The first soybeans were brought to the U.S. in 1765, and after World War I, soy became a valuable commodity in the U.S., used mainly to help regenerate soil in drought-stricken areas during the 1930s. Initially, soybeans were considered essential as food and for medicinal purposes, but in recent years, they’ve become a valuable element of a healthy lifestyle, as well. In addition to their nutritional benefits, soybeans are also good for the skin, as they provide moisturization and antioxidants to the skin. “While soy has long been a staple of our diets, we now have significant evidence of its benefits to the skin via topical application,” says Neal Kitchen, Ph.D., vice president of strategy and development at HydroPeptide. “Macronutrients—protein, fat, and carbohydrates—that make soy a rich dietary ingredient are also beneficial to the renewal and build up of healthy skin.”
Skincare products often rely on various forms of soy, which helps explain why there is such a range of benefits, such as helping to reduce free radical damage and inflammation, hydrating the skin by stimulating the production of hyaluronic acid, stimulating production of collagen and increasing skin thickness, and helping to brighten skin caused by hyperpigmentation, according to Beth Bialko, global curriculum developer and master instructor at Dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute. Soybean oil, which is rich in fatty acids and vitamin E, works as an emollient and also moisturizes and soothes, says Katlin Stewart, marketing coordinator at CBI Laboratories, and lecithin, which is a by-product obtained while extracting soybean oil from soybeans, helps to repair and heal skin. “Lecithin helps to emulsify lotions giving them a silkier texture, and it also protects skin,” says Nadia Fathallah, category manager at American International Industries. “Because the molecular size of soybean oil is smaller than that of other emollients, it is able to penetrate the epidermis to stimulate collagen and elastin production.”
Other types of soy found in skincare include soy protein, which contains essential amino acids that help increase collagen, and hydrolyzed soy flour, which is used for skin conditioning. However, Kitchen believes that the greater skin benefit from soy comes from its micronutrients, including isoflavones, peptides, and many vitamins and minerals. “Soy isoflavones provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support, help maintain even skintone and skin integrity, and shield melanocytes from UV-induced melanomas,” says Rhonda Allison, founder and CEO of Rhonda Allison Clinical Enterprises. Soy is an important ingredient in several Rhonda Allison products, including Skin Smoothing Gel, which contains hydrolyzed soy flour; RA For Men Mineral Freeze, which contains soybean oil; and Bio Reform 28, which includes soy isoflavones and soybean oil.
According to Bialko, because of the isoflavones found in soy, which help diminish wrinkles, tighten skin, and minimize pigmentation, soy-based products are ideal for anti-aging facial treatments that are geared toward stimulating elastin and collagen synthesis, and reducing fine lines, wrinkles, and UV-induced photodamage. “Soy isoflavones have also been used in treatment of hyperpigmentation disorders, as they prevent melanin from adhering to skin cells, therefore helping with blotchiness and discoloration,” she says. Kitchen adds that soy peptides have been shown to stimulate moisture retention, increase elasticity, and generate a lifting effect to the skin. Additionally, evidence shows soy peptides boost collagen synthesis, increase production of glycosaminoglycans, and help reduce inflammation. At Reflections Spa at Crystal Springs Resort (Sussex County, NJ), guests can indulge in the Chai-Soy Detoxifying Facial ($130, 50 minutes), which includes cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg to promote circulation and detoxification of oily and congested skin; horse chestnut and marigold to strengthen weak capillaries and soothe the skin; and alfalfa, mineral clay, and organic soy to provide the skin with essential colloidal minerals and antioxidants.
