Say hello to all-natural, skin-boosting Camu Camu, Lucuma, Maca, and more.
If you’re missing international travel, you’re not alone. Luckily, skincare fans can easily get a taste of the travel high without boarding an international flight by stocking up on beauty ingredients from around the world.
Enter Peruvian beauty. The South American nation is a darling of foodies, textile designers, and climate scientists for its wide range of natural crops that don’t grow anywhere else in the world – and those rich ingredients can be part of your skincare routine. With such a wide range of climates, ranging from rainforest to coast to the 133 ecosystems of the Andes mountains (yes, you read that right!), Peru’s natural world is a force to be reckoned with.
So while a flight to Lima may not be an option right now, adding the perks of Peru to your skincare routine certainly is.
What we know about these ingredients – and what we don’t
Before we dive in, it’s important to get a few things straight about natural ingredients and the way they’re studied. For starters, just because a healthy-sounding ingredient is listed on a product label doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to make an impact. It all depends on the concentration of the product – and sometimes, the ingredient may need to be mixed with another beneficial compound to pack a full punch.
“Remember that the thing that matters the most is the dose,” Massachusetts-based dermatologist Dr. Papri Sarkar, MD. If an ingredient is only effective in massive concentrations, a small pinch of it in your moisturizer might not do much good.
Another thing to remember is that there can be a difference between how an ingredient functions in a lab versus how it functions on a person’s skin in the day-to-day – and data about the latter can take a long time to solidify.
“The gold standard [to researching] ingredients that help the skin are that you put it on the skin, you have photos or biopsies before you put it on the skin, and then afterward you take photos and biopsies again and see a clear difference,” says Sarkar. Some ingredients – like vitamin C and retinoids – have passed tests like these time and time again. On the other hand, more natural ingredients are often recommended based on less conclusive research.
“It’s always surprising to me how differently skin in a lab will react compared to skin on a living human,” Sarkar explains. “Because it’s not just isolated skin – your body upregulates and downregulates things, it’s exposed to tons of things, and we have beneficial bacteria that live on our skin all the time which reacts to other things happening.”
The Peruvian ingredients below have given promising indications through lab studies and other research – and there are high hopes that they’ll be found even more beneficial in the future.
These tiny sour berries found in the Amazon rainforest are packed with the same types of antioxidants you’d find in a bestselling, high-end serum. “Camu Camu berry is loaded with vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that neutralizes radical damage to protect the skin from the sun,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD, Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “At the same time, it locks production of abnormal pigmentation of dark spots and even acts as a co-factor for production of healthy collagen.”
Camu Camu may be able to help battle redness and other inflammation issues as well. The berry has been found to decrease inflammatory markers in some settings, but more research is needed to know just how much of an impact it might make.
Try it out: CamuComplex Antioxidant Rich Daily Moisturizer, $65
This sweet, sunny fruit is so well-loved that Peruvian Starbucks locations offer Lucuma Frappuccinos. Early research has indicated that lucuma may help repair your lipid barrier, which can help manage dry skin. “Here is how lipids work – if you have a brick wall, you have bricks and you have the mortar in between that helps them stick together,” explains Sarkar. “Our skin cells are bricks, and the mortar is lipids. They’re what our body makes to seal things in and make sure nothing gets in through the cracks to cause us harm or irritation or break down the skin barrier. If your skin is really dry, you either have much less of that lipid or some kind of malformed or cracked lipid – a crack in your brick wall.”
If you don’t have dry skin, lucuma still has worthy perks. Along with keeping your skin better moisturized, the fruit’s high concentration of beta-carotene, which encourages cell repair, could make the fruit a promising option for reducing fine lines and improving skin tone.
Try it out: Lucuma Bright Face Mask, $34
That’s right: the same tasty, protein-filled grain you eat as your power lunch could be just as effective on your face. For starters, quinoa’s texture makes it the perfect gentle exfoliant. But what’s especially exciting is that this powerful little grain could be a big help when it comes to collagen. Research suggests that when applied topically in a lab setting, quinoa blocks an enzyme that breaks down your collagen and elastin. And that can equate to firmer skin for longer!
Quinoa could also be a great option for dry skin. “There are lots of different grains and nuts that have vegetable oils that come out of them,” says Sarkar. And quinoa is one of them! According to Sarkar, quinoa could help repair the lipid barrier to aid in keeping skin moisturized.
Try it out: Nativa Spa Plum Blossom Lotion with Purified Quinoa Drops, $17.99
Beyond its deliciously rich taste, cacao has plenty of other perks. Like quinoa and lucuma, cacao can help repair lipid barriers – there’s a reason that cocoa butter is a staple of so many daily skin routines.
At the same time, there are also some promising signs that cacao products could have some lasting antioxidant power for your complexion. “Cacao naturally contains flavonol and polyphenol antioxidants,” says Zeichner. These antioxidants may help protect the skin.
“One of the components we get in cacao is called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate),” explains Sarkar. “It’s one of the same things that we see in green tea,” Sarkar says. “And everyone knows that green tea is a great antioxidant – cacao also has antioxidants in it.” Experts don’t yet know how these antioxidants work in the skin. More research is needed, “but the preliminary studies in a lab setting show that some of these antioxidants from these ingredients help temper the damage that you see in the skin from UV radiation.”
Try it out: Josh Rosebrook Cacao Antioxidant Mask, $94
You may have seen maca protein powder on your grocery store shelves, and for good reason: the Andean root provides a solid energy boost that can get you through tough fitness classes and afternoon slumps. That said, maca has also been turning up in emulsions and moisturizers more and more often over the past ten years or so. When you drink a smoothie with maca powder, you’re getting an internal boost of vitamin C that helps with collagen formation and protection from free radicals. But skincare pros have also started exploring maca’s benefits when applied topically. One study found that when applied to the skin, maca helped prevent sun damage.
Try it out: ESPA Hydrating Lotion, $75
Also called Peruvian ground cherries or aguaymanto, these bright little berries are packed with antioxidants. The berry is known to increase the life of cells and protect from free radicals when eaten, and shows potential promise to do the same when applied to the skin. As research continues, this ingredient is well worth keeping an eye on.
Try it out: Aypa Golden Berry Anti-Aging Cream, $60
This tropical green fruit is also known as a custard apple, which should tell you everything you need to know about how fantastic it tastes. But cherimoya is not just a delight for your taste buds – it could be highly effective for your complexion, too. Cherimoya’s heavy concentration of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties make it an ingredient of interest when it comes to skin protection and anti-aging. One cherimoya contains 60% of daily vitamin C intake!
These magical ingredients will soothe your skin and transport you straight to Peru – no passport required.