For Lev Glazman, it started at Whole Foods. The co-founder of the Fresh cosmetics company saw a juice made with açaí (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) berries and was intrigued. "I read the label and immediately started doing research," he says. "Açaí has been known, especially in Brazil, for amazing antioxidant benefits. I thought it would be an amazing ingredient to use topically."
Antioxidants, commonly found in fruits and vegetables, are the body's defense against free radicals—reactive chemicals that are needed to destroy viruses and bacteria but can be harmful to healthy cells. Fast-acting radicals are the hardest to scavenge, and, says Menelaos Papagiannopoulos of Germany's University of Bonn, in tests, açaí proved better at it than nearly any other fruit. According to a 2006 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, açaí boasts an ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score more than 10 times as high as well-known antioxidant-rich foods like cranberries and wild blueberries. Famed dermatologist Nicholas Perricone calls it the world's No. 1 superfood.
Açaí's potency is probably due to its unusual habitat. "It's unique to the Amazon," notes Alexander Schauss, senior scientist at AIBMR Life Sciences, a contract research organization in Washington. "The palm tree that has the açaí berries is the canopy, the very top of the rain forest. Its berries are strongly exposed to ultraviolet radiation and have had to develop chemical strategies to deal with it." Which makes them an invaluable resource for skin health.
Glazman, for one, is convinced. Fresh's Sugar Açaí Age-Delay Body Cream, along with Borba's Age Defying Skincare line, is among the first beauty products to harness the berry's benefits—proving that it's not always such a bad thing to wear what you eat.