There are few things I love more than a beauty product that doubles as apartment decor, like a candle-turned-makeup brush holder or a particularly chic bottle of perfume. My newest #shelfie additions may just be my favorite yet, both for their aesthetic and their skin-boosting benefits: houseplants. As strange it may sound, house plants can actually help clear your skin — but don’t just take my word for it. Dermatologists agree that by adding moisture to the air and filtering toxins, houseplants might just be the skincare product you never knew you needed.
It (almost) goes without saying that dry or pollutant-filled air can wreak havoc on your complexion. “Dry air dehydrates the skin, making it a less effective barrier,” Dr. Jennifer Hermann, a Beverly Hills dermatologist, tells The Zoe Report. “In addition to general irritation, cracking, and peeling, a compromised barrier worsens conditions like rosacea and acne, and makes environmental allergens and irritants more likely to cause adverse inflammatory reactions.” Dry air is most common in West Coast environments that lack humidity, but cold winter air (and artificial heating) tends to zap moisture no matter where in the U.S. you live.
Luckily, you don’t have to rely on moisturizer alone to remedy dehydrated skin. “Through a process of transpiration, plants produce moisture in the air which can improve skin hydration,” Dr. Herrmann says. Some varieties have higher transpiration rates than others, making them ideal for inclusion in your indoor jungle. “The spider plant and the peace lily are known to increase the moisture in the air,” Lana Elie, the founder of floral delivery service Floom, tells The Zoe Report. “English ivy and the Areca palm are highly rated in this area as well.” Another bonus? Ivy and palm are significantly more pleasing to the eye than a bulky humidifier.
If you’re a city dweller, there’s even more reason to stock up on pollution-fighting plants. “Pollution causes excessive skin damage and accelerated aging through free radicals,” Dr. Herrmann explains (and while pollution is prevalent pretty much everywhere, cities are hit the hardest). “Free radicals damage skin DNA as well as collagen and elastin, which over time leads to fine lines, sallow tone, and poor skin texture.” She adds that certain pollution molecules structurally mimic male hormones like testosterone and androgens, which can cause acne in some women.
That seems like a whole lot for a few potted plants to handle, but Dr. Herrmann maintains that greenery can improve the quality of air in your home or office. “Plants absorb toxic airborne chemicals in their soil,” she explains — keeping them out of your air supply and away from your skin.
As for which plants to add to your collection for improved air quality? “A scientific clean air study complete by Wolverton and NASA in 1989 confirmed nine of the best air purifying plants that make up ‘nature’s life support system,’” Elie says. The top nine include chrysanthemums, spider plants, dracaena plants, ficus plants, peace lilies, snake plants, aloe vera, and both Boston and bamboo palms (all of which Floom can deliver to your door, by the way).
You don’t necessarily need a green thumb to bank on the skincare benefits of houseplants, either. (Anyone else hopeless at keeping anything alive for more than a week?) Even succulents, which are notoriously easy to care for, release oxygen. “Oxygen is critical for healthy skin homeostasis — it’s needed for multiple biochemical reactions that keep the skin’s barrier healthy and keep deeper structural support systems, like collagen, strong,” Dr. Herrmann says. Finally, caring for these leafy creatures has been shown to reduce the stress hormone cortisol — and lower cortisol means healthier skin.
But it’s not just your skin that benefits here. “Indoor environments without fresh airflow allow pollutants to build up and remain stagnant in greater amounts than we should be breathing in,” Elie tells us. “These air contaminants are found in both working and living spaces, and have been known to cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and eye, ear, and nose irritation.” This phenomenon has been dubbed “sick building syndrome” by NASA, which is why the organization recommends incorporating greenery into your home décor.
Even a handful of small plants can make a difference in your skin and overall wellbeing. “Every little bit counts,” Dr. Herrmann says. “Improved skin health should start immediately and get better over time.”
Better skin, fewer headaches, and a chic interior? This is a #greenbeauty trend everyone can get behind.