Cool as a Cucumber
Cucumbers have been consumed in healthy eating regimens and used in beauty products for decades. They originated in India and spread to many other countries, including China, England, France, Greece, and the U.S. Over the years, cucumbers have been used for a variety of purposes due to their many benefits, but it is their high water content that makes them great for use in spas. Their hydrating, cooling, and soothing attributes are beneficial for problem skin, and their high-fiber, low-calorie makeup make them a healthy snack.
According to Lisa Polley, director of education and business development for Jurlique, cucumbers are loaded with B vitamins—B1, B2, B3, B5, B6—and folic acid. “The skin on the cucumber is mostly water, but it also contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C) plus caffeic acid—these nutrients help soothe skin irritations and reduce swelling,” says Polley. “This is the primary reason that cucumbers are an ideal spa ingredient for use internally—in shakes, smoothies, and water—as well as topically.” Cucumbers also contain silica and vitamin C, both important nutrients for skin health. Additionally, they have been recognized as a tonic for acneic, red, and irritated skin.
COOLA founder and CEO Chris Birchby notes that cucumbers soothe skin irritations, prevent water retention, and are rich in water, fiber, and beneficial minerals. “Cucumbers and the skin share the same levels of hydrogen, so it becomes easy for cucumbers to mask all the problem areas,” he says. “It has been proven that cucumbers contain anti-inflammatory properties to reduce redness and eye puffiness.”
The caffeic acid that is naturally found in cucumbers helps to reduce puffiness and water retention in the skin. Because the skin around the eyes is the thinnest, that is where water retention is most prevalent and visual. Jurlique offers two products with cucumber extract: Purely Age-Defying Eye Cream and Herbal Recovery Eye Cream to reduce the appearance of swelling and puffiness in the delicate eye area. In terms of treatments, frozen cucumber slices are a great eye soother. Polley suggests layering them over a gauze butterfly eye patch during a mask treatment. Once the mask is removed, apply an eye cream with cucumber extract to continually soothe and hydrate.
Birchby also thinks a cucumber mask is a great way to reduce oily shine, and it’s easy to make. Coarsely chop half of a peeled cucumber, place in a blender, and blend until smooth. Apply liberally to the face, and leave on for 15 minutes. Rinse with cool water, and pat the face dry.
Tammy Pollino, owner of KaLu Salon and Day Spa (Amherst, NY) notes that Amber Products offers a Cucumber Gel Mask, as well as a cucumber-infused paraffin, which can be used in hand, foot, and body treatments. “A full-body paraffin cocoon is fun and unique,” she says. “We apply strips dipped in paraffin to the entire body and then wrap clients in a thermal blanket and cover them with a wool blanket.” The moist heat from the paraffin has tons of benefits, including hydrating, detoxifying, and soothing skin, and the blankets help to maintain the heat for a longer period of time.
In terms of promoting cucumbers in products, treatments, and spa cuisine, Polley suggests creating “healing” or “curing” themes, such as Jet Lag Services, New Year’s Relief, Party Cure Relief, Summer Sunburn and Windburn Soothers, and Energizing Makeovers. “These are themes that work great when promoting a product or service that contains cucumber extract,” she says. “In addition, body treatments that are considered ‘detox services’ are ideal to promote the use of cucumbers.”
While cucumbers have many positive attributes, they also present some disadvantages. Polley notes that although cucumbers are a great way to add fiber to the diet, they are also known to have diuretic and laxative effects when taken internally, so use caution when adding cucumbers in abundance. Birchy adds that some people might also be allergic or sensitive. “A cucumber allergy is actually what experts call cross-reactivity, where pollen intolerances are mimicked by the fruits and vegetables that can lead to allergic reactions.”
The benefits, however, make cucumbers a favorite among spa-goers. As Birchy explains, a deflated balloon is wrinkly and flabby, but a full water balloon is tight and firm. The same analogy applies to skin cells. When they are adequately hydrated, they look firm and smooth. When they are dehydrated, skin can become slack. Cucumbers are 90-percent water and thus can help the body and skin remain properly hydrated.
Pollino adds that spring and summer are great times of the year for cucumber treatments and products, because people are looking for relief from dull, dehydrated skin. Guests want something that is going to leave skin glowing and hydrated, and cucumbers are the perfect solution.—Judy Koutsky