If sometimes you feel like a nut, then maybe you should grab a fistful of almonds to sate your craving. People have been doing so throughout recorded history. With mentions in the Old Testament that go back to 1400 B.C., these tiny tree nuts were one of the earliest cultivated foods and have had a big impact throughout time. Ancient Romans would shower newlyweds with almonds as a sign of fertility, explorers would snack on them while traversing the Silk Road between China and the Mediterranean, and Persians traded the nut with India and China, where they were used for medicinal purposes. Almonds finally made their way to the States in the mid-1700s, when they were cultivated by Franciscan monks who imported trees from Spain and planted them in their Northern California missions.
According to the Almond Board of California, the state's yield of the crop has quadrupled since the 1980s, making it the top agricultural export of The Golden State as well as the largest U.S. specialty crop export. Besides offering the palate a delicate crunch of both sweet and savory, the almond has garnered a splendid reputation by being a heart-healthy superfood that, while high in fat, can reduce heart disease. The type of fat found in this tree nut is monounsaturated, which is also found in avocados and olive oil, and is one of the two "good" fats that lower cholesterol. Almonds are also one of the leading food sources of alpha-tocopherol vitamin E, the form of the vitamin that the body absorbs best. This potent antioxidant protects cells from free radical damage, reduces the effects of UV rays, and helps minimize fine lines and wrinkles, making it an anti-aging powerhouse and a skincare darling.
"Dr. Hauschka Skin Care echoed the wisdom of the ages when it selected finely ground almond meal for the original formulation of its Cleansing Cream," says Penny Ordway, licensed and certified Dr. Hauschka esthetician for Eviama Life Spa (Philadelphia). This product is the foundation for many of the company's holistic facials and is a fan favorite. Containing a blend of whole ground almonds, including the shell and nut, obtained when sweet almonds are pressed for the extraction of almond oil, this cream removes oils and dirt from the skin while soothing and calming the face. "After one of Dr. Hauschka's treatments, clients often comment on how their skin feels nourished and protected," says Kasey Blood, licensed and certified Dr. Hauschka esthetician for RHEAL Day Spa (Rockland, ME). "The subtle scent and sensation of sweet almond in the Cleansing Cream is one of the most memorable parts of any of our treatments."
Offering another fragrant foray into skincare is the four-step Almond SpaManicure treatment from CND. According to Roxanne Valinoti, CND education ambassador, the service promises to calm and restore even the most distressed hands with a radiant, healthy glow and will provide long-lasting benefits, leaving skin soft to the touch and with a light almond scent. The treatment starts off with a hydrating soak in warmed Almond Milk Bath. The supple skin is then exfoliated with Almond Moisture Scrub and treated with a silky Almond Illuminating Masque. Hands are then massaged with Almond Hydrating Lotion for extra hydration. "This treatment is a great pampering service for any client but especially for those in need of intense skin hydration," says Valinoti. "During the winter, skin becomes weathered and cracked. The Almond SpaManicure helps to reverse the damage done by harsh weather by providing skin with much-needed moisture, exfoliation, and conditioning, all while halting the signs of aging."
At Milk + Honey Spa (Austin), almond oil is also used to give guests a youthful glow. According to marketing director Lizzie Campbell, it is sometimes used in facials to reduce dark under-eye circles because it relieves fatigued skin cells and increases blood flow. In addition to treating the face, almonds are also incorporated into one of the spa's delectable-sounding treats—The Spa Partisan ($160, 1 hour 40 minutes) body treatment, which includes a dry brushing, scrub, steam, exfoliation, lotion application, and massage. "We grind almonds into a scrub along with sugar, coffee, and dry milk," says Campbell. "The nut is dually effective, both hydrating and exfoliating the skin at the same time."
Skin Authority also uses almonds as multitaskers—to make skin smooth to the touch, as well as making it appear smooth by reducing stubborn cellulite. The company's Water Release Body Treatment (starting at $90, 50 minutes) features Skin Authority's Cellulite and Spider Vein Relief Scrub, which is made up of a blend of coffee, olive, and crushed almond to tighten and shrink blood vessels while reducing the appearance of cellulite. "Clients rave about the reduction of stress, bloating, appearance of cellulite, and swelling in their legs thanks to this treatment," says Celeste Hilling, chief executive officer of Skin Authority. When creating the scrub, Hilling says that almonds play several roles. "We extract the oil from the almond because it is a great source of vitamin E, which not only enhances the immune defense of the skin cell but is also great for moisture. In addition, the almond is a good source of mineral benefits from zinc and magnesium, which also support radiation and inflammation repair." Hilling also mentions that the remaining almond is ground to use as the exfoliating particles in the scrub.
Not only are almonds used as exfoliators at Borgata's Spa Toccare (Atlantic City, NJ) but they are also the stars of the Almond Body Buff by LATHER ($85, 50 minutes) treatment. The service combines pulverized almond grains with rich moisturizing almond cream to pamper the entire body and is finished off with a rich almond-infused shea butter moisturizer. "This service is an excellent treatment to gently exfoliate and condition the skin," says spa director Brennan Evans. "Nut shell powder exfoliants help increase blood flow and circulation to the skin surface and thereby help detoxify and decongest the skin." Evans also uses almond treatments for a more festive purpose—"almond essences convey a warm welcome to the fall season," he says. Whether using them as a sign of the season or for their numerous skincare benefits, almonds will help you and your clients get to the nut of a successful skincare regimen. —Cristina De Oliveira
While there are countless skin-healthy benefits to treating your clients with nut-based skincare products, you should also be aware of any food allergies that they may have. According to the Food Allergy Initiative (FAI) organization, peanut and tree nut allergies are two of the most common and dangerous food allergies. "Nuts contain many oils that are great for very dry skin types, says New York City-based dermatologist David Colbert, M.D. "Most important, however, is making sure one is not allergic to the nut oils used, otherwise dermatitis could develop." Topically applying products that contain traces of these ingredients are less likely to trigger a reaction, but it is still best to not expose your allergic clients to these types of products. For more information on the FAI, check out www.faiusa.org.—C.D .
