Each season, a new bevy of botanicals, nuts, and berries in beauty products promise to fight aging, calm acne, and brighten skin tone. But how to tell the summer harvest’s hits from its misses? We dug through studies, asked the pros, and unearthed 10 that show particular prom-ise. Some are new to skin-care products (acerola), some have a track record in another field (probiotics and yogurt), and others are performing a new beauty role (shea butter) or riding the wave of a hot skin-care trend (apple stem cells). What follows is our crop of new, natural ingredients that are entirely noteworthy.
1. Acerola Fruit
It’s a bit too bitter for breakfast, but acerola fruit contains one of the highest concentra-tions of vitamin C of all fruit, according to Amala Beauty founder, Ute Leube, particularly if it’s unripe. Of course, you want to get your skin in contact with vitamin C, since it’s an antioxidant that’s been proven to help prevent premature aging and melanin deposits (brown sun spots), as well as minimize signs of sun damage already done. But unlike potent forms of vitamin C that can be irritating, high-concentration fruit extracts don’t tend to take a toll on or irritate skin.
Who’s got it: Amala Beauty Rejuvenating Hand Cream ($42, www.amalabeauty.com), John Masters Organics Vitamin C Serum ($30, www.johnmasters.com), and Dr. Hauschka Re-generating Day Cream ($80, www.dr.hauschka.com)
2. Apple Stem Cells
The long-living Uttwiler Spatlauber apple (malus domestica) is being tapped for its stem cells, which, according to studies published in a 2008 article of Life Extension, pre-vented sun damage, smoothed wrinkles, and even stimulated hair growth. Stem cells sound scary? Picture a carrot top or avocado pit suspended over water and growing anew. That’s what apple stem cells aim to do for skin and hair.
3. Argan Oil
Oil from the pressed nut of the Moroccan argan tree is a boon for especially dry, sun-damaged skin, since its high concentration of essential fatty acids (omega-6 and omega 9) help supplement what the skin loses with age, and imparts antioxidants like skin-nourishing vitamin E. The deeply moisturizing nut oil also helps keep skin hydrated, while the leaf extract has a humectant (water-drawing) action, which plumps wrinkles.
Who’s got it: Kahina Giving Beauty Facial Lotion ($52, www.kahina-givingbeauty.com), Ila Beyond Organic Night Cream for Rejuvenating Skin Cells ($99, www.ila-spa.com), and Aveda Green Science Line Minimizer ($85; www.aveda.com).
4. Black Cumin Seed Oil
The seeds from this Mediterranean and Middle Eastern herb are cold-pressed for a fatty-acid-rich oil that’s used in dietary supplements and now many skin-care products. The composition of the oil—and its special adaptogenic properties, meaning it’s a stress-reducing antioxidant—make it ideal for skin that’s especially dry or dehydrated, has an impaired moisture barrier (chronic redness or flakiness), or needs a serious reju-venating boost.
Who’s Got It: Intelligent Nutrients Intellimune Oil ($45, www.intelligentnutrients.com), Jonathan Product Green Rootine Hair Silkening Crème ($24, www.sephora.com), Grateful Body Midnight Oil Body Oil ($21.95, www.gratefulbody.com)
5. Carrot Seed Oil
Biodynamic beauty brands like Jurlique and Dr. Haushka were some of the first to use the orange-tinted oil, loaded with vitamin A and beta carotene, but now a handful are following suit, proving the theory that if its good for your diet, it’s good for you skin. Like many oils, the most prized is cold pressed, which promotes cell renewal and helps minimize signs of sun damage, along with providing deep moisturizing benefits.
Who’s Got It: ISUN Skin Restore Nourishing Body Oil ($40, www.beautyhabit.com), Erbaviva Stretch Mark Oil ($28, www.erbaviva.com), Carol’s Daughter Bring in the Moisture Essential Serum ($11.50, www.carolsdaughter.com)
6. Superberries and Cherries
What do acai berries (from South America), Goji berries (from China and Tibet), and cof-fee cherry from the coffee tree all have in common? Chart-topping antioxidant values and loads of vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids. Take goji, one of the world’s most nutri-ent-rich berries, says Margo Marrone, founder of The Organic Pharmacy and skin-care line, “It contains 19 skin-repairing amino acids, 21 trace minerals, essential fatty acids, vitamin E, and many unique compounds. In fact, of its 23 polysaccharides that reduce inflammation and promote cell regeneration, four aren’t found anywhere else.” And both acai and coffeeberry have ORAC scores (a measure of antioxidants in foods used by the United States Department of Agriculture), of 15,000 or more, well-exceeding prunes (5,770), the highest-ranking antioxidant food.
Who’s got it: Sumbody Supernatural Body Wash with acai and goji ($17.95, www.sumbody.com), The Organic Pharmacy Rose Plus Brightening Complex with acai and goji ($166.38, www.theorganicpharmacy.com), Priori CoffeeBerry Tightening Serum 99.2% Natural, ($75, www.prioriskincare.com)
7. Manuka Honey
Obviously companies like Burt’s Bees have made honey a beauty aid in every house-hold. But Manuka honey, a variety that hails from New Zealand, has active, medicinal qualities that make it make it a terrific topical treatment world-over. “It kills acne-causing bacteria, helps soothe skin irritations, and gently exfoliates and hydrates skin,” says the founder of Plantogen, Elda Argenti, who makes a 100 percent pure manuka mask for spa facials.
Lactobacillus, acidophilus—they’re in your yogurt, and now in your beauty products. These face-friendly bacteria do a balancing act for your skin’s flora, making them great for acne-prone skin and eczema, according to preliminary studies in the British Journal of Dermatology and the Journal of Dermatological Science. And Katerina Vassilatou, head of Research and Development at Korres, says yogurt makes an excellent cos-metic ingredient, particularly for oily, dehydrated skin thanks to its levels of lactose and proteins. This natural lactic acid helps tame the oil yet increase moisture levels.
9. Shea butter
You’ve seen it for years in the body-care section, but the super-moisturizing salve is now slipping into products for the face and hair. That’s because nut butters bolster the skin’s natural moisture barrier, nourishing cells and helping to prevent water loss. It does a similar service on frayed and frazzled strands, by restoring shine as it smoothes the hair shaft and seals in moisture. (Expect to see more nut butters, from Brazilian cu-puaçu to Californian cashew.)
Who’s got it: Biodynamic Facial Souffle Elemental Herbology ($144, www.spacenk.com), Kevin Murphy Born Again Conditioning Treatment ($25, www.amazon.com), SheaTerra Organics Rose Petal & Red Bush Shea Butter Face Cream ($25, www.sheaterraorganics.com), Revolution Organics Multitasking Beauty Balm ($28).
10. And Keep an Eye Out for Alfalfa
Organically farmed alfalfa is behind a new ingredient called VitanolBio, and was just ap-proved by Ecocert (the French organic regulatory body). It looks to have a similar effect on the skin as retinol, a top anti-aging treatment of wrinkles and collagen production, says Niki Wilson, a cosmetic chemist, who recently learned about the ingredient and predicts it will soon be scooped up for use in natural and organic skin-care products. “The science sounds really good and yet the ‘natural retinol’ likely won’t have the irrita-tion associated with the chemical version.” Nice and natural.