Food or Beauty?

A salad fit for your skin
By Josie Garthwaite

Traditional salad ingredients increasingly appear in creams, masks, and other facial products. Dermatologists Ranella Hirsch, MD, of Boston and Jeanette Jacknin, MD, of Phoenix say there’s more to the trend than companies juicing products with buzzworthy ingredients. There is now scientific proof that cucumber reduces puffiness around the eyes—and maybe more. Certain acids and compounds in the vegetable (well, technically it’s a fruit) help combat inflammation, which Jacknin describes as the single greatest culprit in age-related conditions from Alzheimer’s to wrinkled, sagging skin.

Ingredients like tomato and carrot deliver benefits through their antioxidants. When eaten, they fight cell damage in your body similar to the way citrus juice can prevent a slice of apple from turning brown, explains Hirsch. In facial treatments, antioxidants like vitamin C and beta-carotene help stave off damage (read: signs of age) from sun exposure, smoke, and pollution.

So next time you’re in the beauty aisle, take your grocery list with you—or pull this one out for reference.

Avocado

This creamy fruit comes packed with fatty acids and vitamins B, C, E, and K. Vitamins C and E fight sun damage best when used together, so the combination in avocado can safeguard sun-exposed skin along with other protective measures. Skin readily absorbs avocado oil, making it ideal for face creams.

Carrot

As in other dark yellow and orange vegetables, the antioxidant beta-carotene in carrots defends against environmental stressors that wreak havoc on your skin over time. You’ll find carrot root and seed oils mostly in moisturizers.

Tomato

These jewels of the garden are rich in vitamins A and C, and an antioxidant called lycopene. Best known as one of the ingredients that gives tomatoes cancer-fighting properties, lycopene has also been found to help reduce inflammation and limit sun damage when used in skin treatments. Look for organic extracts, since research suggests organic tomato products contain more of the nutrient than those made with conventionally farmed tomatoes.

Olive oil

A natural emollient, olive oil boasts a rich store of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds called polyphenols. It also offers an alternative, vegetarian source of squalene, a moisturizing substance in beauty products that’s sometimes derived from shark liver. (When plain olive oil isn’t listed, look for vegetarian or plant-derived squalene if you don’t want the shark stuff.)

Cucumber

Cucumber contains vitamin C, an antioxidant that also helps ward off sun damage. (Note: You still need to wear sunscreen!) More than that, this veggie-like fruit boasts caffeic acid, which helps reduce inflammation. Labels may list vitamin C as ascorbic acid.

Lettuce

You’ll often find lettuce extracts in eye treatments because dark-leaf lettuce provides a natural source of vitamin K, which may help diminish dark circles. Vitamin K sometimes appears on labels as phylloquinone. Chlorophyll, the substance that makes lettuce (and other plants) green, also has an antioxidant effect, helping to slow signs of aging. Herbalists have long used wild lettuces for their calming effects, and you can now find them in complexion-soothing facial treatments.