We’re the first to admit it: apples aren’t exactly a new, cool-sounding ingredient. Compared to hot new food trends like goji berries and turmeric lattes, apples might seem like they don’t have a lot to offer, but it turns out that this fruit is bursting with a ton of surprising health benefits. Aside from the fact that they’ve been shown in medical studies to actually help keep the doctor away (they’re packed with fiber, and can lower “bad” cholesterol), it turns out that apples are an underappreciated superfood that can also take your skincare routine to the next level. We spoke with Joshua Zeichner, MD, Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York to find out more about how apples—and specifically, the extract of the pyrus malus apple—can help you achieve healthier skin.
What is “Pyrus Malus,” exactly?
Apples have a long and storied history, appearing in some of the world’s oldest literature, although they didn’t always look (or taste!) the way they do now. Initially, they were small and sour, resembling tiny crab apples. In the 7th century, there were only seven known varieties of cultivated apples, but by the 19th century there were over 600. Today, we cultivate more than 10,000 varieties of apples around the world, although most of us are only familiar with American fan favorites like Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, and Granny Smith. Pyrus Malus is the root of all of these—it’s simply the scientific name for this large family of domestic apple.
What is Pyrus Malus extract used for?
Apples are surprisingly versatile, and not just in the kitchen, where they play well in both sweet and savory dishes: Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, known as the father of medicine, is thought to have been the first to use apple cider vinegar for healing wounds and coughs way back in 400 B.C.E.
All the different parts of the Pyrus Malus plant (including the seed and root) are still used in medicine today, treating ailments ranging from helping lower the risk of asthma to potentially helping prevent cancer. And in the field of skin care, apple fruit extract’s anti-aging effects have made it a subject.
Pyrus Malus extract and skincare
Apples are packed with a bunch of stuff that’s great for your skin: powerful phytochemicals, quercetin, minerals, enzymes, fruit acids, amino acids, tannins, and a variety of vitamins, all of which work in their own ways to protect the health and vibrancy of your skin.
One of the benefits of pyrus malus apple fruit extract is the wealth of vitamins: although oranges tend to get all the credit, apples are also rich in Vitamin C, which has been shown in studies to help brighten skin and even out tone. Apples are also a great source of vitamin B6, which helps protect against sun damage.
Fight off free radicals with apples
The pyrus malus apple is also a rich source of one of the best skin-boosting ingredients out there: polyphenolic antioxidants, which are famous for their ability to fight skin-damaging free radicals.
“Environmental exposures like pollution and UV light from the sun lead to the development of harmful free radicals,” Zeichner says. “Free radicals damage collagen in the skin, leading to fine lines and wrinkles, and are harmful to our skin cells DNA, contributing to development of skin cancers.”
Air pollution, as Zeichner mentions, is problematic for your skin: it leads to oxidative stress, which can contribute to premature aging, acne, and eczema. And free radicals from UV light can cause dark spots—aka “age spots” or “liver spots”—which occur when unprotected skin is repeatedly exposed to sun damage. Both UVA and UVB light speed up the production of melanin, the natural pigment which gives skin its color, although UVB is more responsible for burning and serious skin damage. When skin has been overexposed to light, the melanin can clump together, creating these irregular shaped dark spots. Free radicals can also damage your skin’s collagen, leading to fine lines and wrinkles, and can contribute to skin cancer. Fortunately, we have antioxidants to help combat them.
“Think of antioxidants like fire extinguishers that put out free radical damage,” Zeichner says. “Polyphenol antioxidants can exert several benefits on the skin. They can lighten dark spots and even skin tone, and encourage the production of healthy collagen.”
While these antioxidants are famously found in red wine, dark chocolate, and green tea, apples also have very strong antioxidant activity. And it’s not just snacking on antioxidant-rich foods that helps, either—by incorporating more antioxidants into your skincare routine, you can fight free radicals, too. When you choose skincare products with antioxidant-laden ingredients, you can help your skin reverse uneven pigmentation and sun-induced wrinkles. There are several ways to incorporate antioxidant-rich pyrus malus extract into your daily routine, including gentle cleansers and oil-free moisturizers.