By Tiffany Gagnon
You are what you eat—but also, what you put on your skin.
We’ve told you before about what to eat for glowy skin—but instead of what to put in your face, did you know you could put stuff on it, too?
Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and what you put on it gets absorbed through your pores and into your body. Think about all the products you apply throughout the day—moisturizer, sunscreen, makeup and face wash—and that’s just the beginning! Not only are many cosmetic products filled with artificial ingredients and potentially harmful chemicals, but they can also burn through your wallet. Lucky for you, you have a built-in-beauty store right at home that's always fully stocked. We're talking about your kitchen, of course!
Many of these foods help build beautiful skin from the inside out, but they can also give your skin an extra boost by slapping them directly onto your pretty little mug. From scrubs and masks to cleansers and moisturizers, slather on these whole foods to enhance your complexion and slough off dull, dry skin—naturally. And speaking of how food affects your appearance, be sure to avoid these 15 Worst Foods for Cellulite!
Due to its sticky texture, honey may seem like the last thing you want to put on your face—but it’s actually one of the best natural moisture promoters. Honey is what’s called a humectant, which helps your skin absorb and lock in moisture. Manuka honey, in particular, is incredibly beneficial for the skin because it’s highly antibacterial, which can help acne-prone skin tremendously. Honey on its own can be used as a face mask—simply spread on a cleansed face, let it sit until it starts dripping and wash off. (Psst! Manuka honey is also on our list of 15 Functional Foods for Better Health and Weight Loss!)
2. Acai Berries
Native to Central and South America, these purple hued berries boast incredibly high levels of antioxidants, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. Thanks to their rockstar nutrient content, they help fight premature aging and encourage greater blood flow to the skin. Acai berry powder, which can be found at most health food stores or natural supermarkets, can be mixed into any DIY face scrub or mask for added anti-aging benefits.
You’ll often find oatmeal in products meant to soothe irritated skin or even help reduce inflamed skin caused by skin conditions like eczema. It’s nourishing and the skin-settling properties come from its mix of flavonoids, phenols, and also a type of polyphenols called avenanthramides—all which act as natural anti-inflammatories. Oats are best used in masks when in a ground or flour form. Try combining with honey for an ultra-soothing mask. With your unused, leftover oats, think about using them in these 25 Overnight Oats That Boost Your Metabolism in the Morning.
4. Coconut Oil
Everyone and their grandmother has jumped on the coconut oil train thanks to its long list of health benefits both internally and topically. Coconut oil has incredible moisturizing and restorative properties. It actually contains a fair amount of antioxidants and is also antifungal. Coconut oil can be used as a super-hydrating and luscious moisturizer for dry or sensitive skin; simply scoop from the jar and slather on.
Nothing sounds more indulgent than a chocolate-infused face mask—and honestly, your skin is in for a healthy treat. Cocoa is a rich source of antioxidants, helping protect your skin against free radical damage. It also contains a little caffeine which works to firm the skin. Mix cocoa or cacao powder with your favorite oils and some granulated sugar for a brilliant body scrub.
This brightly-hued spice does more than make your curry dishes stand out. This root has awesome anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antioxidant and astringent properties; when applied topically, it helps smooth out the skin and fight wrinkles. Turmeric also may help fade acne scars, too. Just be sure to dilute it with other ingredients like oil, as turmeric by itself may stain the skin.
7. Apple Cider Vinegar
A healthy kitchen staple, apple cider vinegar contains natural alpha-hydroxy acids, which help remove dirt and grime that tends to build up on your skin over the course of the day, and also helps wash away dead skin cells. It can also be used as a natural toner because it helps shrink the appearance of pores when applied topically. Dilute a little apple cider vinegar with water, dip a cotton ball, and wipe over a cleansed face for a natural refresh. Check out 29 more Amazing Ways to Use Apple Cider Vinegar.
