For objects thought to be sweet and simple, berries can be rather complex. Some consider any small, fleshy fruit a berry, especially if it is edible. However, there is some confusion as to what actually constitutes a berry. Fortunately, there is no mistaking the benefits these popular fruits have to offer. When it comes to skincare, what is agreed upon, with overwhelming enthus-iasm, is a personal and professional love of berries, from common sweets like blueberries to rare exceptions, such as Arctic berries, lingonberries, and more. “Berries are wonderful nutrient sources,” says Szilvia Hickman, senior vice president of Szép Élet, distributor of Ilike Organic Skin Care, which features berries in several anti-aging lines. “They are food for our skin, and that makes them very appealing in spa treatments.”
Berries are abundant in skincare products and spa treatments, thanks to their antioxidant and anti-aging properties. “In addition to being very gentle, botanically based ingredients, they contribute high levels of antioxidants,” says April Zangl, CEO and co-formulator of HydroPeptide. “Skincare products are incomplete without antioxidants, as they help maintain a young and radiant complexion by fighting cell-damaging free radicals that harm and age the skin.”
The darker the berry, the more bioflavonoids, or antioxidants, present in the fruit, according to Boldijarre Koronczay, president of Éminence Organic Skin Care. “Bioflavonoids slow down the aging process and any kind of degenerative process in the body, as well,” he says. “Blackberries, blueberries, or black currants have a high bioflavonoid content.” Bioflavonoids also have an anti-inflammatory effect on skin. “They can strengthen blood vessel walls to prevent dilated capillaries and soothe aggravated skin,” says Heather Hickman, senior director of U.S. education at Dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute.
Often found on the latest list of superfoods, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are popular in skincare. However, delve into the lesser known varieties to discover even more antioxidant and skin-saving power. “Blackthorn berries are rich in iron, which helps with pale, tired, and anemic skin, a typical condition common towards the end of winter for people living in big cities and caused by pollution, pregnancy, and smoking,” says Szilvia Hickman.
Another superhero in Koronczay’s book is the seabuckthorn berry. “It helps to regenerate and heal wounds, increase immunity, and treat fatigue,” he says. Also notable is the Arctic berry, a more recent debut in the skincare arena. This small amber-red berry comes from a resilient Arctic plant with a well-known hardiness to frost and cold weather conditions. “It is capable of healing itself and surviving in a harsh environment due to its strong self-defense mechanism,” says Koronczay. “It is amazing for sensitive skin. The Arctic berry repairs, soothes, and nurtures.”
Many berries offer serious healing benefits thanks to ellagic and gallic acids, quercetin, and vitamin C, which have proven anti-carcinogenic effects in colon, esophageal, liver, lung, tongue, and skin cancers, according to the Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission and research conducted at the Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina. “Elderberries have anti-inflammatory properties that work wonderfully on the skin and are even used for cancer treatments,” says Szilvia Hickman. “The most nutrient-rich of the currant family, black currants provide strong antioxidants—anthocyanins—that are proven to reduce inflammation, a huge contributor to aging. The same anthocyanins that have more antioxidant capacity than vitamins C or E are found in sour cherries, as well.”
Sunny Side Effects
Many skincare lines include berries in sunscreen formulas as an additional and direct defense against the free radicals, inflammation, and oxidative stress produced by exposure to harmful UV rays. “We formulated our facial sunscreen with a built-in antioxidant treatment that includes açaí berry,” says Zangl. “We chose açaí because it has a higher antioxidant content than blackberry, cranberry, raspberry, or strawberry. Many people don’t wear sunscreen as often as they should for fear that their skin will break out, and açaí has natural anti-inflammatory properties, making it useful in preventing blemishes. It has also been shown to help lighten hyperpigmentation that can result from sun overexposure.” Coola, known for its gentle, yet effective, sunscreen products, also uses berries in its formulations. “In addition to their reparative and restorative properties, many berries also innately contain SPF-boosting characteristics, which allow for a reduction of mineral and chemical active ingredients to achieve high SPF values in sunscreen products,” says Lu Costigan, global sales manager at Coola. But the protective power of fruit doesn’t stop there. “Sunburned skin can benefit from an application of strawberries and red raspberry oil,” adds Costigan. “Both are highly emollient and filled with antioxidants to condition while fighting free radicals and soothing the skin.”
