It’s hard to imagine a world without overnight shipping, but ancient beauty treatments were limited by available (read: painfully slow compared to today) trade routes and the ingredients native to each region. “People used what they had and what they knew,” says beauty historian Rachel Weingarten. So while Romans lightened their freckles with citrus, Mesopotamian women discovered that pomegranates created the perfect lip stain.
Most of these discoveries happened “thanks to a lot of happy accidents,” says Weingarten. “For example, women in Spain who stomped grapes all day would see their feet getting very soft,” she says. “Servants who worked in kitchens chopping lemons would notice that their cuticles were disappearing.”
Fruits are packed with antioxidants, which play a major role in fighting off free radical damage. When applied topically, these nutritional powerhouses turn into antiaging superstars: boosting collagen, lightening dark spots, and exfoliating dead skin cells, according to Dr. Debra Jaliman, author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. “One of my favorite fruits to look for in skincare is the pomegranate,” Jaliman says. “It’s high in antioxidants and it’s also anti-inflammatory.” Some of our favorite pomegranate-based picks: Weleda Pomegranate Firming Day Cream and Yes To™ Pomegranate SPF 15 Naturally Smooth Lip Balm. Susie Wang, founder of 100% Pure Cosmetics and creator of Blueberry Mascara, insists on using only fruit and vegetable dyes in her makeup formulas. “The main benefit is that the colors are real, not fake, and the fruit and vegetable pigments have an exorbitant amount of healthy, nourishing, antiaging vitamins and minerals.” And Wang knows from happy accidents: The epiphany that led to founding 100% Pure occurred right in her garden when she noticed the gorgeous red that blackberries stained her skin.
What to Look for
Even if a product touts itself as “all-natural,” look at the ingredient list closely. “Make sure there are no other toxic preservatives or harsh ingredients, because whatever you put on your skin will be absorbed into your body,” Wang says.
When it comes to skincare, Dr. Jaliman emphasizes that shoppers should seek products that have been clinically tested. “It's important to see if there were studies where, for example, after a certain number of weeks there was lightening of brown spots or wrinkles were reduced by a certain percentage.”
And if you’re inclined to DIY, always use common sense: if an ingredient doesn’t sit well with you if you ingest it in fruit form, don’t put it anywhere near your skin or eyes.