The best part of waking up? coffee of course—at least that's what the more than 100 million Americans who start their day with a cup of java would say. Even those who don't imbibe the brew on a regular basis would probably agree that coffee's rich, pleasing aroma alone is enough to get us moving on sluggish mornings. As an added bonus, research suggests that consuming coffee is good for you. Studies have shown that drinking coffee in moderation can lower your risk of a host of health problems like cancer, heart disease, kidney stones, and diabetes. And as we've learned so many times before, what's good for the body when ingested is usually good for the body when applied topically, which explains the growing trend in coffee-inspired spa treatments and products.
With so many natural ingredients available—all claiming anti-aging and skin-improving powers—why choose to develop spa therapies centered around coffee? One good reason is because java-infused treatments deliver more than just therapeutic benefits. "Our clients want results, but they also want to relax and enjoy themselves," says Danielle Knerr, assistant spa manager at the Spa at Norwich Inn (Norwich, CT), where guests can try the Coffee Body Polish ($70, 20 minutes) exfoliating treatment. "Coffee treatments smell great and are enjoyable, but they also do something great for you as well," adds Knerr. In the case of the body polish at the Norwich Inn, that added benefit is the removal of dead, dry skin cells.
Another reason java treatments are hot: Coffee's pleasing aroma appeals to both women and men, which makes treatments featuring the bean excellent additions at spas looking to beef up their men's treatment menus. "I think men are more likely to try a coffee treatment because it's non-threatening and doesn't sound too flowery," says Jim Kolka, director of spa services at Elements Health Spa at the Hilton El Conquistador Golf and Tennis Resort (Tucson, AZ). "I don't think as many guys try our Wrapped in Roses treatment as they do our BodyCoffee treatment ($150, 80 minutes)." At some spas, like Qua Baths and Spa at Caesars Palace (Las Vegas) and the Estrella Spa at the Viceroy Palm Springs (Palm Springs, CA), coffee treatments are featured only on the men's spa lineup—though that hasn't stopped women from requesting them as well.
But these reasons shouldn't overshadow coffee's skin protecting and restoring abilities. Coffee beans are a decent source of antioxidants, so they offer some UV protection. And the caffeine found in coffee has even been shown in at least one study in mice to prevent skin cancer when applied topically. It's the fruit of the coffee plant, though, that shows the most potential as a powerful anti-aging ingredient. A new product called CoffeeBerry, which is derived from this fruit, has been garnering a lot of attention from dermatologists and consumers alike, as studies have shown it to be a more potent antioxidant than green tea. The RevaléSkin line of products, launched last spring, is the first to include CoffeeBerry. The line is currently available exclusively in dermatologists' offices, but representatives for the brand say it may eventually be distributed through spas.
Coffee is also an excellent odor absorber and has astringent properties to boot. These qualities lend themselves admirably to pedicures and other foot treatments. At the Spa at Topnotch (Stowe, VT), guests can have their feet and legs pampered during the Hammam Foot Ritual ($105, 50 minutes). The second step in this seven-part treatment uses Red Flower's Lemon Coffee Blossom Olive Stone Scrub. And at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa (Sonoma, CA), feet are treated to a soak, scrub, mask, and massage using BodyCoffee products during the spa's Signature Pedicure ($95, 55 minutes).
Perhaps the most well-known benefit of coffee is its stimulating effect. The caffeine it contains is a powerful detoxifier and helps improve microcirculation. "I was reading a lot about how coffee and caffeine were great for boosting circulation and helping reduce the appearance of cellulite, so we decided to add a coffee treatment to our menu," explains Lynne Vertrees, director of treatment development at Lake Austin Spa Resort (Austin, TX). According to Vertrees, the main reason visitors at LakeHouse Spa try the Coffee Scrub and Massage ($170, 80 minutes) is because they hope to see firmer skin on their thighs and arms. The Java Jolt ($145, 50 minutes) body wrap at The Watermark Spa (San Antonio) also uses coffee, in addition to kaolin clay and sea algae, to detoxify and tone problem spots.
Driven by professional and consumer demand for a more effective cellulite treatment, Pevonia created the Green Coffee Body Wrap ($120, 50 minutes; $150, 80 minutes suggested), which helps smooth and contour the skin. "During our research phase, we uncovered the effectiveness of chlorogenic acid, which is found in green coffee, making this natural ingredient the ideal choice and inspiring the initial formulation of the treatment," says Sylvie Hennessy, founder of Pevonia. Chlorogenic acid is an antioxidant that also works to slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream.
In many of the previously mentioned treatments, coffee is used as an exfoliant. The ground beans provide a vigorous polishing but aren't overly harsh on the skin, as their edges are much smoother than ingredients like walnuts and apricot pits. It is the use of coffee grounds to open the pores and slough off dead skin cells that led to the creation of BodyCoffee, a coffee-laced skincare line. "I used to live in Moscow, and during one of my visits to the banya, I saw someone scrubbing their skin with coffee grinds," says Stephanie Profitt, the line's creator. "Once I moved back to the States, I continued to exfoliate my skin with coffee grinds in the shower. I kept saying, 'Someone should make a product like this.' We use natural ingredients like oats, salt, and sugar on our bodies—why not coffee?" In 2002, BodyCoffee was born. Originally, Profitt figured she'd sell the line mostly in small boutiques, but spas soon started requesting professional-sized products. The spa market is now the brand's strongest and their range of 10 coffee-infused products now includes a lip balm, body wash, and body balm, as well as the coffee polish that started it all.
BodyCoffee is certainly not alone in the world of coffee-spiked products. Spas have more than a few brands to choose from these days. Some locations, though, have chosen to mix up their own coffee concoctions. At Estrella Spa, juice from fresh lemons picked in the resort's gardens are combined with coffee grounds and sunflower oil to make the body polish used in the Lemon Coffee Body Scrub ($85, 30 minutes). And at Urban Nirvana day spas in South Carolina, therapists blend together several ingredients, including coffee, to create the scrub and body mask used in the Body Buzz ($90, 60 minutes) wrap treatment. "Our therapists really enjoy making the products used in this treatment, so they're great mouthpieces for it," says the spa's owner, Susie McCrary, who credits the treatment's popularity to the marketing ability of her team.
While many spa professionals agree that coffee treatments can easily market themselves, there are plenty of other ways to bring them to the attention of your clients. By combining coffee with other gourmet products, you can create mouth-watering, decadent treatments like the Coffee Body Odyssey ($150, 90 minutes) at The Greenbriar Spa (White Sulfur Springs, WV). Guests soak in a chocolate bubble bath before a full-body sugar and coffee scrub and a rubdown with chocolate body cream. Spas looking to bring more clients in during the morning and early afternoon hours could benefit from promoting "Morning Brew" or "Coffee Break" treatments. And during the holidays, a gift certificate for a coffee spa treatment makes an excellent gift for coffee lovers. However your spa decides to promote its coffee services, you can bet clients will soon be asking for a second cup.— Megan O'Connell