Nopal is “the perfect canvas for a new kind of product, one that doesn’t rely on conventional ingredients and stereotyped marketing,” the Nopalera founder says.

Nopalera bath and body products
Courtesy of Nopalera
Nopalera bath and body products

There’s a special kind of feeling that comes from a perfect combination of shea butter, safflower oil, and wild-harvested nopal cactus lathered all over your body. The reason I know this? Because I am currently taking what feel like magic showers thanks to a tangerine-scented scrub that leaves my skin feeling baby soft.

Want in on this beauty secret? Then get yourself a jar of Cactus Flower Exfoliant from Nopalera.

You won’t find palm oil, synthetic dyes or fragrances in this three-in-one exfoliator, oil cleanser, and moisturizer created by Nopalera founder Sandra Velasquez. The daughter of a Chicano farmworker and Mexican immigrant mother, Velasquez grew up with a front yard full of nopales in San Diego, and realized she could add them to bath and body products.

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While studying for a skincare formulation diploma program, some cold-process soap formulas called for aloe vera, which she didn’t have. “But I did have plenty of nopales growing around my family’s house,” Velasquez says. “I used that instead and a light bulb went off. Nopalera are highly regenerative and abundant.”

Nopalera Cactus Flower Exfoliant
Nopalera’s Cactus Flower Exfoliant

Courtesy of Nopalera

Velasquez’s bath and body line goes beyond the Cactus Flower Exfoliant. There’s lemongrass-scented cactus soap made with plant butters, and a Moisturizing Botanical Bar that combines nopal oil and Tepezcohuite (an extract from Mimosa Tenuiflora leaf) in a recyclable tin.

“Different parts of the nopal have different benefits,” Velasquez says. “The penca (cactus pad) is comparable to aloe in its cleansing, soothing, and humectant [moisture preserving] properties, but so much more sustainable because of its ability to regenerate quickly. When you cut a nopal pad from the Nopalera (the cactus bush), a new pad grows within weeks. This is not the case with aloe.”

In fact, each Nopalera bath soap is shaped like a nopal paddle, ranging in scents from the pink Flor de Mayo to black Noche Clara. Even after five months, I’m still using that little green bar—which is vegan and made by hand. Velasquez sources the nopal from Mexico, because that where it is “most abundant.”

Nopalera Flor de Mayo Soap
Nopalera Flor de Mayo Soap

Courtesy of Nopalera

“I see the nopal as the perfect canvas for a new kind of product, one that doesn’t rely on conventional ingredients and stereotyped marketing,” Velasquez says.

In creating the “Cactus Goddess” you’ll see on every package of Nopalera product, Velasquez said she simply told her designer that she wanted to “create a high-end Mexican brand that unapologetically screamed cultural pride and could also sit on the shelves of Barneys.”

“I want my customers to feel proud. I want to affirm their belief that their culture is just as high-end as all of the Euro-centric brands we’ve been fed our entire lives. And of course, I want them to love the actual product performance.”

Nopalera Lotion Bar
Nopalera’s Moisturizing Botanical Bar

Courtesy of Nopalera

While she initially made everything by hand, the founder has since found manufacturing partners to help her expand. You can find Nopalera products online or in stores including Nordstrom and Free People. And Velasquez is currently taking part in an accelerator through Target.

“I want to normalize Latino goods with Spanish names as high-end,” Velasquez says. “Look at all the French brands that exist here compared to how many French people actually live here. Now, look at how many Latino brands with Spanish names exist compared to how many Latinos live here. I want to challenge the false beliefs that ‘real Latinos can’t afford X’ or that ‘clean beauty is for white people.’ Not only are these narratives offensive and incorrect, they reinforce white supremacy and keep us from creating the opportunities and wealth we deserve.”

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