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 try 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.
Intrigued, we decided to do some digging—and what we found was major. Simply put, these little berries are chock-full of antioxidants, fight free radicals like none other, and might 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. So, we reached out to the experts to get the scoop on this beneficial berry.
Meet the Expert
Keep reading to learn more about this wonder berry.
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.
Works well with: Hydrators and barrier boosters.
Don’t use with: Do not injest goji berries without speaking to your physician. Be sure to check for any medication interactions.
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, where residents are known to live amazingly long lives. 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
- Boosts immunity: Studies have shown that consuming goji berries also significantly reduces UV-induced immunosuppression, all thanks to their antioxidant properties.
- Potent antioxidants: "Its antioxidant ability comes from its natural content of vitamin C, polysaccharides, flavonoids such as quercetin, carotenoids such as blue light-protective zeaxanthin and beta-carotene," says Barron of the berry.
- Anti-inflammatory: Barron continues by saying that "These work together with another ingredient in goji known as betaine, which can reduce the formation of inflammatory chemicals in skin."
- They're barrier boosting: "Goji berry is also a good source of skin-beneficial fatty acids, including palmitic, oleic, and stearic, all of which help hydrate skin and enhance its barrier," says Barron.
- Protects skin from the sun: "They protect the skin against ultraviolet-induced damage and have also been shown to block melanin production," adds Shah.
- Help with skin tone: Hayag cites "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."
Side Effects of Goji Berry
Goji berries don't 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.
Before you go overdo it—10 to 30 grams is the typical recommended daily serving for goji berries.
How to Use It
Many brands incorporate this beneficial berry into their products, and it's simple to rotate them into your daily routine. Because goji berries are so abundant in amino acids (they contain 17 in total, including several essential amino acids), they're a great source of hydration. Amino acids may also increase the efficacy of other hydrating agents in skincare products by transporting moisture through the skin.
Barron tells us, "It’s best to use goji berry in leave-on skincare products such as serums, moisturizers, and sunscreens or in a supplement where the goji berry is joined by other nutrient-rich, replenishing ingredients." He also says that "Because there’s no single best or most potent antioxidant, be sure any skincare product that contains goji berry also contains other antioxidants, such as other berries, vitamins, and numerous non-fragrant plant extracts such as those from pomegranate, green tea, and chamomile, to name just a few."
For all of the DIY fans out there, Shah also 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!
What does goji berry do for your skin?
As an antioxidant, goji berry promotes collagen and elastin production and reduces hyperpigmentation as well as oxidative stress.
Does goji berry brighten skin?
Yes, it can give you clearer, brighter skin thanks to vitamin C and other antioxidants.
Who should avoid using goji berries?
Don't ingest them if you have issues with blood-thinning or are on blood thinners. And in general, always speak to your physician before trying a new supplement or product.
Ma ZF, Zhang H, Teh SS, et al. Goji Berries as a Potential Natural Antioxidant Medicine: An Insight into Their Molecular Mechanisms of Action. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2019;2019:2437397. doi:10.1155/2019/2437397
Mojumdar EH, Pham QD, Topgaard D, Sparr E. Skin hydration: interplay between molecular dynamics, structure and water uptake in the stratum corneum. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):15712. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-15921-5
McDaniel DH, Waugh JM, Jiang LI, et al. Evaluation of the Antioxidant Capacity and Protective Effects of a Comprehensive Topical Antioxidant Containing Water-soluble, Enzymatic, and Lipid-soluble Antioxidants. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2019;12(4):46-53.
Rivera CA, Ferro CL, Bursua AJ, Gerber BS. Probable interaction between Lycium barbarum (goji) and warfarin. Pharmacotherapy. 2012;32(3):e50-e53. doi:10.1002/j.1875-9114.2012.01018.x