Which superfruits boost beauty?


‘The Natural Nurse’ Ellen Kamhi provides her pick of the top tropical ingredients

There are many foods and nutrients that span the bridge between the cosmeceutical and nutricosmetic sectors. They can act as an ingredient that can be added to skin creams, shampoos and other personal care items, and can also be used as a supplement that can be taken internally along with other health-enhancing nutrients that support skin and hair.

Consuming fruits has always been one of the mainstays of healthy living. In recent years, more fruits have become commercially available, which have previously been used only in the local area where they grow. Many of these ‘exotic’ fruits have been touted to be ‘superfruits’, although in their native land they are simply recognised as delicious and healthy foods. As these ‘new’ fruits are introduced, they are often presented with a great deal of marketing support and fanfare, to bring awareness of their traditional use to the cosmetics marketplace. In addition, current scientific studies are being performed which are elucidating the mechanism of action of how these fruits support health and wellness, as well as sustain beauty.

Super fruit combinations can be used both internally and externally to provide optimum skin support. There are many tropical plants that are referred to as super fruits. These include açaí, coffee fruit, goji, mangosteen, noni and pomegranate.  

These fruits have a long history of use by traditional people in the areas where they are found, as well as scientific data substantiating their high level of healthy activities.

The following is a brief description of several of the new superfruits along with modern scientific evidence of how they work:

In the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, an article entitled “Natural” ingredients in cosmetic dermatology refers to several natural substances that are being studied for positive actions in dermatologic and cosmetic applications. These include açaí and coffee berry[1].

Açaí berry

Açaí berry is harvested from the Brazilian rainforest, where natives believe the açaí berry to have amazing healing and nutritional properties. Studies show açaí has up to 33 times the antioxidant content of red wine grapes. Modern science has uncovered a vast storehouse of nutrients in the açaí berry, including a high concentration of antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, along with vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), iron, potassium, phosphorus and calcium[2]. Research continues to support the use of açaí to improve antioxidant status, and reduce oxidative damage[3].      

Coffee berry 

Coffee berry is the bright red fruit that grows on coffee plants, which contains the coffee bean. It has traditionally been discarded, while the bean is processed into coffee. However, the red fruit is high in beneficial antioxidants and other nutritional substances, which gives it one of the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) values found in nature[4]. Coffee fruit is low in caffeine, and contains riboflavin and a substantial amount of phenolic compounds. Coffee fruit powder has been shown to specifically increase levels of Nrf2[5]. Nrf2 is a transcription factor that can benefit skin health both internally and topically. It specifically reduces inflammation, enhances barrier function, protects from ultraviolet radiation and enhances wound healing[6].

Goji berry

Lycium barbarum, also known as wolfberry are small raisin size red fruits that grow on a vine. They have been prized for their nutritional and healing value in traditional Asian medicine for countless generations. Goji has been treasured for centuries by the Himalayan people; the berries of the goji plant have been consumed daily by many of the world’s longest-living people. Science has isolated at least four unique polysaccharides, which are phytonutrient compounds that amplify signals between cells and improve immune defence[7]. Goji extracts have been investigated in terms of their antioxidant status, which can help repair and regenerate nerves[8], even with the added stress of diabetes[9].

Caution should be used when introducing goji as a new ingredient to skin care products since there have been reports of cross-reactivity in those who may have allergies to tomato, tobacco, nutmix and Artemisia pollen[10].


Mangosteen is the apple-sized fruit of a tall tropical tree. In Asia it is called ‘queen of the fruit’ due to its delicious flavor and traditional medicinal use. It contains a wide range of antioxidants, such as a polyhydroxy-xanthone derivative called mangostin[11]. The part of the fruit that is highest in antioxidant activity is referred to as the pericarp, which is the rind surrounding the fruit. Medicinal activities of the paricarp have been extensively tested in animal models, human cell lines and human studies. A study in the Journal of Natural Medicines reported that specific xanthones isolated from mangosteen decreased advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) and inhibited protein oxidation, which may support skin integrity against the ravages of ageing[12]. There are specific reports on the use of mangosteen directly on skin conditions. An article published in the Journal of Pharmacological Sciences describes an interesting human four-week, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, split-face study in ten acne patients, which indicated significant improvement in acne vulgaris condition on the side twice daily applied with mangostin nanoparticles[13]. The Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition published a study which concluded mangosteen positively affects skin elasticity and moisture content, which results in improved skin condition[14].



