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Image by Trinette Reed / Stocksy
December 11, 2013

There's a big trend in nutrition of looking to our ancient ancestors for clues as to what might be the ideal diet for humankind. The idea that natural might be better also has many people raiding their pantries looking for solutions to their skin care issues.

Many common foods have important nutrients that promote healthy skin when included in the diet. Some also have features that make them ideal components in a skin care routine when applied directly to the skin. These types of foods have the ability to exfoliate, soothe, moisturize, heal, protect and nourish all types of skin. Skin care companies around the world are “going green” and feature tinctures, extracts and oils from all manner of herbs, fruits and vegetables in their formulas.

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For people with sensitivities and allergies to ingredients found in commercial skin care products, such as fragrance or preservatives, creating their own “kitchen cosmetics” is a great alternative. Here are six awesome superfoods that can help you do just that.

Flax seeds

The same omega-3 essential fatty acids that make flax seeds a good choice for heart health also provide a substantial skin benefit by helping to balance hormones and improve skin function. Flax seed oil can be applied topically to nourish and condition dry skin. Ground flax seeds make an excellent addition to a facial scrub.


People in coconut-growing regions have always treasured coconut water and coconut meat as an ideal food. Now science has boosted coconut to the forefront of the nutrition scene because of its abundance of medium-chain triglycerides. MCTs can be used as a quick source of energy and seem to support heart and brain health. The lauric acid in coconut oil helps to fight bacteria, viruses and fungi both internally and externally. Used topically, coconut oil makes an ideal skin moisturizer, hair conditioner and even helps to protect the skin from sun damage.

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Aloe vera

More than 75 potentially active constituents have been identified in the aloe vera plant including vitamins, minerals, saccharides, amino acids, anthraquinones, enzymes, saponins, and salicylic acids. Multiple studies show promising results for taking aloe vera to stabilize blood sugar, improve cholesterol levels and treat irregularity, among many other health benefits. Topical use of the slimy, aqueous gel, which is contained inside the spiky leaves, is known to heal burns, surface wounds, acne, rashes, inflammation and many other skin issues. It makes an ideal everyday hydrating treatment for all skin types.


Most people associate a cup of warm chamomile tea with calming and relaxing, and for good reason. Chamomile is a flowering herb which contains several chemical constituents which are known to calm the central nervous system, quell inflammation in the body and improve digestion. Chamomile also makes a great skin tonic when applied to the skin because of its powerful anti-inflammatory and soothing effect. Use freshly brewed and chilled tea to make wonderful eye compresses for puffy, irritated eyes. Also use chamomile tea to heal acne eruptions and rashes.

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The multitude of valuable nutrients in pumpkin really puts it into the "superfood" class. High in fiber and low in calories, pumpkin packs an abundance of disease-fighting nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C and E. 

For skin care, the natural enzymes found in pumpkin make it a safe and effective exfoliator — a gentle alternative to harsh chemical peels. Pumpkin also contains the highest concentration of salicylic acid of any plant, which is a beta-hydroxy acid. Salicylic is used to deep clean the pores and remove surface buildup. Pumpkin's phytonutrients infuse the skin with important elements that bring about cellular rejuvenation and strengthen weakened skin structures. This is especially important for aging or damaged skin, which does not renew itself as effectively as young skin.


Papayas contain an enzyme called papain, which is found in abundance in the peel, and to a lesser degree in the sweet, orange meat of the fruit. When applied to the skin it has a keratolytic effect, meaning that it softens and dissolves “keratinized” or “dead” skin cells. Papain is used in many professional exfoliating facial masks and serums. 

A very effective way to use the fruit at home is to scrape the inside of the papaya peel and apply the mashed pulp to the skin for 3-4 minutes. A slight tingling or itching sensation and a little flushing is very common, and it's important not to leave it on for too long before removing with cool water.

When consumed, the same enzymes help with digestion. Papayas are very high in vitamin C, carotenoids and several other antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.

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Mary Dellene
Mary Dellene

Mary Dellene is a certified nutrition counselor, licensed esthetician and body therapist. She began her career in the spa and wellness industry in the late 1970’s and her passion for wellness and the spa lifestyle has deepened with each passing year. She specializes in a holistic approach to beauty through optimum health in her skin care practice at a fitness and wellness center for women in Newport Beach, California. Mary's passion for sharing her knowledge and inspiring others to create a healthy lifestyle led her to create a wellness retreat that she leads once a year to exotic and nature-intense locals such as Costa Rica and Tuscany, Italy where guests enjoy a week of fun and adventure while dedicating themselves to focusing on their personal wellness.Her newest wellness program includes a comprehensive guide to healthy detoxing, without fasting, for people with a busy, on-the-go lifestyle.