When we talk about “superfoods“, we typically mention unusual-sounding items like chia seeds, matcha powder, and green algae. But some of the most beneficial foods you can eat–and use in your beauty routine—are not quite as glamorous: We’re talking about good old citrus fruits.
From grapefuit to lemons, clementines to oranges, citrus does your body and face good. Here are seven ways you can use these pulpy fruits to your benefit, according to the experts.
1. To fight infection.
Grapefruit seed extract can be used to fight infections and can rid the body of unhealthy bacteria, according to holistic nutritionist Sally Pansing Kravich (who’s worked with Kerry Washington).
Grapefruit—and citrus in general—can also promote kidney health, adds dermatologist Michael Lin, who’s based in California. “Citrus fruits are packed with folic acid, a type of vitamin B that can aid in preventing kidney disease and birth defects among pregnant women,” he explains. “Good kidney health helps the body filter blood, remove waste and regulate the balance of electrolytes. Maintaining balanced levels of electrolytes helps prevent dehydration and dry, dull skin.”
2. To get rid of cellulite.
Yep, that’s what the experts say! Certified aromatherapist Gina Kamburowski, founder of GoodLivingIsGlam.com, says that grapefruit especially, which has a super high concentration of vitamin C, stimulates collagen production and helps skin retain elasticity.
Kravich and Kim Laudati, of Kim Laudati Skin Care & Laser in Manhattan, agree that grapefruit also helps smooth those annoying cellulite bumps as well. Laudati suggests cutting off the ends of a grapefruit (so a round “end” is exposed) and rubbing it in tight circular motions using pressure over your cellulite pre-shower—this will drive in natural vitamin C and help to improve the appearance of your skin. “If you sleep in pajamas, you can rub a grapefruit in tight circular motions across cellulite post-shower, too,” she says. “Wipe the area(s) with a damp cloth in the morning and apply a natural vitamin C body cream.” (ProDerma Light has a great skin brightening cream with 25% vitamin C.)
3. To improve your immune system and digestion.
Skincare expert Adrienne Shostak recommends starting your day with hot lemon water rather than coffee or tea. “Lemons are rich in vitamin C and potassium,” she says. “Vitamin C is an excellent fighter against colds and potassium stimulates brain and nerve functions, while regulating the blood pressure. Lemons also aid in digestion and clean toxins from the blood, which keeps the skin clean.” She suggests drinking the juice of half a lemon with hot water, adding a bit of honey or turmeric (another potent antioxidant) first thing when you wake up. Then, wait 30 minutes before eating (if you can!) to maximize the benefits. (You’ll want to drink the concoction fairly quickly though, says wellness expert Cassie Sobelton, as lemon water can be harmful to your teeth’s enamel if it sits there for too long.)
Clementines are another great digestion aid, Kamburowski says. “Although they’re tart and acidic, they also contain essential alkaline minerals that are key to helping balance the body after digestion,” she explains. “Add them to your daily juice or smoothie, or simply eating them piece-by-piece as an energy-boosting afternoon snack.
4. To jumpstart your metabolism.
It might sound crazy but citrus fruits can actually raise your metabolic rate while resting, says Jolie Martin, Laser Medical Esthetician and skincare expert at NYC’s SKINNEY Medspa. “The phytonutrient load found in citrus fruits can burn additional calories making them an ideal addition to your fitness…or resting plan,” she explains.
According to Beth Shaw, author of YogaLean, grapefruit is especially great for metabolism boosting: it’s high in enzymes, which burn fat, and has a high water content as well, keeping you hydrated.
5. To brighten your skin.
“If you are looking to achieve clear, glowing and blemish-free skin, make sure citrus fruits such as lemons, limes or grapefruits are part of your daily diet and beauty routine,” says Dr. Roshini Raj, gastroenterologist and founder of TULA skincare. “Citrus fruits are a rich natural source of vitamin C, which helps destroy free radicals in your body while providing a radiant glow to your skin and rejuvenating skin from the inside.”
If you have sun spots or uneven skin tone, citrus can help with those, too. “The retinol antioxidant in grapefruit helps treat this condition, renewing damaged skin,” says Kamburowski. “The potassium in grapefruit helps to smooth wrinkles and age spots and provides a protective shield against UV rays, while amino acids makes the skin firm and soft.” (Check out Grown Alchemist Polishing Facial Exfoliant: Pink Grapefruit & Glucomannan Extract to reap the benefits of this superfood on your skin.)
6. To purify.
Citrus essential oils provide exceptional cleansing benefits to the skin as well as some anti-inflammatory ones, which make them extremely beneficial for healing blemishes or even razor cuts, says Julia Teren of Thesis Beauty.
These oils not only clean, though, they can also deodorize. “Oils like lime and lemon enjoy popularity in deodorants as they also help inhibit odor-producing bacteria,” she explains. “They do a great job deodorizing armpits, feet and hands and controlling sebum production on an over-reactive scalp.” (Kind of gross…but also pretty awesome.)
7. To lift your spirits.
Try citrus as mood-boosting aromatherapy, Teren suggests. “Citrus oils such as bergamot, petitgrain, mandarin and grapefruit are incredibly aromatic and uplifting when used in mists, diffusers, and natural candles,” she says. “They help relieve signs of stress and fatigue, promote relaxation and elevated mood.” For a spa-like unwinding experience, soak in your bathtub with Thesis Beauty’s Dead Sea Bath Salt Citrus Grove, which will benefit your senses and your skin.