We’re known to pay a pretty penny for skincare products that promise to reduce redness, treat acne and blackheads, and diminish signs of aging. But what if we told you that some of the most natural and effective skin care and beauty treatments were actually hiding in your fridge?
“Most people don’t pay that close attention to many of the ingredients in their skincare or don’t think through where those actives are derived,” Dendy Engelman, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City says. “But more often than not some of the more basic skincare products contain key nutrients that are found in most of the food we eat.”
To streamline your skincare routine and save you some money along the way, we asked experts to reveal the best foods for your face.
Turns out your favorite fall ingredient can rejuvenate you with more than seasonal spirit. “The natural enzymes in pumpkin dissolve dulling skin cells to create a soft and smooth complexion,” Joel Schlessinger, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and RealSelf Advisor says. “This exfoliation also encourages cellular renewal for youthful and radiant skin.” Pumpkin is also beneficial for anyone with oily skin, large pores or acne-prone skin. The natural exfoliation process helps clarify and detoxify skin, eliminating excess oil and other debris within clogged pores.
How to use it: Masks and peels with this ingredient help reduce the appearance of blemishes, blackheads and whiteheads. They can be applied once or twice a week to treat the complexion. One of Dr. Schlessinger’s favorite pumpkin products is LovelySkin Pumpkin Clarifying Mask ($30, lovelyskin.com), which uses pumpkin enzyme, papaya enzyme and salicylic acid to unclog pores and exfoliate skin. This mask is especially beneficial for those with acne-prone skin.
This naturally sweet food made by bees extracting nectar from flowers is a common ingredient in many recipes, but it’s also effectively used on your skin. “Honey is great for improving hydration and moisture, and also has antibiotic properties that can help treat acne,” Dr. Engelman says.
How to use it: Your best bet is to use a raw, organic honey that’s unheated and at room temperature. Apply it to the skin directly and allow to sit for 5-7 minutes, or mix in with other ingredients like a mask or scrub, Isabel Smith, R.D., a New York City-based celebrity dietitian and fitness expert suggests. Here’s a homemade mask to try using lemon for a vitamin C boost.
Cow’s milk has lactic acid, which is a natural anti-inflammatory that can help reduce redness and any swelling from sun exposure or drinking and eating heavy ingredients. “Using a yogurt with cow’s milk could be effective in calming the skin, and while it may not give an extreme tightening to the skin to reduce wrinkles, it can give you some textural improvement,” Dr. Engelman says. “I would recommend a few drops placed on a cotton pad and placed over red areas.”
How to use it: Combine a half cup of hot (but not boiling!) water along with ⅓ cup oatmeal. Once the water and oatmeal have settled, mix in two tablespoons of plain yogurt, two tablespoons of honey and one small egg white. Apply a thin layer to your face for about 10-15 minutes before rinsing with warm water.
When applied topically, resveratrol—the key antioxidant in red wine–has the power to shield skin from environmental damage, smooth fine lines and wrinkles, and improve the skin’s tone and texture, Dr. Schlessinger says. “In addition to neutralizing harmful free radicals (unstable molecules produced by UV rays, pollution and lifestyle factors such as alcohol or cigarette smoke), resveratrol also strengthens and supports the skin’s defense and repair systems.” It also helps protect against UV damage and the formation of free radicals while playing a big role in the production of healthy collagen.
How to use them: The next time you get a bag of grapes at the grocery store, slice about 10 or so in half and stick them in the freezer. After a few hours, remove them from the freezer and, while laying down, apply them onto your face. You’ll feel hydrated, rejuvenated and refreshed in no time.
Coffee contains healthy antioxidants that can help to nourish the skin, as well as caffeine which helps improve blood flow and tone the skin as well by increasing firmness. “Coffee helps aid in the lymphatic drainage and smooth out the appearance of skin,” Dr. Engelman says. “And caffeine, in general, adds some actual shrinkage to the fat cells, which can make the skin look firmer and tighter.” This is why it’s a common ingredient found in cellulite creams!
How to use it: Use in a simple DIY home mask or scrub, or simply use to exfoliate the skin on its own. Bonus: Combine with cocoa powder for an even greater boost of antioxidant. This can help repair damage to the skin as well as firm and tone.
One of the most common dermatologist-recommended ingredients is vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that helps shield skin against damaging free radicals and prevent premature signs of aging. “In addition to protecting and strengthening skin against environmental stress, vitamin C leaves the complexion brighter, firmer and more even,” Dr. Schlessinger says. “It also boosts the efficacy of sunscreens.”
How to use it: Combine one teaspoon of honey, ½ teaspoon organic brown sugar (for exfoliation), and one teaspoon of fresh-squeezed lemon juice together and massage onto your face in a circular motion. Rinse off with warm water after about 20 minutes.
Green tea and white tea
The extracts in these herbal teas are potent antioxidants that help protect skin against environmental damage and premature signs of aging. “Tea extracts have the power to not only protect skin from aging, but help to reduce inflammation, boost collagen and minimize the appearance of fine lines,” Dr. Schlessinger says.
How to use it: Cut open a bag of green tea and moisten the leaves with honey to form a paste. Apply to your face and let it sit for about 20 minutes before rinsing off with warm water.