Kale Benefits for Skin That'll Convince You to Chug a Green Juice

There's a reason you've been seeing kale skin-care products popping up.

Bowl of Kale salad with onions and lemon vinaigrette dressing
Photo: Cameron Whitman / Stocksy

When it comes to leafy greens, kale's pretty much solidified itself as king — and for good reason. The veggie boasts a bounty of good-for-you nutrients and plenty of health benefits (reduced risk of heart disease! stronger eyes!) to boot. But the produce's perks don't stop there: Turns out, kale can also promote healthy skin.

Now, from moisturizer made with mushrooms to pineapple-packed sunscreen, your medicine cabinet might already be starting to look like your kitchen. But you don't necessarily have to stock up on even more skin-care products to reap the skin benefits of kale: Simply adding the veggie to your diet should do the trick, too.

Ahead, experts break down all the skin benefits of kale and share how to incorporate the leafy green into your routine.

Is Kale Good for Your Skin?

The answer: It sure can be. The leafy green is rich in antioxidants and vitamins A, B, C, and K, which are responsible for a variety of kale's benefits for skin, explains Michelle Henry, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin & Aesthetic Surgery of Manhattan.

For starters, "kale is great for skin hyperpigmentation and reducing the appearance of dark circles" thanks to vitamins C and K, says Dr. Henry. Vitamin K is essential for proper blood clotting in the body, which it's thought to help with discoloration under your peepers. Dark circles can be caused by the pooling of blood due to damaged or dilated blood vessels under the eyes — something that vitamin K might (keyword!) be able to alleviate with its ability to help with clotting, according to Byrdie. While a 2015 study found that vitamin K (along with caffeine) improved the appearance of dark circles, it's unclear which ingredient really played a role in these results — plus, more research is needed to truly determine vitamin K's effects on the skin.

Now onto vitamin C: As a potent antioxidant, vitamin C protects against free radical damage, explains Robert Finney, M.D., a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Entière Dermatology. ICYDK, free radicals form when your skin is exposed to environmental aggressors, such as UV light, x-rays, or air pollution. Over time, exposure to free radicals can cause dark spots and premature signs of aging. In addition to preventing such hyperpigmentation, vitamin C can also fade any existing dark spots by inhibiting an enzyme involved in the production of melanin (a pigment), Robyn Gmyrek, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at UnionDerm in New York, previously told Shape.

Another one of kale's benefits for skin? The leafy green can also keep skin supple and plump (think: looking and feeling youthful). "Kale [can] help promote new skin cell production" due to the veggie's supply of vitamins A and B, says Dr. Henry. Ontop of that, the vitamin C in kale can also aid in the skin's production of collagen, further helping to maintain firmness and bounce.

On top of all that, kale also plays nice with all skin types, so just about anyone can take advantage of the various kale skin benefits, says Dr. Finney. For example, people with mature skin might love the fact that it promotes collagen production, while those with dull skin might appreciate the veggie's brightening properties. Not to mention, every skin type can benefit from its ability to protect against free radicals. (Although, that's no excuse to skimp on sunscreen!)

How to Incorporate Kale Into Your Routine

You can add kale to your skin-care routine by eating the vegetable or applying kale-containing products topically, says Dr. Finney. "Eating healthy foods like kale that are rich in vitamins, nutrients, [and] antioxidants can help out your skin," he says. "There was a study that showed improvement in skin collagen and elastin after oral kale supplementation — both of which, when boosted, contribute to younger, healthier-looking skin." That said, topical skin-care products will likely offer better results, since the nutrients of kale are spread throughout the body when ingested as opposed to directly targeting the skin when applied topically, explains Dr. Finney.

As far as how much of the vegetable you need to eat to reap kale's benefits for skin? Consuming one or two servings (aka cups) of the leafy green per day is sufficient to support your skin, according to Dr. Henry. But keep in mind that eating too much kale (think: more than two servings) can potentially cause digestive issues (e.g. bloating, gas); that's because kale is fairly high in fiber, making it particularly difficult to digest, she adds.

"Along with indulging in kale smoothies and salads, applying kale face masks twice a week can bring positive results," says Dr. Henry. "[You can make] hydrating kale face masks at home by mixing honey, fresh lemon juice, and coconut milk with the leafy green."

If you're not into DIY skin care, there are plenty of products with kale already in their formulas, such as Cocokind Sea Kale Clay Face Mask. From cleansers (e.g. Youth to the People Antioxidant Cleanser) and serums (hello, Sweet Chef Kale + Vitamin B Serum Shot), there's no shortage of products on the market to try. As far as what to look for when shopping for skin-care products with kale, be sure to keep an eye out for other skin-care ingredients that target your concerns. The veggie's soothing and good-for-you properties allow it to go well with other ingredients.

It's worth noting that leave-on products are more likely to have an effect than those that you rinse off because they have more time to better penetrate and absorb into the skin, according to Dr. Finney. "[Short-contact personal care products] can be a positive for irritating ingredients, but for antioxidants and soothing ingredients, leave-on products are always going to be your best bet."

There aren't really side effects to applying kale topically other than potential allergies, says Dr. Finney. When adding a new skin-care product into your routine, though, make sure to do a patch test before slathering it everywhere to avoid potential irritation. (Quick refresher: A patch test involves applying the product to an inconspicuous area, such as the jawline or neck, to see if any reaction occurs.) And consider "adding one product at a time and giving your skin time to see how it adjusts," says Dr. Finney.

The bottom line? Whether you're inspired to try new kale salads or prefer to go the topical route, adding this nutrient-dense veggie to your skin-care routine has the potential to pay off.

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