The pomegranate.  Considered to be a fruit of the gods and long-regarded as a symbol of fertility—its round shape, striking crimson color, and abundance of seeds no doubt contributed to this reputation—has been used as a natural remedy for more than 3000 years, with its first documentation etched out on Egyptian papyrus.

Today, research is unveiling that most pomegranate fruit parts—its juice, peel, oil, seed, flowers, bark, roots—are known to possess enormous antioxidant activity (amongst other things), with benefits especially for the skin: UVA- and UVB-induced damage control, to skin regeneration, hyperpigmentation control, to collagen production, chemopreventative activity, and matrix metalloproteinase inhibition.  Pomegranates have also been shown to enhance the topical effectiveness of sunscreens. And that its extract can destroy several viruses on contact. If anything deserves to be dubbed a Superfruit, then it is pomegranate.

In 2003, at a American Association for Cancer Research conference, studies were presented that found pomegranate fruit extract to be a novel agent for skin cancer prevention, intimating that skin care products such as creams, patches and sunscreens containing pomegranate could be developed to protect against skin cancer. More recently, pomegranate seed oil, juice and peel have also been shown in experimental studies to suppress several different tumor cell types and to reduce skin carcinogenesis in mice and mammary carcinogenesis in a mouse mammary organ culture model.

Flash forward five years, and here we are, with pomegranate turning up in everything from makeup to juices to sunscreen to moisturizers you name it. So what makes it so special?

Well, pomegranate is a rich source of conjugated fatty acids (of which punicic acid is the most common) and polyphenol compounds (such as anthocynidins and the powerful, miraculous ellagic acid) that lend the fruit potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and free radical scavenging abilities - higher than that of green tea and red wine.

According to a 2005 study, pomegranate extract is capable of protecting against oxidative damage, while also increasing/maintaining the levels of antioxidant molecules in vivo (within the living body). Apparently, ellagic acid helps to increase the body's own built-in antioxidant glutathione, which also helps protect cells from free radical damage.

As framed by famed dermatologist Dr. Murad, "the polyphenol ellagic acid strengthens the cell membrane, making it less susceptible to free radical damage and preventing moisture loss.  Pomegranate extract is especially effective in protecting skin cells by inhibiting the formation of harmful enzymes that cause cells to grow out of control."

But the antioxidant property of the pomegranate is just one of the fruit’s many attributes.  Studies have show that pomegranate extract, whether taken internally or applied topically, can do amazing things for the prevention and treatment of sun-damaged skin.

Clinical studies have shown that the wondrous ellagic acid not only inhibited sunburn in young women, but also created subjective improvements by the subjects in their own complexions.

Perhaps one of the reasons for these women’s perceived complexion improvements is that the ellagic acid has been shown to have an inhibitory effect on slight pigmentation in human skin caused by UV irradiation. The instances of sun burn inhibition as mentioned in the study are backed up by additional research that suggests pomegranates can be used to protect against UV-induced damage in human skin, both of the UVA and UVB types.

Just a quick FYI... When left uninhibited, UV-induced sun damage has been known to cause: immunosuppression, photoaging, erythema (redness of the skin caused by capillary congestion), hyperplasia (benign tumors), hyperpigmentation, and skin cancer.

That's why one of the most promising benefits that pomegranate brings to the table when it comes to sun damage protection is that it boosts the SPF rating of topical sunscreens.  In his book, Wrinkle Free Forever, Dr. Murad expands on this, claiming that the same SPF protection levels can be maintained using fewer chemicals and more antioxidants.

Finally, as documented in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2005, researchers found that combined use of pomegranate seed oil and pomegranate peel extract may stimulate procollagen synthesis, inhibit metalloproteinase (enzymes that degrade collagen) and stimulalte kerotincyte (skin cell) proliferation. In other words, pomegranate helps promote both growth in and thickening of human skin. According to the study's abstract, "These results suggest heuristic potential of pomegranate fractions for facilitating skin repair in a polar manner, namely aqueous extracts (especially of pomegranate peel) promoting regeneration of dermis, and pomegranate seed oil promoting regeneration of epidermis."