Tropical Treasure

The Baja men may have gained acclaim for encouraging imbibers to "put the lime in the coconut and drink them both up," but the tropical treat is more than just part of a catchy beach tune. In fact, the iconic-looking coconut palm, with its shaggy nut filled with nutritious juice, meat, milk, and oil, has been called The Tree of Life due to the fact that nearly one-third of the world's population depends on coconut to some degree for its food and economy, according to the Coconut Research Center. It has also been proven to provide a treasure trove of skin benefits, making it an excellent choice for hydrating spa treatments.

Pure Fiji, an organic skincare collection used in spas around the globe, including Spa Bellagio (Las Vegas), Breeze Spa at the Wakaya Club & Spa (Fiji), and Canyon Ranch (multiple locations), uses coconut oil as the base oil in its line. "It is extremely nourishing, and the low molecular structure allows for deep penetration," says company director Andree Austin. Additionally, coconut is a mild ingredient. Most experts say that they have yet to see a client's skin react to it, though proceed with caution with clients who have nut allergies.

Coconut, the nutritious fruit of the coconut palm, provides a bounty of benefits for the skin and body. (PHOTOGRAPHY: SHUTTERSTOCK)
Coconut, the nutritious fruit of the coconut palm, provides a bounty of benefits for the skin and body. (PHOTOGRAPHY: SHUTTERSTOCK)

"Coconut contains capric acid, caprylic acid, and lauric acid, which leave the skin very smooth and soothed," adds Karen Cosgrove, director of sports club and spa at Hualalai Spa at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka'upulehu (Kona, HI). Stacey Parks, director of spa at Spa Claremont at The Claremont Resort & Spa (Berkeley, CA), says coconut also contains antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, which help release free radicals. "It's also moisturizing, helping to prevent dry skin and wrinkles," she says. "It's chemical free and full of natural, rejuvenating fatty acids that are beneficial for the skin, leaving it soft and supple."

Coconut is ideal for treating a number of skin conditions, including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema, and other infections. It is also perfect for hair and scalp services. "The ideal spa treatment is one using an oil that not only softens the skin but also protects it against environmental damage, promotes healing, and gives it a more youthful, healthy appearance—coconut oil perfectly fits this description," says Ricardo Adame Carbajal, spa manager at Armonia Spa at Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Holistic Retreat and Spa (Cabo San Lucas, Mexico). "The oil is absorbed into the skin and into the cell structure of the connective system. Applied topically, coconut oil products help to form a chemical barrier on the skin to ward off infection; support the natural chemical balance of the skin; soften skin and help relieve dryness and flaking; prevent wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots; promote healthy-looking hair and complexions; and provide protection from the sun's damaging UV rays."

Local Flavor

In tropical locales, coconut-themed services are an obvious choice for spas looking to offer an indigenous experience. "Tropical escapes conjure up feelings of relaxation, azure seas, and the gentle sway of a coconut palm," says Austin.

Cosgrove agrees that the scent of coconut evokes pleasant memories of an island vacation, which is why it is part of several treatments at Hualalai Spa. "It connects our guests to Hawaii," she says. "It also creates a special memory of their spa experience here. It is soothing, luscious, and intoxicating." One of the spa's signature services is the Polynesian Niu (Coconut) Scrub ($175, 50 minutes; $225, 80 minutes). Using Epicuren products and coconut sourced from the island, a warm coconut oil massage is followed by a scrub made from rice flour, shredded coconut, and coconut milk; a wrap; a Vichy shower rinse; and an application of a hydrating coconut milk and coconut lotion blend. The spa also offers a number of customized coconut treatments through its new Hualalai Spa Apothecary, where dried coconut can be mixed with other natural local ingredients. "The Polynesian Niu Scrub is our most popular body treatment and is a favorite among residents and guests," says Cosgrove.

Coconut Cocktails
Coconut Cocktails

In the early 1900s, Key Biscayne, FL, was home to the largest coconut plantation in the U.S.. In honor of this, The Spa at The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne offers several coconut-based treatments using Éminence Organic Skin Care products, including the Signature Coco-Luscious Body Treatment ($170, 60 minutes), the Tropical Coco-Luscious Facial ($145, 50 minutes), and the Tropical Coco-Luscious Manicure ($70, 50 minutes) and Pedicure ($85, 60 minutes). And at Armonia Spa, the Tropical Body Treatment ($110, 50 minutes), which uses locally sourced organic products created specifically for the spa, provides an indigenous spin with a coconut and mango gel exfoliation and a gentle coconut and mango cream massage. "This treatment is so appealing because it showcases the power and benefits of natural, traditional, and exotic elements," says Carbajal.

Beyond the Beach

For spas in non-beachy settings, coconut is still an ideal ingredient to encourage guests to take on a vacation state of mind. At Spa Claremont, guests are whisked away to a land of swaying palm fronds and warm breezes with the Philippine Journey (starting at $350; 2 hours 20 minutes), which includes a bath, a scrub, and a massage that incorporate fresh ginger, raw sugar, neroli, and warm coconut oil. "The aroma of coconut automatically takes us to a tropical place," says Parks. "Many find it relaxing, reminiscent of a warm breeze on a sunny day."

Hualalai Spa offers a number of coconut-themed services, including the hydrating Polynesian Niu Scrub.
Hualalai Spa offers a number of coconut-themed services, including the hydrating Polynesian Niu Scrub.

The Spa At Canyon Oaks (Waco, TX) helps guests beat the landlocked region's dry heat with a collection of invigorating coconut and lime treatments, which are billed as "a refreshing combination that nourishes the body and soul." Meanwhile, Adolf Biecker Spa/Salon at The Rittenhouse Hotel (Philadelphia) also provides ocean-inspired bliss, courtesy of the Caribbean Body Scrub ($55, 25 minutes), which uses Aveda products and exfoliates the body with salt and sugarcane then conditions the skin with avocado, coconut, and passion fruit oils. "Being in an urban setting, offering services that have coconut are uplifting, with island aromas that take clients away from the grind of the typical sights and smells of the city," says spa director Monique Bertsch. "Clients can close their eyes and smell the tropics."

Perfect Pairings

Because of its tropical nature, coconut works well with many ingredients. Miller says it is an ideal accompaniment to fruit, as fruit acids slough away dead skin cells and prepare the skin for the hydrating effects of coconut oil. Carbajal says coconut oils also combine effortlessly with many natural extracts and essential oils, and Cosgrove says she has seen excellent results when mixing coconut with dried hibiscus, macadamia nuts, rice flour, sea salt, taro, and turbinado sugar, along with a variety of oils, specifically those scented or infused with island fragrances like lemongrass, passion fruit, and pikake flower. "Basically, coconut oil works well with anything," says Austin.

Tropical Temptations
Tropical Temptations

While the song claims that if you "put the lime in the coconut and then you'll feel better," adding coconut services to your spa menu will also do wonders for your clients' skin (and your spa's bottom line). As Austin says, "Coconut oil is a wonderful daily treatment to nourish, hydrate, and protect the skin from the elements."

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