Who isn’t always on the lookout for new, better, or natural ways to improve the elasticity and clarity of their skin? For a few years now, we’ve all been more and more obsessed with sipping our Acai smoothies or sprinkling it over overnight oats. So much so that the already pricey fruit has become highly coveted in skin and hair care products.

Although the buzz has calmed down now, it’s still a power-packed berry and perhaps unsurprisingly has a hefty price tag attached to it. The long, purple Acai is one of the original super foods. It’s known as an antioxidant powerhouse due to its amazing levels of antioxidants, higher than that of other known fruits.

A little bit about the fruit

You probably first encountered Acai when you saw it in weight loss ads. The Acai berry, often also just Acai is a tropical fruit that looks similar to a grape but is smaller and with less pulp. It has purple or green skin depending on the kind and maturity with yellow flesh.

Acai, photo by Eli Duke

The fruit contains a pit, so botanically, it’s not a berry. But since people describe its taste as like eating berries and dark chocolates in one, the term berry stuck. While the fruit looks like it could be the love child of a grape and a blueberry, it mostly contains the pit with not much flesh around it.

The Acai tree grows in only in the Amazon in South America. It grows to about 25 m and more. The height of the trees didn’t stop the Amazonian natives from harvesting the fruits and consume it as a dietary staple.

The name comes from the Tupian word ïwaca’i. Tupian is the language family spoken in South America. The word itself ïwaca’i means “fruit that cries or expels water” and it was adapted by the Portuguese to Acai, pronounced ah-sigh-ee.

Beauty from inside out

As an exotic sibling of the blueberry and cranberry, Acai also is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. But it has more to offer and comes with some health benefits that its siblings don’t have.

You know the saying “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food“, right? It’s attributed to Hippocrates. What you eat can be seen on your skin.

Your skin gets replaced around every 28 days. That is, a young and fresh skin cell takes about 28 days to travel from the depths of your skin to the surface where it replaces an old skin cell. This is an ongoing process fuelled by what you eat: vitamins, minerals, hydration, oxygen, antioxidants, and other nutrients. You need to feed your cells what they need to properly grow.

Remember when you first came across Acai in weight loss or detox programme ads? Research is still ongoing but what was discovered is that Acai may have a role in the prevention of a lot of today’s most prevalent health concerns.

It’s a rich source of antioxidants such as anthocyanins similar to what’s found in grapes or plum. It’s abundant in vitamin A, calcium, and fatty acids, especially oleic, palmitic, and linoleic acid. It also contains amino acids, the building blocks that make up a protein. These small building blocks are needed for almost all body functions. Think of cell growth, healing, digestion, metabolism and energy release, and tissue repair.

Why do you need antioxidants?

Every day, your skin goes through a battlefield. Your skin cells are continually fighting against environmental stressors like pollution, toxins, radiation, stress, and microbes. Your body purposely creates free radicals to neutralise harmful microbes. But, free radicals are also formed because you were exposed to the sun, cigarette smoke, or pollution.

And, it’s always the dose that makes the poison. However helpful the free radicals are in fighting harmful bacteria and viruses, too many of them can wreak havoc on our DNA, lipids, and protein, and ultimately trigger diseases.

Free radicals are highly unstable and reactive. To gain stability, they can trigger chain reactions that damage your skin cells. That’s where antioxidants can help. They neutralise these highly unstable and reactive free radicals and prevent an out of control rampage which causes a chain reaction, restoring your body to a healthy balance.

A study done it vitro – so take it with a grain of salt, suggests that Acai has higher levels of antioxidants than the classical super fruits such as blueberry or cranberry.

Do you know how Acai gets is nice purple hue? That’s thanks to the anthocyanins. These are water-soluble pigments and act as antioxidants. These pigments react to the PH level which also helps you gauge how mature a fruit is. In an unripe state, it’s more acidic and hence the colour is less dark, purple, or blue. The higher the PH levels, the less acidic the fruit is and the bluer the skin will become.

Why apply Acai to your skin?

Altogether, the various nutrients work together to improve your complexion.

Promotes cell turnover

As a good source of vitamin A, applying Acai to your skin stimulates your skin cells to turnover faster. Vitamin A is also an antioxidant. It promotes clear pores and can so help prevent zits. It’s often used in anti-ageing products because it stimulates collagen formation and so reduces fine lines.

Eases irritation

The antioxidants in Acai not only protect your body against free radicals, they also help reduce inflammation. Lowering inflammation allows your skin to repair itself. It can help ease irritated and red skin.

Helps repair your skin

Amino acids are absolutely essential in growth – growing new skin cells. Particularly important for speeding up collagen and elastin production, the structural skin proteins. Higher levels of both can be seen in firmer and tighter skin.

The fatty acids in Acai ensure that your skin cell membrane is healthy. They also replenish your skin’s natural oils and so keep your skin moisturised.

How to find Acai

As Acai has a short shelf life, it’s quite difficult, even nearly impossible to find it fresh outside the Amazon. This is the reason why you only find it in its processed form: Freeze-dried powder, puree, or already processed into a tablet supplement.

Remember how the Acai berry looks juicy but is almost entirely made up of the pit? A form of processing Acai is to make it into an oil. The oil is extracted from the seed of the Acai fruit. It’s rich in essential fatty acids, Omega 3, Omega 6, Omega 9, but doesn’t have anthocyanins (which are found in the skin).

Closing words

Acai berries are still highly coveted so that products formulated with Acai can eat into your pockets. Another option is to make your own DYI product that won’t make a hole in your pocket and you get to make something that caters to the needs of your skin.

I leave you with a mask that both lifts dark spots as well as acts as a photoshop filter and smooths out fine lines. You need

  • 1 tablespoon fresh avocado
  • 1 teaspoon Acai berry puree
  • 1 teaspoon yogurt

Mix all well until you get a smooth paste. Apply it to your face and if you want neck and chest are. Relax for 10 minutes then rinse off.

Acai Berry's Superpowers For Your Skin

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