Skin Care

By Andrea Toochin

A few years ago when acupuncture face lifts made their way on the list of cosmetic treatments and green tea became a household name, I realized America had finally caught on. We had finally joined the rest of world and realized there are actually some amazing products and services whose origins lay outside our borders. Damaging as it was to our ego, our great nation quickly rebounded with a plan of attack – find a way to profit from these strange exotic fruits, roots and treatments.

Now, I’m not saying our sole purpose for searching the oceans and jungles is to find the latest natural ‘cure-all’ anti-aging miracle treatment. There is a small part of this curiosity about foreign fruits and vegetables that shows we are finally ready to explore the globe and embrace new and different things. So what are these mysterious items?

Well, once berries, pomegranate, and green tea became mainstream fixations, bamboo and papaya followed. But, the latest items are fruits being used everywhere from fusion restaurants to cosmetic labs; they are yuzu, passion fruit, and blood orange. Yuzu, is a member of the citrus family, a sort of small sweet grapefruit. Passion fruit, referred to in Spanish as maracuya or parcha, is a small round fruit that looks like an orange but has black seeds inside covered with sweet transparent flesh; it’s tangy and sweet and works well in both cocktails, smoothies and in glazes. Blood orange looks just like it sounds; it’s a small orange that’s scarlet inside.

These fruits are invading both kitchens and laboratories; in one month I learned that not only are cosmetic companies pining with these delectable goodies, but swanky restaurants are using them to create new cocktails. Our mini guide provides a few reasons to trade in your tried and true for products with a punch.

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There are plenty of yuzu-flavored products on the market; Shu Uemura just launched a limited edition trio of sprays and one fragrance is yuzu, but I prefer the little guys. Strata Cosmetics, an independent company based in small town upstate NY, makes creams, scrubs and solid lotion bars in a variety of scents. The subtle yuzu-infused Citrine soap is made with coconut, olive, sunflower seed, soybean and wheat germ oils. This bar is so hefty it’ll last for a few months easily. Strata’s Lovable Sugar Scrub in Splendor offers a creamy consistency achieved through whipped sugar, shea butter and olive oil. The smell is sweet yet citrusy and just a touch of oil remains on the skin to leave it moisturized and smooth. Follow your cleansing ritual with the waxy Strata Solid Lotion bar, which is great for travel so long as it’s kept in a cool spot. It’s a great summer item because it nourishes skin far more than the average lotion thanks to the thick texture.

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Another new indie favorite is Wicked Cosmetics. Based in Minnesota, Ginger Thompson started Wicked out of her kitchen and created a website less than one year ago. Though she offers a plethora of fruit-infused items, I made a beeline for the yuzu scrub, which has a winning feel thanks to the sugar cane base. This scrub is strong enough to remove NYC soot that cakes on the feet but the texture is far from abrasive. Though it contains almond and coconut oils it doesn’t leave any sheen on the skin. Wicked also offers shower gels and body lotions but it’s the shower sorbets and the body butters that wowed me.

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The shower sorbet comes in a tub that resembles a pint of ice cream. It produces a thin lather but effectively washes away dirt while invigorating with one of many scents; the lemon is so powerful you won’t believe what a punch it packs. This is one of those products that satisfies mommy’s urge to shop and will help get baby in the tub. However, none of these compare to my favorite, Blackberry Vanilla Musk Whipped Shea Body Butter. This scent is sweet and fruity but totally sexy. Despite the thousands of products out there, I’ve never encountered a scent like this. The bonus is the sexy shimmer-less sheen the shea butter provides, which is perfect for a summer evening.

Now that we’ve covered the yuzu, it’s time for the tropical fruit. The closest I ever got to exotic tropical fruits like passion fruit and guanabana was a Goya can. That is until an ex introduced me to Tamarind. I fell in with the unusual taste and so has the culinary world; now it’s found everywhere from upscale continental eateries to casual Latin spots. But, it was during a trip to Ecuador years ago that I fell in love with foreign fruits. I chomped on sugar cane while walking the streets in search of batidos (fruit shakes) and encountered the blessed cacao (the fruit that chocolate is made of) in the jungle. But, it was on a treacherous bus ride that I first encountered the passion fruit. A girl was sucking what resembled an orange but a closer look revealed a circular fruit filled with seeds. This became my obsession. On a recent trip to San Juan, the folks at my lovely guest house, Numero Uno, explained that while I wouldn’t find sugar cane anywhere in the city, there was plenty of passion fruit. I’m happy to report there are many passion fruit body products to satisfy my cravings and your curiosity.

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One of my favorite natural skin care lines, Alba, was part of the initial group to bring passion fruit stateside. Alba’s Passion Fruit Bath Salts provide an easy introduction for conservative cosmetics junkies. They soften the bath water and provide a lovely fruit scent that’s not overpowering.

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Now, while many American companies are catching on, the big guns here should fear the Brazil companies, many of who are planning U.S. launches in the coming year. The Brazilian company Vyvedas produces Amazon’s Passion Fruit Liquid Soap with pure passion fruit oil. The subtle hand and body cleanser has barely any scent until it’s mixed with water, at which point a lather develops and scent erupts. Put this in a porcelain soap dispenser, and you’ll have even beauty editors guessing where you scooped it up.

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Spanish fashion designer Agatha de la Ruiz Prada chose to expand her repertoire with none other than cosmetics. I must give credit where it’s due because few newbies venture past the predictable, dependable notes – vanilla, musk, jasmine, rose, you get the picture. But, this designer produced a rich line of fragrances and body products including lip balms that come in adorable tins. The papaya is intriguing but once again, I fell for the passion fruit.

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Blood Orange always looked like a hybrid fruit to me, some bizarre agricultural disaster that made its way to our white stone kitchen counter. However, once I discovered its popularity among mixologists and R&D executives, I too became an addict. Thanks to my new favorite German cosmetic company, Primavera, I’m now addicted to Blood Orange Oil. Said to lift spirits, this concentrated sweet citrus oil can be used to scent other oils and lotions, to add fragrance to a bath or as a room freshener.

Now, if the oil bit sounds like too much work and you’re looking for a quick fix, opt for the blood orange collection from Red Flower. They make a soap and a body moisturizer that smell delicious and light up the room.

Now that we’ve given you a heads up on the latest cosmetic trends, do some of your own research. Perhaps you’ll find a new line infused with star fruit or a local store that sells jack fruit chips. Living in NYC, anything is possible. That’s the beauty of Gotham, and America – thanks to our diverse population, we have access to tropical fruits and goods from all over the world. This beautiful melting pot we call home gives us access to treasures from far away, by way of our wonderful neighbors, born and raised all over the globe. So we say, go ahead and live a little outside your comfort zone. In short, embrace the exotic.

Strata Cosmetics are available online at www.stratacosmetics.com
Wicked Cosmetics are available online at www.wicked-cosmetics.com
Alba products are available at health food stores and www.albaorganics.com
Vyvedas products are available exclusively at www.perfumania.com
Agatha Ruiz de la Prada 135 Wooster St. 212.598.4078 www.agatharuizdelaprada.com
Primavera Blood Orange Oil www.saffronrouge.com
Red Flower 13 Prince St. 212.966.1994 www.redflower.com

Originally published July 2006
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