Pomegranate power

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This exotic fruit's juicy seeds may hold the key to softer, smoother, younger-looking skin

a SYMBOL OF fertility and health in ancient times, the pomegranate is becoming today's symbol of a glowing complexion. Thanks to a wealth of natural oils, sun-protective compounds, and vitamins, researchers are now uncovering this seed-filled fruit's potential to promote radiant skin, says Anne Marie Fine, N.M.D., a naturopathic physician in Scottsdale, Ariz., who specializes in holistic skin treatment. "Skin is highly susceptible to stress and environmental damage, especially pollution and UV exposure," explains Fine. (UVA rays penetrate the skin and cause wrinkles, dark spots, and skin cancer; UVB rays cause sunburn.) "Pomegranate is a great antioxidant. It can help prevent hyperpigmentation and wrinkles and promotes elasticity." And while all antioxidants have some skin cancer-fighting abilities, pomegranate trumps most other sources, including grapes, blueberries, and red wine. "Pomegranate extract has higher antioxidant activity than green tea," notes Farrukh Afaq, a researcher in the department of dermatology at the University of Wisconsin, who has led several studies demonstrating pomegranate's anticancer potential.

"Pomegranate extract helps to protect the epidermis, or outer layer of skin," says dermatologist Howard Murad, MD., creator of the Murad product line and a longtime proponent of the fruit for skincare. "It strengthens your defenses even as it fights existing damage." Pomegranate helps soften, protect, and firm the skin, too. "It's a powerhouse," says Fine. The fruit, it appears, is as effective as it is delicious.
Softening

Unlike many plant oils, pomegranate oil, which comes from the seeds of the fruit, penetrates deeply, making it ideal for dry skin. In addition, it contains punicic acid, an omega-5 that hydrates and prevents moisture loss. Even people with oily skin can tolerate pomegranate oil, says Tzeira Sofer, founder of T'Zerah and Pomega5, two pomegranate-based skincare lines. "Because of its small molecular structure, pomegranate oil sinks right into the skin, making it compatible with most skin types," explains Anne Marie Fine, N.M.D., a naturopathic physician.

Sunflower seed oil and aloe in THE HEALING GARDEN ORGANICS POMEGRANATE & VANILLA BODY LOTION ($8; at drugstores) soften skin; POMEGA5 REVITALIZING TREATMENT FOR SKIN ($48; pomegas.com) capsules are full of calendula and pomegranate seed oil; BURT'S BEES REPLENISHING LIP BALM ($3; at drugstores) combines beeswax and pomegranate oil; ultra-rich ARCHIPELAGO BOTANICALS POMEGRANATE HAND CRÈME ($28; sensia.com) is great for dry hands and cuticles.
Protecting

Wearing sunscreen and staying in the shade are the smartest ways to cut your risk of sun damage and skin cancer. But pomegranate extract can augment sunscreen's effectiveness, according to research at the University of Wisconsin that confirms pomegranate extract's ability to protect skin from the damaging effects of UV rays and reduce the incidence and development of skin tumors.

Combining pomegranate extract with common chemical sunscreen ingredients such as avobenzone, octisalate, octinoxate, and oxybenzone may also increase the effectiveness of sunscreen, says dermatologist Howard Murad, M.D. "In my studies," Murad says, referring to research published in Cosmetic Dermatology in 2001, "when we added pomegranate extract to sunscreen, we saw a 20 percent improvement in the UV protection."

RODIAL SPF 18 WRINKLE SMOOTHER ($145; beautyhabit.com), a hardworking moisturizer from the UK, combines sun protection with anti-aging peptides and marine collagen; MURAD OIL-FREE SUNBLOCK SPF 30 ($30; murad.com), a pomegranate-packed, full-spectrum sunblock, absorbs quickly and won't clog pores; the organic apple and pomegranate juices in JUICE BEAUTY SPF 30 SHEER MOISTURIZER ($29; juicebeauty.com) help break down dead skin cells and leave skin glowing.
Wrinkle-reducing

The vitamin C in pomegranate helps keep free radicals — from environmental chemicals, smoke, and excess sun, among other things — from breaking down skin cells and causing fine lines. Pomegranate extract may also help improve the appearance of existing wrinkles and aid in skin repair. "It promotes the formation of collagen in the skin, which helps heal wounds and thicken the skin," says Fine, adding that thin skin gradually reveals crow's-feet, under-eye bags, and dark circles.

KÖRNER SKINCARE LOADED THE ANTI-AGER ($240; bergdorfgoodman.com) blasts wrinkles with a mix of pomegranate, a rare orchid extract, and Amazonian cupuaçu butter; an ultra-light liquid gel, DESERT ESSENCE ACE REVERSAL POMEGRANATE EVE SERUM ($15; desertessence.com) hydrates skin and decreases puffiness with chamomile; NATUROPATHICA ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE MASK ($56; naturopathica.com) pairs pomegranate with other fruit enzymes to revive and protect dull, stressed complexions.
Firming

After years of exposure to free radicals from the sun and pollution, skin's collagen begins to break down, resulting in sagging and other signs of aging. Pomegranate can counter these changes with substances that aid in firming the skin. Both the juice and seeds are rich in tannins, phenolic compounds also found in grapes and berries, which have an astringent effect. They cause tissues to contract, temporarily resulting in a tighter appearance.

ORIGINS POMEGRANATE WASH ($16.50; origins.com) creates a fragrant lather that, with the addition of soybean oil, won't leave skin feeling dry; KORRES POMEGRANATE BALANCING MOISTURIZER SPF 6 ($29.50; korres.com) hydrates with jojoba and macadamia oils and protects with a touch of mineral-based sunscreen; JANE IREDALE POM MIST ($17.50; janeiredale.com) is infused with antioxidant extracts of pomegranate, white tea, and grapeseed; OLAY FIRMING REVIVER BODY LOTION ($11: at drugstores) combines pomegranate extract with palm oil to relieve dryness and glycerin to seal in moisture.

LEARN MORE: For an at-home pomegranate body-scrub recipe, log on to naturalhealthmag.com/pomegranate.

PHOTO (COLOR)

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By Donna Garlough

Photography by Dasha Wright

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