Researchers are just beginning to tap into how valuable bilberry extract for skincare really is. While this fruit has been used for decades to promote eye health—including by British fighter pilots during World War II!—we’ve only just started to explore bilberry extract benefits for skin. Now, this up-and-coming ingredient has started making an appearance in some advanced skincare products.
What is a bilberry plant?
The bilberry plant, also called “whortleberry” or “European blueberry,” is a shrub that grows wild in northern and central Europe. Its fruit bears a striking resemblance to its close relative the blueberry, but it has a tarter, brighter flavor, and its juices are much darker and more intense—something you’ll notice if you eat them fresh, since they’re also much more likely to stain your hands and tea towels.
Bilberry extract is teeming with antioxidants
While its bright pigmentation may make the bilberry less welcome in your kitchen, that’s exactly why it should earn a spot in your skincare cabinet: the bilberry is one of the most potent natural sources of anthocyanins, which give the bilberry its deep, rich pigment—and its sky-high antioxidant content.
“Antioxidants can help neutralize free radical damage, brighten hyperpigmentation, and support healthy collagen production,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “We know that in preventing free radical damage, antioxidants allow the skin to function optimally, aiding in the production of both collagen and elastic fibers.”
Basically, one great tool for fighting free radicals is an ultra-concentrated source of antioxidants like bilberry extract. Skin benefits include everything from boosting collagen production to helping reduce the negative effects of sun damage. Using bilberry extract for skin can harness these antioxidants to slow the appearance of aging.
They’re jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, and phenolic acids
Bilberry extract is positively packed with some of the most important vitamins and minerals in skincare: Vitamins C and E, as well as minerals like magnesium and zinc.
“Vitamins C and E are powerful antioxidants with well-documented skin benefits, including protection against UV rays, and they can also reduce abnormal pigmentation,” says Dr. Zeichner.
Bilberry extract for skincare can also mobilize those minerals in order to calm and soothe irritable skin conditions and reduce inflammation. “Zinc is an anti-inflammatory agent that has been shown to be beneficial in treating acne,” Dr. Zeichner says. Magnesium is also amazing at helping repair your skin barrier, reduce inflammation, and improve skin hydration.
Additional bilberry extract skin benefits are due to the presence of phenolic acids, which are known to reduce sunspots and other skin damage caused by UV rays. The presence of these phenolic acids suggests that while using bilberry extract for skin, you can expect it to alleviate redness and discoloration.
What is the best way to use bilberry extract for skin?
Every doctor will tell you that the best way to get healthy skin (and a healthy body overall) is to drink plenty of water, eat a well-balanced diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables, and get a good amount of exercise. However, if you want to target specific skin concerns, you’ll need to develop a skincare routine, too—and you can’t just take a pill for that.
“Most experts agree that when it comes to skin benefits, topical application is superior to oral supplements,” Dr. Zeichner says. This delivers high concentrations of the active ingredient directly to the skin itself.”
One easy way to incorporate more great actives like bilberry extract: using a high-quality cleanser. After all, no matter how low-key you want your skincare routine to be, everyone has to wash their face, right?