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Tomatoes are enriched with a wide spectrum of phytochemicals that can improve your health in different ways. They are considered great for your skin, heart, neurological function, and mental well-being, to name just a few of their health benefits.
Some of the most prized bioactive components of tomatoes include phenolic compounds (such as phenolic acids and flavonoids), carotenoids (such as lycopene and alpha and beta carotenes), vitamins (such as ascorbic acid/vitamin C and vitamin A), and glycoalkaloids (such as tomatine), all of which account for the rich nutritional profile of tomatoes.
Each of these bioactive compounds exhibits different health-enhancing properties. They may work as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-atherogenic agents to enhance and protect different aspects of your body function.
The best part is that tomatoes don’t lose their nutritional value even after being cooked, which cannot be said for a lot of other nutritious foods. So, you can improve your skin, hair, and overall health by eating dishes that contain tomatoes in your regular diet, provided it’s an overall well-balanced diet.
There has been considerable research regarding the health-protective nature of tomatoes that has found them useful in addressing medical conditions such as prostate cancer, tumors, asthma, depression, and cardiovascular disorders.
But their skin and hair benefits haven’t been explored much through rigorous scientific studies and are mainly popularized through anecdotal support. The Internet is flooded with unverified and sometimes even false information overstating the beauty benefits of this fruit, so it’s important to distinguish fact from fiction.
This article will list some scientifically backed as well as anecdotal claims regarding the beauty benefits of tomatoes and will explain how you can use them to your advantage.
Beauty Benefits of Tomatoes
Here are some beauty benefits of tomatoes.
1. Protect from the sun
Sunlight contains UV radiation, which penetrates deep into the skin to cause significant damage at the cellular level. UV radiation can even destroy the DNA structure of your skin cells and pave the way for skin cancer.
Sun exposure triggers the release of unstable, reactive molecules called free radicals inside the body that attack your healthy tissues, leading to a number of ailments. These free radicals wreak havoc on the skin by breaking down its main structural protein called collagen. This makes your skin less elastic and therefore more prone to premature aging.
Thus, the importance of sun protection cannot be emphasized enough if you wish to keep your skin young and healthy.
Your skin has its own mechanism to fight this UV exposure in the form of melanin protection. Melanin is a pigment that gives color to your skin, hair, and eyes, and it also serves to protect your skin from photodamage.
It does so by absorbing the UV rays that fall on the skin to prevent them from going any deeper. The more melanin in your skin, the greater the sun protection. Thus, light-skinned individuals are more vulnerable to sun damage than those with darker complexions.
But regardless of your skin color, you cannot rely on melanin alone to fight an all-powerful enemy like the sun. It is imperative that you wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF as well as protective clothing and accessories such as wide-brimmed hats to block out the sun.
Prolonged exposure to harmful solar radiation without proper sun protection can burn your skin. Sunburn is characterized by reddening of the skin (erythema), itching, pain, and a burning sensation. These symptoms can vary in degree depending upon the severity of the burn.
How tomatoes help
Tomatoes contain several carotenoids, which are plant pigments that are known to absorb light energy and are potent antioxidants that fight free radical damage. They have been proven beneficial in alleviating and preventing sunburn.
The strongest antioxidant among all the carotenoids is lycopene. Lycopene very effectively hunts down the reactive oxygen molecules that are produced under the influence of solar radiation and stops them from doing harm to your tissues.
It has been shown that regular consumption of tomato paste or juice is much more beneficial in preventing sunburns than taking lycopene supplements alone. This finding suggests that tomatoes may contain other skin-friendly compounds that help lycopene do the job better. (1)(2)
Plus, the collection of antioxidants found in tomatoes also curb the damaging effects of UV radiation on your skin’s genetic makeup, which, if left unchecked, can give rise to skin cancer. (3)
2. Maintain the health of your gums and teeth
Gum and tooth infections are extremely common, which reflects how poorly many people attend to the needs of their oral cavity.
Your mouth is naturally populated with various strains of bacteria, both good and bad, that live in perfect harmony. The good bacteria keep the bad bacteria in check. But negligent oral hygiene, along with a variety of other factors, can disturb this equilibrium and can trigger the overgrowth of harmful bacteria, giving rise to gum disease and dental decay.
