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The Amazing Blueberry
By: Ada Polla Tray
Posted: June 6, 2008, from the February 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
Blueberries have made it into the consumer media and even popular advertising campaigns as a healthful fruit to eat. They are filled with antioxidants and are colorful, round and delicious. The V. myrtillus L. fruit, known as the bilberry, or blueberry, has powerful protective properties that have been known—and utilized—since the Middle Ages, and it has been described in literature since the beginning of the 20th century. Today, blueberries are claimed to be “the most powerful antioxidants of all.”1
However, there still is limited awareness of the potential benefits of blueberries to the skin. Several compounds—in particular, polyphenols, including anthocyanins and resveratrol, and iron chelators, such as quercetin and myricetin—have been isolated from the berries and leaves of the V. myrtillus L. plant and identified as beneficial to the skin. Blueberries exert various therapeutic effects, which essentially can be broken down into three categories: vaso-protective activity, or the protection of cutaneous capillaries; antioxidant activity; and iron-chelating activity for additional antioxidant and anti-aging effects.
Flushing, rosacea and facial redness are a result of the dilation of fine capillaries located just beneath the epidermis. Although there is no cure for rosacea, there are a number of preventive measures that enable better control of the symptoms and minimize facial redness. Any product that promotes the health of capillaries, delaying their dilation and eventual collapse, can contribute to the management of these symptoms.
Blueberries play a role in alleviating flushing symptoms. They tighten and protect fine capillaries, thanks to anthocyanins,2 and thus are ideal in products that target redness-prone skin. The vaso-protective effects of blueberries began to be described in the 1960s, when the fruit’s capillary resistance and permeability first were analyzed. Since then, further research has confirmed that blueberries increase capillary resistance.3
The fact that antioxidants are essential in maintaining the skin’s youthfulness is now a well-established concept. The key purpose of these substances is to neutralize reactive oxygen species, including free radicals, which are caused primarily by excessive UV exposure.