8. Grapeseed Oil
Although it may seem counterintuitive, most oils you find in your pantry work as amazing natural moisturizers. Grapeseed oil, in particular, is absorbed rather easily into the skin and has a pleasant lightweight texture. It’s rich in fatty acids and incredibly high in a specific antioxidant called oligomeric procyanidin, which fights against free radicals and is about 50 times more potent than vitamins A and E.
From hair masks to face masks, this creamy fruit is highly nourishing to your body when mashed and applied topically. Avocado oil is also a great option for natural moisturization and is easily absorbed into the skin. Its benefits stem from its rich healthy fat content, which works to encourage skin regeneration and may be particularly beneficial to dry, sun-damaged or sensitive skin.
10. Adzuki Beans
Beans, beans, they’re good for your...face? Yes, you read that right. When ground, adzuki beans gently exfoliate the skin without causing damage. To use, you would need to grind the beans with a coffee grinder and mix the powder along with other ingredients like oat flour or clay. From there, you can mix a small amount with water to form a paste and gently rub over your face and rinse clean.
11. Green Tea
Hopefully, you know by now that green tea is a miracle drink; test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in 7 days with our The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse. And thanks to its powerful antioxidant content it also has some benefits when applied directly. It has been found to help calm irritated skin and reduce inflammation and may help soothe sun damage from a long day at the beach thanks to compounds like tannic acid, theobromine and polyphenols. Brewed tea or ground up leaves can be used in DIY face masks or rinses.
12. Plain Yogurt
As long as you stick with plain varieties, yogurt is another great natural moisturizer and skin soother. It’s rich in calcium, protein, and probiotics. It also contains lactic acid, which works as a mild exfoliant. Apply it to the skin by itself or mix with other natural ingredients for a hydrating mask, which can help prevent premature aging and promote a healthy glow.
13. Oranges/Orange Peel Powder
Orange zest, juice or peel powder can all be mixed into homemade skin remedies to help promote healthier, more vibrant skin. Oranges, in particular, may help boost collagen levels in the skin and as a result firm and tighten skin.
While berries and teas may be more overt about their skin-boosting properties, carrots are actually right there with them when it comes to natural benefits. When topically applied, carrots work to fight against free radicals and delay premature aging. They also help to stimulate cellular renewal. Cut into pieces, steam and mash the carrot, then combine with other natural ingredients like coconut oil and your flour of choice for a hydrating, anti-aging mask.
15. Red Wine
Rather than tuck away that extra vino at the end of the night, save it for a DIY beauty moment. When it comes to this cocktail, it’s all about the high levels of antioxidants working to prevent signs of aging. Not to mention, the alcohol may simulate an astringent by tightening pores, too. Simply stir a little wine into your favorite mask combination and let the antioxidants do their job.
16. Chia Seeds
For all the dietary reasons nutritionists love them—high calcium, antioxidant, protein, and healthy fat content—they make a great skincare ingredient. Due to their nutrient rich profile, chia seeds work to deeply moisturize the skin and help calm any irritations. Mix chia seeds with other ingredients like honey or coconut milk for a skin-boosting face mask.
The antioxidants found in the berries work to fight off free radicals and promote healthier, less damaged skin. Strawberries contain salicylic acid and alpha hydroxy acid, which both work to exfoliating dry, dead skin and encourage a brighter, more youthful complexion. Mash and mix into your favoriting mask combination.
Spices and berries don’t get to steal the show when it comes to kitchen-based beauty. Herbs like parsley are a great source of vitamins and nutrients, which specifically work to balance out skin discoloration, helping to fade any dark spots and acne scars. Chopped herbs will mix in just fine with oils and some sugar for a more savory scrub.
19. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
That same olive oil you drip over salads and pan fry with does deserve some actual face time. Extra virgin olive oil has anti-aging properties, helping to moisturize the skin and fight against US radiation, helping to prevent cell damage from the sun. It can be applied directly as a moisturizer and absorbs very easily into the skin. Speaking of food oils, find out the 14 Popular Cooking Oils and How to Use Them.
