You may want to pause before gulping down that pumpkin spice latte. While everyone from Starbucks to Oreo wants you craving all pumpkin everything, there’s actually a healthy way to utilize the seasonal orange squash—the real stuff, not the sugar-high inducing, cinnamon spiked puree in a can.
You may have noticed pumpkin face masks and cranberry hair treatments flooding the beauty aisles, and while some are gimmicks capitalizing on your fall nostalgia, dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum says there are a few fall foods that can truly help your hair and skin when applied topically.
The best part of the fibrous gourds is actually pumpkin seed oil. It’s full of vitamin E, zinc, omega 3- and 6- fatty acids, as well as antioxidants. “Pumpkin seed oil has tremendous benefits on the skin: it retains moisture, fights free radicals, and helps you maintain a youthful appearance,” says Nussbaum. It can also improve your skin tone, and fight against acne and aging.
When ingested, the oil has some remarkable properties: it actually can increase hair growth and strength—Nussbaum says this is because it inhibits 5-alpha reductase enzyme, which has been shown to slow and stop hair growth by producing DHT from testosterone. If you’re looking for a pumpkin seed oil boost year round, she suggests Aviva Advance Hair Nutrition, a supplement that strengthens hair, hydrates your scalp, and makes hair extra shiny.
Squash has beta-carotene that gets converted into vitamin A within the body. Vitamin A’s a powerful antioxidant your body needs to maintain the skin’s proper health and integrity; it also protects against the damaging effects of sun exposure and dehydration. “Squash also contains a lot of vitamin C, which fights free radicals within the body, thus preventing signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation,” says Nussbaum.
“Green Apples are rich in antioxidants which help in cell rejuvenation,” says Nussbaum. The antioxidants and fibers from green apple will yield youthful, elastic, smooth skin. Thanks to their dense vitamin content, these tasty fruits can also brighten your complexion. (Bonus: their juice has been known to eliminate dandruff when massaged into the scalp.)
“Figs are rich in important nutrients like Vitamin B, C, potassium and minerals like calcium and magnesium, which are essential for boosting and rejuvenating the skin’s health,” says Nussbaum. The high omega 3 fatty acids in figs can keep the skin moisturized, while their juice can be applied to your face for 15 minutes as a quick treatment against acne and pimples. You’ll also find fig extract in conditioners since it helps detangle and moisturize your hair. Fig oil can be added to dry or course hair to make it silky and shiny.
Cranberries can prevent and treat premature aging and acne thanks to their antiseptic antioxidant properties. Try it as a toner on oily skin. Since it has those antiseptic and antifungal properties, cranberry juice can treat dandruff, psoriasis, and alopecia. Regular consumption of cranberry juice can stimulate hair growth as well.
“Pomegranate seed oil is a great natural DIY hair treatment due its high content of punicic acid which helps to revitalize and strengthen hair and make it strong and healthy,” says Nussbaum. “The high antioxidant and vitamin content of this oil help to increase the blood circulation in the scalp, strengthen blood vessels, and thereby promote healthy hair growth.” Additionally, it helps reduce flakiness, itchiness of the scalp, dandruff, hair shedding, and dullness.