This bacterial overgrowth forms a sticky film called plaque over the gums and teeth. The plaque bacteria feed on the food debris in your mouth and release acidic by-products that erode the underlying tissue and give you a foul breath, characteristic symptoms of gingivitis.
Gingivitis is a bacterial infection that starts in your gum tissue but slowly progresses to your teeth. It eventually turns into a more chronic infection called periodontitis, which can cause bleeding gums and infection within your tooth that extends down to the bone that holds it in place.
By weakening the very foundation of your tooth, periodontitis can cause complete tooth loss.
How tomatoes help
It has been suggested that gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis are associated with the buildup of free radicals in the oral cavity that damage your healthy tissues. The strong antioxidant activity of lycopene in tomatoes can counteract these free radicals to preserve your oral health.
The mildly acidic nature of the tomato juice can also help dissolve plaque accumulation on teeth, making them white and bright without being too harsh on the enamel.
3. Prevent premature signs of aging
The skin is made up of several protein fibers, collagen being the most abundant among them. Collagen gives the skin volume to keep it tight, supple, and youthful. However, there is a progressive decline in the production of this structural protein as you grow older.
Lack of collagen makes your skin sag while also diminishing its ability to heal or regenerate itself. Loose skin is more likely to crease and fold, thus forming fine lines and wrinkles. While there is nothing you can do to stop the natural skin aging process, there are things you can do to delay it.
Also, certain environmental and lifestyle factors can accelerate and aggravate this process, leading to premature signs of aging. These risk factors include negligent skin care, poor diet, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and excessive exposure to solar irradiation and airborne pollutants that unleash free radical damage within the skin.
Free radical damage shows itself as the development and accentuation of premature signs of aging, which include sagging skin, wrinkling, fine lines, dull and discolored skin, and tired-looking eyes.
How tomatoes help
The factors described above increase what is known as oxidative stress in the body. They generate more and more free radicals in the body that wreak havoc on the skin tissue down to its very genetic structure.
Free radicals destroy the important fats (lipid peroxidation) in the skin, making it less flexible or elastic. Not just that, these unstable molecules can destroy your skin’s DNA over time if left unchecked. Such genetic mutations can even give rise to melanoma or skin cancer.
The polyphenols found in tomatoes (which include flavonoids and vitamins A and C) as well as carotenoids (such as astaxanthin and lycopene) are all powerful antioxidants that hunt and eliminate free radicals from your body to minimize oxidative stress in the skin cells (6) and thereby reduce the risk of premature aging. (7)
4. May lighten your skin tone
As discussed earlier, the color of your skin depends on the amount of melanin present in it. The more melanin, the darker the skin.
Specialized cells called melanocytes found deep within the skin are responsible for producing this pigment. Melanocytes can get anomalously stimulated by solar irradiation or some medical condition, resulting in the overproduction of melanin.
If the excess melanin is produced uniformly, the entire affected skin gets darker. This is how tanning occurs when your bare skin is exposed to solar or artificial radiation (tanning beds) such that all the melanocytes in the targeted area are overactivated and secrete more melanin.
However, if the melanocytes in sporadic parts of the skin are stimulated, the excess melanin will concentrate in those areas to give rise to age spots, solar lentigines, and uneven skin tone.
How tomatoes help
The phenolic compounds in tomatoes, such as lycopene and beta carotene, have been studied for their antityrosinase activity. Tyrosinase enzyme converts premature melanin into active melanin.
It has been shown that the extracts of tomatoes (particularly that of ethyl acetate) are very good at blocking the activity of this enzyme, almost as effectively as kojic acid, which is used as a clinical treatment for hyperpigmentation. (8)(9)
Red tomatoes contain a greater percentage of lycopene, beta-carotene, and other phenolic compounds than the yellow ones.
Note: Tomato juice can be used as a natural skin toner that can lighten mild tanning or hyperpigmentation and even out your overall complexion. However, simply rubbing tomatoes on your hyperpigmented skin will not be very effective, especially if the condition is severe. In fact, it may cause more darkening in sensitive skin types due to inflammation and irritation. You must consult a dermatologist for your hyperpigmentation.
5. May clear mild skin and scalp infections
Your skin is the most exposed part of the body, so it naturally collects a lot of dirt and pollutants on a daily basis. Plus, it keeps shedding dead skin cells, which sometimes accumulate on the surface. Add to this, the excess sebum that oozes out of the skin pores and forms a greasy layer over the skin.