Soy has the ability to moisturize dry skin while minimizing oil in other areas. That makes soy-based treatments especially beneficial for combination skin, says Natalie Pergar, international trainer coordinator at Éminence Organic Skin Care, which incorporates soy into its Blueberry Soy collection, featuring Blueberry Soy Exfoliating Cleanser, Blueberry Soy Slimming Body Wrap, and Blueberry Soy Night Recovery Cream. It is also a gentle, well-tolerated, and calming ingredient, which is why it is often found in peels, masks, exfoliators, and moisturizers. “It has an anti-inflammatory effect, and the essential fatty acids create a protective barrier for skin that is reactive,” says Fathallah. “Treatments targeting sensitive, dry, or dehydrated skin will benefit from the use of soy-based products.” By the Sea Day Spa (Branford, CT), for example, offers the Blueberry Soy Firming Wrap ($95, 60 minutes), which helps to reinforce collagen fibers for firm skin, increase circulation, infuse skin with moisture, and heal irritation, and the Blueberry Bliss Facial ($90, 60 minutes), which includes a puree of vitamin-rich blueberry blended with non-GMO soy yogurt to leave skin soft and smooth.
Though soy offers many benefits, there are some that believe it should be avoided. While most concerns or negative effects associated with soy are consumption-based, it is recommended that any client with a soy allergy avoid products and treatments that contain it. According to Kitchen, soy isoflavones are typically not found in soybean oil or lecithin extracts but can be part of soy protein extracts. Although isoflavones have shown several important benefits to the skin, they are also potent phytoestrogens, which have been a cause of concern for some. “Phytoestrogens have been a highly debated topic in skincare, because they can mimic human estrogen and therefore can affect hormonal levels,” he says. “For many, the impact of phytoestrogens can be very beneficial to one’s skin, however, for those wanting to avoid phytoestrogens at all costs in their skincare treatments, soy protein should be added to their avoid list.”
Yet, the International Journal of Toxicology indicates that there is no research showing soy extract or soy oil has estrogenic effects when applied to skin, as it can when taken orally, says Shannon McLinden, founder and CEO of FarmHouse Fresh, which utilizes glycine soja (soybean) oil in its Front Porch Shea Butter Hand Cream, Agave Nectar Body Oil, and Sweet Cream Body Milk. “We use glycine soja oil in many of our products,” says McLinden. “It is derived from wild soybeans, is non-fragrant, and is a great emollient with a high natural moisturizing factor and strong antioxidant properties to help fight free-radical damage.” However, soy is often listed as an ingredient to avoid by doctors advising their pregnant patients, as it may accelerate dark splotches on facial skin that often develop during pregnancy.
While Ada Polla, CEO of Alchimie Forever, does not deny that soy is beneficial for the skin because it is rich in phytoestrogens, molecules that naturally stimulate the skin’s collagen production to improve the firmness and plumpness of the skin, she does have an issue with the sourcing of the ingredient. Soy is generally a genetically modified organism (GMO) product, and it is challenging to find a soy supplier that provides the ingredient without GMO, she says. “The Food and Drug Administration has concluded there is no evidence that bioengineered food or plant ingredients are less safe than those produced through conventional methods,” says Polla. “All research and studies show no side effects to using genetically modified beauty products for the moment. However, we have to ask a few questions, such as how long does it take for the body to show damage from using genetically modified ingredients and does it impact our skin cells long-term.”
Because of this sourcing issue and the possible allergic reactions associated with soy, Alchimie Forever does not use the ingredient in any of its cosmetic products. Instead, the company uses red clover extract. “Like soy, this ingredient is rich in phytoestrogens, which stimulates collagen production and helps with fine lines and wrinkles,” says Polla. “However, the allergy profile is much lower.”
It’s important for spas to do their research in order to choose the best GMO-free soy-based products to use during treatments. “As with any ingredient, be sure only the highest quality soy is used,” says Allison. “Also, look at the other ingredients the soy or soy derivative is paired with. Because soy assists with the absorption of other vital nutrients, the results will depend significantly on the other ingredients within the formula.” For example, Bialko suggests looking for products that also contain licorice, peptides, and white tea, as these age-fighting ingredients work synergistically with soy.
Fathallah recommends choosing products based on the needs of the clients. “If you are targeting or have an existing clientele that is concerned with pigmentation issues, choose products that contain discoloration-fighting soy proteins; if you are located in a cold or particularly dry climate and your clients often complain of dull, dry skin, you may opt for products fortified with nourishing soy oil,” she says. Also, choose a company that uses professional packaging with a pump top instead of an open jar, and is opaque, as soy can go rancid if it is not protected from air and light, says McLinden.
