What are polyphenols, and what kinds of benefits do they bring to the skin?
While many of us may not have heard of the term itself, we’re certainly familiar with the advantages polyphenols bring to the skin. Globally speaking, polyphenols encompass dozens of foods - generally plant-based - that are high in antioxidants.
Foods rich in antioxidants are noted for their anti-aging properties, particularly when it comes to combating the effects of UV-related stress.1 Essentially, polyphenol-rich foods work to prevent the spread of free radicals, provoked by external factors such as sun damage and pollution, which accelerate the development of visible signs of aging.
The more antioxidants we eat, the better our skin will deal with this kind of oxidative stress - so it’s important to include polyphenol-rich ingredients into our diet if we’re seeking a glowing, healthy complexion.
What’s the best way to incorporate foods rich in polyphenols into our diets?
Eat your greens! Often giving foods a sour or bitter taste, polyphenols are present in a wide variety of natural ingredients, particularly raw vegetables, fruits, and herbs and spices. Refined or processed foods tend to contain lower levels of polyphenols, so try and keep ingredients as natural as possible to maximise their benefits.
As a general rule, colourful foods, such as blueberries, pomegranates and red grapes, contain high levels of polyphenols thanks to the presence of the pigment anthocyanin. Other good sources include cumin and turmeric - for maximum effect, try combining black pepper with turmeric. Essentially, the brighter the better!
As well as skincare benefits, foods belonging to the polyphenol family can help improve the body’s overall health. Flavonoids, a branch of polyphenols, can help with stabilising blood pressure, while studies have shown that certain polyphenols found in dark chocolate (a square or two, not the whole bar) can have a positive effect on cardiovascular function, improving circulation.23 Not that we needed an excuse, but still, nice to know.
2 Huang WY, Davidge ST, Wu J. Bioactive natural constituents from food sources-potential use in hypertension prevention and treatment. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013;53(6):615-30. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2010.550071.
3 Arranz S, Valderas-Martinez P, Chiva-Blanch G, Casas R, Urpi-Sarda M, Lamuela-Raventos RM, Estruch R. Cardioprotective effects of cocoa: clinical evidence from randomized clinical intervention trials in humans. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013 Jun;57(6):936-47. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201200595.