If you are negligent about your skin hygiene, these impurities can settle inside the skin pores and clog them. Clogged pores don’t allow your skin to breathe properly, which makes it look dull and lifeless.
The combination of dirt, skin debris, and sebum inside your pores provides fodder to the microbes that naturally live on the skin and trigger their overgrowth. In time, your pores will be colonized by these fungi or bacteria and take the form of a skin infection.
Case in point, acne, which is one of the most common bacterial skin infections that is often triggered by clogged skin pores. Other common skin-dwelling microbes that can grow rapidly to induce skin infections include candida (fungi) and Staphylococcus aureus (bacteria).
How tomatoes help
Tomatoes contain several compounds that act as antimicrobial agents such as salicylates, which can aid in reducing acne blemishes. Lycopene, a star compound, has been shown to reduce mycotoxins (toxins released by fungi) and bacterial toxins within the body. (10)
A relatively old study suggested that the oil extracted from tomato pulp exhibits wide-spectrum antibacterial effects and fungicidal effects against common candida fungi. Some bacteria that it targets include Escherichia coli, streptococcus, and Staphylococcus aureus. (11)
It has also been noted that the leaves of the tomato fruit exert stronger antibacterial activity than the fruit itself. (12)
Some Anecdotal Benefits of Tomatoes
The following beauty benefits of tomatoes carry a lot of anecdotal support but are yet to be verified through proper scientific scrutiny. These remedies have been used traditionally for a long time and have delivered positive results for a significant number of general users with little to no side effects.
So, while there is no harm in trying them, they may not always work for everyone.
- The salicylates and ascorbic acid found in tomato juice give it mild acidic properties that can help loosen the dead cells and other impurities accumulated on your skin so that they become easier to remove. Thus, tomato juice works as a gentle exfoliating agent that deep cleans your skin and facilitates the shedding of the damaged upper layer to allow fresh new skin to take its place.
- Topical application of tomatoes can help brighten the skin as the fruit contains glutathione, which is a skin-whitening agent. This property may well be utilized in the treatment of dark circles.
- Topical use of tomatoes can curb sebum production and shrink your pores, making it a godsend for oily-skinned people.
- Tomato juice is considered deeply hydrating for the skin when used topically, probably due to its rich potassium content. Thus, regular application of tomato juice can reduce skin dryness and flaking, giving your skin a smooth, supple finish.
- The high vitamin C content of tomatoes may promote collagen production and facilitate wound and scar healing.
- Tomato juice can work as a natural conditioner for dry and dull hair.
How to Use Tomatoes for Their Skin and Hair Benefits
There are broadly three ways in which you can use tomatoes to improve your skin and hair quality.
1. Add them to your diet
Research suggests that the best way to reap the hair and skin benefits of tomatoes is through oral intake, either as part of an overall healthy diet or in the form of supplements. Most of the studies done on this topic reported positive results when the subjects consumed the recommended dosage of tomato or tomato extracts.
Some people make the mistake of overconsuming a nutritious food in the hopes to gain more benefits, but this is mostly useless and can even result in adverse outcomes. Excessive intake of tomatoes does not mean that you will get more of the star compound lycopene, since its absorption into your body is not dependent on its dose but on your unique biology. (1)
It is also suggested that eating tomatoes with healthy fats can help enhance the absorption of the fruit’s carotenoid content into the blood. One easy way to do this is by adding avocados to your tomato salads and using a full-fat dressing on top. (1)
Strive to meet your recommended tomato intake through your regular diet. If you fail to do, you may ask your doctor to put you on a tomato supplement if suitable.
2. Use them in your DIY hair or skin masks
Disclaimer: Always conduct a patch test before trying any new topical remedy to make sure you are not allergic or sensitive to any of its ingredients. The same rule applies here.
Try these easy-to-make hair and skin masks that utilize the healing properties of tomatoes along with other useful ingredients:
Tomato rub for oily or infected skin
- Slice a tomato in half and gently rub each half on the affected skin.
- You can also pour 1–2 drops of tea tree oil or neem oil on the tomato to treat skin infections, both of which are potent antimicrobial agents.
- Leave the liquid residue on your skin for at least 15 minutes so that it gets properly absorbed.
- Wash the treated skin with cool water.
Tomato and sugar face scrub
- Squeeze the diluted juice from one tomato in a clean bowl.
