These plant-based agents have been scientifically proven to benefit your skin.

By Real Simple
Updated August 06, 2009
Ellen Silverman

The Problem Solver: Caffeine

Some people love caffeine for its ability to stimulate the central nervous system―that is, to jolt the brain into alertness before an early-morning conference call. Dermatologists love the chemical for its ability to constrict tiny blood vessels under the skin, which helps treat dark circles, rosacea, and possibly cellulite. And in a recent study drinking coffee was shown to be associated with a 36 percent reduction of nonmelanoma skin cancer. Other studies indicate caffeine could have similar effects when used topically. “Someday we could see morning-after sunscreen creams, where you can treat severe sun damage after the fact,” says Los Angeles dermatologist Jessica Wu.

The Elixir of Youth: White Tea

Green tea may be the established star, but some studies have shown that white tea has even higher levels of antioxidants. “White tea is harvested from the same camellia plant, only early in the spring, when the leaves are still young,” says Lieve Declercq, Ph.D., the global spokesperson for plant physiology and molecular biology for the cosmetics company Origins, which uses white tea in several products. “Those tiny, young leaves are rich in antioxidants. To maintain these high antioxidant levels, the leaves are dried in a cool and airy place without sun.” White tea is generally used as a topical antioxidant and found in daily cleansers, moisturizers, and intensive-treatment serums for both the face and the body.

The Hot Ingredient: Turmeric

Turmeric, a spice ground from the root of a shrub related to ginger, helps to give curry dishes their vivid yellow color. In the lab, turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, may show benefits for the skin. This is because it acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and blocks the reaction that provokes pigmentation in skin, says Paolo Giacomoni, a biochemist and the executive director of research and development for Clinique, which is using turmeric in its new Even Better Skin Tone Corrector.