Think about this: if you wanted your houseplant to look good, would you apply dozens of toxic, synthetic compounds you can’t pronounce, like butylphenyl methylpropional? Probably not. But this is exactly what we do to our skin with lotions and other cosmetics. Don’t be fooled by the pretty face and bottle marketed on television. Many of the chemicals used in cosmetics have documented carcinogenic (cancer-causing), hormonal or reproductive effects. This is not a means to look younger… This is simply clever marketing.
If you want your plant to look good, you hydrate it and give it the building blocks it needs to have optimal health. Our skin is no different; it requires nutrients that benefit our cells to give them strength. The science is clear that beauty comes from the inside out.
Here are 5 foods that scientific research has shown to prevent, or even reverse the signs of wrinkles.
Number 1: Green Tea
Ever notice how adult Asian women can look as young as teenagers? Researchers believe daily consumption of green tea may be what contributes to this youthful characteristic, due to what are called “polyphenols”.
There are thousands of articles published in the medical literature regarding the health implications of green tea. The plant chemical that’s gained the most popularity is known as EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). EGCG has numerous functions; one of those being the inhibition of what are called “matrix metalloproteinases” . This big, fancy word describes proteins that break down the collagen proteins in our skin.
Collagen proteins are the primary components that hold together our skin, as well as other tissues. So, if we inhibit the protein that breaks down collagen, we can maintain the structural integrity of our skin. This is also good because matrix metalloproteinases are associated with tumor growth . In addition, green tea polyphenols can activate detoxification enzymes in the body.
Green tea also has antioxidants that are able to sequester free radicals, which are known to contribute to the aging process.
Number 2: Red Ginseng Root
Red ginseng has active compounds called ginsenosides. This root can improve energy, immune function and contains antioxidants. Red ginseng is probably most recognized for its use in improving erectile dysfunction in men . However, it doesn’t just make one feel young in the bedroom… It appears to make you look young as well.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, showed that women who took an herbal mixture of Red ginseng had a significant reduction in wrinkles, whereas the placebo group had no improvement in wrinkles .
What did the herb do to their skin? The researchers found that these women had an increase in fibrillin. This protein is essential for giving our skin elasticity. The women also had an increase in collagen production and a decrease in matrix metalloproteinases (the proteins that break down skin tissue).
Number 3: Aloe vera
The aloe vera plant is commonly used for its ability to heal burns, using its inner gel. However, it appears to also work from the inside out. The ancient Egyptians wrote about aloe vera 6,000 years ago, and considered its “blood” the secret to beauty and immortality.
Dermatology researchers in Korea gave older women doses (1-3 grams) of aloe gel for 90 days. At the end of the study, researchers found that facial wrinkles and elasticity significantly improved . These improvements weren’t just subjective; researchers objectively measured wrinkles using a Visiometer—a computerized instrument that can measure skin wrinkles.
The researchers also found that aloe gel supplementation had activated the genes involved with collagen production, substantially increasing collagen throughout the dermis.
Number 4: Dark Chocolate
Everybody loves chocolate, right? Okay, maybe dark chocolate is more of an acquired taste, compared to milk chocolate. However, dark chocolate contains high levels of plant chemicals known as “flavanols” which can give us youthful skin.
A study published in The Journal of Nutrition had women assigned to two groups—one consumed high flavanol cocoa (dark chocolate) and the other consumed low flavanol cocoa (e.g. milk chocolate). The ingestion of high flavanol cocoa led to an increased blood flow to cutaneous and subcutaneous tissues.
Increased blood flow to the skin is a good thing, because the blood can deliver sufficient oxygen, water and nutrients. As a result, this group of women had an increase in skin density, thickness and skin hydration .
The high favanol group also had a significant decrease in skin roughness, scaling and water loss. None of these effects were seen in the low flavanol cocoa group. Other studies, similarly, have found that long-term consumption of cocoa rich in flavanols can effectively protect the skin against UV damage.
To get the most benefits, buy 100% cacao powder to put in smoothies, or dark chocolate that’s >80% cacao and is not processed by the Dutch alkaline process.
Number 5: Leafy Greens
Everyone knows they should eat more greens for health, but we often don’t think about their impact on skin aging. There are many nutrients in leafy greens that improve health. One of the nutrients that has shown to reverse wrinkles is chlorophyll.
In this study, women over the age of 45 received doses of chlorophyll for 90 days. After the study, researchers found improvements in facial wrinkles and elasticity . The precursor to collagen (procollagen) was increased in the skin and they found a substantial reduction in UV-induced skin damage. These effects were seen in a dose-dependent manner, meaning the more chlorophyll consumed, the more improvements observed in the skin.
Chlorophyll has strong antioxidant activity, which is thought to (partly) be responsible for it’s ability to protect us from what are called “reactive oxygen species” that damage the skin.
Angie Sadeghi, MD
Naturopathic Medical Student
Bachelors of Science in Biology
- Demeule, M., Brossard, M., Pagé, M., Gingras, D., & Béliveau, R. (2000). Matrix metalloproteinase inhibition by green tea catechins. Biochimica Et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – Protein Structure and Molecular Enzymology, 51-60. Retrieved January 11, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10719174
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- Hong, B., Ji, Y., Hong, J., Nam, K., & Ahn, T. (n.d.). A Double-Blind Crossover Study Evaluating the Efficacy of Korean Red Ginseng in Patients With Erectile Dysfunction: A Preliminary Report. The Journal of Urology, 2070-2073. Retrieved January 11, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12394711?log$=activity
- Cho, S., Won, C., Lee, D., Lee, M., Lee, S., So, S., . . . Chung, J. (2009). Red Ginseng Root Extract Mixed with Torilus Fructus and Corni Fructus Improves Facial Wrinkles and Increases Type I Procollagen Synthesis in Human Skin: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Journal of Medicinal Food, 1252-1259. Retrieved January 11, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20041778
- Cho, S., Lee, S., Lee, M., Lee, D., Won, C., Kim, S., & Chung, J. (n.d.). Dietary Aloe Vera Supplementation Improves Facial Wrinkles and Elasticity and It Increases the Type I Procollagen Gene Expression in Human Skin in vivo. Annals of Dermatology Ann Dermatol, 6-6. Retrieved January 11, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20548848
- Long-term ingestion of high flavanol cocoa provides photoprotection against UV-induced erythema and improves skin condition in women. (2006, June 1). Retrieved January 11, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16702322
- Cho S, Lee DH, Won CH, Kim SM, Lee S, Lee MJ, Chung JH. Drink containing chlorophyll extracts improves signs of photoaging and increases type I procollagen in human skin in vivo. Korean J Invest Dermatol. 2006;13:111–9