As welcome as a shipment of tart, juicy grapefruit from the Sunshine State in the middle of a nor’easter, citrus fruits such as lemon, lime, orange, and tangerine contribute a shot of warmth and brightness to everything from purifying mists and toners to aromatherapy, massages, and facials. Loaded with antioxidants and nutrients such as potassium and vitamins A and C, the immune boosting fruits are star players in the beauty world.
“Citrus oils are amazing mood lifters,” says Amy Galper, executive director of the New York Institute of Aromatherapy. “In the winter, especially, this is something that can energize us and make us feel a little brighter and happier. Red mandarin, grapefruit, and sweet orange can be used to help li the mood, provide emotional balance, and give confidence.” In addition to their mind-altering properties, she says, they also have an invigorating effect on the epidermis. “In winter, the skin gets sluggish and dull-looking, and circulation may not be moving as quickly as we would hope because of the weather. These oils improve circulation and stimulate blood vessels and capillaries to bring color and vitality back to the skin.”
At Salamander Spa (Middleburg, VA), the Citrus Drench (starting at $150, 50 minutes) relies on oranges for their restorative benefits. “Oranges protect the skin from dryness and premature aging, providing antioxidants and rejuvenating and firming results,” says spa director Penny Kriel. In this body wrap, targeted to sun- or free-radical damaged skin, orange juice is spiked with ascorbic acid, crystallized honey, and shea butter to rehydrate and restore elasticity to the skin.
Across the pond, oranges also feature heavily— the treatment menu at Villa Magna’s Club Wellness by Kiara Kare (Madrid, Spain) utilizes various incarnations of the fruit in its Citrus Experience ($225, 75 minutes) to moisturize, fight free radicals, stimulate collagen synthesis, protect against hyperpigmentation, and promote cellular regeneration. Highlighting antioxidant concentrates and products from Natura Bissé’s C+C Vitamin line, the full-body massage is accompanied by subtle aromatherapy and concludes with a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice. According to Josanna Gaither, director of education and aesthetics for Natura Bissé, the collection uses bitter-orange extract to hydrate, refresh, and revitalize the skin and orange and tangerine essential oils to provide a healthy dose of vitamins. “The lipid components of the essential citric oil in the bitter-orange extract provide the skin with energy and vitality,” says Gaither. Spa director Annelie Isabelle Denaro notes that it transports guests to a wonderful state of peacefulness and relaxation.
Back stateside at The Setai Spa Wall Street (New York City), the popular Honey & Citrus Renewal ($195, 60 minutes) uses tangerine and sweet-orange essential oils with Dead Sea salt to exfoliate the body, promoting cellular regeneration. The polished skin is then massaged with a lotion that melds extracts of bergamot and orange blossom with infusions of vitamins A and E, pro-vitamin B5, red-tea antioxidants, and sea-algae extracts.
In another popular iteration, Epicuren’s sulfate free Citrus Herbal Cleanser depends on the high vitamin count and inherent benefits of tangerine peel and bitter orange to prep the skin and dissolve excess sebum. “Citrus tangerina peel oil is a naturally antiseptic essential oil high in vitamin C, which combats bacteria and delivers antioxidants, and citrus aurantium amara (bitter orange) oil is a soothing and delicately aromatic essential oil,” says media director Heather Lindbergh. Citric essential oil also plays a key role in FarmHouse Fresh’s Clementine Sparkling Soak body and massage oil, a customer favorite. Cofounder Shannon McLinden says that the company chose citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) peel because “it is packed with antioxidants and vitamins A, C, and E, and absorbs readily into the skin. It also has antibacterial and antiseptic properties, so it can help remove excess oils, benefitting those with acne.”
Smooth Affair, a nourishing facial brightener and primer from Jane Iredale—The Skincare Makeup, incorporates bitter-orange, grapefruit, grapefruit-peel, and orange-peel extracts to promote luminosity. “The citrus ingredients help speed up the exfoliation process,” says director of education Tricia Campbell. “Daily use of a product with citrus ingredients will promote cell turnover, and with that you get healthy skin that has a beautiful glow.”
In addition to helping skin regenerate, citrus extracts provide astringent and antiseptic properties, according to Lisa Polley, Jurlique’s education director. The line’s Lemon Body Oil uses naturally invigorating lemon-peel oil to tone and hydrate, while Citrus Purifying Mist features lemon-balm extract obtained from the leaf of the plant. “It’s slightly astringent without drying the complexion,” says Polley, “making it ideal for combination to oily skin types.” In the Bamboo and Wild Lime ($170, 80 minutes) treatment at Topnotch Spa (Stowe, VT), organic lime oil removes dead cells and improves the skin’s elasticity, courtesy of its innate powers of astringency and exfoliation. E ritual calls upon reviving citrus and heated bamboo rods to massage the body and promote tranquility.
For similar results via less traditional means, aromatherapy company Essio offers a universal shower attachment that works in conjunction with a disposable pod to slowly release a blend of pure, organic essential oils into the stream of water. The effect is highly aromatic and, according to founder Peter Friis, a clarifying and energizing experience. “Just as the acidic juice and zest of lemons and limes give a sharp snap to cooking and cocktails, the essential oils of citrus cut through mental, emotional, and energetic clutter and congestion for a clearer, sharper state of being,” he says. Friis points to recent Brazilian and Japanese studies suggesting that citrus essential oils, when inhaled, have an “anxiolytic-like effect,” reducing anxiety and depression. “Current clinical studies on the aromatherapeutic effects of the essential oils of mandarin orange, sweet orange, and other citrus varieties are building scientific support for the long anecdotal histories of these oils as effective agents in reducing anxiety,” says Friis. As a less serious, more fun application, Essio recommends its Passion pod, ideal for Valentine’s Day, in which the tangy notes of mandarin orange combine with heavier, muskier rose and smoky patchouli.
Whether they are bestowing upon the skin its daily allotment of vitamins, stimulating cellular regeneration, or simply providing a cheerful antidote to seasonal affective disorder, citrus treatments and products are a much needed ray of light. No sunscreen—or pricey Florida produce—required.—Maya Stanton