Noni (Morinda citrifolia), also known as Indian mulberry, grows in the Caribbean, Tahiti and Hawaii, producing a strange white, soft fruit. Jamaicans call noni fruit ‘duppie soursop’ which refers to its ghost-like appearance. It is harvested when it is ripe, pulverised and then strained it to make a healthful drink, high in enzymes and other factors that support healthy skin and hair. Native peoples use noni for a variety of positive health effects and often apply the freshly squeezed juice on the skin. Research supports the use of noni internally for its immune-enhancing, anti-stress and relaxation effects[15,16]. It has also been studied for UVA and UVB photoprotective activities when applied topically[17]. One challenge to the commercial use of noni is its unusual and unpleasant aroma. Processes have been developed to overcome this issue.


Punica granatum is the heart-sized red fruit of trees that grow in the Middle East, which have traditionally been recognised in ancient cultures to be a source of longevity and strength. Pomegranate juice is a very rich source of vitamin C, potassium, polyphenols and a host of other beneficial antioxidants. Pomegranate literally means ‘apple with many seeds’. This ancient fruit has been linked to fertility and beauty. Modern science confirms its use in topical applications due to suppression of lipid oxidation from its high ellagic acid levels[18] and enhanced effects for sunscreens[19]. Recent research supports the long-held belief that pomegranate juice is healthy for the heart[20].

All of these superfruits lend themselves to the creation of beautiful label content and can support skin health when used for beauty from within, as well as topically.

Ellen Kamhi PhD, RN

1. Baumann L  et. Al, “Natural” ingredients in cosmetic dermatology. J Drugs Dermatology, 2009 Jun;8(6 Suppl):s5-9
2. Rodriquez RB, Et. al., Total Oxidant Scavenging Capacity of Euterpe oleracea Mart. (Acai) Seeds and Identification of Their Polyphenolic Compounds.Journal Of Agricultural Food Chemistry 2006 May 31;54(11):3773-8.
3. Alqurashi RM, et. Al. Consumption of a flavonoid-rich açai meal is associated with acute improvements in vascular function and a reduction in total oxidative status in healthy overweight men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Nov;104(5):1227-1235
4. Ma Z., et. al. Caffeic acid phenethyl ester blocks free radical generation and 6- hydroxydopamine-induced neurotoxicity. Life Science 2006 Apr 26
5. T. Reyes-Izquierdo, et. al. Stimulatory effect of acute single dose of dried whole coffee cherry powder on Nrf2 activity in freshly isolated blood cells. A single-blind, placebo controlled cross-over pilot clinical study, The Journal of Aging Research and Clinical Practice, http://www.jarcp.com/3059-stimulatory-effect-of-acute-single-dose-of-dried-whole-coffee-cherry-powder-on-nrf2-activity-in-freshly-isolated-blood-cells-a-single-blind-placebo-controlled-cross-over-pilot-clinical-study.html
6. Agnieszka, et. Al. The role of transcription factor Nrf2 in skin cells metabolism.  Arch Dermatol Res , 2015; 307(5): 385–396. doi:  10.1007/s00403-015-1554-2
7. Yu MS. Cytoprotective effects of Lycium barbarum against reducing stress on endoplasmic  reticulum. International Journal of  Molecular Medicine. 2006 Jun;17(6):1157-61.
8. Zhao ZK, et. Al,  Antioxidative mechanism of Lycium barbarum polysaccharides promotes repair and regeneration following cavernous nerve injury. Neural Regen Res. 2016 Aug;11(8):1312-21. doi:10.4103/1673-5374.189197
9. Simonyan KV, et.al,  Goji fruit (Lycium barbarum) protects sciatic nerve function against crush injury in a model of diabetic stress. Pathophysiology. 2016 Sep;23(3):169-79.
10. Carnés J,et. Al.  Recently introduced foods as new allergenic sources: sensitisation to Goji berries (Lycium barbarum). Food Chem. 2013 Apr 15;137(1-4):130-5.
11. Weecharangsan W., Et. al. Antioxidative and Neuroprotective Activities of Extracts from the  Fruit Hull of Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana Linn.) Medical Principles and Practice,  2006;15(4):281-7.
12. Adallah HM, et. Al, Mangostanaxanthones III and IV: advanced glycation end-product inhibitors from the pericarp of Garcinia mangostana. Journal of Natural Medicine, 2016  Oct 13
13. Pan-In P, et. Al., Depositing α-mangostin nanoparticles to sebaceous gland area for acne treatment. J Pharmacol Sci. 2015 Dec;129(4):226-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jphs.2015.11.005.
14. Ohno R,et.al,  Mangosteen pericarp extract inhibits thenformation of pentosidine and ameliorates skin elasticity. J Clin Biochem Nutr.
2015 Jul;57(1):27-32. doi: 10.3164/jcbn.15-13
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