I’ve tried my hand at numerous quinoa recipes in the past—the nutrient-rich grain (or seed, depending on who you ask) is perfect when used as a rice replacement, and I particularly enjoy preparing it as one would a standard rice bowl, with plenty of vegetables, a little bit of soy sauce, and a poached egg perched on top. (That last part is critical.)
But as for the unadorned (read: not drowned in soy sauce and egg yolk) version, quinoa has earned its status as a “superfood” in the health-conscious hive mind: It’s a great source of protein, dietary fiber, B vitamins, and amino acids, which are all good things for health. Logic, then, states that a food that’s so super for your diet has a pretty decent chance of being packed with beauty benefits, too.
Surprise (kind of)! Quinoa may have taken a backseat to the popularity of other buzzy foods (uh, kale) at first, but now it seems like we’re catching on, if a crop of new quinoa-infused skin and hair care products is any indication. Dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD, defers to a study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science last year, which proves—scientifically!—that the same nutrients that make quinoa a great addition to any kitchen make it a great topical ingredient, too.
To be more specific, Dr. Zeichner says, “Quinoa extract can help brighten the skin and slow skin aging, improving the appearance of crepe-y skin and fine lines.” It also inhibits the activity of matrix metalloproteinases—MMPs—that cause collagen breakdown, lightens sun spots by blocking the enzyme required to produce hyperpigmentation, and acts as an antioxidant to quell free radical-induced inflammation. Nice.
As far as your hair game goes, it’s the protein and amino acids in quinoa that make it such a win: Much like omega-rich fish oil and flaxseed, it’s exactly the thing your hair needs to stay strong, hydrated, and all-around healthy. Take these ten skin and hair products, all of which utilize quinoa as a key ingredient, and go forth all the better for it. Also, make a quinoa bowl ASAP. They’re very good.
When they say exfoliating, they mean exfoliating: This clay-based cleanser is not messing around. It goes on as a thick "mud," turns into a rich lather once you add water, and leaves behind soft, makeup-free, totally revitalized skin. The quinoa is accompanied by flaxseed to provide a serious boost of omega fatty acids.
GLAMGLOW YOUTHCLEANSE Daily Exfoliating Cleanser, $39; at Sephora
Sometimes you just need a lift—that's where this lightweight, color-safe foam comes in. It provides lasting hold without feeling sticky or causing buildup, plus adds the strengthening, frizz-fighting, protein-loaded power of green tea, soy, and quinoa.
John Masters Organics Volumizing Foam, $28; at John Masters Organics
This rich cream cites quinoa extract as the secret to its high levels of protein and emollient softening properties. The reason it's so "extreme" is because it's formulated to withstand extreme climates, and thanks to the major amino acid content and blend of rose water, coconut water, shea butter, and more, it's almost guaranteed to deliver.
Baszicare Calico Hydrous Repairing Extreme, $298; at Baszicare
Energetic eyes are always a good thing, and this potent anti-aging cream promises to reduce the appearance of fine lines, puffiness, and under eye darkness with a hydrating proprietary complex that contains a handful of proven ingredients, including quinoa, caffeine, squalane, hyaluronic acid, tea extracts, and more.
Goldfaden MD Plant Profusion Energetic Eye Cream, $145; at Goldfaden MD
Though quinoa is frequently used in gentle hydrating products, it can also pack a major punch. Consider this overnight "micro-peel," which refines rough texture and leaves skin looking radiant and renewed by the time the sun comes up.
Kiehl's Dermatologist Solutions Nightly Refining Micro-Peel Concentrate, $54; at Kiehl's
Color-safe, sulfate-free, hydrating, repairing, fortifying—this vegan shampoo does it all without any of the bad stuff. Quinoa supplies protein and amino acids, while a simple sugar called trehalose binds moisture to hair and acts as a humectant to lock it all in.
Terax Crema Shampoo, $24; at Terax
A leave-in conditioner that adds volume may sound like an oxymoron, but this lightweight spritz proves otherwise. It has a truly weightless feel that won't weigh down even the finest hair, and quinoa protein plays well with others to add shine, moisture, and strength.
Orlando Pita Play High Spirited Weightless Leave-In Conditioner, $28; at Ulta
Protein, protein, protein: quinoa comes finely-milled in this mask, which comes as a powder you mix with water (or raw honey) to create a paste. It's deeply exfoliating, yes, but it also contains a blend of essential oils to fend off dryness and keep skin smooth and hydrated.
Osmia Organics Protein Exfoliating Mask, $40; at Osmia Organics
If dry skin is a recurring issue for you, this soothing body lotion might just be the answer. It has all the moisturizing power of a body butter without the rich, heavy feel, and the omega fatty acids and quinoa work together to replenish and lock in hydration.
SheaMoisture Sacha Inchi Oil Omega-3-6-9 Rescue Body Lotion, $9.99; at SheaMoisture
This super gentle, totally color-safe formula uses quinoa as its main protein source to nourish, protect, and strengthen damaged hair as it detangles. Bonus points for the light, clean scent and built-in heat protective benefits.
Verb Hydrating Shampoo, $14; at Verb