Plants for Healthy Skin
Nature offers a host of healing powers—it can boost your mood, energize you and help you feel connected to something greater—all while serving up the healthiest foods. Additionally, it delivers some of the best skin care ingredients full of protective properties that can treat acne, lighten skin spots and safeguard cells from the sun. These wonderful plant chemicals (called polyphenols) are gentler on your complexion because they don’t strip your skin of its natural oils and are less harsh than some prescription creams and medications that tend to irritate skin.
Some of the following skin-friendly plants might surprise you, especially because you may have enjoyed them for other reasons, such as how they taste or smell. It’s worth giving them a try if you’re struggling with certain skin conditions, or trying to prevent further damage, especially since they can be easily found in over-the-counter products. Of course you can always speak with your dermatologist if you’re concerned about trying something new.
Erase Sun Spots with Licorice
Sun spots and uneven pigmentation are a result of decades of sun exposure—prime examples of why it’s so important to wear an SPF 30 daily, even in winter. To lighten unwanted dark spots, many dermatologists prescribe hydroquinone (HQ), an ingredient that works by decreasing the production of melanin (your skin’s pigment cells). However, irritation is a common side effect, which is why you may want to try licorice extract. Licorice functions in a similar way to HQ to lighten skin. Many anti-aging creams and cleansers contain this extract—look for dipotassium glycyrrhizate in the ingredients list.
Beat Acne with Thyme
For many people, acne isn’t something that just disappears after the teen years. Pimples can pop up in your twenties, thirties, forties or later, as hormonal changes spur breakouts. While benzyol peroxide has been a go-to—and effective—acne fighter, it can cause dryness and flakiness and is difficult for some complexions to tolerate. Enter thyme, which, with antibacterial properties, can help eradicate acne-causing bacteria (known as propionibacterium acnes). And those with sensitive complexions will be happy to hear that the herb is gentler on skin. Although research on thyme and acne is still ongoing, the ingredient is already available in cleansers, blemish treatments, spot correctors and masks. Additionally, research has shown that tea tree oil can help reduce inflammation associated with acne; you can buy it in a diluted form, or look for face masks that contain it, but do not apply it near your mouth as it can be harmful when ingested.
Guard Against Sun Damage with Green Tea
Green tea’s ability to help support you in maintaining a healthy weight is impressive, but so too is the fact that applying it to your skin can offer a protection similar to sunscreen. Its antioxidants, such as EGCG, along with caffeine, can help soak up and neutralize environmental free radicals that can lead to signs of aging, sunburn and skin cancer. Green tea is added to an array of skin care products, but may be especially effective when added to sunscreen, so look for it in the ingredients list the next time you shop for an SPF. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t apply green tea in lieu of sunscreen, as it may not offer adequate sun protection on its own.
Relieve Rosacea with Chamomile
Most likely, you’re familiar with chamomile’s calming effects; maybe you even enjoy sipping chamomile tea before bed. This flowering herb, which was used medicinally during the Egyptian and Roman times to treat problems like burns and acne, also has a powerful skin-soothing effect for conditions like rosacea (characterized by redness, blushing and flushing on the face). Chamomile both lessens irritation and fights bacteria, one possible cause of rosacea. Certain chemicals in the plant, like chamazulene, reduce redness, while others, like levomenol, moisturize and smooth uneven skin texture. Look for chamomile in products like eye cream, moisturizers, cleansers and toners, especially those designed for sensitive skin.
Reduce Wrinkles with Rose
Rose is a popular addition to skin care products, likely—in part—for its divine scent. Researchers have discovered, though, that the flower helps protect against inflammation, which can degrade skin-firming collagen and elastin, leading to lines and wrinkles. Rose contains potent polyphenols, plant compounds that suppress specific enzymes that “turn on” inflammation in the skin. Look for rose skin creams, moisturizers and bath products.