ancho chile powder

Beauty may only be skin deep but don’t underestimate the importance of that top layer. 

Did you realize your skin is your largest organ? As such it has a tremendous responsibility; it protects you from the environment, helps regulate your internal temperature, and sends you signals if something isn’t going quite right inside your body.

We’re all familiar with the superfoods that help your health from the inside out. Since spices have many health benefits I was curious if there were any that were specific to the skin. Good news! Some of the spicy skin benefits include helping keep your skin healthy, clear, young-looking, and firm.


1. Ancho chile, aleppo chile, cayenne, paprika— in other words, the capsicums. These spices have characteristically rich, red and brown colors and are a source of vitamin A and C. In fact, two teaspoons of cayenne (or 3.52 grams) contain nearly 30 percent of your daily recommendation of vitamin A. Vitamins A and C are antioxidents which absorb free radicals that break down your skin’s collagen (collagen is what keeps your skin plump and firm).  Your skin’s ability to produce collagen begins to decline in your early twenties. Free radicals are produced by UV light, smoking and other pollutants. 

Research from 2007 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that vitamin C-rich foods may help prevent wrinkling and age-related dryness.

2. Turmeric. Turmeric’s health claims are long. This bright orange spice contains a substance called curcurmin that studies have shown to inhibit cancer cell growth and encourage cell suicide (which is what we want cancer cells to do). While none of the studies have assessed skin cancer specifically, the trending affect of turmeric is encouraging. You can read more details on the studies here. Turmeric also has anti-inflammatory agents which can be helpful in reducing the inflamation that goes along with acne.

3. Sesame Seeds. The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA have many health benefits. A 2009 study in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that these fatty acids may shield cell walls from free radical damage. EPAhas also been shown to preserve collagen. 

Fish are the primary source of omega-3 fatty acids but not the sole source. Some plant sources, like sesame seeds, also contain these essential fatty acids. The amount isn’t large but every bite helps! Learn more about the sources of Essential Fatty Acids from the McKinley Health Center.

Honorable Mention: Dark Chocolate

Trader Joe's 72% Dark Chocolate
I know dark chocolate isn’t a spice but it does contain caffeine. One study from the European Journal of Cancer Prevention found that those who drank a daily cup of coffee reduced their risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer by 10 percent.  Another study by the Journal of Investigative Dermatology showed that caffeine helps kill off human cells damaged by ultraviolet light.

A quick online search for “caffeine and skin cancer” will reveal a large body of research that points to caffeine as the protective ingredient.There isn’t as much caffeine in dark chocolate as a cup of coffee but any excuse to eat more chocolate is welcome.

The New Beauty Bar

You can double-duty your edible skin care regime by eating dark chocolate that’s infused with skin-beautifying spices.  The Red Fire Bar by Vosges from their line of exotic chocolate bars is my personal favorite. It’s a blend of Mexican ancho and chipotle chilies and Ceylon cinnamon with dark chocolate. They even offer them as minis so you can mix and match. Hooray! 

Finally, please check out Skinsight for an online treasure chest of all issues pertaining to the skin. Follow the link to their blog SkinMatters. You have access to information directly from a number of top-tier dermatologists and experts in the field of dermatology. It’s all free and a serious resource for health and preventative skin care.