What Is Cactus Leather: All You Need To Know


What is cactus leather, how is it made, and is it better than real leather? 

Lately, there has been an increasing demand for plant-based alternatives for leather, and one of the relatively new vegan options is cactus leather.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about cactus leather and how sustainable it is compared to animal leather. 

Let’s jump right in!

What Is Cactus Leather?

Cactus leather is a vegan alternative to leather, praised for its soft texture and versatility in various applications. The cactus plant is tough and resilient, able to adapt to extreme conditions. That makes it an excellent material for making vegan cactus leather, a much more sustainable alternative to animal leather or faux leather. 

It is an organic, durable, strong material that offers high resistance to abrasion, rubbing, and tearing. Cactus leather is made from the leaves of the Nopal cactus plant. 

The final product is a very breathable material that’s water-resistant, and it can be used to make various fashion items, shoes, handbags, furniture, etc. 



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How Is Cactus Leather Made?

Cactus leather is made from the leaves of the Nopal cactus plant. The cactus doesn’t need herbicides or pesticides, it is grown in areas with just natural earth minerals alone. 

Best of all, there is no need for irrigation for the cactus plants - they grow with rainwater only, which saves tons of water. 

To make cactus leather, mature cactus leaves are harvested without cutting the cactus itself. This allows a new harvest every 6-8 months, and a single cactus plant can last 8 years

Once collected, the mature leaves go through a cleaning and grinding process.

After that, they are left to dry under the sun for three days, which reduces the need to use extra energy to assist the drying process. 

The next step is extracting proteins and fibers to make an organic bio-resin. Then, the contents are mixed with non-toxic chemicals and coated on a carrier. 
The final product is toxic-free, smooth vegan leather that’s durable, waterproof, and aesthetically pleasing. 



How Sustainable Is Cactus Leather? 

Compared to real and faux leather, the leather made from cactus plants has many fantastic benefits, both for the environment and the animals. 

First off, cacti fields are a massive carbon sink which essentially means the growing process alone is a great help when sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.

For example, from 14 acres of cactus plantation, Desserto, a cactus leather farm, absorbs 8,100 tons of CO2/year while it generates only 15.30 tons of CO2 annually.

What’s more, cactus plants don’t require much water. For example, it takes just 200 liters of water to grow 1 kg of cactus biomass, and usually, this water is absorbed by the plants naturally from humidity present in the atmosphere. 

Lastly, cactus leather is processed with non-toxic chemicals, unlike animal leather, which is chromium-tanned - an extremely poisonous process that releases toxic slush of chromium salts and tanning liquor. 

Most importantly, it meets strict quality and environmental standards, providing cruelty-free and sustainable alternatives that don't contain toxic substances like phthalates and PVC.

Does Cactus Leather Last?

Cactus leather is highly durable, and according to Desserto, its cactus leather can last up to 10 years. 


Is Cactus Leather Biodegradable?

Most plant-based vegan leathers are biodegradable, but they are often mixed with other materials that make the final products not always biodegradable.

For example, Desserto offers cactus leather that contains 92% organic carbon content from plants, making the material highly biodegradable. 

If it is mixed with other synthetic materials, that makes it non-biodegradable.


High quality, soft cactus leather black sandals from Velvety


Is Cactus Leather Cheaper?

Cactus leather’s price is about the same as animal leather. Since it is still a newer concept and in earlier stages of development, the price is still higher, but it can get much more affordable once it reaches manufacturing on a large scale.


Is Cactus Leather Ethical? 

As with all things we buy, if cactus leather is ethical or not will depend on the manufacturers. Cactus leather is an excellent alternative to traditional leather because it provides a cruelty-free option that does not require the exploitation of any animals.

The main brand producing cactus leather now is called Desserto, which has quickly risen to fame thanks to its commitment to transparency and ethical practices. Desserto is a Mexican-based company that prides itself on using the latest technology to create a high-quality product that is both environmentally friendly, ethical and sustainable.


Pros And Cons Of Cactus Leather

What are the advantages of cactus leather?

  1. It is exceptionally durable, and it will last at least 10 yeast
  2. The colour of the cactus leather will not fade over time
  3. It is highly breathable, water-resistant, and soft to the skin
  4. Cactus naturally regenerates soil, and it is a natural carbon sink 
  5. It uses no chemicals in the manufacturing, making it environmentally-friendly
  6. It saves vast amounts of water as no irrigation is needed
  7. It is cruelty-free and 100% vegan

    What are the disadvantages of cactus leather?

    1. It isn’t biodegradable if it is mixed with other synthetic materials 
    2. It is on the pricier side
    3. Due to its lack of flexibility when compared to other vegan leathers, it may not be suitable for specific product types


      The Best Cactus Leather Products:

      Now when you have a better understanding of what is cactus leather and its benefits, let’s take a look at a couple of high-quality & beautiful cactus leather products:

      Velvet Heartbeat Mini Card Wallet - A New Zealand brand that makes a cute compact card wallet in 3 colors and comes with a ring to attach your keys.

      Paz Crossbody Bag - Ethically made from 100% vegan high-quality cactus leather. It is available in 3 colors. 

      Bohema Chelsea Cactus Boots - A unique, high-quality boots that are ethically handmade in Poland, and operate with a "pre-order" sales model. 






      Should you buy cactus leather?

      Cactus leather is a fantastic flexible, breathable option that doesn’t stain and holds many positive aspects compared to other options.

      While it still isn’t too widespread, more and more people are searching for plant-based alternatives to leather, and the future looks bright.

      What do you think about cactus leather? Would you give it a try?

      Wondering about what types of vegan leather to choose? Check out our guide to vegan fabric alternatives to leather.


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