There are beauty and magic hidden in all things natural – and if you look closely enough, you’ll even find skin-loving ingredients in everyday foods that most of us take for granted. Here are 7 of my favourite natural ingredients for healthy skin, along with tips on how to use them. Don’t be surprised if you find many of these ingredients within easy reach, in your kitchen!
Rice plays an indispensable role in our foodie paradise, imagine life without them! But did you know that it can also give you beautiful skin? Rice or Oryza sativa (to give its proper name) is rich in vitamins and minerals which all contribute to great skin.
It can help firm up skin, maintain suppleness and help reduce signs of ageing. Not only that, rice has been shown to reduce pigmentation and brighten skin. Talk about a different perspective on your humble bowl of rice!
The best way to apply rice on your skin is with rice bran oil or rice water. A fast absorbing and light oil, rice bran oil is perfect for our sticky Singaporean weather. It is full of antioxidants and vitamins and can be used as a moisturiser. Rice water is simply water soaked with rice for 15-30 minutes. Use it to reduce inflammation caused by eczema and acne.
Just like how drinking green tea can have a calming effect on your mind, green tea on the skin does the same trick too. This makes it perfect for skin that frequently suffers from redness or inflammation caused by breakouts, irritation or damage. Although green and black tea comes from the same plant – Camellia sinensis, green tea is better for your skin due to its higher antioxidant content.
The easiest way to use green tea for your skin is to brew some in hot water and wait until it cools down. Apply directly onto your skin just like you would a toner. Or blend it with powdered clay and apply as a mask.
Other ways to add green tea into your skin diet is to include camellia seed oil to your daily skincare routine. Extracted from the seeds of the tea flower, camellia seed oil is what Japanese geishas and Chinese empresses swear by when it comes to soft, supple and clear skin. You can apply camellia oil daily as a facial oil on cleansed skin.
Coconuts (Cocos nucifera) is a mainstay in many dishes across South East Asia. And when it comes to skincare, it is just as versatile – you can use coconut water, milk or oil from head to toe. Coconuts are packed with medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which can protect skin against infections, reduce inflammation and has moisturising properties.
The easiest way to use coconuts for healthy skin is with a bottle of cold-pressed virgin coconut oil. Its anti-inflammatory properties can help to reduce dryness caused by skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema or psoriasis.
Coconut water, which is rich in Vitamins A and C, can be applied as is to skin. Dab some on to clean skin before applying moisturiser. Doing this regularly will help to protect skin from UV damage, reduce pigmentation and reduce skin redness.
Here’s one foodstuff you may not have heard of – noni (Morinda citrifolia). A native Singaporean plant, noni is also called mengkudu, Indian gooseberry or cheese fruit. Traditional uses of noni include wrapping the leaves over your belly to relieve stomach pains, adding the fruits to your diet to improve digestion and using its roots as fabric dyes.
Naturally high in antioxidants and anti-microbial properties, noni is ideal for skin that’s prone to acne as it can help reduce swelling while reducing the risk of infections due to open skin. Another big noni benefit is its high content of tyrosinase inhibitors – these work to reduce pigmentation and ageing due to sun damage.
Getting your hands on a steady supply of fresh noni fruits can be tricky so bottled noni juice or even better yet – noni enzymes, which are concentrated versions of the juice, might be a better option. Just watch out for what’s in the ingredients list as some manufacturers are known to sneak sugar into the bottle of noni juice to make it more palatable, diluting the efficacy of noni.
A plant commonly found in Singaporean homes and supermarkets, aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) is the plant equivalent of a first aid kit. And it’s no wonder, as aloe gel contains over 75 active constituents such as vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
The gel from the aloe leaf can be applied directly on to the skin or mixed in with other skincare products. Applying the leaf directly on to skin provides immediate relief from sunburns due to its cooling properties. But not only that, it can also help increase collagen production – helping to keep skin supple and reducing the appearance of scars.
A note of caution though – just beneath the leaf’s green outer skin is a yellow-coloured latex. When applied on to skin or consumed, this latex can produce a laxative effect. So take care to cut out the latex before using the aloe leaf to avoid any unintended side effects!
Part of the ginger family, turmeric (Curcuma longa) imparts a beautiful yellow colour to curries and is a vital part of South Asia and South East Asian cuisine. Its long list of medicinal benefits includes protecting your brain from neurological diseases, improving brain health, speeding up healing and controlling skin flare-ups.
Your skin will benefit from turmeric as it can help to reduce sebum production in oily skin, reduce scarring as well as the signs of ageing. Available in many forms – fresh root, dried root or powder, turmeric can be easily incorporated into your daily skincare routine. Mixing a small amount to virgin coconut oil or yoghurt will result in a gentle, purifying mask. But watch out – they can stain your skin (temporarily) and clothes (permanently), so be sure to use only a small amount and take extra precautions.
If you prefer to skip the mess altogether, consider adding turmeric to your diet instead. Don’t limit yourself to just curries though, as turmeric can also be added to salad dressings, smoothies or scrambled eggs. Try it next time you’re whipping up a meal, for an added antioxidant boost.
Nature’s sugar isn’t only sweet – it’s good for you too! Full of bioactive compounds and antioxidants, honey can help protect you from cancer, heart diseases and infections. Naturally anti-microbial, they can also be used to treat wounds, reduce infections and sooth cough and throat irritation.
Acne spots can be treated with honey to reduce inflammation and to speed up healing. All it takes is a thin layer of pure honey applied as a face mask for 20-30 minutes before rinsing off. But if that’s too much sticky work for you, a spot treatment of honey left overnight works well too. If you have irritated skin, adding honey to your bath can also help to soothe and protect skin.
Honey quality and prices vary by a wide margin, so be sure to do some research before making a purchase. Cheaper honey may be adulterated with artificial colouring, flavouring and added sugar – so it’s best to avoid these altogether. Look out for pure, unadulterated honey from trusted sources for maximum medicinal benefits.
Naturally, healthy skin can be within arm’s reach and isn’t as elusive as most manufacturers would like you to think. You can also maximise their skin-loving benefits by adding them both to your diet and to your skincare routine. The possibilities are endless! Check out my favourite 3 from above and see more on how to use them!
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