Products containing berries are an ideal choice for clients dealing with a range of sun-related and other pigmentation issues. “I think clients who are concerned with age spots, melasma, acne scars, and other forms of discoloration stand to benefit the most from berries,” says Zangl. “We researched pigment-correcting ingredients found to be both safe and effective. We chose bearberry because it is a potent skin-lightening ingredient that works by slowing melanin production.” Further, studies have shown that arbutin and hydroquinone found in bearberries effectively lighten hyperpigmentation.
Berries also serve to enhance other powerhouse ingredients, both botanical and synthetic, when used in combination. Many skincare companies are creating products that capitalize on complementary nutrients. “HydroPeptide formulations are unique in that powerful peptides are combined with carefully selected botanicals, which include berries,” says Zangl. “We include blueberry extracts to protect from collagen degradation. In order to keep skin looking youthful, collagen not only needs to be repaired but also protected as it is the skin’s most relevant structural protein.” When added to potent active ingredients, berries can bring a soothing, calming effect for use on sensitive skin types.
There are few clients who can’t benefit from these nutrient-rich fruits, such as those with specific berry allergies, which are rare among food allergies. According to a report conducted by the National Institutes of Health, fewer than 4 percent of adults have allergic reactions to foods and only a small fraction of those are caused by berries.
Jack of All Treatments
Along with other benefits, berries also contain acids that are effective in healing blemish-prone skin, making them an ideal ingredient in facials. “As a whole, the biggest point I find incredible is the ellagic acid the berries produce, one of the most powerful and strongest antioxidants,” says Rachel Wilkerson, spa director at Spa at Sanderling (Duck, NC). “Berries are very good for healing acne, because the acids in them help to disintegrate bacteria causing the infections.” Her favorite for ellagic acid is the lingonberry, which has a growing presence in skincare in general, as well as in the spa’s Surge of Radiance Facial ($120, 50 minutes), which features a six-part rejuvenating treatment that relies on Arctic cold-pressed lingonberries. This certified-organic facial, designed to reduce the appearance of fine lines, relax facial tension, uplift and tone facial muscles, and increase blood and lymphatic circulation, delivers a surge of deep hydration to leave skin balanced. “Lingonberry takes the cake for me,” says Wilkerson, who is quick to support berries’ place in hand and foot treatments and the fruits’ pervasive benefits outside of facials. “So many people are focused on the neck up and forget the combination of the rest of the body.”
Hands and feet get a dose of berries at The Biltmore Spa (Coral Gables, FL) in the Watermelon Basil Vodkatini Mani-Pedi featuring FarmHouse Fresh Strawberry Smash Double Moisturizer ($70, 50 minutes), which envelops them in a hydrating citrus soak, followed by a sugar scrub, and topped off with a vitamin-rich shea butter massage featuring strawberry fruit cells. “Berries are full of nutrient-rich building blocks such as antioxidants, carotenoids, flavonoids, minerals, phytochemicals, polyphenols, and vitamins,” says Shannon McLinden, CEO and founder of FarmHouse Fresh. “Because we like to focus on the vitamins and antioxidants in berries, we really prefer to use these in moisturizers and wraps, as they have ample time to be absorbed into the skin.”
Indeed, the little fruits are also popular in body treatments. The Contouring Wrap ($120, 50 minutes) at The Sagestone Spa & Salon at Red Mountain Resort (Ivins, UT) is a detoxifying wrap using Clarins products that contain cranberries, raspberries, rice powders, and white clay to shape, refine, and clarify the skin. Spa director Myrna Beardshear notes that berries provide the most benefits in masks, scrubs, and wraps. “Blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, elderberries, goji berries, raspberries, and strawberries contain vitamin C, a strong antioxidant that protects skin from free radicals,” she says. “It hydrates the skin and increases collagen and elastin levels.”
Proof of berries’ staying power is their presence in spa industry professionals’ own daily routines, in skincare products, as scrumptious snacks, and for overall wellness. Take a hint from these berry aficionados and consider adding a selection of berries in your relaxation room to enhance the benefits of your berry-infused services. With so many varieties to choose from, there’s certain to be the perfect berry to top off every client’s favorite treat and treatment.