Pumpkin Is The Multitasking Skincare Ingredient You Didn’t Know You Needed

In the sliver of time that separates summer and snowfall, pumpkin prevails as the season’s dominant scent. Come October, pumpkin is as pervasive as watermelon is in the summer. And, like watermelon, this fruit provides a wealth of skincare benefits.

“Pumpkin happens to be one of nature’s most splendid superfoods,” says Natalie Pergar, Lead Skincare Trainer at Éminence® Organics. “It’s naturally abundant in a wide array of beneficial nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids.” Assuming the adage “You are what you eat” holds true, ingesting pumpkin can promote glowing skin. Applied topically, it can also deliver skincare benefits — benefits that have made their way into skincare products as of late. 

There are endless pumpkin products on the market, many of which rely on synthetic fragrance — in lieu of actual pumpkin — to deliver that autumnal aroma. Of course, you’ll need to find a product that contains real, natural pumpkin to reap the benefits. Just as picking the best pumpkin from the patch requires a keen eye and a little bit of know-how, so too does choosing a high-quality pumpkin-infused skincare product. 

To make sure you’re getting the real-deal gourd, Pergar advises reviewing the ingredients list. “Look for ‘Cucurbita pepo,’ a Latin term for pumpkin,” she advises. “Even better, look for an asterisk or another indication the ingredient is organic.” (This way, you can be absolutely sure the ingredient has not been adulterated or chemically treated.) Read on for why, exactly, you’ll want to carve pumpkin into your skincare routine — from its enzyme-rich flesh to the omega-filled seeds.

Eminence Organic Pumpkin Latte Moisturizing Mask

Superfood superstar #1: Beta Carotene

What it does: Beta Carotene is responsible for pumpkin’s deep orange hue. (It’s also found in carrots and sweet potatoes.) Our bodies convert the nutrient to vitamin A, which also functions as an antioxidant. “Vitamin A helps protect our cells from free radical damage caused by UV rays and pollution,” Pergar explains. Protecting our skin from these damaging elements helps to slow down the skin aging process on a cellular level. In the same anti-aging vein, this form of vitamin A acts as a natural retinol alternative, spurring collagen production and further maintaining youthful-looking skin. 

[Editor’s note: Retinol shouldn’t be used by women who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]

Where to find it: Any product that contains pumpkin flesh as a primary ingredient. We’re partial to the WonderGlossTM Pumpkin Latte Masque ($50), which has the consistency of pumpkin pie filling and smells equally divine. (So scrumptious, in fact, that the instructions specifically warn against eating the stuff.) Those with dry skin will love the Eminence Organic Pumpkin Latte Moisturizing Mask ($52) — in a

Summer Fridays® OvertimeTM Mask

Superfood superstar #2: Vitamin C

What it does: Although this skin-brightening staple is most commonly associated with summery citrus fruits, fall’s most famous gourd happens to be chock full of it as well. Vitamin C works to fade dark spots, even skin tone, and protect against environmental stressors. (Read more about the skincare benefits of vitamin C.

Where to find it: The Summer Fridays® OvertimeTM Mask ($44) packs a powerful punch against dull skin, thanks to vitamin C-rich pumpkin flesh, apricot kernel, and pumpkin seed oil extract (more on the lattermost ingredient next). This slightly gritty, sensorially indulgent paste can be used as a face scrub, mask, or both.

Shea Moisture® 100 Pumpkin Seed Oil Savor Beauty® Pumpkin Serum

Superfood superstar #3: Fatty acids

What it does: Pumpkin seeds are rich in Omegas 3 and 6 — fatty acids lauded for their glow-inducing properties. These lipids can simultaneously impart suppleness and help skin retain moisture. 

Where to find it: Try pure pumpkin seed oil, like the Shea Moisture® 100% Pumpkin Seed Oil ($11). Alternatively, slather on the Savor Beauty® Pumpkin Serum ($64), which is spiked with moisture-retaining meadowfoam.

Naturopathica® Pumpkin Purifying Enzyme Peel PeterThomasRoth® Pumpkin Enzyme Mask

Superfood superstar #4: Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

What it does: Perhaps most interesting of pumpkin’s skincare benefits is that pumpkin flesh contains natural alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). “The high enzymatic content of pumpkin can resurface and exfoliate dry, dead, and dehydrated skin cells,” Pergar notes. Removing these old cells can reveal newer skin cells to impart a youthful-looking glow. It’s worth noting that, unlike that of glycolic acid, enzymatic exfoliation is incredibly gentle. (Shop the best fruit acid exfoliators here.) For this reason, pumpkin-infused products can make an excellent chemical peel alternative for sensitive skin types. 

Where to find it: Try the Naturopathica® Pumpkin Purifying Enzyme Peel ($58), which also contains cinnamon bark — an ingredient that boasts antibacterial properties and smells divine to boot. If you’re craving a more intense exfoliation from your pumpkin product, consider the PeterThomasRoth® Pumpkin Enzyme Mask ($42) — which, in addition to pumpkin enzymes, is also spiked with physical exfoliants.

Some complimentary products were provided to the authors for the purpose of writing this article.

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