- Put some granulated sugar in the liquid, and lightly stir the ingredients together, but not too much or the sugar will dissolve.
- Use this mixture to gently scrub your face once or twice a week.
- Pour 3 tablespoons of tomato juice and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into a clean bowl.
- Mix in 2 tablespoons of heavy cream to form a thick paste.
- Apply this paste all over your face and neck for 15 minutes.
- Rinse it off with cool water.
- Put 1 tablespoon each of tomato pulp and yogurt in a bowl.
- Add ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder, and mix all the ingredients to form a thick paste.
- Apply this mixture all over your face and neck.
- Let it dry for about 15 minutes before washing it off with cool water.
Tomato suntan fix
- Mix 2 tablespoons of tomato juice with 4 tablespoons of buttermilk in a bowl.
- Apply the mixture to your tanned skin for at least half an hour before rinsing it off.
- Use this remedy once a day for several weeks to see visible results.
- Mix tomato pulp with mashed avocado to make a smooth paste.
- Gently massage this mixture all over your face and neck for a few minutes in circular, upward motions.
- Once you are done, wash your skin with a mild cleanser.
Dark circle fix
- Mix freshly extracted aloe vera gel and tomato juice in a bowl to form a paste.
- Gently apply this paste to the dark, puffy skin under your eyes, but you can use it on your whole face as well.
- Let your skin soak in the mixture for 10–15 minutes.
- Wash your face with cold water.
Tomato hair conditioner
- Put two ripe tomatoes in a mixer, and blend them to a thick paste.
- Pour in 2 tablespoons of raw organic honey or medical-grade honey.
- Lightly mix both the ingredients until they form a smooth, uniform consistency. Don’t mix them too much or too vigorously to retain the thickness of the paste.
- Apply the mixture all over your hair and then put on a shower cap to avoid dripping.
- Let it sit for about half an hour before rinsing it off with a mild shampoo and plain water.
Use tomato-based skin and hair products in your beauty regimen
Tomato extracts and their chemical constituents, such as lycopene, are used as the main active ingredient in a whole range of cosmetic products that are easily available on the market. Some of the popular ones include:
- Tomato leaf antioxidant creams or serums
- Tomato skin-firming cream with lycopene and vitamin C
- Tomato mud mask with clay and activated charcoal
- Tomato-infused skin cleansers and toners
- Tomato- and algae extract-based face oil
- Tomato-infused eye oil
- Tomato leaf sleeping creams or gels
- Tomato-infused lip balms
- Hair conditioners with tomato extracts and growth peptides
Possible Side Effects: Need for a Patch Test
Tomatoes can be very useful but they might not suit everyone. Their topical use can irritate sensitive skin due to their acidic content.
In such cases, you can dilute the tomato juice with water before applying it to your skin or hair. If that doesn’t work, simply stick to eating tomatoes to derive their nutritional benefits. However, those who are allergic to tomatoes will develop adverse side effects after both oral and topical use.
In both these scenarios of sensitive skin and tomato allergies, the adverse skin reaction usually occurs in the form of rashes, redness, or itching. This is why you must patch test tomato remedies on a small area of skin before using them.
Tomatoes are one of the most beneficial fruits to mankind as they are full of different kinds of nutrients and non-nutrients such as vitamin A, ascorbic acid, potassium, lycopene, phytoene, beta-carotene, and folate that have a wide range of health-promoting effects.
Non-nutritive tomato compounds such as carotenoids and polyphenols protect you from photodamage, reduce hyperpigmentation, and keep infections at bay. So, it does not come as a surprise that several skin care and hair care products contain tomato as one of their active ingredients (in some cases, as their primary one).
But you need not rely on these cosmetics alone, especially when there are cheaper ways to derive the beauty benefits of tomato. In fact, nothing works better in this regard than adding tomatoes to your daily diet. You can derive the nourishing goodness of tomatoes by consuming them raw or cooked.
However, bear in mind that a single ingredient cannot improve your skin or hair condition all by itself, no matter how nutritious it may be. What you need to do is add this healthy food to a wholesome, well-balanced diet that meets all your nutrient needs.
Plus, you can try some popular DIY masks made with tomatoes and other beneficial ingredients to nourish and pamper your hair and skin. But for any remedy to work, you must use it consistently and as part of a proper skin care or hair care routine.