There has been a bit of a buzz surrounding a certain fashionable food as of late, with many experts proclaiming that chia seeds have beauty benefits. (As well as health benefits, of course.) As per usual, a host of celebrities are also getting on the superfood bandwagon, with Express reporting that both Gwyneth Paltrow and Ellie Goulding eat chia seeds.
My personal introduction to chia seeds was through one of my favorite plant-based cooks, Deliciously Ella. Ella Woodward of Deliciously Ella raves about chia seeds and creates drool-worthy recipes that include this little power food, such as this vanilla chia pudding recipe she wrote for The Telegraph. Ms. Woodward also informs readers of her website about the health benefits of eating chia seeds, describing them as "tiny titans of nutrition!"
I had heard on the health food grapevine of different beauty products made from chia seeds which are great for your body's exterior, such as exfoliating face masks. I had read all about the incredible health benefits and the ways you can turn chia seeds into homemade beauty products. But I wondered if there were any true beauty benefits to consuming chia seeds. I really wanted to know if the rumors were true that chia seeds make your skin glow and promote healthy hair and nails.
So I decided to embark on a challenge which I dubbed: The Chia Seed Challenge. The challenge consisted of eating chia seeds every day for seven days and documenting the process to see if there were any visible changes to my skin, hair, and nails. Please excuse the close-ness of the camera angle, but I wanted to show you all the effects (if any) the chia seeds were having on my skin. Thus, there are no filters used on my selfies or edits made (aside from cropping). It was actually quite a liberating experiment, which encouraged me to flaunt makeup-less skin more often, due to the fact that I was taking a daily, morning selfie (sans makeup) to show my real, close-up, no-holds-barred skin. So here goes...
As you can see from this first photo (please excuse the actual bed hair), I started the experiment off with dark patches under my eyes and a few spots dotted around. For some reason, I tend to go through phases of having a handful of quite "bad" pimples, (i.e. horrible, yellow blighters ready to burst) and then having really nice, clear skin.
My skin is "combination skin" — dry in some places, oily in others — yet I don't tend to use products that are specific to this skin type. Perhaps this is why I sometimes have an outburst of acne; maybe the oily sectors decide to rise up and rebel due to being too clogged? Who knows? I normally use a very basic Nivea moisturizer and I use a Bourjois foundation that is quite light. I'm a rather low maintenance gal, aside from if I'm going on a special night out/to a special event or performing with my vintage girl band, and on these occasions I bring out the big guns (a.k.a. the false eyelashes et al).
Some of you nail divas out there may be horrified to hear that I left my nails in their "natural state" for the basis of this experiment. By "natural state" I mean: I didn't cut them, push my cuticles down, file them, or interfere with them in any other way. I'm sure this is pretty evident from my horrendous cuticles and remnants of nail varnish.
As a bit of a chia seed virgin, I wondered how best to get chia seeds into my diet. I discovered a delicious smoothie recipe — the best I've tried to date — which is from The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon. This was also the perfect recipe for my experiment because it contained one tablespoon of chia seeds, which happened to be the recommended daily amount printed on the back of one of my chia seed packets.
I can say that I managed this approximately. I use the term approximately just to be incredibly, scientifically correct: I scooped one tablespoon into a smoothie each day, however, I am not sure if all of the teeny, tiny smoothie remnants were consumed, because to do this entirely I would have had to literally lick my Vitamix (including its seriously sharp blades) clean. My tongue is too important to me to do that, I'm afraid.
Also on the final day of my experiment, which happened to be a Sunday, I fancied a treat — so I made some mini donuts that included chia seeds. I had worried that I had not eaten my recommended allowance (even though there was half a cup of chia seeds in the recipe and I ate about six of roughly 20), so I downed half a tablespoon for good measure. In effect, I probably had more than the RDA on the final day.
Luckily, these little seeds don't actually taste of anything, so they are perfect for adding to literally any dish. You can put them in smoothies, soups, salads, bakes, cookies... The list is as endless as your imagination! But for the consistency of this experiment, I stuck to smoothies and indulged in donuts on the final day.
Not a lot to report on Day 2. My dark circles were still there and the darned spots were still leering at me. My hair appeared in better condition, but I guess any brushed and washed hair would look better than my bedraggled Day 1 hair.
As you may notice, from this picture, I broke a nail! My index finger nail jumped ship and I was left with this raggedy sliver. This is actually quite a problem for me; I often find my nails grow to a certain length and then begin to split. Perhaps I am missing something in my diet.
Skin appeared a little more even and dare I say it, "Glowy."
Aside from the rebellious index finger nail, the others had actually grown. Which is pretty cool.
By this point I had also perfected the smoothie by adding in a little splash of water. The recipe called for ice cubes, of which I didn't have, so I had been missing them out. But with the added water in place of the ice cubes, it made it less thick and more of a pleasure to drink. I added some chia seeds on this particular day because I thought it was a nice, little aesthetic touch.
For some reason on Day 4 it appeared I had taken a step backwards. The bags were back — although not as dark as before — and the uneven skin tone had crept back in.
Not too much of a difference in the nail department between Days 3 and 4.
The spots were disappearing, hurrah! The bags were still present but perhaps a tiny bit improved. Skin appeared slightly more "glowy" again.
Nails on Day 5 didn't appear very different, however if you compare them to Day 1 you can see the growth particularly on the middle finger and ring finger nails.
The spots were almost gone and my skin was looking probably the best it had done in the experiment up to this point. My dreaded bags seemed to have cheered up a bit and I don't know about you, but I think it looked like I had accumulated a nice, little glow.
It looked as if my nails put in a little growth spurt right before the end!
Strangely enough, it looks as if this photo was taken earlier in the experiment; with the bags making a return and some new, little spots beginning to rear their ugly heads.
My nails carried on slow and steady throughout.
In all honesty, I would like to say that it looks like my skin has improved quite a lot: My pimples have gotten better and although they've not been completely banished, my dark circles appear to have improved, too. I don't know about you, but to me, it appears I do have the "chia seed glow" — at least a little. My hair is a bit shinier, but with this being the hardest element to track (with no visible change throughout), I focused more on my skin and nails. Having said that, I don't know if it's a placebo effect but my hair does feel slightly softer.
My nails have definitely grown. But it is quite hard to tell whether this is my normal rate of growth or if the chia seeds have assisted in the growing process. Something to point out would be that, as I mentioned earlier, my nails are always flaking off, chipping, and breaking, but aside from the initial second day break, I have not had anymore noticeable ones. Plus my nails do feel stronger, too.
If I were to do this experiment again in the future, I would probably attempt to do it more strictly. For instance, my dark circles may have been re-appearing due to late nights and my "glow" may have been coming and going due to my levels of hydration. So if I were to complete the challenge again, I would go to bed at the same time each night and drink the same amount of water each day. I would also measure my nail growth in a normal week and then measure them while doing the experiment.
Having said all that, one chia seed benefit (that is unrelated to beauty) that I can really vouch for is an increase in energy. I thought I might experience this and the chia seed energy hype seems to be true. It's not the kind of increase in energy you would get from say, a caffeinated drink — which is an instant burst — it's more like a prolonged, ongoing increase in energy. So that was a very nice side effect!
I think if you were to introduce chia seeds as a regular part of your diet, they could make your skin glow and your nails more healthy — but you would need to be in a better routine than I to see consistent benefits. All in all, though, the effects were visible enough to make these little seeds well worth it.
Images: Author's Own