The cucumber is a type of gourd that originated in India and now is widely cultivated. The creeping vine of the cucumber plant produces long cylindrical fruit that has a mild flavor and high water content. In addition to their dietary uses, cucumbers have long been used topically to treat skin conditions and touted to be beneficial in treating acne. Cucumbers can be juiced and included in lotions and face masks.
Causes of Acne
There are several possible causes of acne, all of which involve a disorder of the pilosebaceous unit, composed of a hair follicle, a hair and a sebaceous gland. The bacterium Propionibacterium acnes naturally inhabits the skin and feeds on the sebum produced by the sebaceous gland. Stress, diet and hormone irregularities can cause an abundance of sebum production, which creates an environment favorable to an increase in bacteria population. The immune system activates to attack the excess bacteria and in the process can damage the wall of the follicle and cause inflammation. This inflammatory response also can be caused by a build up of sebum and dead skin cells, which produces a whitehead.
Potential Benefits of Cucumbers
Cucumbers contain a variety of substances that are important to the health of your skin, including water, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and a series of amino acids. The vitamins in cucumbers are all potent antioxidants and might help to reduce the visible effects of free-radical damage on the skin. Vitamin E also is a vital ingredient in the skin and might help the body repair damage caused by acne. Cucumbers are composed of about 96 percent water and might help to hydrate and moisturize the skin, which could help to reduce redness and swelling.
A 2010 research paper published in the "African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology" tested the efficacy of six formulas for acne creams. The researchers found that the inclusion of cucumber extract increased the anti-acne action of the treatment while reducing the side effects. The study did not test the use of cucumber by itself and more research is necessary to be sure of its individual usefulness.
Botanical Online provides a recipe for an all-natural face mask that was reportedly used by Cleopatra of Egypt. The mask calls for two whole cucumbers with the skins, 1/2 cup of cream, 1 tbsp. of olive oil, 1 tbsp. of honey and 1 tbsp. of mud mixed together in a blender. The mask should be chilled and applied to the face with a fresh lemon slice.
- University of Illinois: Cucumbers
- MayoClinic: Acne
- "Juicing Book"; Jesse Dallas; April 2009
- University of Kentucky: Water Content of Fruits and Vegetables
- "African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology": Preparation of new formulations of anti-acne creams and their efficacy; June 2010
- Botanical Online: Properties of Cucumbers