Here's a beautiful reason to stop by the supermarket today: Certain foods have powerhouse ingredients that keep skin supple and smooth and help fight age-related damage, says Nicholas Perricone, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and author of Ageless Face, Ageless Mind. Wondering what to eat and what to smooth on? These skin-saving foods help both ways.
Strawberries have more anti-aging vitamin C per serving than oranges or grapefruit. And research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that people who eat foods rich in vitamin C have fewer wrinkles and less age-related dry skin than those who don't.
Vitamin C fights free radicals, which damage cells and break down collagen, leading to fine lines. For smoother, better-hydrated skin, apply a natural berry mask once or twice a week, and eat vitamin C–rich foods daily, says Ramona Ionescu, primary aesthetician at New York City's Cornelia Day Resort.
Sip It or Smooth It On
In a food processor or blender, combine 1 cup frozen or fresh strawberries (or a mix of strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries—they're all antioxidant stars). Stir together blended berries, 1 cup vanilla or plain yogurt, and 1 1/2 tablespoons honey (a great moisturizer) in an 8-ounce glass. Enjoy smoothie, setting aside enough to coat your face.
Apply remaining smoothie to your face over a sink (it's a little drippy at first, but a smooth layer will stay put), and leave it on for about 8 minutes before rinsing off.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil don't just benefit you on the inside—they soften your skin, too.
"Ancient Romans massaged olive oil into their skin," Dr. Perricone says. "When used topically, olive oil results in smoother, more radiant skin."
Plus, consuming olive oil, a staple in the healthy Mediterranean diet, provides antioxidants to disarm free radicals and reduce inflammation. In addition to working olive oil into your daily diet, apply as a lip gloss and skin soother, as needed. If you have dry skin, you'll particularly benefit from topical application.
Eat It or Wear It
At dinner, drizzle a few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil into a small bowl, and dip whole-grain bread in it to improve your skin from the inside out.
Dab a pea-size amount of extra-virgin olive oil on lips to hydrate a parched pucker; or use it on rough patches (think elbows and heels), as needed.
Curling up to a cup of green tea does a lot more than relax you. Green tea is filled with inflammation-fighting antioxidants, Dr. Perricone says. What's more, research from Case Western Reserve University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham shows that drinking green tea may reduce your risk of skin cancer. And when you add a generous squeeze of citrus juice, the tea's antioxidants get a boost of staying power, so they remain in and benefit the body longer, rather than being digested quickly and having much of the goodness go down the drain, according to Purdue University researchers.
Drink It or Press It On
Sip at least three big mugs of green tea every day for an antioxidant boost, says Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, founding director of the Weight Management Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Chill damp tea bags in the fridge and put on eyes for 10–15 minutes. Green tea contains tannins, which act as an astringent when applied to skin and can help reduce puffiness, Dr. Perricone notes.
Pumpkin's orange hue is from carotenoids, wrinkle-fighting plant pigments that help neutralize free radicals in the skin, keeping them from damaging the cells that fast-forward aging.
"Pumpkin is filled with vitamins C, E, and A, as well as powerful enzymes that help to cleanse the skin," explains dermatologist Kenneth Beer, author of Palm Beach Perfect Skin. Plus, pumpkin has hydrating properties, Ionescu adds. Although the seeds make a great fiber-filled snack, you get the skin-saving antioxidants from the pulp.
Eat It or Smooth It On
In a food processor or blender, combine 2 cups canned pumpkin, 4 tablespoons low-fat vanilla yogurt, 4 tablespoons honey, and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Coat face; leave on for 10 minutes, then rinse.
"It's good for hydrating and softening skin," Ionescu says.
Make a sweeter pudding by adding these ingredients to the recipe above: 2 tablespoons 1/3-less-fat cream cheese and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
"Pomegranates are one of the most antioxidant-rich fruits," Fernstrom says.
Research shows this fruit's juice has more inflammation-fighting antioxidants than red wine or green tea. Eat some fresh pomegranate or use it in an age-fighting scrub.
Apply once or twice a week to remove dead skin cells, suggests Cleo Londono, aesthetician and owner of Metamorphosis Day Spa, in New York City.
Eat It or Scrub It On
Cut off pomegranate crown, and score rind in sections, without cutting all the way through. Place in a bowl of water for 5–10 minutes. Break rind away from seeds, which will sink; strain seeds. In a food processor, combine 2 tablespoons seeds and 1 cup uncooked oatmeal. Transfer to bowl; stir in 2 tablespoons honey (an antiseptic) and 2 tablespoons buttermilk. Apply to face for a few minutes, then rinse. For rough patches (like elbows), add 3/4 cup turbinado sugar.
Enjoy remaining pomegranate seeds au naturel or with your favorite cheese.