The soybean’s history can be traced back to China, where it was considered a sacred grain—essential as a food item and a medicine. The rest of the world soon discovered the virtues of this versatile plant, including its valuable protein and oil properties.
Soy became a valuable commodity in the United States after World War I, as it was used to help regenerate soil in drought stricken states during the 1930s. Henry Ford was a huge supporter of the soybean and was instrumental in its development in food and industrial use. Current times find the soybean a staple of the American agricultural system.
A lot of the focus on soy has been as a food ingredient, but it’s been found to be a vital element in living a healthy lifestyle, with an array of medical and cosmetic benefits.
How does such a small bean do amazing things? It all comes from nature, pure and simple. Soybean extracts, soybean oil, and soybean protein are all used in promoting healthy skin. Proteins help soften the skin and promote an even skin tone.
Soybeans are also abundant in antioxidants such as isoflavone, a key ingredient found in green tea. Isoflavone lightens skin tone, and improves blotchy pigmentation, dullness and texture.
Isoflavone also stimulates the production of collagen, a protein that provides strength, flexibility and resilience to the skin. Collagen production starts declining once an adult reaches his or her early 20s. Although this is a natural and inevitable process of aging, research has shown that soy helps slow down the process and improve the skin’s appearance. Antioxidants in general have the ability to protect the skin from free radicals that cause damage.
Tocopherol (vitamin E) is another antioxidant found in soybeans. We all know how beneficial vitamin E is to healthy skin. Vitamin E protects skin cells from environmental elements that produce skin damage. Tocopherol also promotes anti-aging properties by reducing fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps skin retain its moisture and oil balance.
There are skin care products out there that tout vitamin E as a main ingredient but read your label carefully. Their vitamin E may be in an acetate form, which is less efficient for skin surface penetration.
The saponins and lecithin in soy make a great one-two punch in cleansing and moisturizing the skin. Saponins draw out harmful skin substances that cause blemishes and other impurities. Lecithin breaks down oils in the skin while acting as a firming agent. Think “facelift” without the surgery.
There are several skin care products that feature soy as a main component, but the level and presence of these natural antioxidants all depend on how the soybean is processed. Believe or not, processing methods and chemical refinement removes or destroys the antioxidants naturally found in soy.
It’s important to carefully read labels so you can maximize your investment in skin care products. Manufacturers are required to list ingredients from highest content to lowest content. Look to see where soy ingredients are listed. What other ingredients are listed? Can you even pronounce those names? Do some Internet research on ingredients for some of the most popular brand name “natural” products, and you’ll be surprised to find they were developed in a laboratory somewhere using other substances.
Of course, it’s important to remember that what we put in our bodies also contributes to aging and our outward appearance, so getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, and edible forms of soy is crucial in looking and feeling our best.
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