You should market soy-based retail products and spa treatments together so that clients can fully benefit from the ingredient. “If you are touting the anti-aging benefits of your soy-based spa treatments, offer your client a complementary soy-based product to use at home,” says Fathallah. “Spa treatments will deliver better results when combined with a great at-home regimen.”
In order to attract clients to soy-based treatments and products, add signs in the retail area that focus on the benefits of soy when used topically on skin, which will help overcome any misconceptions clients might have about the ingredient, says McLinden. And Aleks Vranicic, vice president of sales and technical training at Vitelle Dermatology Laboratories, suggests educating clients through marketing. “Debunk some myths and emphasize the benefits,” he says. “Serve some fun soy drinks or snacks with your soy treatments.”
Because of the many differing reports when it comes to the consumption of soy, some clients may have a negative perception of the ingredient, even when used topically, so Allison suggests educating clients on the benefits. “It is rich in proteins, minerals, and vitamins, and provided there isn’t an allergy, it is an important ingredient to any pro-youth program,” she says. “Not only does it help condition, improve suppleness, hydrate, and strengthen, it also assists in the absorption of other vital nutrients. It is a powerful, natural, and botanical ingredient with skin-fortifying qualities.”
Introduce clients to the benefits of soy-based ingredients by offering these products at your spa.—Jessica Morrobel
1. CBI Skincare Milk + Honey Firming Masque: Formulated with honey, natural milk proteins, and soybean oil, this mask replenishes dry, dull skin while black currant and horsetail extracts soothe and calm. www.cbiskincare.com
2. Clean+Easy Simply Soy Refills: These soy-based, wax-free hair removal cartridges can be used with any Clean+Easy roll-on warming unit to eliminate unwanted body hair. www.cleanandeasyspa.com
3. Dermalogica Skin Perfect Primer SPF 30: Infused with soy protein, this primer reduces the appearance of fine lines and preps skin for makeup application while pearl powder improves skintone. www.dermalogica.com
4. G.M. Collin H50 Therapy Serum: Packed with iris florentina and soy cell wall extract, this serum improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, leaving skin looking smooth and radiant. www.gmcollin.com
5. IS Clinical Youth Eye Complex: Containing soy and wheat proteins, this treatment hydrates and improves skin elasticity while reducing the appearance of under-eye dark circles. www.isclinical.com
6. Nature Pure Labs Soy Beauty Anti-Aging Rejuvenating Trio: Packed with ginseng, milk protein, and soy isoflavones, Wrinkle Repair Serum, Anti-Wrinkle Face Refiner, and Anti-Wrinkle Eye Perfector reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and replenish aging skin. www.naturepure.com
7. Nufree Antibacterial Non-Wax Hair Removal: Safe for the entire body, this soy-based antibacterial formula removes hair from the root without drying out and sticking to the skin. www.nufree.com
8. Osmosis Pür Medical Skincare Replenish Antioxidant Repair Serum: Made with grapeseed and honeysuckle flower extracts and soybean oil, this serum prevents and fights free-radical damage. www.osmosisskincare.com
9. Pevonia SpaTeen Moisturizer: This hydrating moisturizer created specifically for teens refines the skin’s surface with a blend of hydrolyzed soy proteins and kava root and strawberry fruit extracts. www.pevoniapro.com
10. Repêchage Sea Cleanse Foaming Seaweed Cleanser: Infused with green tea extract and soy protein, this cleanser improves skin texture and resiliency while Ecocert seaweeds nourish and rebalance. www.repechage.com
11. Rhonda Allison Antioxidant Complex Serum: Relying on green tea leaf extract and soybean oil, this serum infuses skin with antioxidants to hydrate and firm while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. www.rhondaallison.com
12. Satin Smooth Pure Soy Wax: Combining a blend of chamomile, honey, and soybeans, this gluten- and paraben-free wax eliminates unwanted hair without causing irritation to the skin. www.satinsmooth.com