By Abbie Kozolchyk for Bright Smile Beautiful You
Chocolate. Nuts. Coffee. Sugar. Salt. If we were playing “The $20,000 Pyramid” right now, you might reasonably guess “Things that are good for you in moderation.” But you’d be wrong. The truth is, there’s nothing remotely moderate about, say, being covered — then cocooned — in molten chocolate. Yet this increasingly common spa treatment couldn’t be better for you. Think radiant, smooth, absurdly soft skin, to say nothing of chocolate’s antioxidant and anti-irritant properties (though we will soon).
Although edible chocolate can fight tooth decay and plaque, and a handful of nuts can help prevent heart disease, the topical versions also induce serious beauty benefits, so indulge.
Let’s start with the granddaddy of all treats (or great-great-great-granddaddy, if you consider the millennium-traversing history of chocolate consumption in Mesoamerica). “Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, which can help reverse free-radical damage,” says New York City dermatologist Doris Day. “In addition, the inherent caffeine content has anti-irritant properties.” Hence cacao’s ever-increasing presence in body butters, balms and lotions.
This treat, however, is best served warm and liquidy, so it can be massaged into your limbs, back and torso at a spa. One delicious interpretation is the Chocolate Experience at the Marquis Los Cabos resort in Baja California, Mexico. The highlight of this 80-minute treatment is a peppermint-infused chocolate envelopment that promises to increase endorphins. Can’t get South of the Border? Slather on cocoa-infused body butter after a warm shower to enhance absorption.
Provided they’re not decaf, any coffee beans you’d use on your body would contain irritation-soothing caffeine, just as chocolate does. But their primary benefit to your skin — at least when they’re ground up and massaged into you — is exfoliation, notes Day.
The most indulgent variation on this theme is the Xocol-Ha Wrap and Coffee Scrub at the Spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The Veracruz-grown beans are ground to skin-stimulating perfection. At home, look for natural scrubs featuring coffee extracts. Or make your own:
1. Combine 2 cups of coarsely ground coffee, 1/2 cup of raw sugar or sea salt and 3 teaspoons of massage oil.
2. Rub across your body in circular motions to stimulate blood flow.
Sugar and Salt
Both ingredients are excellent exfoliants, but sugar is better for sensitive-skinned people, as “it simply dissolves as you scrub,” according to Day. Salt treatments, by contrast, can be a bit drying and are consequently good for oily or acne-prone skin. Psoriasis sufferers can benefit from salt as well: “Simply — and gently –working some coarse sea salt over premoistened skin in the shower should help,” says Day.
For a far girlier take on getting gritty, check out the Magnolia Sugar Scrub at the Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans’ spa, where the granules in question are bathed in magnolia essence and various botanicals. Drug-store brand sugar scrubs can be used daily in your own shower for similar benefits at a little less indulgence.
“Nut extracts can be very hydrating to the skin,” says Day. Macadamia and almond — two of the most easily absorbed — figure into many a scrumptious skin treatment. One standout is the Ho’ala (renewing) service at the Four Seasons Maui, where your limbs are plied with macadamia- and sweet almond-infused lavender body butter, among other delicacies. At home, look for lotions — or for dry hair, conditioners — that contain nut extracts. Soon, you’ll notice softer, glowing features.
Abbie Kozolchyk is a New York-based writer who contributes to National Geographic Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Allure and other publications.
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