There is a big trend in nutrition these days to look 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.
Healthy, glowing skin is dependent on important nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamins A, C, E and a variety of antioxidants which heal and protect skin when included in the diet. Some foods also have features that make them ideal components in a skin care routine when applied directly to the skin. They have the ability to exfoliate, soothe, moisturize, heal, nourish and protect from environmental damage.
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.
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.
Flax Seed - 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.
Coconut – 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.
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 well 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.
Chamomile – 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.
Pumpkin - 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. A very important nutrient in pumpkin is the synergistic combination of antioxidant carotenoids. In 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 build-up. 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.
Papaya – 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 keratalytic effect meaning that it softens and dissolves “keratinized” or “dead” skin cells. Papain is used in many professional facial masks and serums which are meant to exfoliate the skin. A very effective way to use the fruit at home would be 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 is 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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