Fruit has been used in cosmetics since Cleopatra rolled solid balls of compacted pomegranate juice over her body as a fragrance. She probably didn’t know that pomegranate can improve the appearance of wrinkled skin by reducing inflammation and forestalling further damage. Indeed, up until this century, fruit was primarily used in perfumes.
But in the past decade, fruit essences and oils have gradually made their way into every beauty product you can imagine, from eye creams to masques and deodorants. The latest science findings show that certain fruits contain natural antioxidants and antimicrobials, and are therefore truly anti-aging and protective. The aromatherapy aspect is an added bonus.
To separate the fruity wheat from the fruity chaff, I got together with board certified dermatologist Dr. Maritza Perez, who practices in Connecticut and New York City, and is Associate Professor of Dermatology at Columbia University and Director of Cosmetic Dermatology at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City; Karen Grant, Vice President and Global Beauty Industry Analyst at NPD, a Manhattan market research firm; and Dallas-based skincare guru Renée Rouleau whom I admire immensely.
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Gigi Anders: Renée, one of your spa’s most celebrated products is the Triple Berry Smoothing Peel ($85.50), which I have to force myself to spread on my face and not my bagel because it smells so good. How did you arrive at the strawberry-blueberry-raspberry-pomegranate ingredients?
Renée Rouleau: Berries offer great antioxidant benefits to the skin. Fruit-derived enzymes are often used in exfoliating products to smooth away dullness, clear the pores, hydrate, and ensure a youthful glow. Both acids and fruits have amazing skin benefits to improve the texture, health and integrity of the skin. Fruit extracts and purees are high in antioxidant activity due to the vitamins they provide, so they help to control damaging free radicals that can age the skin. Acids are beneficial in aiding in the repair and renewal process via exfoliation that is needed to keep the skin looking smooth and clear.
GA: Well, God knows we want to look good during the holiday season.
RR: Triple Berry Smoothing Peel is ideal to use a night or two before a special event to reveal smooth, glowing skin. This peel will give you professional results at home. It helps to lift skin discoloration such as sun spots and acne scars; remove dull, tired, dry skin; and encourage fresher, plumper cells to form. It’s also great for the sun damaged skin on the chest.
GA: Karen, the fruit trend in beauty is huge. Why is that?
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Karen Grant: When a pleasant scent comes through – almost edible but not really – it works. What’s changed is that brands are rediscovering and revisiting fruit with a more sophisticated twist that keeps the efficacy without overpowering, single notes. They’re rounding out, tempering, and dialing down the fruit flavor with pepper seed, cumin, sage, cinnamon, and thyme to add dimension. Three good high-end examples are the Bliss Blood Orange and White Pepper and Lemon and Sage [products]; and Kiehl’s Grapefruit [collection], which is gender-neutral.
GA: Maritza, as a physician, what’s your take on the fruit trend?
Maritza Perez: There is something to it. I don’t think it’s frou-frou, depending on the fruit. But if it’s not based on science and for real, then it’s marketing more than anything. I don’t get on the bandwagon: just because something is “natural,” like coconut oil, doesn’t mean it’s the best. It’s an emollient that can be occlusive.
KG: Consumers are green, but more light green than dark green. “Natural” is where if you can tell me and show me its efficacy, then I’ll try it.
MP: In reality, the best fruits are blueberry and grape seed. Both are really good sources of natural antioxidants.
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THE EXPERT´S OPINION
Dr. Maritza Perez kindly evaluated every fruit name I tossed her way. In addition to blueberry and grape seed, here are the ones she says are worth your skin’s while (the quotes are hers):
Apple: There’s new research about apple stem cells, using them for anti-aging.
Apricot Kernel Oil: Good emollient.
Avocado: The oil provides some antioxidants and has humectant properties.
Cherry Blossom: The extract is a source of Vitamin C and has natural antioxidants. The essence is a pretty smell. It’s a sensory thing. As human beings, when we’re tense and have a massage, we feel relaxed and have a sense of well-being. Aromatherapy is similar; we smell cherry essence and the sensory center in the brain brings us a sense of wellness.
Grapefruit seed extract: It’s antimicrobial and preservative, but it’s controversial in the botanical world when it’s altered with synthetic stuff.
Lemon, lime: Rich in citric and ascorbic acids (aka Vitamin C), natural preservatives, and some of the best antioxidants.
Mango: It’s a source of oleic acid, good for moisturizing.
Raspberry: Antioxidants and antibacterial.