Friday, November 13, 2015

Going Nuts

More than just a healthy snack, nuts are also proving to be beneficial to the skin and hair.

Although there is some ambiguity about what constitutes a nut in the true botanical sense, most people think of it as a fruit with a hard shell and edible seed. Hailed for their nourishing benefits, nuts are considered excellent sources of protein and heart-healthy fats. Unfortunately, they’re also high in calories when consumed in excess. You needn’t worry about their caloric intake, however, when incorporating nuts into your skincare regimen. “Nuts are one of nature’s amazingly versatile and highly beneficial skincare ingredients,” says Janae Muzzy, vice president of research and development for Epicuren Discovery. “Finely ground, they can be used as effective exfoliants to refine and smooth the surface of the skin. Cold-pressed into oil, they provide powerful antioxidants and minerals, while their fatty acids deliver rich moisture deep into the skin.” According to her, sweet almond, kukui nut, macadamia nut, and walnut oils are some Epicuren faves. And the skincare company is certainly not the only one embracing nuts’ numerous benefits. Both spas and manufacturers are tapping into the powerful punch these nuggets provide. “Nuts are an excellent choice for polishing and exfoliating the skin, as well as nourishing and moisturizing it with the delicate oils they produce,” says Jeff Brown, training manager at Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics. “When ground and used as an exfoliant, they are a natural and sustainable alternative to plastic microbeads.” Their oils are also proving to be a valuable commodity in the skincare world. “Nut oils are fine in texture and easily welcomed into the skin, making them effective and gentle moisturizers and ideal carrier oils to draw the effects of essential oils into the skin,” says Brown. “Used throughout history, nuts remain valuable natural ingredients in cosmetics today.”

Almond Joy

At Lush, almonds are the nuts of choice. According to Brown, the nut, oil, and shell are all used throughout the skincare range. “Almonds are packed with essential fatty acids and antioxidants, including vitamin E, renowned for its ability to maintain the supple, pliant look and feel of the skin, making it one of the finest oils to use in cosmetics,” says Brown.

Kukui Kraze

Better known for their hydrating benefits than their exfoliating power, kukui nuts have long been used by those in Polynesian cultures to moisturize and protect the skin from the elements. Rich in omega 3, they are full of antioxidants and have the added advantage of easily penetrating the skin without leaving it feeling greasy.

Kukui nut oil is also used as a base ingredient for Pure Fiji products. “It’s a proven barrier oil that is readily absorbed into the skin,” says cofounder Andree Austin. “It is particularly good for dry skin and those suffering from psoriasis and eczema, as it has healing properties.”

Macadamia Miracles

Another nut growing in popularity is the macadamia nut. In fact, it is the basis for more than one product line. Jindilli, for example, is a family-owned macadamia company based in Australia, home to the native Australian rainforest tree that produces the nut. It takes its name, Jindilli, from one of the names given to macadamia nuts by Indigenous Australians. According to chief brand officer Cherie Jackson, the efficacy of macadamia oil on skin was discovered by accident when local therapists began using the oil for massage. They were impressed by its great glide and the fact that it left the skin clean and silky. “The fatty acids in macadamia nuts are one of the closest botanical sources to those found in skin,” says Jackson. “Because of this, the skin recognizes them and uses them to replenish what our bodies stop making as we age.”

“Macadamia oil contains the highest amount of omega 7 than any other nut oil,” says Karrie Fonte, area vice president of global education. “Omega 7 most closely resembles human hair sebum and thus mimics the scalp’s natural oil production to provide nourishment. Omega 7 is also exceptionally lightweight and non-greasy with no buildup, which makes it ideal for all global textures.”

Pressing Matters

Because the use of nut oils is especially popular, it’s important to consider how the oil is extracted. “The extraction process of nut oils definitely impacts their quality,” says Muzzy. “Like many natural ingredients, heat can destroy the integrity of the fats, minerals, and vitamins. Cold-pressing is the purest, most ideal extraction technique to keep the nutrients intact at their maximum potency.” According to Fonte, the fact that cold-pressed oils experience a controlled temperature setting in the batching process of raw materials helps the oil maintain its nutritional value. “Cold-pressing is mainly used in high-end oils used in cooking when subtle differences in flavor may make a difference in the perceived quality of the product,” she says. “Most beauty companies use expeller-pressed oils in which no heat or chemicals are added to the extraction process. The structure and efficacy of our macadamia and argan oils are maintained  just as well as in any other extraction process.”

Allergy Concerns

If there is a downside to nut-based products or treatments, it’s only that tree nuts are one of the top eight foods that account for 90 percent of all allergic reactions, according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). As a result, you’ll want to make sure to discuss your nut allergies to your beauty professional beforehand. “Consumers with a peanut or tree nut allergy will always want to be cautious when using a product or experiencing a treatment with nuts, as an allergic reaction could occur,” says Fonte. Fortunately, severe reactions are rare, and some nuts pose less of a risk. “Of all the tree nuts, macadamias account for less than five percent of allergic reactions.” Erring on the side of caution, you  should always keep the lines of communication open with your beauty professionals.

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