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In the past few years, the pomegranate has been touted as a super food, but to say that's new knowledge would be a reach of truly legendary proportions. It's been well known for its medicinal and beauty benefits since ancient times and is a symbol of prosperity and abundance in many cultures. Modern scientific studies have shown that this red fruit with its juicy arils also has an abundance of health benefits. The name "pomegranate" is derived from Middle French—pomme garnete or “seeded apple.” Pomegranates are believed to have originated in Iran, known at that time as Persia. It is a fruit that is mentioned in Greek legends and the most important of ancient texts. We talked to Dr. Marie Hayag, Board Certified Dermatologist and Founder of 5th Avenue Aesthetics, Cosmetic Scientist and Founder of Acaderma, Dr. Shuting Hu, and Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, founder of Mudgil Dermatology in NYC to find out all of the benefits pomegranates have for our skin.
Type of ingredient: Antioxidant
Main benefits: Helps skin regenerate, detoxes the skin, protects against UV radiation
Who should use it: In general, people with oily or congested skin will find pomegranate the most beneficial
How often is typical use?: Once a day
Works well with: Ceramides
Doesn't work with: Works with everything
What is Pomegranate?
Well, it's a fruit. You likely know that. In terms of history, however, the pomegranate was brought to Egypt in 1600 BC where it became revered not only as an important food source (it was a required fruit in the pharaoh’s palace), but it was also used for medicinal purposes. The pomegranate was highly valued and is depicted in paintings in Egyptian tombs as it symbolized life after death. It is a symbol of fertility in some cultures and prosperity in others, inspired by the abundance of jewel-toned seeds within the bright red and sturdy round rind. It has also been used in wedding rituals in several cultures, and is also considered by some as the forbidden fruit referenced in the Bible.
However, none of that explains why pomegranates are good for use in skincare. For that, we turned to Hu: "Pomegranate is a powerful fruit rich in polyphenols like anthocyains, ellagic acid, and many other plant polyphenols. These ingredients are the reason why pomegranate extract is so effective as they help to detox the skin of free radicals while also repairing skin that could have been damaged from environmental factors like UV radiation. The anthocyains in pomegranate work similarly to how Vitamin C found in citrus fruit is beneficial for skin—it's not the pomegranate itself, as much as it is what comprises pomegranate."
That's not even all; various studies suggest that pomegranate juice and/or pomegranate extract helps support the immune system and promote healthy blood circulation, control bad cholesterol and keeps arteries clear, reduces the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke and the risk of certain cancers.
"Any antioxidant oil like argan or pomegranate is great," Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skin Care tells us. "I encourage my clients to use them as face products and on the neck and chest. Your skin needs antioxidants no matter if it's the face or the body."
Benefits of Pomegranate for Skin
- Heavy in Antioxidants: "Not only does it contain about 48% of the daily vitamin C, but also contains other antioxidants such as anthocyanins, ellagic acid, and tannins. With all these antioxidants you have one of the ultimate blockers in free radical damage, which is a big cause in aging," adds Dr. Hayag. "I would pick pomegranate juice over açaí and blueberry juice any day."
- Cell Regeneration: Pomegranates help protect the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin) and helps with skin cell regeneration in the epidermis and dermis (inner layer), increasing circulation and healing the skin, aiding in tissue repair and wound healing.
- Sun Protection: They have sun protective compounds that protect the skin against free radical damage, help prevent skin cancer, relieve sunburn and reduce the signs of sun damage. Pomegranate seed oil works to protect against skin cancer because of ellagic acid, a polyphenol antioxidant found in large quantities in pomegranates, which researchers have found inhibits the growth of skin tumors.
- Anti-Aging: Pomegranates protect against premature aging by helping reduce the signs of skin aging caused by sun damage and exposure, such as wrinkles and fine lines. Pomegranates also help prevent hyperpigmentation and age spots.
- Youthful Skin: Pomegranates promote smooth, firm skin by promoting collagen and elastin production and soften skin.
- Dry Skin: It is a great ingredient for skincare because its small molecular structure allows it to penetrates deeply into the skin. It works for most skin types, (which depends on the skin care ingredients pomegranate is combined with). Since pomegranate oil penetrates deeply into the skin, it is effective for treating dry skin. It soothes dry, cracked, and irritated skin. It contains punicic acid, an omega 5 fatty acid that hydrates and prevents moisture loss.
- Oily Skin/Combination Skin: Pomegranate oil even works for oily skin and the use of pomegranates have been beneficial in skin care products for acne prone skin, to combat breakouts, reduce scarring, and sooth minor irritations.
Side Effects of Pomegranate for Skin
"Skin allergy/irritation is possible, but rare," says Mudgil. Unless you know you're allergic, you're likely safe though. And while there are few side effects to pomegranate itself (except the red it dyes your fingers when you eat one), Hu did tip us off to something key about it as an ingredient.
"The polyphenols (especially anthocyanins) that reside in pomegranate quickly oxidize in water, so if you're going to use a product with pomegranate extract, I suggest not letting it sit on the shelf too long so you get the most potent version of the product," Hu suggests.
How to Use It
"A surprising benefit of pomegranate is its ability to regenerate skin cells," Hu adds. "Pomegranate is great when used as a spot treatment agent for skin issues such as hyper-pigmentation, acne scars, age spots, and dry skin." But aside from just being a spot treatment, pomegranate has a wealth of uses. Because they're so rich in polyphenols, pomegranates can be used in almost any product and concentration for different purposes.
The Best Products With Pomegranate for Skin
If your skin gets weird during transitional weather, or you just can't seem to keep up with its ever-changing needs, this moisturizer is absolutely worth a try. It's not so greasy it feels like it rests on your skin for the rest of the day, but it's certainly not light enough that you'll have to reapply, either. It's the perfect formula for someone with tricky combination skin.
We don't know what makes this cream smell so good, or what gives it its perfect texture, but whatever it is makes us absolutely want to bathe in it. The ceramides and pomegranate keep you moisturized while keeping your skin chock full of the antioxidants it needs. Easily-absorbed and so luxe, this is seriously a dry skin staple.
Do you want to pay $210 for an eye and lip cream? Honestly, if you can afford it, yes you do. Sisley has knocked it out of the park by using a soy and yeast protein complex meant to reduce wrinkles and fine lines. Not only is this meant to protect against environmental aging, it deals with behavioral aging, too. Constantly pursing your lips or squinting? Consider getting yourself a jar.
Eight Saints based their brand off of eight key ingredients they found people loved most in their skincare. On the label, this product boasts vitamin E and marula, jojoba, and grapeseed oils. Each of which is a fantastic ingredient. But read the ingredients a little closer, and you'll find pomegranate oil second on the list—a silent component of an amazing blend.
We all need our antioxidants, and this mask is a great source for skin that might be dealing with some extra pollution. Put it on to relax and detoxify after a long day in the city.
Murad doesn't mess around when it comes to their acne treatments, and this mask is proof of that. It's basically a deep cleaning for your face: the clay in the mask sucks out any impurities, and the pomegranate acts to rinse and prevent free radicals from attacking your skin. Finish with a toner and moisturizer, and your skin is good to go.
We're huge fans of overnight lip masks, in particular this one from Bite Beauty's Agave+ line. It's extremely nourishing thanks to its inclusion of agave nectar along with sunflower, safflower, and jojoba oils; and the sweet taste doesn't hurt at all either! Pomegranate is included so your lips can reap those antioxidant benefits while staying soft and healthy.
Whether you're consuming them or using them in skincare, pomegranates are great for you. Check out some other ancient Greek skincare secrets.