical, Thermal-Oxidative and Nutritional Implications, J Braz Chem Soc 23(2): 212-219.

[7] Sampaio MB et al (2012) Manual tecnologico de aproveitamento integral do fruto e da folha do buriti (Mauritia flexuosa). Instituto Sociedada Poulacao e Natureza (ISPN), Brazil: Brasilia DF.

[8] Antille C et al (2004) Topical beta-carotene is converted to retinyl esters in human skin ex vivo and mouse skin in vivo. Exp Dermatol 13(9): 558-61.

[9] Darvin ME et al (2011) The role of carotenoids in human skin. Molecules 16(12):10491-10506.

[10] Andersson E, Vahlquist A, Rosdahl I. Beta-carotene uptake and bioconversion to retinol differ between human melanocytes and keratinocytes. Nutr Cancer. 2001;39(2):300-306. doi:10.1207/S15327914nc392_21.

[11] Mukherjee S (2006) Retinoids for the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clin Interv Aging 1(4): 327-48.

[12] American Academy of Dermatology (2019) Sunscreen FAQs. Retrieved from https://assets.ctfassets.net/1ny4yoiyrqia/4xAHF2HbKPsmHnL0CTZcFS/b5e2a00d2376dc596088f764e8a1f0f0/Sunscreen_FAQ_5-19.pdf

[13] Ortho Pharmaceuticals (2012) Renova 0.02%. Product Monograph. Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2014/021108s015lbl.pdf

[14] National Toxicology Program report: “Photocarcinogenesis study of retinoic acid and retinyl palmitate” August 2012 http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/htdocs/lt_rpts/tr568_508.pdf

[15] The proposition 65 list. California Office of Environmental Health hazard Assessment. January 3, 2020. 

[16] Kang S et al (1995) Application of retinol to human skin in vivo induces epidermal hyperplasia and cellular retinoid binding proteins characteristic of retinoic acid but without measurable retinoic acid levels or irritation. J Invest Dermatol 105(4):549-556.

[17] Kong R et al (2016) A comparative study of the effects of retinol and retinoic acid on histological, molecular, and clinical properties of human skin. J Cosmet Dermatol 15(1):49-57. doi:10.1111/jocd.12193

[18] Koolen HHF (2013) Antioxidant, antimicrobial activities and characterization of phenolic compounds from buriti (Mauritia flexuosa L. f.) by UPLC–ESI-MS/MS. Food Res Int 51(2): 467-473.

[19] Da Silva C (2002) Bioativos tropicais com eficacia comprovoda. Cosmetics and Toilettries (Brazil) 14(1).

[20] Beraca (2018). Rain Forest A3810 (Organic Refined Buriti Oil) Retrieved from https://www.rossorg.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Rain-Forest-A3810-Organic-Refined-Buriti-Oil.-TDS-Rev.-2.-Recd-03.28.18.pdf

[21] Citroleo (2017) 100% Pure and natural active is an effective alternative to synthetics in antiaging treatment. Retrieved from http://citroleogroup.com/site2017/en/english-100-pure-and-natural-active-is-an-effective-alternative-to-synthetics-in-antiaging-treatment/

[22] Hendriks M (2017) Dermatological kit comprising compositions based on hibiscus flower and buriti oil. Unite States Patent Application Publication, US 2017 / 0296613 A1, Oct.19, 2017.

[23] Mayo Clinic (2019). Slide show – Add antioxidants to your diet. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/multimedia/antioxidants/sls-20076428

[24] Pham-Huy, LA, et al (2008). Free radicals, antioxidants in disease and health. International journal of biomedical science: IJBS, 4(2), 89–96.

[25] Jurkiewicz BA et al (1995) Effect of topically applied tocopherolon UV radiation-mediated free radical damage in skin. J Invest Derm 104: 484-488.

[26] Kasote, D. M., Katyare, S. S., Hegde, M. V., & Bae, H. (2015). Significance of antioxidant potential of plants and its relevance to therapeutic applications. International journal of biological sciences, 11(8), 982–991. https://doi.org/10.7150/ijbs.12096

[27] Graf J (2010) Anti-oxidants and skin care – The essentials- old wine in a new bottle. J Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 126(6): 2297-8.