A Grain of Truth

quinoa, gluten-free in spa, gluten free skincare, whole grain skincareWhile there is no shortage of innovative skincare ingredients on the market today, the increasing interest in more natural ingredients has certainly shone a light on grains, such as corn, oats, rice, quinoa, and more. Found in various skincare formulations, these hard, dry seeds are proving to be effective exfoliators. According to Szilvia Hickman, senior vice president of Szép Elét, which distributes Ilike Organic Skin Care, they’re also a great natural substitute for synthetic microbeads, which have been banned in some states due to their environmental impact on marine life. “Cornmeal is an all-natural scrubbing alternative to plastic microbeads in various face and body exfoliators,” says Hickman. “It can be formed into different shapes and sizes depending on the purpose of the product and whether we want a gentler or stronger scrubbing effect on the skin.”

Interestingly, grains aren’t always viewed positively when it comes to the skin. In fact, they often get a bad rap for contributing to various skin conditions when ingested. In Wheat Belly Total Health (Rodale, 2014), author William Davis, M.D., reveals how wheat and closely related grains, such as barley, corn, and rye, are actually disrupters of skin health. From triggering autoimmune reactions, increasing inflammation, and spiking blood sugars, grains can sabotage clients’ complexions when consumed, he says. “One of the reasons why people fail to connect grains with skin health is that their disruptive effects can show themselves in so many varied ways,” says Davis. “The most common is red facial discoloring, especially on the cheeks, along the sides of the nose, and around the eyes. Other wheat and grain disruptions of skin health include eczema, acne, dandruff on the scalp, dryness, excessive oiliness, rosacea, and other autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis.” Fortunately, eliminating these ingredients from a diet can help. “Wheat and grain elimination should be, in my view, the first and most powerful effort anyone can make in regaining a beautiful appearance and skin,” says Davis.


uinoa, gluten-free in spa, gluten free skincare, whole grain skincareAn Ancient Grain

When it comes to topical skincare, however, grains are still touted for their nourishing properties. Quinoa, in particular, is becoming increasingly popular. At The Spa at Tambo del Inka (Cusco, Peru), guests can take advantage of the Andean grain in the Quinoa Facial ($120,
60 minutes). The treatment incorporates the plant, which is a source of B complex and vitamin E, to assist in cellular regeneration, form a protective barrier over skin, and provide hydration. In addition to a thorough cleansing and exfoliation, the treatment also includes a mask and massage with products made exclusively for the spa in a Peruvian laboratory. “Our clients love quinoa,” says spa manager Carmen Aguilar. “It has many nutrients, minerals, and proteins, which greatly favor our skin, especially skin that is sensitive, dry, and irritated. Quinoa is able to restore skin hydration, because it has threonine amino acid and other fatty acids, which prevent skin drying and aging.” According to her, the results are instantaneous.

Barbara Close, founder of Naturopathica, has also jumped on the quinoa bandwagon and for good reason. “Quinoa is an exceptional grain, because it contains all eight of the essential amino acids to assist in the protection, repair, and conditioning of the skin,” she says. “These amino acids deliver essential nutrients.”

Quinoa is also a key ingredient of Aypa, a skincare line named for the Andean Quechan word for Earth. The line was inspired by the ecological traditions of founder Mirella Crovetto’s native Peru and incorporates a host of Andean plants, including quinoa and purple corn. According to her, quinoa is chock-full of proteins as well as lysine and threonine. “What makes lysine so important is that our body needs it in order to heal any damaged tissue,” says Crovetto. “Therefore, it becomes an ally in the beauty of the skin, as it is a key element in the synthesis of collagen and elastin, two very important factors in keeping skin smooth, supple, and youthful looking.” That’s not all though. Quinoa also has high levels of vitamin B, such as folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine. Niacin, also known as B3, and riboflavin, known as B2, are especially important, because they give energy to the cells and contribute to the building of connective tissue. “Quinoa also contains carbohydrates, lipids, and minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, and zinc, as well as natural vitamins C and E,” says Crovetto. “All these elements make quinoa a superfood that nourishes the skin.”


A Colorful Corn

Also nourishing is purple corn, which is cultivated in the lower valleys of the Peruvian Andes. “It is one of the most effective natural antioxidants due to its high levels of anthocyanin, also known as flavonoids, and phenolic compounds, which give it the authentic purple color,” says Crovetto. In addition to promoting tissue regeneration and slowing the aging process, the anthocyanin in the corn also promotes collagen formation, improves cell irrigation and blood circulation, detoxifies and calms the skin, and protects cellular DNA. 

Both quinoa and purple corn play a role in the Aypa’s Mystic Inka Treatment ($164, 90 minutes), which is available at Complexions Spa for Beauty and Wellness (Albany and Saratoga Springs, NY). The treatment involves a cleansing with the Purple Corn Antioxidant Body Exfoliant, applications of the Lucuma Warming Body Mask and the Sacha Inchi Body Oil, and a dose of hydration with the Quinoa Nourishing Body Cream.


Cereal for the Skin

One of the most popular grains used in skincare is oats. “Since medieval times, oats have been used for their medicinal properties,” says Close. “Today they are prized for protecting against free radicals, reinforcing cell immunity, and preventing
inflammation. Oats are also an excellent moisturizer, forming a thin film over the skin to help retain moisture while soothing and softening the skin.” It’s no surprise then that they’re a common ingredient in Naturopathica products, along with quinoa and wheat kernel. According to Close, the Oat Cleansing Facial Polish is a Naturopathica best-seller and the foundation of many of its facial treatments, including the Natural Face Lift Facial ($175, 90 minutes), available at The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg (VA). The treatment relies on the three-in-one oat and jojoba bead cleanser, scrub, and mask to sweep away dry skin and impurities. 

