Quillaja saponaria, known as soapbark, is a large evergreen tree with shiny, green leaves and thick bark, native to the mountainous regions of several South American countries, including Bolivia, Chile and Peru. The Latin botanical name is derived from the Mapuche word quillean which means to wash and sapo from the Latin word for soap. Rich in lather-producing saponins, soapbark is most well known for its use as a cleansing ingredient.
The indigenous people of South America have used the inner bark of the Quillaja tree in medicinal and cosmetic preparations for more than five hundred years. In medicinal remedies, the bark was used to treat colds and bronchitis and to soothe inflamed, irritated skin. As a cosmetic, the bark was soaked overnight in boiling water and used in baths as a gentle cleanser and as a revitalizing hair tonic known for its conditioning properties and its ability to promote lustrous, beautiful hair.
In modern cosmetic preparations, soapbark functions as a moisturizer, cleanser and skin conditioner. Soapbark also acts as a free radical scavenger due to its high antioxidant content and the presence of over 100 saponins along with phenolic compounds and tannins. With its many functional benefits, soapbark is a powerful active botanical ingredient with conditioning and purifying properties.