Some of the best kept beauty secrets come from the ancients. See why acai, neem, rooibos, and sake and rice bran are good for your skin and which natural products you should try for the most benefit.
Scouring the planet for traditional therapies is the freshest way to diversify your personal care regimen. Now that science is confirming the benefits of these ancient beauty secrets, it's becoming increasingly easy to find them in the personal care aisle of your natural products store.
1. Acaí, Brazil
This is the age of acaí: Beauty care products containing the red palm berry are popping up everywhere. And for good reason. Acaí, which has been used by Amazonian tribes as a medicinal cure-all for centuries, is loaded with free radical neutralizing antioxidants that help prevent sun and environmental damage, making skin look younger longer. This superfruit also contains phytosterols and flavonoids, which encourage collagen production to prevent premature wrinkling — even after skin has been exposed to harmful ultraviolet rays, says Karen Dunlap, an aesthetician and owner of Karen's Specialty Skin Care salon in Lake Forest, California. Add in omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, which help keep cells supple and moist, and this berry is a powerful skin food. Effective when ingested or used topically.
Try it in: MyChelle Tropical Skin Smoother; Pangea Organics Japanese Matcha Tea with Acaí & Goji Berry Facial Mask
2. Neem, India
A cornerstone of Ayurvedic medicine, the neem tree is widely referred to as the “village pharmacy” in its native country. Here, you'll find its leaves and seed oil in everything from pest control and toothpaste to shampoo and soap. Filled with long-chain fatty acids, antioxidants, and glycerides, neem's garlicky smelling oil quickly penetrates and moisturizes chronically dry skin. Plus, its antihistamine and antibacterial properties prevent dermatitis and other skin infections and can relieve itchiness. Use liberally on dry and inflamed areas.
Try it in: Organix-South TheraNeem Certified Organic Neem Oil; Auromére Vanilla-Neem Soap
3. Rooibos, South Africa
Tea for your T-zone isn't a secret — natural skin care has featured antioxidant-rich green and white teas for years. “But your cells needs a multitude of antioxidants, which each offer different benefits, to stay healthy,” says Ray Sahelian, MD, a Los Angeles-based supplements specialist. As the only source of the antioxidant aspalathin, rooibos (pronounced “ROY-bos”) — a red tea traditionally used by the South African Khoisan tribe — is on the up-and-up. Aspalathin is an anti-inflammatory polyphenol that reduces eczema's and acne's dry, flaky symptoms. New research suggests this antioxidant is most abundant and beneficial when rooibos is in its green (unfermented) form, commonly found in personal care products, rather than as a drinkable tea.
Try it in: Alaffia Rooibos & Shea Butter Antioxidant Face Cream; Jason Red Elements Hydrating Lotion Cleanser
4. Sake & rice bran, Japan
The Japanese have used rice to brighten their skin for hundreds of years, says Shizuka Bernstein, an aesthetician and owner of Shizuka New York Day Spa in New York City. Rice's bran — its hard outer layer — has potent antioxidant activity, and its oils help eradicate dry skin by increasing sebaceous gland secretions. After scrubbing away dead cells with a rice-bran-based exfoliant, tone skin with sake — Japanese rice wine. A byproduct of sake's fermentation process, kojic acid evens and lightens skin tone by suppressing melanin formation. Simply add a few splashes of sake to a hot bath.
Try it in: Zia Skin Basics Bamboo Exfoliant with Rice Bran; Queen Bee Sauce Javanese Rice Bran Face Paste