There’s been a buzz about chia seeds since last year, when they were touted as the latest superfood. The likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and model Miranda Kerr are fans of the South American seeds, which are stuffed full of nutrients and healthy fats.
But it seems cold-pressed chia oil is following in the footsteps of other so-called superfoods — almonds, goji berries, acai and even broccoli, which have all found their benefits harnessed in skincare.
Chia is now being heralded as the latest “wonder” ingredient in a raft of new anti-ageing face serums. The oil is one of the richest sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Although they may seem like a modern foodie fad, these little seeds have a history that dates back centuries.
Once worshipped by the Aztecs as the food of the gods, chia comes from the same family as mint and became a staple food in South America where it was as widely cultivated as maize.
Omega-3 fatty acids — also found in fish oils and flax seeds — are vital for the skin and help improve the health of the skin barrier, meaning it retains more moisture.
Chia provides more omega-3 fatty acids than flax seed, but it doesn’t go off as easily. It is also high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, so can help protect, calm and rebuild the skin, as well as moisturising it.
One indicator that chia, more formally known by its Latin name Salvia hispanica, is about to be big in skincare is the fact American clinical dermatologist Nicholas Perricone has made it the star ingredient of his latest product, Chia Serum (£59.95 or Dh229, perriconemd.co.uk).
“As a dermatologist, I believe essential fatty acids are vitally important to beautiful skin,” says Dr Perricone. “Chia seeds are one of the richest vegetable sources of essential fatty acids and can keep the skin soft, supple and youthful.
“Cold-pressed, extra virgin chia oil, especially when combined with fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients, rapidly transforms skin to give a vibrant, glowing and more healthy complexion.”
Ninety per cent of women who took part in a trial of the product for Dr Perricone said their skin felt more hydrated after using it, and 88 per cent found that using it for a week helped their skin retain moisture and helped make-up go on more smoothly.
Another high-tech anti-ageing product containing chia oil is Comfort Zone's Skin Regimen Hydra-Pro Booster (£58, the-comfort-zone.co.uk).
“What makes chia oil so good for the skin is its powerful anti-inflammatory properties,” says Sarah Russell, of the company. “Chronic skin inflammation has long been recognised as a major cause of ageing.
“It’s caused by our modern lifestyle, with its bad food choices, lack of exercise and high levels of stress, and it attacks our cells silently. Anti-inflammatory ingredients such as chia oil help protect skin and correct the visible signs of skin ageing.”
Chia oil is also a great source of antioxidant B vitamins, which play an anti-ageing role in skin by protecting it from damaging free radicals — unstable molecules that attack our skin cells and cause premature ageing. “Chia oil has a silky-soft feel on the skin and is considered one of the best anti-wrinkle skin oils,” says Penny Badger, who creates skincare products using pure and natural ingredients for sensitive skin.
Penny includes chia in her Simplicity Calming Facial Serum (£35, pennybadgerbotanicals.co.uk).
“We use chia to soothe fine lines and improve skin elasticity. The omega-3s in chia seed oil also help relieve irritation, dryness and peeling.”
Chia also features in One Love Organics’ products, including Chia Whip Foam Cleanser, £23, and Waterless Beauty Balm, £39.
Or you could apply a couple of drops of the oil (try the plain organic Supercritical Chia Organic Omega-3 Oil, £39, beingcontent.com) to your normal moisturiser to give it an extra hydrating boost.
Inside and out, it seems this supercharged oil is the quickest way to cheer up your skin for summer.