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These 12 Superfoods Can Work Magic on Your Skin, Too

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When we think about a clean, plant-based diet, we often conjure up an image of juice cleanses and an ever-growing list of newfound superfoods that will turn our insides into health machines—but what about our outsides? Turns out, a lot of these superstar foods are supposed to be so good for skin (which is your largest organ, BTW) that they also deserve a spot in your daily beauty routine. But before you head into the kitchen to slather a green smoothie on your face, you’ll want to read the intel we gathered from dermatologists Mamina Turegano, MD, FAAD, and Vishal Saggar, MD, who gave us the scoop on superfoods for the skin.

"There are many beneficial properties to using natural, food-based ingredients, from anti-inflammatory to antibacterial effects," says Dr. Saggar. "These natural ingredients can have benefits both from topical use as well as adding them to a well-balanced diet." But which plant-based ingredients belong on your skincare shelf? We’ve got the cold-pressed facts below.


About the Experts:

Mamina Turegano, MD, FAAD, is a triple board-certified dermatologist, internist, and dermatopathologist based in New Orleans.
Vishal Saggar, MD, is a New York City-based dermatologist who specializes in laser technology to treat the skin.

1. Watermelon

DEW OF THE GODS Ultratonic Watermelon Extract Toner

While citrus fruits tend to get all the vitamin C love, watermelon is also full of skin-brightening benefits with a high concentration of the vitamin. In addition to giving skin a dewy glow, vitamin C can also promote collagen production which will help with skin elasticity. Plus, it's high in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which fights the good fight against free radicals. For some skin types, it can even help repair sun damage.

Applying a super light and hydrating watermelon skin cream like the PURLISSE BEAUTY Watermelon Energizing Aqua Balm and topping it with SPF 30 could be a winning duo for protected summer skin. Or reach for a watermelon-infused serum like the GLOW RECIPE Watermelon Niacinamide Dew Drops, which helps plump and brighten the skin with the addition of antioxidant niacinamide.

But when we really want to lean into a watermelon-powered glow, the DEW OF THE GODS Ultratonic™ Watermelon Toner is our go-to. Because it’s packed with AHAs to gently exfoliate away dull skin, this formula helps reveal a more radiant complexion—which translates into a glowier base for any products we apply on top.

2. Blueberries

GLOW RECIPE Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser

As the antioxidant queen, this superfood is one of the best ingredients you can use on your skin. The antioxidants in blueberry fruit extract can help to fight free radicals and tame inflammation. Like watermelon, this fruit can also minimize damage caused by UV rays. It's by no means a replacement for sunscreen, but the two make a great protective pair.

To incorporate blueberries into your routine, try using a cleanser like GLOW RECIPE Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser, which uses blueberries to soothe inflammation and pairs it with gentle acids to exfoliate away skin cells, revealing clearer, glowing skin.

3. Green Tea

NON GENDER SPECIFIC Phytonutrient Concentrate

If you're looking for an ingredient that can tackle the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, a product containing green tea should be your go-to. This ingredient comes packed with polyphenols, a beneficial plant compound with antioxidant properties. It can prevent free radical damage, calm inflammation, and help to reverse sun damage. As a natural astringent and antibacterial agent, it has even been shown to calm and treat breakouts. If you have sensitive, acne-prone skin that reacts poorly to ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, give a green tea spot treatment a try. If you're looking for a good place to get started, try the BENTON Deep Green Tea Toner, which is the perfect way to reset and prep your skin after cleansing and before applying your serums and lotions.

Once you’re sold on the benefits of green tea for your skin, next on your must-try list is the NON GENDER SPECIFIC Phytonutrient Concentrate. This luxe face oil might sound intimidating at first (it’s formulated with 23 of the world’s most nutrient-rich botanicals!), but it couldn’t be simpler to use. Apply a few drops to your hands, then pat the oil around your face to help restore and protect your skin. The formula’s small particle size allows the oil to absorb quickly, so your skin feels light and nourished.

4. Avocados

GLOW RECIPE Avocado Ceramide Recovery Serum

"Avocado is not only considered a superfood for its health benefits, but its oils and extract can be great for your skin," says Dr. Saggar. "Avocado oil and avocado extract are rich in linoleic and oleic acids." Both of these are fatty acids, a key component to keeping skin well-hydrated and moisturized.

"This ingredient also contains many important moisturizing factors and nutrients such as vitamins E and C," Dr. Saggar continues. "It promotes collagen synthesis and decreases inflammation in the skin."

Reap avocado's hydration benefits with something like an emollient body butter or THE SAEM Natural Avocado and Shea Butter Mask Sheet Set, which combines avocado fruit extract with shea butter, another one of nature's best hydrators. The GLOW RECIPE Avocado Serum is another favorite of ours. In addition to avocado, it features strengthening ceramides and calming rice milk to support the skin barrier and target dehydration, irritation, and redness.

5. Green Apple

JUICE BEAUTY Green Apple Brightening Eye Cream

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. That old adage could probably use some major updating, but the sentiment still holds some truth. Apples (specifically the super tart, green varieties) are like little antioxidant powerhouses—but their big skin benefit comes from this gentle exfoliator: malic acid. “Malic acid is naturally found in fruits like apples, pears, and cherries. It is a more mild exfoliant compared to its other AHA counterparts, like glycolic acid and lactic acid, so it’s a good choice for those with sensitive skin,” explains Dr. Turegano.

It’s so effective that JUICE BEAUTY has created an entire line dedicated to the brightener—all aimed to help reduce the appearance of dark spots from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (aka acne scarring), melasma, and melanin overproduction. For an under-eye pick-me-up, the JUICE BEAUTY Green Apple Brightening Eye Cream is a hero we love for helping to relieve dullness.

