You’ve heard the benefits of quinoa over and over: It has all of your essential amino acids! It’s high in fibre! It’s packed with iron! Although it’s a relative newcomer in the American diet, this grain-like seed has been a staple in Andean countries such as Peru and Bolivia for centuries as a nutrient-rich food—but also (surprise!) as a skincare product.
“Although it’s been used for many years in places where it’s indigenous, quinoa is becoming very trendy in the United States for skincare. People already know about it as a superfood, and they want to explore other uses for it,” says Sonia Batra, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and co-host of The Doctors. “And there’s some science backing its benefits for the skin. It’s not just good for you if you eat it.”
Since you likely already have some extra quinoa stashed in your pantry, why not double its purpose? Whether you make your own quinoa cleanser (more on how to do that later) or look for it as a key ingredient in your next beauty product, here’s why should consider adding this super seed to your routine.
It’s the ideal exfoliator
Quinoa is just the right texture to exfoliate your skin. It’s rough enough to remove dead skin cells that can clog your pores but isn’t so harsh that it harms the skin’s protective barrier, like some commercial exfoliants.
“The reason quinoa is getting more buzz as a physical exfoliator is because the husk itself is really soft, and there are no sharp edges that could tear the skin,” says Batra.
Try this: To make a DIY quinoa exfoliator, try mixing cooked quinoa with olive or argan oil until you’ve created a mixture that’s a desirable consistency. Gently massage it into your skin and rinse with warm water.
Pro tip: “I don’t recommend using exfoliators more than two to three times a week, maximum,” says Batra, who explains over-exfoliating can damage the outer layers of your skin. “The body will respond by overproducing oil, which can cause you to break out.” If you have dry skin, lower that frequency to once a week. Exfoliating dry skin can be irritating and can cause small tears in the skin, which creates an entry portal for bacteria.
It brightens your skin
Exfoliating your skin isn’t the only way quinoa makes you glow. A 2015 study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Sciences found that, when applied topically, quinoa could inhibit an enzyme called tyrosinase that causes pigmentation.
“Because of this, it can help reduce brown spots or brighten the skin of people with hyperpigmentation,” says Batra. Hyperpigmentation is the result of an overproduction of melanin (a pigment that produces your skin colour), which forms dark deposits in the skin.
Try this: Kiehl’s Quinoa Micro Peel (which you can shop here) is a nightly leave-on serum that accelerates the cell turnover process, revealing fresher, smoother, younger-looking skin.
Pro tip: If you take any prescription treatments for skin conditions, it’s best to talk to your doctor before introducing a new product into your regimen—even if it is natural like quinoa. “A new product may be too irritating or can interact with your prescription,” says Batra.
“And if you have normal skin and you’re trying something from a beauty standpoint, patch-test any new product either on your forearm or jawline for five days before applying it widely to your face,” Batra suggests.
This article originally appeared on Prevention
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