The hundreds of ruby-colored seeds inside pomegranates were once thought to symbolize fertility, and given the fruit's proven powers as a strong antioxidant, it has given birth to a huge number of products, including designer juice and high-end skin-care creams.
The pomegranate's power comes from ellagic acid, a type of polyphenol, which is an antioxidant found in red wine and green tea. Antioxidants seek out and neutralize cell-damaging free radicals that come from the environment (pollution, UV rays) and from the body's natural aging process. Ellagic acid has been shown in some studies to neutralize free radicals more effectively than the other polyphenols found in green tea and red wine. It's also more stable in skin-care products than some other antioxidants, like vitamin C, which can lose potency when exposed to light and air.
Until the 19th century, grapefruit was grown purely as an ornamental fruit. Rarely eaten, it was known only for its looks - an interesting harbinger of its modern-day promise to improve ours.
A 2005 study by the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, in Chicago, showed that the scent of grapefruit on women made them seem an average of six years younger to men. Grapefruit's main use in skin care, however, is as a citric acid. Like any alpha hydroxy acid, citric acid loosens the bonds between skin cells, allowing dead ones to fall away, revealing smoother, more radiant skin.
No wonder the Super Mario Brothers got a jolt of evil-fighting power whenever they ate a mushroom. Mushrooms have long been used in Asian cultures as remedies for everything from low energy to cancer.
The extract of several Japanese mushrooms has been shown to reduce inflammation, which can affect collagen in the skin and contribute to changes associated with aging, such as the appearance of fine lines. Reducing that inflammation keeps skin cells vital and functioning and also suppresses irritation so that other active ingredients, like antioxidants, can do their jobs.
Shiitake mushrooms have multifaceted benefits for the skin. They contain antioxidants that block proteins known to cause cell breakdown; they provide chemical exfoliation; and they also contain kojic acid, which has a lightening effect on age spots and discoloration, making skin appear brighter over time.
Despite its prevalence in favorite sweets, such as pies and muffins, pumpkin is quite acidic. And the enzymes in pumpkin act like salicylic acids, chemical exfoliants that encourage skin cells to turn over more rapidly.
Pumpkin is also a carotenoid, a derivative of vitamin A, which is indicated by its orange color, and that makes it an antioxidant in addition to having exfoliating properties.
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc and have been used as a natural remedy for acne. Studies show that zinc has an effect similar to that of the common antibiotic tetracycline.