At The Salish Spa at the Salish Lodge & Spa (WA), The Herb and Honey Scrub Bar features a Honey and Oatmeal Body Scrub (starting at $120, 50 minutes), a nourishing mix of warmed natural oatmeal and pure honey straight from the hive. Ideal for dry or sensitive skin, the scrub features a full-body exfoliation followed by an application of milk and honey butter that melts into the skin. “What makes the treatment a year-round favorite on our spa menu is the versatility and the numerous benefits of oatmeal,” says spa manager Melissa Brown. “The friction of the grains helps to boost circulation and gently remove dry dead skin cells, while the soothing qualities of the oats calm and soften the skin.”

The 24-‘Heaven’ Body Treatment ($155,
60 minutes), available at Bliss Spa (multiple locations), includes a soothing oatmeal mask and a heated wrap. Perfect for those suffering from eczema, psoriasis, or dry skin, the healing service concludes with a Vichy shower and a rubdown with High Intensity 24-‘Heaven” Healing Body Balm, which contains soothing colloidal oatmeal and exfoliating lactic acid. 

According to Regina Muhammad, cofounder of Buff Her House of Exfoliation, oatmeal is great for sensitive skin. “It contains saponins, which are natural cleansers that gently remove dirt and oil from pores,” she says. Geraldine Howard, cofounder of Aromatherapy Associates, is also a fan of oats, thanks to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. “Oat flour soothes and balances excess oils, resulting in a healthy and matte complexion,” she says. “Oat amino acids hydrate the skin and provide a soft foam.” At the Waldorf Astoria Spa at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, oats are used in the Rose Hydrator ($165, 50 minutes), which includes a gentle olive grain exfoliation, a hydrating wrap, and an Ayurvedic scalp massage. 

Oat kernel extract, also known as avena sativa, is an oil extracted from oat seeds. Commonly used in skincare products, it contains amino acids, beta-glucan, and polyphenols. According to Sara LaBree, education manager of Jurlique, oat kernel is a company favorite and can be found in its Purely Age-Defying Firming and Tightening Serum and Nutri-Define Superior Retexturising Facial Serum. “Oat kernel is proven to provide excellent soothing and moisturizing benefits, and it contains a network of complex sugars, which helps to increase skin firmness both in the short term and after long-term use,” says LaBree. “It not only shows immediate results in increased hydration and skin firmness but also has the ability to build on these results over time.” Capitalizing on the benefits oat kernel provides the skin, Nature’s Spa by Jurlique at Hotel Palomar San Diego offers the Premiere Age-Defying Facial ($190, 90 minutes), a powerful anti-aging service that retexturizes the skin with targeted botanicals.

While corn, oats, and quinoa are just a few of the grains being celebrated for their skincare benefits, new varieties are emerging all the time. “Grains are important in skincare, because they have anti-inflammatory, protective, and hydrating benefits,” says Close. “They are a great complement to active ingredients, as they calm irritation and allow the skin to focus on looking younger and feeling healthier.

Reap a host of skincare benefits with these grain-based products.—H.M.

1. Advanced Rejuvenating Concepts Advanced Recovery Cream: Formulated with a combination of antioxidants, rich emollients, and rice peptide protein, this skin-quenching formula leaves skin looking soft, supple, and radiant. www.arcskincare.com

2. Buff Her House of Exfoliation Oatmeal Blueberry Cookie: This exfoliating oatmeal scrub features handpicked organic blueberries that fight free radicals and gently nurture the skin. www.buffher.com

3. Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant: This rice-based powder formula activates upon contact with water, releasing papain, rice enzymes, and salicylic acid that help exfoliate the skin. www.dermalogica.com

4. G.M. Collin Active Exfoliant Powder: This exfoliator combines three types of action—enzymatic, granular, and chemical—to sweep away dead cells. It is formulated with rice powder, tea tree oil, and vitamins C and E. www.gmcollin.com

5. Ilike Organic Skin Care Ultra Sensitive Exfoliating Mask: Dermatologist tested on sensitive skin, this herbal mask is made with cornmeal to rid the skin of impurities and antioxidant-rich grapeseed and yarrow. www.szepelet.com

6. Jurlique Nutri-Define Superior Retexturising Facial Serum: This anti-aging serum is formulated with ingredients, such as oat kernel extract and shea butter, and natural liposomal technology to reveal luminous skin. www.jurlique.com

7. Le Mieux Rx Complex Serum: This all-in-one anti-aging serum with five potent peptides, an antioxidant blend, oat beta glucan, and rice protein reduces the appearance of wrinkles, balances uneven tone, and firms skin. www.lemieuxcosmetics.com

8. Naturopathica Oat Cleansing Facial Polish: Gentle enough for daily use, this three-in-one cleanser, scrub, and mask contains exfoliating jojoba beads and soothing oats to sweep away dry skin and
impurities. www.naturopathica.com

9. PCA Skin Hydrate Therapeutic Oat Milk Mask: Designed to soothe compromised skin, this treatment mask with oat milk provides essential fatty acids and antioxidants necessary to retain moisture and improve the skin’s protective barrier. www.pcaskin.com

10. Repêchage Honey & Almond Scrub: Almond meal, pure honey, and oatmeal help exfoliate the skin and leave it clean and smooth. www.repechage.com

11. Sothys Paris Energizing Day Cream: Formulated with rice peptides and lupine extracts, this daily moisturizer improves microcirculation and boosts energy production and skin oxygenation. www.sothys-usa.com

12. Tree Hut Oatmeal Scrub for Sensitive Skin: Available in Pear & Chia Seed (as shown) and Vanilla & Honey, these exfoliating scrubs feature a soothing blend of aloe, cocoa butter, ground oatmeal, and certified organic shea butter. www.treehutshea.com