Acai Berry Fruit Extract & Oil (INCI: Euterpe oleracea Fruit Extract/Oil)
The acai berry is the fruit of the acai palm (Euterpe oleracea), which is the same species of palm tree that the culinary hearts of palm come from. It is native to Central and South America, growing mainly in swamps and other wet, tropical regions. The fruit is round, dark purple, and a little smaller than a grape, and eaten extensively by the native populations where it is grown. The acai berry is one of the few fruits that contains a high oil content in the pulp (instead of just the seeds), with a somewhat similar lipid profile as olives (oleic acid at 56.2% of total fats, palmitic acid at 24.1%, and linoleic acid at 12.5%).The oil contains a high sterol content, most notably beta-sitosterol, as well as several antioxidant polyphenols such as procyanidin oligomers and vanillic acid, syringic acid, hydroxybenzoic acid, protocatechuic acid, and ferulic acid.
It is this polyphenol content that is contained in both the oil and the water soluble extract that has been of such interest to nutritional scientists and anti-aging product formulators. The anthocyanin polyphenols found in the dark berry (and not in the white berry from a related variety of acai palm) were the first to be investigated for the possible health benefits to the skin and body, and then upon further analysis it was discovered that acai berries contain significant levels of other antioxidant compounds, such as homoorientin, orientin, taxifolin, deoxyhexose, isovitexin, scoparin, and proanthocyanidin compounds (as well as lower levels of resveratrol).
In-vitro studies of the dark purple acai berry show that it has high antioxidant capacity, most notably against peroxyl radicals, peroxynitrite radicals, superoxide radicals, and to a smaller degree hydroxyl radicals. This is noteworthy as each of these species of free radicals can damage the cells of the skin and body in unique ways, so the ability to neutralize each type is highly important. But are extracts from the acai berry superior to other fruit extracts? The jury is still out... some studies point to a very high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) rating of this fruit, while others rate its antioxidant capacity as similar to that of cranberries, cherries, and other dark red fruits (which is still highly impressive since these are also antioxidant-rich fruits). What is becoming clear as research continues to evolve on this berry is that for its use in skincare to impart antioxidant benefits to the dermis is of high interest, especially when combined with other fruit and plant extracts to form a full spectrum of protection against all varieties of free radicals that can damage skin cells and the collagen/elastin network.