The almond is not the only nut that offers a bevy of skin-enriching properties. According to New York City-based dermatologist David Colbert, M.D., while almond oil seems to be the most popular type used in skincare, "many different nut oils help to soften the skin in a similar way to petrolatum." Here are some other popular nuts that have cracked the spa scene:
Horse Chestnut: This brown smooth bulbous seed is popular in alternative medicine. "It is a favorite for its anti-inflammatory effects on the skin," says Colbert. "It is used extensively to promote better venous circulation." While it is a very common ingredient used to treat varicose veins, it is also used in skincare products to reduce puffiness in the delicate eye area, as in Naturopathica's Vitamin K Eye Cream.
Macadamia Nuts: These sweet, buttery orbs are teeming with fiber and monounsaturated fat, including the highest level of palmitoleic fatty acid, an omega-7 that helps fight weight gain. "Due to their high oil content, they are moisturizing, nourishing, and soothing, especially for mature, dry, and sun-damaged skin," says Karen Cosgrove, director of sports club and spa at The Spa at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka'upulehu (Kona, HI). "The oil from the nuts is easily absorbed by the skin and contains unique properties not found in any other oil. Nuts also work well in crushed form in scrubs." According to her, the Hualalai Macadamia Nut Scrub ($170, 50 minutes) is one of the most popular body treatments on the spa's menu, and macadamia nuts are one of the most requested ingredients to include in customized scrubs and wraps.
Walnuts: This knotty seed is rich in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin E. "Walnut oils contain lineolic acid, which have been known to maintain skin structures," says Ginger McLean, director of The Spa at the Hotel Hershey (Hershey, PA). "Ground up walnut shells are great as a natural and effective exfoliation ingredient." The spa's Chocolate Bean Polish ($65, 30 minutes) combines cocoa bean husks and walnut shells for a skin-softening service. "The walnut shells assist in detoxifying the skin and give it a lustrous, silky glow," she says. —C.D.
In a Nutshell
Share the secrets to keeping skin smooth, hydrated, and looking young through these nut-based products.
Bioelements Lutein Indoor Protective Day Creme: This antioxidant moisturizer contains sweet almond and jojoba oils to lock in moisture while smoothing and softening the skin. (800) 433-6650; www.bioelements.com.
Dermalogica Concealing Spot Treatment: This topical acne treatment, part of the MediBac Clearing Line, is formulated with horse chestnut extract, sulfur, and zinc oxide and leaves behind a natural-looking tint to help conceal blemishes. (800) 345-2761; www.dermalogica.com.
GlyMed Plus Eye Calm: Ideal for treating wrinkles, fine lines, dark circles, and dehydration, this potent cream contains macadamia and grapeseed oils, along with hyaluronic acid, shea butter, and vitamins A and E. (800) 676-9667; www.glymedplus.com.
Jan Marini Age Intervention Regeneration Facial Mask: Containing almond oil, this anti-aging treatment leaves skin softer, more luminous, and healthier. (800) 347-2223; www.janmarini.com.
Kenmen Face Healing Shaving-Cream: Help gents achieve the perfect shave with this cream, which contains coconut oil extract, macadamia essential oil, meadowfoam seed oil, tea tree oil, and vitamins E and F. (514) 521-0999; www.kenmen.net.
Ma-lie Organics Organic Coffee Macadamia Nut Polish: Claiming to help break up fat cells, reduce the appearance of varicose veins, and increase metabolism, this treatment uses Kauai coffee to exfoliate while macadamia and coconut oil hydrate and soften the skin. (866) 767-5727; www.malie.com.
Murad Renewing Cleansing Cream: Infused with almond, apricot kernel, and evening primrose oil, this ultra-moisturizing wash gently exfoliates, boosts hydration, and restores skin's moisture barrier. (888) 686-8723; www.murad.com.
Ola Hawaii Mango Tropical Lip Balm: This naturally flavored balm perfects puckers with an island-inspired blend of ingredients, including macadamia nut, avocado, kukui nut, mango butter, papaya, and passion fruit. (808) 959-2358; www.hawaiianbodyproducts.com.
Skin 2 Skin Oatmeal & Pomegranate Face Scrub: Packed with certified organic ingredients, this ultra-rich exfoliator uses walnut powder to gently remove dirt and cleanse the skin. (877) 754-6790; www.skin2skincare.com.
Sonya Dakar UltraLuxe Spot Lightening and Firming Treatment: Containing sweet almond oil, this product helps lighten and diminish spots and discolorations while protecting hands from the sun with SPF 30. (877) 72-SONYA; www.sonyadakar.com.
Sothys Paris Beauty Garden Organic Gommage Scrub: This ECOCERT-certified product uses walnut shells and sunflower oil to refine the skin, leaving it refreshed and radiant. (305) 594-4222; www.sothys-usa.com.—C.D.