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Review: Del Indio Papago Night Cream — Salma Hayek's Botox alternative?

The popular night cream has been flying off shelves due to its hero ingredient Tepezcohuite. But does it actually work?

A little-known Mexican beauty product has been flying off Amazon's proverbial shelves. Reviewers call the facial moisturizer "exquisite" and "transformative!" Over on social media, its hashtag has also been racking up tens of thousands of views. There is little doubt that the Del Indio Papago Night Cream is having a moment.

Del Indio Papago Night Cream is meant to rejuvenate skin — but does it work?
Del Indio Papago Night Cream is meant to rejuvenate skin — but does it work?

The reason behind all this hype? An obscure ingredient called Tepezcohuite, which actress Salma Hayek credited for her seemingly ageless skin, explaining: "I use an ingredient called Tepezcohuite that's used in Mexico for burn victims because it completely regenerates the skin," Hayek told Elle magazine at the time. "Some of the ingredients, when I took them to the American labs, they were like, 'Oh my God! How come nobody is using this?' This is why I have no Botox, no peels, no fillings."

Hayek was right about at least one thing. Back then — and still today — there are few American cosmetic products that contain Tepezcohuite and the ones that do can be difficult to source. Enter Del Indio Papago, a popular Mexican beauty brand that's been on the farmacia scene for the past 33 years. Keep in mind, Hayek never endorsed any specific Tepezcohuite product. However, once Del Indio Papago's version became readily available in the U.S., beauty editors seized on her recommendation, resurfacing the actress's (extremely convincing) claims in a series of breathless posts. Thus a skin-care sensation was born.

Tepezcohuite (also known as Mimosa tenuiflora) is a tree that grows mainly in Central and South America. Both the bark and the fern-like leaves of the Tepezcohuite tree have been used in traditional medicine for centuries, so much so that it's often referred to as the "Mexican skin tree."

Most traditionally, Tepezcohuite has been used to treat skin wounds and burns. In fact, in 1984, the tree-bark derivative was employed to soothe the wounds of Mexican burn victims after the country experienced a catastrophic earthquake and conventional medical supplies were scarce.

"Tepezcohuite contains compounds like tannins and saponins that have potent antioxidant properties, which means that it may help to protect the skin from damage from free radicals, from sun exposure and pollution," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King.

Dr. King continues: "It also has antimicrobial properties and a 2007 study showed that leg ulcers treated with Tepezcohuite healed more quickly compared to controls, although another similar study in 2012 did not show benefits."

Salma Hayek, 57, at a premiere earlier this year.
Salma Hayek, 57, has credited the ingredient Tepezcohuite for her beautiful, seemingly ageless skin.

"We do not have any studies that indicate this," says Dr. King. "There are antioxidant properties, and possibly wound-healing benefits, but we need more data in order to assess other benefits."

So, maybe Tepezcohuite does work (ish?) for wrinkles, maybe it doesn't — experts aren't really sure. But even if this tree bark IS a skin-care miracle...that doesn't mean that Del Indio Papago's Night Cream with Tepezcohuite will do anything special for your wrinkles. Here's why.

According to the manufacturer, the best-selling skin potion contains the following:

Water, Mineral Oil, Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Triethanolamine, Anhydrous Lanolin, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Propylene Glycol, Methylisothiazolinone, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Fragrance, Tepezcohuite (Mimosa Tenuiflora), Citric Acid, Vitamin E, Ceteareth-20.

And herein lies the major problem with Del Indio Papago Night Cream: Tepezcohuite is listed as the thirteenth(!) ingredient. By law, skin-care ingredients are listed in descending order by volume, which means there's loads more lanolin, glycerin and alcohol in this cream than the healing-wonder tree substance Hayek's raved about. Even if Tepezcohuite is an effective, skin-rejuvenating ingredient elsewhere, it's likely not going to work at this potency, with this small of an amount.

Despite everything I've told you above, the truth is thousands of people love and publicly rave about this cream. So, in the interest of responsible journalism, I decided to try it myself. The first thing I noticed about the Del Indio Papago Night Cream is the scent, which is extremely strong. It smells like the pink-powdered laundry detergent you bought in 1994 out of a machine at the laundromat with your last two quarters. It smells like the cleaning-product aisle at the 99 cent store, the one that gives you a headache if you stand in it for too long. It smells like your great-grandmother's dusty Jean Naté body splash that had been sitting on her vanity for years. IT SMELLS.

The second thing you should know before buying the Del Indio Papago Night Cream is the texture is ... not smooth. This is somewhat unexpected for a cream that no one tells you to wash off. As in an exfoliating apricot scrub, this product contains brown flecks. The flecks — which look like shaved nutmeg and I suspect are meant to indicate the presence of Tepezcohuite tree bark and maybe even are a sprinkling of Tepezcohuite tree bark — leave this moisturizer with a grainy/gritty feel. The texture of the cream itself is tacky and sticky and, for me, rather unpleasant. It did not feel good on my face. After five days, my skin was soft, yes, but no softer than if I was using a traditional cold cream. Reviewers who report positive results from this product are likely responding to the presence of mineral oil, which can be found in many classic drugstore moisturizers, like Pond's.

While it does soften skin, this best-selling night cream contains too little of its star ingredient Tepezcohuite to stand up against higher-quality, more effective skin-care products.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Softens skin
Cons
  • Intensely unnatural scent
  • Grainy texture
  • Tacky formula leaves skin sticky
  • Low concentration of Tepezcohuite
$13 at Amazon

If you're curious and want to see what Salma Hayek was talking about all those years back, look for products with a higher volume of Tepezcohuite.

A higher-concentration of the hero ingredient, plus a more natural formula at the same price point make this serum from Imagine Dermatology an obvious Del Indio Papago alternative.

$18 at Amazon

"There are other more proven ingredients so the downside is that you are foregoing something more proven for something without much data," explains Dr. King.

For non-injectable, wrinkle-softening, skin-rejuvenating products she recommends the following:

"This multi-purpose formula works as a serum, night cream and eye cream," Dr. King explains. "It contains moisturizing ingredients as well as retinol for anti-aging benefits. And acai berry extract and schisandra extract offer potent antioxidant properties. In an 8 week study, 100 percent of users showed reduced fine lines."

$16 at Amazon
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$22 at Rite Aid

Dr. King raves about this "magic" cream from beauty-editor-favorite brand Charlotte Tilbury. "A good moisturizer contains humectants to hydrate, emollients to support the skin barrier and occlusives to lock in the moisture," she says. "And this product contains all three. And it's rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C." Last, she explains: "It also contains soothing ingredients aloe, allantoin and rose water, in addition to anti-aging peptides."

$64 at Nordstrom