Brazil nuts are seeds, not true nuts, according to the United Nations. A tree that is native to the Amazon rainforest produces them. The oil from Brazil nuts is edible and South Americans often use it in salad dressings. Traditional uses of Brazil nut oil also include moisturizing the skin. Applying Brazil nut oil to your skin makes it smooth and adds nutrients. Natural cosmetics manufacturers make a variety of skin care products that incorporate this nut's rich oil.
The Brazil nut tree, Bertholletia excelsa, is a member of a plant species that grows from 120 to 180 feet tall. Each tree lives 500 to 800 years and they grow in Peru, Bolivia, Jamaica, Guyana, Malaysia and the United States. Each tree bears its fruit inside of pods the size of a grapefruit, with the individual nuts encased inside. Butter nut, para nut, and cream nut are other common names for Brazil nuts. Brazil has exported the whole nuts with distinctive hard shells for centuries.
The nuts are 66 to 69 percent oil. The oil is a good source of vitamins A and E, selenium, magnesium and thiamine. The extracted oil also contains phytosterols and amino acids.
Brazil nut oil often becomes an emulsifier for body creams or butters. It makes a rich, moisturizing soap. You can use this oil alone on your skin or as a carrier for essential oils in skin care preparations. Skin care products that contain Brazil nut oil range from moisturizers to foot creams and soap. Bath oils, aftershave, sunscreen, lip balms and massage oils use Brazil nut oil. Leading cosmetics brands sell these products in health food stores, upscale cosmetics boutiques and department stores.
Dry skin, aging skin, psoriasis and eczema are the main uses for brazil nut oil. The nut's high selenium content gives it excellent antioxidant properties. The vitamins A and E in this oil provide additional antioxidants that increase the value of the oil on your skin.
Since Brazil nuts are edible, little scientific research has been conducted on the cosmetic uses of the oil. Income from the extraction of Brazil nut oil gives people in Brazil's rural areas an alternative livelihood that does not depend on destruction of the rainforest's eco-system through logging. Several nonprofit organizations work with local communities to develop marketing and distribution options for Brazil nut oil products. The wild-harvested nuts also have good potential for sales in the organic products marketplace, but certification standards are often difficult to meet. Greenpeace notes that large international cosmetics companies can set prices that do not conform to established fair trade practices. Investigate the retailer's and manufacturer's fair trade policies before you buy Brazil nut skin care products.