Natural skincare has come a long way -- far from its crunchy granola roots. But can plant-based treatments effectively fight wrinkles, dryness, and fade dark spots? Top skin pros say yes. We'll tell you which botanicals can really deliver smooth, glowing, and youthful-looking skin.
Fact: Skin gets drier and more sensitive with age. Evening primrose oil contains essential fatty acids that help restore skin's compromised skin barrier. And because it's very gentle, it's a good pick for someone who has more severe skin conditions such as rosacea or eczema, says David E. Bank, M.D., a dermatologist in Mount Kisco, NY.
Find it in: Murad Perfecting Serum ($65; sephora.com).
Just as your morning cup of coffee serves up a multitude of benefits (waking you up, powering your workout, preventing cancer -- we can go on), topical caffeine is a bit of a multitasker. The plant-based energizer is a vasoconstrictor, which means it temporarily tightens puffy undereye skin and reduces dark circles, Bank says. It's also a potent, free-radical fighting antioxidant that may also give skin some natural defense against UV rays. "Recent studies have shown that, when applied to the skin, caffeine may protect against sun damage to skin cells," Bank says.
Find it in: Garnier Skin Renew Anti-Puff Eye Roller ($13; walgreens.com).
Fruit acids and enzymes -- including pineapple, lemon, and papaya -- can take skin from blah to bright by dissolving away complexion-dulling dead skin cells, revealing a more even surface. Bonus: The fruit-based exfoliants tend to be less harsh than other skin-sloughers so your face is less likely to appear red post-peel.
Find them in: Philosophy, The Microdelivery Purifying Peel One-Minute Purifying Enzyme Peel ($42; philosophy.com).
Vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid) is another do-it-all ingredient. It has the ability to fight off collagen-damaging free radicals and it also guards skin from UV rays, Bank says. And because it's essential for healthy collagen production, the vitamin can also boost skin's firmness and aid in damage repair, he says.
Find it in: La Roche Posay Active C Facial Moisturizer ($53; ulta.com)
Found in the skin of red grapes (and also red wine), resveratrol has proved to be a powerhouse when it comes to anti-aging. It's a potent antioxidant -- more powerful than C and E -- and also a phytoestrogen, says Heidi Waldorf, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. That means it can help maintain skin's moisture and collagen levels as the body's natural estrogen levels decrease with age.
Find it in: Caudalie Vinexpert Firming Serum ($88; us.caudalie.com)
“Sea buckthorn is the perfect, natural cocktail to treat all signs of aging,” says Bank, noting that it’s been researched in over 130 modern scientific studies (In other words: It’s the real deal). It contains over 190 active compounds -- including essential fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidant-rich carotenoids -- to nourish the body’s cells and protect the skin from free radicals, Bank says.
Find it in: Lumene Complete Rewind Intensive Recovery Beauty Oil ($30; cvs.com)
As its name suggests, this herb has traditionally been used to treat fevers. Research has also shown it can reduce skin inflammation, Bank says. Not only does the calming ingredient soothe sensitive skin on contact, but it also reduces chronic skin redness over time -- two issues that tend to flare up with age.
Find it in: First Aid Beauty Daily Face Cream ($20; sephora.com)
Whether it's in your morning mug or in your skin care cream, there's no denying that green tea is an anti-aging all-star. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities have been well documented, Bank says. Some research even suggests that when it's applied to the skin, green tea may help prevent skin cancer and sun damage.
Find it in: Avon Anew Skinvincible Multi-Shield Lotion SPF 50 ($38; avon.com)
Google "soy" and you're likely to get pages of conflicting headlines about why you should or shouldn't include the plant-based nutrient in your diet. But when it comes to soy as a topical skincare ingredient, the benefits are perfectly clear: It helps reduce hyperpigmentation (brown spots), leaving skin more even-toned over time.
Find it in: Aveeno Positively Radiant Intensive Night Cream ($17; cvs.com)