6. Kale

GOLDFADEN MD Mist RX Daily Nutrient Facial Mist

Green tea, green avocados, green apples, and now kale. You might be thinking your product lineup is starting to resemble your cold-pressed juice order, but we promise that’s a good thing! Why? Kale is loaded with vitamins A, B, C, and K (which can help to refine the appearance of pores)—as well as antioxidants and lutein. “Lutein works by reducing oxidative stress, which can occur with environmental factors like UVA/UVB light and blue light—and shows measurable increase in skin hydration, elasticity, and skin lipid content,” says Dr. Turegano. In other words, it helps to prevent damage to keep skin firm and moisturized.

If you’re ready to go full-on green and introduce kale to your rotation, the Daily Nutrient Facial Mist from GOLDFADEN MD is an easy add. The hydrating formula contains a blend of hydrating aloe and soothing kale sprout water to perk up a tired complexion. Plus, the ultra-fine mineral-loaded mist sets makeup like a pro.

7. Eggplant

PAPA RECIPE Eggplant Clearing Mud Mask

While eggplant isn't yet one of the top foods to translate into a beauty go-to, it's well on its way to becoming a more prominent ingredient on the skincare scene. This bold purple plant is an excellent source of vitamin C. It's also a great ingredient for those with acne-prone skin as it has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial benefits and can even help to reduce the production of sebum.

Dive into the potential skin benefits of eggplant with the PAPA RECIPE Eggplant Clearing Mud Mask. In addition to the nutrient-rich nightshade, this mask is also made with exfoliating, finely-milled walnut shells and detoxifying kaolin clay. Wash it away to reveal your clearest skin yet.

8. Coconut Water

LAURA GELLER Spackle Mist Restore with Coconut Water

Dr. Saggar explains, "Coconut water and coconut oil do a terrific job of hydrating the skin in a gentle manner. While there are tons of perks with coconut oil, coconut water is amazingly high in nutrients (such as vitamin C) that aid in skin health. Vitamin C has been found to promote the growth of collagen, protect against sun damage, and fight against wrinkles and other signs of skin aging. It is important to note, though, that these beneficial skin effects from vitamin C are primarily established from research regarding oral vitamin C intake. However, I can say from personal experience that well-formulated topicals containing vitamin C certainly share some of these benefits as well."

An extremely easy way to incorporate coconut water into your routine is with the LAURA GELLER Spackle Mist Restore with Coconut Water. Packed with nutrient-rich coconut water and probiotics, a spritz of this during the day can boost radiance and leave your skin looking soft and dewy.

9. Honey

KEYS SOULCARE Golden Cleanser

"Honey plays a critical role in skincare due to its antioxidant activity, its ability to regulate pH, and the induction of certain enzymes in the skin," says Dr. Saggar. "These characteristics provide essential antibacterial, anti-yeast, moisturizing, and conditioning properties. For these reasons, you can find honey in many moisturizers, anti-wrinkle products, and even shampoos and conditioners. Medical-grade honey is also commonly found in treatments focused on skin wounds and burns."

Try this multitasking ingredient in the KEYS SOULCARE Golden Cleanser, where it nourishes and hydrates alongside soothing turmeric and calming chamomile. Then there’s the extremely gentle peel-off mask from HEY HONEY, which blends honey extract with propolis, a resinous mixture made from honeybees that helps fight acne and decongest pores to keep blemishes at bay.

10. Pineapple

HANALEI COMPANY Face Sheet Mask Duo in Pear and Pineapple

Like eggplant, pineapple is another food-turned-beauty-product on the rise. Rich in vitamins E and C, pineapple can brighten up and even out skin tone. It's also a powerful antioxidant that can keep you protected from environmental pollutants. On top of all that, pineapple is coveted for its exfoliating enzymes, which naturally and gently slough away dead skin cells.

Brighten and polish skin with little to no effort using the HANALEI Face Sheet Mask, which comes packed with pineapple fruit extract, hyaluronic acid, and hydrating castor oil.

11. Aloe Vera

BUTTAH SKIN Tea Tree & Aloe Exfoliating Scrub

While it’s definitely most known as a sunburn soother, aloe vera is also a popular food in recipes like smoothies, chia pudding, and truly delicious fruity juices and cocktails. But topically in your skincare, aloe vera can be hydrating, wound-healing, and anti-inflammatory—or in the case of BUTTAH SKIN Tea Tree & Aloe Exfoliating Scrub—all three. The aloe vera (in combination with tea tree oil) helps balance out the detoxifying, exfoliating benefits of this scrub.

12. Orange

MURAD Essential-C Toner

Quick: What fruit comes to mind when you think of vitamin C? We’re willing to bet the answer is “oranges.” Aside from making the perfect juice to accompany your breakfast spread, oranges are also chock-full of nutrient-rich vitamin C, a favorite ingredient of skincare aficionados everywhere. When included in skincare products, oranges (or orange extract) can draw on vitamin C’s abilities to brighten, protect, and repair your skin. We love the MURAD Essential-C Toner for an orange-infused pick. It features orange fruit extract to help refresh your skin, plus bitter orange flower and coneflower extract to help strengthen your skin's defense system.

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About the author
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Cortney Clift
Cortney is a New York-based freelance writer who has written about beauty and wellness for more than six years. She was previously the senior writer and special projects editor at Brit + Co where she covered a wide range of news and lifestyle topics.
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Article Last Updated July 31, 2023 12:00 AM