Health & Fitness

Fruit, spices and other edibles can nourish the body inside and out

Tropical smoothie, papaya-mango souffle, or chocolate, anyone? No need to worry about the calories; these desserts aren't the kind you devour at your favorite restaurant. They're the kind you slather on your skin at your local spa.

"There is a trend in using food ingredients in spa treatments and products," said Tamara Freedman, esthetician and director of education at Spa Gregorie's in Newport Beach. "Food is something that we can all relate to. Food not only evokes an emotional response from us, but we readily understand that food nourishes us — both body and soul — and have numerous healing properties."

Check out the menu of wraps, scrubs and facials next time you're at the spa and you may find anything from fruit and dairy to spices and even chocolate promoted for their skin and relaxation benefits.

"I believe food products can be beneficial outside the body," said registered dietitian Sharon Hardy. "Although nutrients don't absorb through the skin, foods including antioxidants such as beta carotene and vitamin A can neutralize free radicals on the skin's surface and protect the skin."

Many of the food-based spa ingredients are rich in alpha hydroxy (fruit or milk sugar-based acids) that not only exfoliate the skin, but can also help lessen the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines and sun damage, said Tracy Slaughter, an esthetician and assistant buyer for body care at Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy, which offers mainstream and alternative health and beauty services in Irvine, and its other locations.

But while foods can offer skin benefits during spa treatments, their nutrients are most beneficial when ingested as a food or supplement, Slaughter said.

"Other than softening and exfoliating skin, food products are not going to make you healthier when applied to skin," said Dr. Lorrie Klein, a board-certified dermatologist and president/founder of Euro Day Spa in Laguna Niguel.

Not for everybody

So, is it time to head to the fridge to give yourself a mini spa treatment? Not if you're looking for real skin results, according to Kelly Miano, senior marketing manager for Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy. Spa product formulations contain more concentrated ingredients, penetrating deeper into the skin than natural foods in your kitchen, she said.

Tana Diaz, owner of The Journey Spa & Wellness Center in Orange, cautions that using food on the body isn't always safe. People with allergies should let spa estheticians know what they're allergic to (from nuts and bees to ragweed and gluten) and understand the treatment's ingredients.

People with high blood pressure should avoid treatments using foods with stimulants such as caffeine, Diaz said. And Freedman said pregnant women should always ask their doctors before using any new product.

"Just because it's natural, it doesn't mean it's good for everybody," Diaz said.