Yucca's Long, Indigenous Pedigree Is A Testament To Its Skin & Scalp-Care Powers

For Indigenous folks, plants and flowers have long been the go-to source for skin and scalp benefits. Aloe vera, blue corn, and saw palmetto are some shining examples of Indigenous populations' beauty secrets that are still relevant in the modern landscape. These ingredients can still be found in many soothing formulas for the skin and the hair, from shampoos to body soap to face wash.

Another ultra-versatile ingredient with a long, Indigenous pedigree is yucca, or Yucca schidigera, a type of plant that Indigenous peoples have used for millennia for a variety of purposes. For example, it's been used to treat arthritis, inflammation, hypertension, asthma, headaches, joint pains, and bleeding. 

The benefits of this plant also extend to skin and hair care. For instance, the yucca sap has been widely used among Indigenous peoples to treat skin- and scalp-related diseases such as dandruff and skin lesions. Today, yucca roots are still a fixture in the skin and scalp care routine of the Indigenous people. Do not discount the healing impact of yucca just because it's not commercial. The nutrients found in this plant are excellent for maintaining the health of your skin and scalp. If you're looking for a plant-based, non-toxic ingredient to introduce into your beauty routine, give yucca roots a shot.

Benefits of yucca for the hair

Containing a high concentration of polyphenols and saponins, yucca roots pack a powerful punch of antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. This is why yucca extracts make an effective cleanser for the scalp without stripping away the hair's natural oils.

Dermatologist Dr. Annie Gonzalez tells Byrdie: "Yucca contains saponins or cleansers that reduce inflammation, dandruff—and is anti-fungal as well. In turn, your hair is not only much cleaner, but has a boost in volume while looking shiny, smooth, and healthier overall." Echoing the sentiment, trichologist and founder of Advanced Trichology William Gaunitz points out that those with irritated or flaky scalps are the prime candidates for the flake-slaying power of yucca. When your scalp is calm and flake-free, dandruff is unlikely to return.

Yucca-based cleansers are also useful in protecting your hair from UV damage to hydrate the scalp and prevent hair loss. Exposure to direct sunlight can wreak havoc on the protein bonds in hair strands, weakening the hair structure and making it look dry and brittle. Yucca has a high concentration of antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals to minimize oxidative stress on the hair.

Yucca can also boost hair density. According to trichologist Veronica Joseph, yucca is a natural aid in promoting blood flow to the scalp. This helps to nourish hair follicles and strands with essential nutrients and oxygen, resulting in longer growth phases of the hair cycle.

How to incorporate yucca into your hair care routine

You can incorporate yucca roots into your hair care routine in many ways. As a shampoo, yucca makes an effective cleanser that cleanses your scalp and tresses without cheating your hair of its natural moisture. As a conditioner, yucca can help moisturize and strengthen your hair cuticles with a protective coating. Since yucca is photoprotective, it also makes an efficient leave-in styling serum that protects your hair from heat damage.

Additionally, you can employ yucca as a scalp mask to soothe dry scalp and combat dandruff. "You can use yucca directly on your scalp, however it should be massaged in and then rinsed within 15 to 30 minutes," advises trichologist William Gaunitz, via Byrdie. One way to do it is to mix two tablespoons of yucca powder with two cups of water and apply the mixture to your scalp. While yucca is generally safe, Gaunitz advises against using yucca roots excessively because prolonged use may alter pH balances and exacerbate inflammation. If you have a sensitive scalp, consider using store-bought options to minimize irritations.

Benefits of yucca for the skin

You can incorporate yucca extracts into your facial skincare routine for a youthful complexion. Yucca root contains a concentrated dose of vitamin C, an antioxidant packed with anti-aging benefits. Vitamin C helps to stimulate collagen synthesis and protect the skin from free radical damage, preventing inflammation and premature aging and keeping the skin plump and even. Yucca roots also contain photoprotective properties that minimize the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation. Use a yucca-based product alongside your sunscreen to maximize sun protection for your skin. 

Yucca roots are available in a variety of products for the face, from face wash to serum to moisturizer. Dr. Axe advises mixing yucca roots with honey or olive oil and using it as an exfoliating peel to get rid of dead skin cells to brighten your complexion. Topical application aside, making yucca roots a staple of your diet also helps you reap significant benefits. For instance, you can mix yucca powder with yogurt, smoothies, or water. You can also make yucca fries or mashed yucca roots for snacks.

Who can benefit the most from yucca

Yucca, with abundant antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients, is suitable for almost anyone looking for a thorough cleanse of their scalp, according to dermatologist Dr. Annie Gonzalez, via Byrdie. "However, faux foamers like sulfates strip the hair of its natural oils, and those with curlier hair tend to be the most susceptible. Therefore those with curly hair are particularly great candidates for yucca products to maintain the moisture needed for rich coils," explains Dr. Gonzalez.

Regarding safety, yucca is a generally well-tolerated ingredient approved by the FDA, notes chemical engineer and Ceremonia's product development manager Mateo Acosta Medina. However, yucca extract is not a cure-all for any type of scalp or skin issue. If you have underlying scalp or skin issues, it's best to consult your physician before making it a fixture in your beauty routine.

Another caveat about using yucca roots is that you should not use them too often if your skin is sensitive. Dermatologist and founder of Skin Science Dermatology, Dr. Geeta Yadav, tells The Zoe Report that saponins in yucca extracts have the potential to cause sensitization and predispose your skin to irritation. To err on the safe side, perform a patch test on your skin or consult your dermatologist before using it as a regular treatment.