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Fruits and vegetables have taken on a whole new level of health. Not only do we eat them now, but they are now ingredients in products we use on our faces and bodies. Skin-care products with whole food ingredients claim that they reduce redness, puffiness and even smooth out wrinkles. It seems quite logical to use health foods in creams and moisturizers since they are replete with antioxidants, natural protectors from sun, pollution, insects and other damage. Companies just need to be careful when formulating products to ensure that these ingredients remain active and conserve their benefits which can then penetrate the skin. However, just because food has health benefits when eaten does not mean it maintains the same benefits topically, says Leslie Baumann, a dermatologist.
Aging inflames the skin and damages cells in the natural bodily process. Antioxidants can block and even repair damage done to the skin, also known as oxidative stress. A new, now popular antioxidant and anti-aging ingredient used is green tea. In research done with mice, green tea contained antioxidants which inhibit tumor formation. Studies on human skin show that green tea can fight the cancer-reducing stress of exposure to ultraviolet sun rays. According to Patricia Farris, a dermatologist at Tulane University, green tea extract, called EGCG, blocks collagen cross-linking and other damage that can occur to collagen after sun exposure. The antioxidants from the green tea regulate the processes within the cell. When buying a product, though, the label does not state how much of the ingredient is in the product. Therefore, look for EGCG on the label and for a brownish color, which is the natural color of EGCG.
Curcumin, the main component of curry, a yellowish spice, has also been proven to help heal wounds, reduce inflammation and limit tumor growths.
Licorice, used medicinally since ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome through the present day helps treat acne, sunburns and other skin conditions. According to some studies, licorice fights inflammation similar to a cortisone cream. Licorice root may also assist in lightening dark skin patches, often a result of sun exposure.
Research on all such products may seem encouraging on individual components, but companies may not always test the final product to see if the health claims follow through. Read cosmetic labels to make sure products attribute benefits to a whole cream and not just an ingredient. Labels, though do not explain where the ingredients are from or how they were treated during processing, which affects the effectiveness of the ingredients. Ask our dermatologists which products to use or look for things like “clinically proven” or “dermatologist recommended” regarding the entire formula, not just one ingredient.
When a fruit becomes hot and popular due to its newfound health publicity, it begins appearing in cosmetic products. It gets consumers to believe that all the antioxidants and health benefits they get from eating that fruit will apply to the topical product as well. However, that is not necessarily the case.
Vitamin C-rich ingredients can specifically be problematic because only one facet of the ingredient is effective on skin, L-ascorbic acid. Not only that, but it needs to be kept at an acidic pH of 2, which can sting. So lemon, melon extracts, lime or goji berry products cannot be effective. Carrot and apple extracts in creams are also not active and operational topically.
So be mindful of the ingredients used in creams before purchasing them. And do not be naïve in believing all the benefits one ingredient adds to the cream. Speak to our dermatologists, who can recommend the perfect products for you and your skin.
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