Ingredient To Know: Mangosteen


The first time that I encountered mangosteen was in my acupuncturist’s office. “I want to lose weight,” I announced to him. “But I don’t want to stop eating cheese or cut out wine. Basically, I want a miracle pill.” Of course, I had expected him to roll his eyes and continue his work of turning me into a human pincushion. Instead, he very calmly and without a hint of irony said, “OK sure, let’s get you some mangosteen drops.” Well, that was easier than I expected.

He went on to tell me all about this alleged super fruit and its anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-bacterial and anti-pretty-much-everything-else bad properties. I was fascinated.

The Spark Notes on mangosteen are these: It’s a tropical fruit with a deep purple skin and alien-like white insides and is native to southeast Asia. It’s sometimes referred to as the “queen of fruits” (rumor has it this nickname was christened when Queen Victoria of England offered a reward for anyone who could bring her a fresh mangosteen). For centuries, Vietnamese and Thai locals have eaten the fruit to soak up its many healing properties—some even rub a mashed-up mangosteen paste on their faces as a mask. More recently, scientists have begun to study its anti-cancer properties.

I started taking mangosteen extract about six months ago. Every morning, I add a couple drop to a glass of water and dutifully down it (it’s relatively tasteless). I will go ahead and tell you right now that I didn’t miraculously drop 15 pounds. I also didn’t stop eating cheese (if anything I ate more cheese, so maybe don't fault the mangosteen). However, I noticed over time that my skin was a bit brighter, and I felt all-around healthier and more energetic, too.

Then, a few months ago I discovered Skin Owl and their Beauty Drops PM Mangosteen (I was also downing shots of mangosteen juice called Xango at the time—clearly I was on a kick). The founder, Annie Tevelin, had been working for years as a makeup artist at a Lancôme counter when she started to develop cystic acne. “It was really difficult to sell makeup and skincare to people when my face looked the way that it did,” she recalls. Reevaluating what she was using every day (and going back to school at UCLA for a certificate in cosmetic chemistry), she switched to natural oils (“It felt totally counterintuitive to use oils on acne at the time, but I had heard such good things, so I decided to give it a try,” she said) and within 30 days, her acne was gone.

Eventually, she developed a line of beauty drops (of naturally infused oils) based on her experience with her own skin. The latest addition to the line, mangosteen drops, was inspired by a trip Tevelin took several years ago to Vietnam where she was introduced to the fruit. “Mangosteen is insane in terms of what it can do to oxygenate the skin and wipe out damaging toxins,” she says. “It goes eons past what other antioxidants like goji berries, acai berries, and blueberries can do.”

A lot of “new' ingredients boast better-than-ever results beyond your wildest dreams. I'm not usually apt to believe them. But I speak from experience when I tell you that after a late night out with friends, you want these sweet-smelling drops on your face by the end of the night. Though, ideally, they’re not just meant for a one-night stand says Tevelin. “The longer you use them, the more you start to really see results. You won’t look tired when you wake up anymore.”

For a second opinion, I went to Dr. Georgeann Dau, a New York M.D. with a doctorate in natural health science. As she describes it, mangosteen’s power comes from the fact that it is an ultra-potent antioxidant. Here’s how it works: Free radicals are unstable atoms looking to steal electrons. The xanthones in mangosteen essentially give themselves up to the harmful particles so that they aren’t able to destroy a vulnerable cell. Once a cell is damaged by a free radical, it is irreparable. So, consider mangosteen your skin martyr. It's sort of romantic when you think about it. Like a Jack and Rose situation or something.

But in all seriousness: “Inflammation is the precursor to all disease, and free radicals are the precursor to inflammation,” explains Dr. Dau. To get even more technical, in lab tests, an ounce of mangosteen juice has been shown to have the ability to absorb 20 to 30 times the number of free radicals that other fruits or vegetables can. “It’s an immune booster, it’s antiviral, it’s cardio protective,” explains Dr. Dau. “Mangosteen is pretty much good for every organ because it helps protect the whole body.”

As for skincare, Dr. Dau says that antioxidants are important topically, too. “With a good delivery system—a quality oil that can penetrate the layers of the skin and carry the extract below the surface—it has the potential to be very beneficial,” she says. Which is good news for me, since I've pledged my allegiance to the queen of fruit wholeheartedly. She’s been very good to me.

—Victoria Lewis

Illustration from Fleurs, Fruits et Feuillages Choisis de l'Ile de Java 1863-1864 by Berthe Hoola van Nooten. For more health articles, click here.