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As beauty editors, we consider ourselves reasonably well-versed when it comes to superfoods. We snack on blueberries to load up on antioxidants and chop up tomatoes to decrease our chances of sunburn. And yet, there's always something new and lesser-known out there—in this case, we're talking about the ancient Chinese goji berry. We started noticing them as our açaí bowl obsession increased since they're frequently sprinkled on top for a mere dollar more.
Type of ingredient: Antioxidant
Main benefits: Promotes collagen and elastin production, reduces hyperpigmentation, reduces oxidative stress
Who should use it: In general, anyone with uneven skin tone.
How often is typical use? Once or twice a day, depending.
Works well with: Hydrators and barrier boosters.
Don’t use with: Don't ingest them if you have issues with blood thinning or diabetes.
Intrigued, we decided to do some digging—and what we found was major. Quite simply put, these little berries are chock-full of antioxidants, fight free radicals like none other, and can give you clearer, brighter skin. Think of them as a way, way more potent version of the berries we know and love. It's no wonder women in China have been adding them to their tea for over 4000 years. We spoke to dermatologists Sejal Shah and Dr. Marie Hayag, Board Certified Dermatologist and Founder of 5th Avenue Aesthetics, to get the scoop on this beneficial berry.
Meet the Expert
Sejal Shah, MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist with a private practice at SmarterSkin Dermatology in Manhattan, New York. Shah focuses on all aspects of dermatology, including laser treatments and cosmetic procedures.
What are Goji Berries?
Zhongning County, located in the Ningxia Hui region of Northern China, is considered the goji berry capital of the world. Goji berries are grown and eaten on a daily basis in Zhongning, with an astounding 16 times as many people over the age of 100 residing there than in the rest of the country. A total antioxidant powerhouse, goji berries are a significant source of vitamin C, minerals, amino acids, carotenoids, and polysaccharides—all of which have incredible benefits, ranging from fighting free radicals to boosting collagen production.
Benefits of Goji Berries for Skin
"Goji berries have been found to have anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and protective properties," says Shah. In other words, the benefits aren't just skin deep—studies have shown that consuming goji berries also significantly reduces immunosuppression, all thanks to their antioxidant properties. In the words of Dr. Hayag, "Who wouldn’t want something to slow down the effects of aging and improve overall skin health?" She particularly loves it for "its effects in decreasing sun-induced pigmentation thereby improving skin tone. For those who love the sun, it has been helpful in repairing UV light damage." But wait—it gets even better.
Have you ever heard of something called the ORAC? It stands for "oxygen radical absorbance capacity," and was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1999. They determined that foods with high ORAC values may slow the aging process while also protecting your cells from free radicals. Free radicals are the bad guys that can cause everything from premature aging to more severe health issues—cancer included. Blueberries have 2400 ORAC, and prunes lean towards the higher end at 5700. Goji berries, nothing to turn your nose at, are said to have roughly 3,290. Pomegranates, known and even beloved for their antioxidant properties, clock in at about 2/3 of that. "They protect the skin against ultraviolet-induced damage and have also been shown to block melanin production," Shah says of goji berries. Basically, these tiny berries are the free radical fighters your body has been waiting for.
Side Effects of Goji Berry
Before you go shoveling this superfood into your mouth by the handful—10 to 30 grams is the recommended daily serving for goji berries.
Goji berries don't really have side effects per se, just (as with any food) don't overdo it when eating them. Their side effects when applied topically haven't been extensively studied.
How to Use It
Many brands incorporate this beneficial berry into their products, and it's simple to rotate them into your daily routine. Shah suggests this tinted moisturizer from First Aid Beauty, shown above. It's super lightweight and gives you buildable coverage, all while utilizing the goji berry as its main ingredient to brighten the complexion, strengthen the skin's elasticity, and even out skin texture. Because goji berries are so abundant in amino acids (they contain 18 in total, including eight essential amino acids), they're a great source of hydration. Amino acids also increase the efficacy of other hydrating agents in skincare products by transporting moisture through the skin.
For all of you DIY fans out there, Sejal gave us the scoop on how to make your own at-home goji berry face mask. Just steep the berries in hot water, and spread the cooled liquid over your skin with a cotton round—voilà! Glowy, hydrated skin.
There are so many different ways to enjoy goji berries. You can buy them raw and dried at any health store (or even online) and pop them into your mouth as a snack (they taste slightly sweet, with an herbal aftertaste). Another option is adding them to your morning smoothie, trail mix, cereal, or even baked goods (a Pinterest search will yield plenty of yummy-looking recipes). For a soothing sip, you can brew goji berries in tea—just add a handful to a glass of hot or cold water and let them sit for about 10 minutes. They'll plump up and get juicy, and then you can drink the tea and eat the berries. Yum!
The Best Products with Goji Berry
Antioxidant serums usually make a point to be about something else; you see "antioxidant and..." a lot, but just "antioxidant" less often. This serum from Paula's Choice is an antioxidant serum. A really good, berry-based antioxidant serum meant to protect your skin from free radical damage, and repair the damage that has already been done.
We've already written extensively about this night treatment, but for good reason. Ever since it came out it's been at the top of our list for hydrating, plumping night treatments. It gently exfoliates and definitely soothes, but it has goji berry and prickly pear to protect your face from aging free radicals.
Beech tree and goji berry are both antioxidant-heavy, which is why this moisturizer is well-suited for people who live in cities. It's perfect to smear on in the morning—ginseng is typically used to smooth and lift your skin, making things a bit more taut. It's a great daily moisturizer for someone concerned about aging who wants to deal with it preemptively.
A face oil is a necessity, and there's plenty of reason people from all over turn to this one in particular. Goji berry is combined with açai and maqui for an unbeatable antioxidant cocktail, and prickly pear and squalane ensure hydration.
In terms of hype, it's easy to remember Farsali's Unicorn Essence—it was one of the first beauty products to really blow up through Instagram. Partially, that was due to how beautiful it looks, but it's also due to how versatile and effective the formula is.
Skincare powerhouse brand Erno Laszlo took a clue from antioxidant serums and integrated the detoxifying goji berry into their Resurfacing Sleep Serum. The acids and peptides exfoliate and plump, while the goji berry provides Vitamin C, nutrients, and antioxidants.
This cream (which is for your face and neck, not just your face) uses goji fruit and peptides to lift and tighten, so it's perfect for days you're feeling a little bloated or saggy.