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Carrots: They've always been up there when it comes to our list of favorite vegetables (after kale, spinach and tenderstem broccoli, obviously), but now carrots are also earning themselves the status of one of our favorite skincare ingredients too—and for good reason. Carrots come rich in beta-carotene, the substance that gives them their orange color, but thankfully, on skin it has an entirely different effect. We spoke to Dr. Rose Ingleton, founder of of NYC-based Ingleton Dermatology and an eponymous skincare line, Dr. Kevin Mun, founder and Chief Scientific Officer of VENN Skincare, and Alicia Zalka, MD, and founder of Surface Deep to get the whole story.
Type of ingredient: Antioxidant
Main benefits: Increases cell turnover, brightens skin, reduces inflammation.
Who should use it: In general, anyone concerned about their skin becoming dull. However, people with sensitive skin may want to avoid it.
How often can you use it?: You can use it in the AM and PM, but no more than twice a day.
Works well with: Hydrators like hyaluronic acid, non-retinol exfoliants, Vitamin E.
Don't use with: Retinols, because they're also Vitamin A.
What is Carrot Extract?
"Carrot seed oil is an essential oil, which has antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties," Ingleton explains to us. It can be extracted in plenty of ways, and carrot extract doesn't always come from the seeds, but you can think of it kind of like any other essential oil. She also notes that when carrot oil has been extracted for skincare, it's not meant for use internally. So... please don't eat it. Topical use only.
Benefits of Carrot Extract for Skin
- Rich in Antioxidants: The beta carotene found in carrot seed oil is rich in antioxidants, which are vital in fending off skin-damaging free radicals found in everything from polluted air to the sun's rays. However, more research needs to be done to conclusively say that topical carrot seed oil has significant antioxidant activity on the skin.
- Increases Cell Turnover: According to a 2004 study, beta-carotene acts a precursor to vitamin A—the vitamin responsible for cell regeneration—when it's applied topically. As such, it may step up the skin's rate of cell turnover, bringing the younger, healthier skin cells to the surface.
Side Effects of Carrot Extract
Well, just as eating too many carrots might tinge your skin orange, so may putting too much carrot extract on your skin. In fact, most beauty formulations that involve carrot only use the ingredient itself in small percentages. It's often towards the middle, if not the end, of the ingredients list. But even so, Mun recommends to take caution and only use products with heavier concentrations of carrot extract at night. "When exposed to sunlight and heat, beta-carotene can easily oxidize and cause skin discoloration and irritation," explains Mun. "So, it’s recommended to use carrot seed oil in the evening, as part of an evening routine."
Also, as Zalka explains to us, there is some controversy as to whether carrot seed oil contains the levels of vitamin A that you can find in carrots—so if you're looking for something meant to increase cell turnover like a retinol, go with the retinol. But if you're looking for something to slightly and gently increase cell turnover, carrot extract is a great bet.
How to Use It
If you're not a fan of carrots, don't worry—you don't have to start sneaking them into your diet. In fact, to benefit from the glow-boosting properties of carrots, you don't even have to start adding them to most meals. Instead, you might want to slip a carrot-infused skincare product somewhere into your regimen. Luckily, more than a few products have it as an ingredient. "Carrot seed oil works very well in synergy with vitamin E (Tocopherol)," Mun notes. "Also, carrot seed oil, when used in a formulation, should always be combined with olive oil, hazelnut oil or any other 'carrier oil' rather than applying a pure carrot seed oil directly on the skin."
The Best Products With Carrot Extract
With a particularly rich, buttery texture, this is a heavyweight when it comes to hydration, so it's definitely suited to skin that is a little on the dry side. Avocado oil is meant to nourish while the antioxidants in the carrot extract are meant to ward off skin aggressors like air pollution.
Newly reformulated and better than ever, Province Apothecary's moisturizer has quite a few loyal fans. It doesn't stay on your skin as a barrier, but sinks in without leaving you feeling greasy. Tack on the facts that it doesn't clog pores and comes in a huge bottle, and it's hard not to love.
We're big fans of the fact this oil uses the evening primrose seed oil, which is an anti-inflammatory, as a carrier oil, instead of a standard oil like jojoba. You get more bang for your buck—and we all know skincare products, especially from natural brands, can set you back a pretty penny if you're not careful. The combination of both oils in this product ensures you get an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory formula that protects and nourishes your skin, while maintaining a simple ingredient list.
Fair warning: this serum smells a lot like carrots. But if you can get past the idea that the green oil you're putting on your face is in fact where that smell is coming from, it works wonders. It's so concentrated you only need two or three drops, and the end goal of the serum is to give you a perfect glow without any makeup on. Odacité knows what the people want.
Lipsticks are almost always drying, especially when you're using one from a luxury brand. As with most good pairs of heels, comfort takes a back seat to the look and first impression. But YSL doesn't want that for you. Or, at least, they do want a knockout lipstick, but they also want you to be comfortable. It's why they put carrot oil into their classic Rouge Pur Couture lipstick.
Don't be alarmed by its uncanny resemblance to blood; this exfoliator is magical. Containing a heavy dose of alpha-hydroxy acid (the stuff that retextures skin and brings back its bounce), a smaller helping of beta-hydroxy acid to clarify, and a side order of black carrot extract—it's the product we always return to when we need to make tired skin glow fast.
Omorovicza's trademarked Healing Concentrate, a through-line through all of their products, comes from the mineral-rich waters their Hungarian spa uses in its treatments. It's an experience you can only get from the brand, which is what makes their night cream so special.
Carrots aren't the only plants whose oils may have amazing effects. Check out some more essential oils for dry skin.
Darvin ME, Fluhr JW, Meinke MC, Zastrow L, Sterry W, Lademann J. Topical beta-carotene protects against infra-red-light-induced free radicals. Exp Dermatol. 2011;20(2):125-129. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0625.2010.01191.x
Antille C, Tran C, Sorg O, Saurat JH. Topical beta-carotene is converted to retinyl esters in human skin ex vivo and mouse skin in vivo. Exp Dermatol. 2004;13(9):558-561. doi:10.1111/j.0906-6705.2004.00194.x
Timoszuk M, Bielawska K, Skrzydlewska E. Evening primrose (oenothera biennis) biological activity dependent on chemical composition. Antioxidants (Basel). 2018;7(8):108. doi:10.3390/antiox7080108