It’s ‘Apple Month’ – so a truly appropriate month to look at the benefits of a fruit which is currently abundant, after one of the best harvests in years. Of course, ever since Eve offered Adam that first apple in the Garden of Eden, this simple fruit has been known as a symbol of temptation and fascination – but fresh apples also have a vital role to play in daily beauty. We are brought up to believe that ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ – but now, evidence is emerging that it can keep the dermatologist and trichologist at bay, too. Apple juice contains malic acid and amylase – an exfoliating enzyme, both of which help to clean hair, skin and scalp.
Applied to skin, apple has a skin-brightening effect – putting back the glow that tiredness or pollution takes out. Here’s the science bit (easily skipped if you just don’t give a damn!): the natural malic acid in apples plays a vital role in the complex process whereby cells access adenosine triphosphate (ATP – essentially, the body’s energy). Basically, it helps cells ‘breathe’ – and at the same time, malic acid works at the very base of the stratum corneum, dissolving the ‘cement’ that holds dead skin cells together. This increases cell turnover, resulting in skin that’s more flexible, smooth and more even, in tone. What’s more, apple is highly antiseptic, protecting skin from infection and killing bacteria…
No time to make the recipes below? Pressed apple juice makes a great skin toner, applied with a cotton pad. And Philip B. – hairdresser-to-the-stars (he’s known to celebrities as ‘the King of Shiny Hair’), uses this treatment on flake-prone clients in L.A. and London. ‘Simply take one cup of apple juice, two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and one cup of water, combine the rinse ingredients in a cup and massage the juice treatment through the hair, scalp and follicles,’ recommends Philip. ‘It’s great for combating the effects of dandruff. Apple juice itself soaks into the hair and scalp, giving intensive exfoliation and relief to dry flakiness. Use the juice and rinse every other day for a week after shampooing and conditioning. It remains on the hair, and should provide significant relief after two or three uses,’ continues Philip. ‘After the first week, you should only have to use it once a week…’
But applying apples – and apple-derived beauty products – to the hair and/or skin is only half the story. An apple a day does ‘double-duty’, keeping the body functioning healthily. Studies from the Mayo Clinic, Cornell University and the US’s National Cancer Institute have found that apple inhibit the reproduction of colon cancer cells, reduce the risk of lung cancer and prevent the growth of prostate cancer cells.
And there’s more: the fibre and phytonutrients in apples are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes and asthma. (Meanwhile, a ‘hot’ diet sweeping the US involves eating an apple half-an-hour before mealtimes – which not only fills you up but seems to have an effect at kickstarting the metabolism, so fat burns faster.) Just don’t peel your apples, if you want to enjoy their maximum goodness: apple skin contains 4 milligrams of quercetin, a potent antioxidant compound, as well as other antioxidants like vitamin C. (What’s more, apples are packed with iron and potassium.) The bonus? Apple’s naturally breath-freshening, when used as a mouth rinse.
But somehow, Eve probably knew that…
APPLE AND CRESS ANTI-ACNE MASK
This recipe comes from the Athens-based creators of the Korres skincare brand.
1 chopped (not peeled) apple
3 tablespoons cress
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon mint leaves
2 egg whites
In a blender, mix all ingredients together on medium speed for 45 seconds, or until completely mixed. Apply to face and leave on for 15-20 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water and complete mask removal with cold water. Use 3 times a week. Makes 1 cup. Shelf-life: cover and refrigerate immediately; discard after 5 days.
APPLE GRANOLA FACE MASK
Half a chopped fresh apple (any variety)
2 tablespoons colloidal oatmeal (finely ground particles) available at natural food stores
1 tablespoon natural yoghurt
Milk, to adjust thickness
Blend the chopped apple in a blender and then slowly add the remaining ingredients until the consistency is a thick paste. If too runny (it depends on the juiciness of the apples), add a little more oatmeal. If too thick, add a little milk. Apply one or two tablespoons of the mixture to your face, avoiding the eye area, and leave on for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse off with lukewarm water. The extra mask can be stored in a container in the fridge for between three to five days.
If you feel a pimple coming on, pour boiling water over a thin slice of apple and wait a few minutes till the apple’s soft. Remove from the water and wait until it’s just-warm, then place on the pimple as a poultice. Leave in place for 20 minutes, then peel off and swipe skin lightly with a moistened cotton wool pad.