“Eat your vegetables” is one of those mom-isms that nearly everyone heard at one point or another when they were growing up. “Slather that vegetable for skin benefits” was likely not as common a refrain at the dinner table, but it may as well have been.
We all know that downing a regular dose of leafy greens and other veggies has all kinds of body benefits—including making our skin look radiant—but what you may not realize is that they also serve as effective ingredients in products, too. “One of the huge benefits of skin care products with ingredients found in the produce aisle is that the formulas are often natural and organic, which means no harsh chemicals that can cause skin reactions or irritation,” says board-certified dermatopathologist Gretchen Frieling, MD. “Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and what you put on it gets absorbed through your pores and into your body.” While slathering your face with salad ingredients isn’t a substitute for eating them, it certainly can help your glow game.
If you want to know which vegetables to reach for, your best bet is to look for superfoods, like kale, spinach, and mushrooms. Why? They’re “the most nutrient-dense ingredients in the world and are praised for their exceptionally high level of antioxidants, vitamins, and other nutrients,” says Youth To The People co-founder Greg Gonzalez, whose brand formulates with these types of greens. Below, the best vegetables for skin worth adding your routine, and, while we’re at it, your plate, too.
Carrot: Eve Lom Morning Time Cleanser, $60
Carrots are rich in vitamin A, and you can think of them as a distant relative to retinol. Like retinol (which is a derivative of vitamin A), carrot increases cell turnover and brightens skin, while also acting as an antioxidant. “In general, anyone concerned about their skin becoming dull can benefit,” says Dr. Frieling, though she cautions anyone with sensitive skin from using it too heavily. Pair it with a hydrator, like hyaluronic acid, or a non-retinol exfoliant like vitamin-E for best results, and don’t use it alongside any actual retinol to avoid irritation.
Considering cucumbers are 96 percent water, it’s safe to say they are very hydrated. Now, imagine what they can do for your skin.”The flesh of the cucumber is mostly water, but also contains ascorbic acid, aka vitamin C, and caffeic acid, both of which help soothe skin irritations and reduce swelling,” says Dr. Frieling. These acids help to prevent water retention, which is why cucumber slices are commonly used on swollen eyes, burns, and dermatitis.
Spinach: By All Greens Foaming Deep Cleansing Mask, $30
It seems Popeye was onto something in his love affair with spinach. “When applied topically, spinach extract can strengthen, moisturize and restore skin’s natural glow while repairing damaged skin cells and reducing the appearance of sun damage, dark spots, inflammation, and the visible signs or aging,” says Dr. Frieling. She adds that because spinach is so rich in antioxidants and vitamins A, K, and C, people with acne-prone skin can especially benefit from it because it can help cleanse skin, unclog pores, and fight bacteria.
“Superfood” indeed—especially as it relates to skin. “The vitamin K in kale helps to reduce the dark circles under your eyes and tightens your skin, reducing fine lines and wrinkles,” says Dr. Frieling, adding that kale beauty products also help with skin detoxing. The leafy green has also got vitamin A and antioxidants, which repair skin tissue and prevent free-radical damage.
Broccoli: L:A Bruket Broccoli Seed Serum, $62
Citrus fruits get all of the glory as far as vitamin C goes, but there are actually a whole lot of other fruits that are jam packed with the stuff, and one vegetable. “The vitamin C in broccoli aids collagen production, ultimately making the skin look younger,” says Dr. Frieling. Even if you absolutely hated broccoli as a kid (me!), you’ve gotta admit that those are some benefits worth getting on board with it for.
Veggies aren’t the only skin-care heroes in the produce aisle: Here are the fruit ingredients that are also worth stocking up on. And if you want to add an antioxidant into the mix,
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