If you’ve only used cucumber slices for your undereye circles, then you’ve been missing out on some serious benefits. Cucumber is a very hydrating food. It has anti-inflammatory properties and works to soothe the skin, and can provide relief particularly to dry, sensitive or sun damaged skin. Blend cucumber with your favorite oil to make a refreshing, soothing face mask.
21. Sea Salt
Exfoliating the skin is a very crucial step in any skincare regimen because it getting rid of dead skin makes way for healthy, more vibrant skin to be revealed. Plus, it will reportedly also increase the effectiveness of your products by allowing your skin to absorb more. Sea salt is a great, natural exfoliant to help slough away dry skin and vital to any DIY scrub.
22. Yerba Mate Tea Leaves
For similar reasons green tea encourages healthy skin, yerba mate makes a great natural skin care ingredient. Coming from the South American rainforest, yerba mate boasts over 24 vitamins and minerals, is a rich source of amino acids and contains a healthy amount of polyphenols. These powerful nutrients all work to fight against free radical damage and prevent premature aging of the skin.
For a brighter, more luminous complexion, look no further than lemon. Citrus fruits as a group contain high levels of vitamin C, which supports the production of collagen and boosts skin elasticity when applied topically. Not to mention, the alpha-hydroxy acids help to even out skin toner and may also have a lightening effect on the skin. Mix in small amounts of lemon juice to face masks or scrubs to reap the brightening benefits.
24. Ground Coffee
Just as it wakes up your body, coffee can help wake up and perk up your skin. The brew contains a healthy dose of antioxidants, but the real star is the caffeine content which promotes greater blood circulation. Coffee grinds also work as a more gentle exfoliant, too. You’ll often find coffee in products or DIY recipes aiming to get rid of cellulite.
25. Coconut Cream
Although it sounds more exotic, coconut cream is simply full-fat coconut milk and can be found in any grocery store. Thanks to its high-fat content, coconut cream acts as a great moisturizer for the skin promoting serious hydration. In addition, the selenium content also helps to fight against free radical damage and delay premature aging of the skin. Use as the liquid base in masks or hydrating scrubs.
This natural sweetener is ideal for those with very dry, moisture-desperate skin. Agave is a natural humectant—just like honey—and also boasts antibacterial properties. It can be used in masks or scrubs to really help lock in moisture and promote a more youthful glow.
27. Brown Rice
Your pantry staples contains more skin-boosting superfoods than you might think, including brown rice. Rice in its whole form is difficult to use, but brown rice flour is an easy protein-rich, antioxidant-high addition to masks, which helps fight the signs of aging. It also works to clean out pores and soften skin. To protect your youthful glow, be sure to steer clear of these 20 Foods That Age You 20 Years.
As we age, our natural collagen production begins to slow down, leading to weakened skin elasticity. Cinnamon is not only rich in antioxidants, but it has also been found to help improve the natural production of collagen in skin cells, working to promote more youthful looking skin. Even better, cinnamon can also help fight against acne by drying out the affected area when applied topically. Work in a small dose of this spice to a face mask to reap the anti-aging benefits.
This Fall favorite is incredibly dense in skin-healthy nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin A, and zinc. It also works as a gentle, natural exfoliator thanks to its alpha-hydroxy content. Mixing this member of the squash family into masks and scrubs can help fight against premature signs of aging and also may brighten the skin to the high levels of vitamin C.
Rich in vitamin C, this tropical fruit has a decent amount of bromelain content—a protein-digesting enzyme—that also works as a natural exfoliant. Even better, pineapple may also help stimulate greater collagen production, working to keep skin more taut. Pineapple juice can be worked into masks or scrubs.
Exfoliating weekly allows your skin to absorb more nutrition and really allows your skin to reap the full benefits of the products you’re using on it. Sugar is an excellent natural exfoliant due to its grittiness, but also thanks to its glycolic acid content. Glycolic acid works to clean out pores and slough off dead skin cells. Use sugar as the main ingredient in any body scrub. But in all other health areas, it’s best to stop eating so much sugar!
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By Jennifer Ashton, MD
ABC News Chief Women's Health Correspondent