Visiting a spa is meant to be a pleasant sensory experience: the calming smells, the soothing sounds, the warm colors. The more luxuriously a spa can indulge each sense, the more pleasing the experience is to the spa-goer. This explains, at least in part, the reason avocado is such a well-received ingredient in spa treatments. The pulp of the fatty fruit—almost 75 percent of its calories come from fat—has a creamy texture that feels decadent when applied to the skin. But avocados have more to offer the skin than simply a pleasant sensation. The green fruit is also a powerhouse source of skin-saving nutrients.
Though native to South and Central American countries, avocados are also grown in tropical and moderate climates around the world, even in the warmer parts of California and Florida. They're commonly used in at-home do-it-yourself beauty concoctions. "In Indonesia, avocado has been used in beauty recipes for generations because of its hydrating, nourishing, and revitalizing benefits for the skin, hair, and scalp," says Roshiko Roth-Hidalgo, the founder and owner of JUARA skincare. Borrowing from this tradition, her brand has created a rich mask that combines avocado and banana to soften and hydrate parched complexions. It's actually avocado's moisturizing properties that are most well known to spa-goers.
At the Club Olympus Fitness Centre & Spa at the Hyatt Regency Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, the Avocado Butter Body Wrap ($121, 50 minutes) includes a full-body exfoliation followed by an application of an avocado wrap that contains yogurt and honey. "This is one of our most popular treatments, and clients with especially dry skin benefit tremendously," says Sameh Elfayoumy, director of recreation and leisure. Avocado-infused services may also be particularly helpful for clients suffering from eczema or psoriasis, as the ingredient is gentle and natural. That said, spa-goers who have had an allergic reaction after eating avocado would be wise to avoid applying it topically.
Avocado's moisturizing properties are also helpful in softening rough spots, like those on the feet. At the Brickerton Day Spa (Columbus, MS), the Signature Spa Pedicure ($45, 60 minutes) includes an application of a foot mask made with avocado. "We see really dry, rough, and sun-damaged skin in the summer, and the avocado really helps soften it and helps the soles feel so much better," says spa owner Ginger Stahl. Even pure avocado paste, straight from the fruit, can work wonders to soften and smooth rough spots. If your spa is going to use fresh avocado, though, Roth-Hidalgo recommends adding a bit of lemon or lime juice to the pulp to keep it from turning brown as quickly.
For those whose skin isn't so much dry as it is burned from too much time in the sun, an avocado-laced body treatment can be a soothing service, as well. Studies have even found that a compound in avocados may help speed wound recovery. "A lot of our spa guests from Europe and the U.S. are so sensitive to the sun, and avocado treatments are very popular with them," says Karen Tijerina, spa director at the Miiluma Spa at the Fiesta Americana Condesa Cancun (Mexico). Her spa's menu features two avocado treatments: the Avocado and Yogurt Wrap ($92, 50 minutes) and the Relaxation Massage with Avocado Oil ($100, 80 minutes). The avocado oil used in the massage is from Mexican avocados, bringing an indigenous twist to the treatment. Both offerings have proven so popular that the spa is looking to soon add a facial featuring avocado.
Though avocado makes for a logical ingredient in facials aimed at dehydrated skin, a more surprising use is in treatments that target acneic and breakout-prone complexions. Researchers have found that the fruit has mild antibacterial and antifungal properties. At Stillwater Spa at Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa & Casino (Incline Village, NV), the Alpine Pure ($140, 50 minutes; $195, 80 minutes) facial works to decongest clogged pores, according to spa director Julia Chang. After extractions and masks containing ingredients like clay, sage, salicylic acid, and willow, the treatment ends with an application of a mattifying serum with avocado oil. "Many of our clients who complain of congested or oily skin and breakouts are suffering as much from dehydration as from a predisposition to oily skin," says Chang, who believes the resort's environment and weather conditions may be to blame. "The avocado provides moisture without shine or an oily texture. Guests leave with skin that's fresh, plump, and hydrated without looking greasy."
All of the above benefits aside, what kind of superfruit would an avocado be if it wasn't also loaded with antioxidants? Avocados are good sources of vitamins C and E, which are known free-radical fighters that help prevent aging. They also contain lutein, which may protect skin from UVB sun damage, as well as plant sterolins, which studies have shown can help increase collagen production. "Compared to other plants, avocados are also very rich in phyto cholesterol, which mimics one of the skin's own essential building blocks to help fortify its protective barrier," says Roth-Hidalgo. "New research suggests that a healthy, strong skin barrier is key to preventing premature aging." While it may not be the fountain of youth, an application of avocado certainly doesn't hurt in the battle against wrinkles.
"We chose a product with avocado for the fruit's hydrating and moisturizing properties, which provide suppleness to the skin and help keep it looking young," says Suzy Johlfs, spa director at Spa Anjali at The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa (Avon, CO). The spa offers an Ayurvedic Neem Healing Facial ($150, 50 minutes; $215, 1 hour 40 minutes), which feature Sundãri's Neem and Avocado Balancing Moisturizer. "Avocado is high in vitamin C while also being hydrating, therefore, it is very beneficial in the high elevation and dry climate of Colorado," says Johlfs. She also notes that the service is great for anyone who is over 30 and starting to notice duller and more dehydrated skin than in years past.
Highlighting avocado services may be a great way to attract attention to your spa. "Though avocado is becoming a popular ingredient, it is still not widely used," says Cat Tatman, product manager for glo- Professional. Seasoned spa-goers will appreciate avocado treatments for their newness, although the ingredient is familiar to most people, so it shouldn't scare off newcomers. And because it's such a delicious ingredient, too, why not try tempting clients with tasty avocado treats at reception or after treatments? It's a simple way to please every last sense. —Megan O'Neill