It's a powerful force against acne *and* aging.

By By Melanie Rud Chadwick
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Photo: Background: Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Getty Images

If you haven't yet seen a skin-care product touting elderberry, you will soon. Already popping up in all kinds of beauty products, it's poised to become majorly buzz-worthy. But is it just that-only buzz? Or are the beauty benefits of this berry legit? Here's what you need to know.

What is elderberry?

"Elderberry is a medicinal plant that's been used by everyone from Ancient Egyptians to Europeans to Native Americans," says Annie Chiu, M.D., a cosmetic and general dermatologist in Redondo Beach, CA. "Historically, the plant has been used for everything from treating pain to decreasing inflammation and swelling. These days, it's most often taken as a supplement to combat a cold or the flu," says Dr. Chiu, who notes that it stimulates the immune system. You've probably seen it in a lozenge or cough syrup, too. (And yes, in case you were wondering, the plant does produce actual berries; they're dark purple-ish.)

What can it do for your skin?

While historically it may have been used internally, there's a good reason why it's now so popular in topical treatments. "Elderberry's anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antiviral properties make it a great acne-fighter," explains Dr. Chiu. (Related: 7 Surprising Acne Facts That Can Help Clear Your Skin for Good)

Additionally, like many of the fruits used in skin care, elderberry is a treasure trove of antioxidants, specifically flavonoids and anthocyanins (the compounds that give the berries their distinct dark color). These deliver powerful protection from those oh so damaging free radicals that are formed when we're exposed to environmental factors such as sun and pollution that can wreak havoc on your skin. (It's worth noting that, at least at this point, most of the skin-care products out there that contain elderberry use it for this very reason.)

But it doesn't stop there: Elderberry is also rich in vitamin A, which can help fade age spots, says Dr. Chiu, as well as vitamins C and E, both skin-care powerhouses in their own right. (Related: Top Dermatologists Share Their Holy Grail Skin-Care Products)

So, should I use it?

In a word, probably. While they're best when it comes to fighting acne, anyone and everyone can benefit from that hefty dose of antioxidants, no matter your skin type or particular complexion concerns. Still, as with any skin-care ingredient, it does ultimately come down to the final formulation of any specific product and what other ingredients are involved when talking about efficacy, points out Dr. Chiu.

As far as who should steer clear, some people can have a sensitivity to it, but that holds true for pretty much any ingredient. Ingesting it is another story; because it affects the immune system, people with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus should check with their doctor before taking it, cautions Dr. Chiu, who adds that pregnant or breastfeeding women should also steer clear. (Related: Meet Bakuchiol, the New "It" Anti-Aging Skin-Care Ingredient)

Elderberry Beauty Products You'll Want to Try

Pretty much anything and everything, from creams to cleansers. A few to try:

1. Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream ($52, sephora.com) pairs hydrating hyaluronic acid with antioxidant-rich elderberry in a lightweight and protective moisturizer.

2. In the Joanna Vargas Rescue Serum ($150, dermstore.com), elderberry extract is the star of the show for, once again, its powerful antioxidant abilities and its ability to help detoxify skin.

3. The Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm ($64, dermstore.com) uses elderberry oil as part of its oil base, making for a nourishing cleanser that gently yet effectively removes dirt, oil, and makeup without stripping skin.

4. Elderberry extract is also popular in many ingestible beauty boosters, like the Kora Organics Noni Glow Skinfood Dietary Supplement Powder ($55, sephora.com). Credit its ability to help promote gut health, which always equals healthier, better-looking skin. "When you have a healthy gut, you're better able to eliminate the toxins and free radicals that can damage skin and cause early signs of aging," explains Dr. Chiu.

Comments (1)

Anonymous
February 18, 2019
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