A Salad Fit For Your Skin

The nutrients that feed your body can also nourish your complexion.
By Josie Garthwaite

Toss avocado, lettuce, and tomato with a splash of olive oil, and you have a healthy salad. Bottle them up with staples like aloe vera and sweet almond oil, and you have a recipe for serious beauty boosting.

Traditional salad ingredients increasingly appear in creams, masks, and other facial products. Dermatologists Ranella Hirsch of Boston and Jeanette Jacknin of Phoenix say there’s more to the trend than companies juicing products with buzz-worthy ingredients. “Olive oil has been used for years for youthful skin,” says Jacknin, author of Smart Medicine for Your Skin (Avery, 2001). With good reason: The oil is rich in skin-soothing vitamin E.

Another standby, cucumber, now has scientific proof that it 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 much 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

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 proper- ties, 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.

Josie Garthwaite is a freelance writer based in San Francisco.


Feed Your Face
Dr. Alkaitis Organic Universal Mask
A veritable salad in itself, this powdered mask contains organic kale, carrots, beets, and tomatoes, all primed to relieve inflamed and damaged skin. ($45, 4 oz; www.alkaitis.com)

Olivier Femme Vitamin E & Carrot Soap
Olive and carrot oils give this luxurious, long-lasting soap its intoxicating scent and antiaging power. ($14.99, 3.2 oz; www.oliviernewyork.com)

Bod Deep Clarifying Mask
Made with organic white Australian clay infused with oatmeal and extracts of cucumber and aloe vera, this mask offers a distinctly soothing treatment from Down Under. ($41, 2.1 oz; www.nzpacific.com)

Lavera Basis Face Cream Carrot
Lavera keeps it simple by infusing this hydrating cream with organic carrot extract, aloe vera, soybean oil, and healing shea butter. ($20, 1.7 oz; www.lavera.com)

Juice Beauty Soothing Serum
Your go-to product for erasing evidence of sob sessions, this serum packs a cooling antioxidant punch with organic cucumber extract, aloe, and organic white grape juice. ($36, 2 oz; www.juicebeauty.com)