Beauty & the feast

Beauty & the feast

Food has moved from the farms to kitchens and now to our dressing tables.

Beauty & the feast

Aswirl of mango butter, a dash of raspberry sorbet lippy or a hint of kale nail varnish — which is it to be? Love the idea? How about a chocolate bar eyeshadow with real cocoa or a green tea cleanser laced with all the magical ingredients of the brew?

With delicious ingredients moving from our kitchens to our beauty counters and dressers, it is time for a feast of a different kind. Gone are the days when we relied on a juicy cucumber or a jar of golden honey to whisk our skin problems away. Today, superfoods, herbs, fruits, spices and vegetables are popping up in beauty products, much to the delight of foodies and fashionistas alike. Food-inspired skincare is having a moment in the sun, bringing with it, a world of good health, well-being and all-round nourishment.

Nutritional value
Most of us are aware of face creams with a twist of lemon, shampoos with a drop of orange blossom or oils with lashings of coconut. But have you heard of soaps soaked in avocado, eye creams empowered with coffee beans or anti-ageing creams that are rich in blueberry? If that does not sound healthy enough, try the apple cider vinegar rinse, the quinoa cleanser and the moisturiser packed with spinach and alfalfa. Closer home and at our beauty stores, we have several indigenous food-based beauty products to choose from. There are tamarind body polishers, mint and lemon face packs, green tea body mists, scrubs that are chock-full of berry seeds, night creams blended with saffron and skincare merchandise, crafted out of cane sugar, rosemary and milk.

What is so special about a food-based beauty product? To begin with, it is delectable, lovely and packed with nutrients. A night cream with an acai berry base, for instance, promises powerful hydration and just as eating acai berries can fight off free-radicals, the cream can supposedly, do the same. A kale nail polish can strengthen the nails just like its leafy counterpart and an oil made of pomegranate seeds is rich in vitamins and other nutrients too.

According to nutritionists, getting a dose of nutrients from our skincare brands is a wonderful new way of looking after ourselves. Says Dr Anju Sood, a noted nutritionist, “The best foods for good skin are blueberries, broccoli, guava, kiwi, orange, papaya, strawberries and sweet potato. Many of these foods help produce collagen that is vital for good skin. Many of them are powerful anti-oxidants too that protect the skin from cellular damage. If they are present in skincare products, the results will be enhanced. I have used some of these products and I can say that they are truly phenomenal.”

The many food products are used in skin products include vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, beets, spinach, carrots, corn and kale, fruits like melon, pomegranate, pineapple, cherry and papaya, and superfoods like spiriluna and chia seeds. Many beauty salons are also using food-based ingredients in their treatments. According to Swati Gupta, director of a city-based salon, “A lot of beauty experts are using super foods in beauty treatments to get healthy skin and hair. The most popular ingredients are green tea, neem, tulsi and quinoa. People swear by these superfoods as eye masks (replacing cucumbers) for refreshing the eyes and they can be used even in facials to get glowing and healthy skin.”

Skin deep
Swati’s salon also offers beauty treatments involving the use of milk and barley for treatments in their body spas. “Some of our most popular treatments are made with superfoods,” she adds. “The ‘Cleopatra’s Milk’ treatment, for example, involves hydrating the skin with almond milk and honey, while we also use cherry, kiwi and sugarcane creams for skin treatments.”

Many of the other products that they use are infused with coffee, cinnamon, ginger, lemon, green tea, oatmeal, avocado and mango.

But not everyone agrees that superfoods should be ingested in the form of creams alone. Dr Anil Abraham, professor, Dermatology, St John’s Medical College & Hospital, says, “Superfoods are better eaten than applied. Many creams have micro quantities of the fruit or the superfood, and these will have questionable action on the skin in such small concentrations.”

According to Dr Abraham, it has always been a common practice in India to use what was available in the kitchen or the backyard as beauty treatments. “From tomato puree to sandalwood paste, saffron to overripe papaya packs, the kitchen has always been a source of beauty solutions and cosmetics,” he says. “Some of these have stood the test of time. Yet others have been studied scientifically, purified and perfected and become a part of modern cosmetic treatments. For example, in the peel treatments based on extracts from sugarcane, apple or almonds — alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid were found to be the key ingredients.”

However, when it comes to superfoods, one would need to eat kilos of acai berries or other goods to get the benefit of its anti-oxidant or nutritional properties. “Also many of these exotic tropical fruits are not easily accessible. So in a cream form, it can be marketed and sold everywhere to benefit many who have no access to the real fruit. But benefits like heart health or weight reduction can only be acquired by eating a superfood and not by applying creams,” adds Dr Abraham.

The decision of buying skin care products with superfoods or regular food ingredients eventually lies with the consumer. It is a toss up between feeling good, looking good and hoping that the nutrients in the food-based beauty products will live up to all their promises.