You might think your skincare routine starts with a simple cleanser, but many nutritionists would argue that it starts with what you eat. “What you put in your body literally becomes your skin,” says holistic nutritionist Afya Ibomu. As a result, kitchen ingredients are gradually becoming beauty staples, with a rising interest in superfoods in particular. On top of this, and thanks to the lockdown spirit of DIY beauty, there’s also a growing trend in putting certain superfoods straight on your skin (cue Kendall Jenner and her quarantine avocado mask). In fact, CB Insights reports food as a trend that’s changing the face of the beauty industry in 2020. This is part of the overall switch in the industry to ‘clean’ beauty products, with research firm Ecovia Intelligence finding that ‘clean labels’ are moving from the food industry to the cosmetics industry. Terms like vegan, organic and gluten-free are no longer out of place when discussing beauty.To put this trend into practice, both in our meals and on our faces, we asked experts what superfoods could be worth incorporating into our shopping list, for the sake of skincare.
Marisa Moore, registered dietitian nutritionist, agrees that what we eat and drink can have a major impact on our health and appearance. “The skin is our largest organ,” she says. While she recommends that anyone experiencing severe issues with their skin consult a dermatologist, in addition to getting enough sleep and managing stress levels, she believes focusing on hydration and following a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit will provide a variety of skin-nourishing and protecting compounds. Within this more general recommendation, she lists some specific fruits that could be beneficial to skincare. “You might be surprised to learn that everyday foods can be ‘superfoods’ when it comes to skin health,” she says. “Oranges and other citrus fruits are a sweet way to get a skin-nourishing boost of vitamin C and water. This is important, since vitamin C is essential for the growth and repair of skin.” Other fruit recommendations include berries, delivering antioxidants and plenty of vitamin C.
After suggesting we steer clear of too much white sugar, to avoid inflammation that can lead to acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis, and ditching processed food to avoid dry skin, Ibomu’s first recommendation is aloe vera. She explains that aloe contains antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins A, B, C and E, and folic acid, with anti-inflammatory effects. “Use the inner gel of the leaf. 100% aloe juice from the inner leaf can be drunk internally,” she says. “I like to mix one third of a cup of aloe juice with two thirds of a cup of coconut water for extra hydration and skin glow.”
Along with drinking aloe juice, which is available in most health food shops, Ibomu reminds us that the plant has also long been used as a topical treatment in the beauty industry. “I use aloe almost daily in some way. It’s so versatile and can be used internally and externally,” she expands. “Due to aloe’s potassium and sodium content, it’s very hydrating to the cells, organs and skin.” She says fresh aloe is best for topical use, though there are a variety of products on the market containing the ingredient.
As a natural antioxidant, a study published in 2001 found that turmeric can assist with skin regeneration through the boosting of collagen production. Other studies have shown that curcumin, a chemical compound found in turmeric, can decrease UV damage. It’s clear that the benefits turmeric can provide for your skin and overall health make it worth adding to your diet, from turmeric lattes and no-bake turmeric energy balls to curries. New York-based makeup artist Remi Odunsi also recommends applying it as a mask. “Makeup is all about skincare and everyone wants that natural glow. As a woman of colour, I use turmeric for hyperpigmentation,” she tells Vogue. “You can mix it with your favourite mask or with honey and sugar to make a scrub.”
Moringa oleifera is rich in vitamins and protein. “It has seven times more vitamin C than oranges, helping to neutralise free radicals that lead to wrinkles, premature ageing and sagging skin,” says Ibomu. “Moringa’s protein also means it is helpful in protecting skin cells from damage.” A study in 2014 also suggested that topical formulation of moringa extract is “capable of revitalising the skin and reducing signs of skin ageing.”
Known as ‘the tree of life’, it is native to India, but also grows in Asia, Africa and South America. Ibomu says it can be taken in a powdered form, which you can buy at most health shops, and added to smoothies, or cooked fresh, and eaten like spinach and collards. It might already be in some of your anti-ageing beauty products without you knowing, like Estée Lauder’s Revitalizing Supreme+.
Moore says research suggests that the polyphenols in tea reduce sebum production, which might help with acne prevention. Green tea is already in products like Youth to the People’s Superfood Cleanser, which implies it may be worth drinking too. According to a 2017 review, the EGCG in green tea has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which have shown improvement in treating acne and oily skin.
Ibomu says that sea moss has been used for generations in places like Ireland, Africa and Jamaica. “Internally, sea moss helps build cells, blood and tissue,” she says. “The whole plant can be soaked, cleaned and made into a gel, then added to smoothies, juices or tea. Topically it can be used as a face mask to heal acne scars and discolouration.” She also explains that it’s one of the few vegan sources of EPA, an omega fatty acid that benefits your skin by managing oil production, reducing premature ageing and acne. “It contains vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acids, which all help to hydrate and promote healthy skin cell function,” she says. Sea moss is available at most health food shops in capsule form.