From products made at farms to stem cell technology, there’s a bumper crop of innovations to help you look your best.

By Caroline Schaefer
April 22, 2015
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From products made at farms to stem cell technology, there’s a bumper crop of innovations to help you look your best.

Vegan Treats

Photo: Lisa Shin

For those staunch about avoiding animal-derived products in their diet and lifestyle, vegan beauty buys are a logical choice, as they leave out common ingredients like honey and beeswax. (Also nice: They’re not tested on animals.)

But a growing number of meat eaters are also intrigued, now that vegan makeup, skin-care and hair-care items are popping up in mainstream drugstores and giants like Sephora. They tend to cost a bit more, though, so why try them? Vegan products typically contain fewer chemicals, so they’re good for those who are cautious about what they put on their skin.

Our picks: (1) The Gnarly Whale Sudsy Shampoo, $17; (2) Drunk Elephant TLC Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, $90; Ella+Mila Nail Polish, $7 each;


Photo: Lisa Shin

Perhaps you’ve been to one of those trendy restaurants touting farm-to-table dishes that are minimally treated and processed. That’s the concept behind some of the latest skin treatments and cosmetics made with good-for-you ingredients, like aloe vera and flower-based essential oils, that are usually organic. They’re whipped up in small batches (typically at local farms or indie labs), without the usual stabilizers or preservatives.

“Because these products are minimally processed, using only natural methods, they’re a great option for women with sensitive skin and those who are allergic to artificial fragrances and certain chemicals,” says Jessica Wu, MD, a Los Angeles dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Buying these is also a way to support women-run businesses (as many farm-to-face companies are) and even do social good. The less-is-more approach of these treats does come with a caveat: Products made with fresh ingredients and no preservatives tend to spoil faster (on average, they last about half the time of others), so check the expiration date and keep an eye out for changes in color or scent—signs you should ditch ’em.

Our picks: (4) Farmaesthetics Herbal Hydration Complex Remedy Reserve Mask, $34; (5) Indie Lee Coconut Citrus Body Scrub, $38; (6) Tata Harper Beautifying Face Oil, $48; (7) Hurraw Balm, $4;

Food-based beauty

Photo: Lisa Shin

Some of the most potent skin-care weapons these days can be found in the produce aisle. The fibrous orange flesh of pumpkins, for example, has enzymes that help disintegrate dulling dead skin and expose the glowing layer beneath; vitamin A, which speeds cell turnover for a soft and supple complexion; and vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps undo the damage done by free radicals. Pumpkin seed oil, which contains omega-6 fatty acids that pump up moisture, as well as zinc and iron, can be used to combat dandruff and even pimples. (And you thought pumpkins were just for carving!)

Apples are also being tapped for their beautifying benefits—credit the vitamin C and enzymes. Another edible that’s ripening up beauty products: tomatoes, which are loaded with lycopene, an antioxidant that can protect skin from environmental havoc (including damage from pollution and UV rays) and lighten age spots.

“The lycopene that exists in fruits and vegetables neutralizes free radicals from light when they’re growing, so it makes sense that it’s now being used to treat sun damage and excess pigmentation,” says Whitney Bowe, MD, a dermatologist in Briarcliff Manor, New York. Plus, lycopene has been shown to increase the production of collagen.

Our picks: (8) Burt’s Bees Renewal Refining Cleanser (which contains apple), $10; (9) MyChelle Pumpkin Renew Cream, $28; (10) Yes to Tomatoes Clear Concealer Stick, $10;

Stem cell skin care

Photo: Lisa Shin

Stem cells have been making headlines for years, showing promise for a slew of medical treatments—from developing tissue for damaged organs to helping to cure drug-resistant diseases. Now a study published in the International Journal for Applied Science finds that stem cells in plant tissue may offer beauty benefits.

“Because these cells contain a concentration of antioxidants that’s much greater than that of other botanical extracts, they can accelerate collagen production and cell renewal in your skin to decrease the signs of aging,” says Karen Kim, MD, a dermatologist in Chestnut Hill, Mass. Look for grapeseed, raspberries and algae on labels, since they pack high doses of stem cells.

Our picks:Â (11) Naturopathica Plant Stem Cell Booster
Serum, $42; (12) EmerginC Scientific Organics Grape Stem Cell, White Tea + Seaweed Body Butter, $45; (13) Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Instant Eye Lift Algae Mask, $75;