With a range of proven benefits and a scent that is sunny but not overly showy, limes add a shot of sophistication to the SPA.
Limes have always been just a little more exotic than oranges or lemons. Among spa aficionados they are now the latest twist in the perennial love affair with citrus. Lime-infused hot baths, scalp treatments, scrubs, and rubs are winning praises everywhere, to say nothing of lime-spiked summer cocktails and spritzers.
Limes and spas are a natural blend. “Exoticism not only excites the imagination, but also leaves room for thought,” Pierre Laszlo writes in Citrus, a History (University of Chicago Press, 2007). Yes, it turns out that citrus fruits have a history, and as Lazlo shows in his erudite spritzer of a book, it’s a tangy one.
Sour limes, the type you are most likely to find in the supermarket, originated in Northwest India, where they were prized for their zesty flavor. Arab traders brought them to al-Andalus, now part of modern-day Spain, where they flourished in the dry, sunny weather. Italians began cultivating limes in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, when returning crusaders planted lime groves.
From there, this tart little fruit began its own conquest of Europe. Limes and other citrus fruits became symbols of status and power when French kings, returning from visits to Italy, brought them back to Paris and cultivated them in ‘orangeries’ in their grandest palaces. Limes arrived in North America with Christopher Columbus, and rapidly spread through the West Indies and the Florida Keys.
It was in the eighteenth century that Europeans realized that the lime was more than just another pretty fruit, that it, as we now know, boasts a remarkable number of health benefits. At the time, sailors frequently succumbed to scurvy, a horrifying disease. James Lind, a Scottish physician for the Royal Navy, discovered that the disease could be prevented by taking doses of lime juice. (We now know that it’s the vitamin C in lime that does the trick.) Before long, people started calling the sailors limeys. In the nineteenth century, when the Royal Navy was Britain’s face to the world, the world started calling all Britons limeys.
Today, even more is known about the health benefits of citrus fruits, which contain hesperidin, lycopene, citric acid, limonene, and other anticancer antioxidants. These healing properties, as well as lime’s refreshing and clarifying qualities, make lime an especially attractive ingredient in topical preparations. Dr. Jody Alpert Levine, who heads the division of pediatric dermatology at Montefiore Hospital in Bronx, New York, says, “Lime’s astringent, antiseptic, and disinfectant qualities are good for treating oily and acne-prone skin.” Levine adds that its uplifting aroma makes it pleasing for use in spa treatments, but notes that in order for the antioxidants in lime to penetrate the skin, it must be formulated with care. “Vitamin C, once exposed to the air, can soon become unstable and inactive” she says.
Perhaps the best lime-themed spa treatments are noted for their freshness. At the Montage Resort & Spa, located in Laguna Beach, California, guests may opt for the California Citrus Polish, which utilizes the fruit of local groves. This exhilarating body scrub is made with a combination of lime, orange, and lemon. Combined with sea salt, the exfoliating mixture is scrubbed into the skin. Guests then wash off in a Vichy shower. A citrus-scented hydrating lotion, delicious but not overly sweet, is applied to the body with long, firm strokes to lock in moisture and further enhance the absorption of antioxidants.
Spa Montage Director Julie Raistrick says lime is a wonderful element for rejuvenation. “The citrus fruit has antioxidants, so it boosts the immune system and improves energy levels, all while hydrating the skin and body,” she says. “This is especially important during the summer months when our skin is damaged and dry from overexposure to the sun and salt from the ocean.”
Today, while California and Brazil are major producers, Florida dominates the cultivation of limes, and its spa directors have taken note. At the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes, the East Indian Lime Scalp and Body treatment is a wonderful way to celebrate lime’s roots as well as its ultimate destination in Florida. Using a warm lime blossom and ginger oil, the therapist administers a twenty-minute scalp massage, then seamlessly moves down to the rest of the body, using the same deliciously fragranced oil.
Lime is still cultivated throughout the Caribbean, and has become an entrenched part of the local cuisine and culture. “In the islands, there is nothing better than a fresh squeeze of lime to add to your favorite beverage, or spa service,” says Helen Lugo, the spa director at The Landings in St. Lucia.
Perhaps the ultimate in lime treatments is The Landings’ La Soufriere & Lime Massage. The treatment begins with a foot ritual, a refreshing footbath with a few drops of fresh lime juice, an invigorating salt scrub, a massage, and a striking of a Tibetan bowl for sound and vibrational therapy. A dry brush exfoliation comes next, followed by an application of warm volcanic mud. After a scalp and neck massage, the mud is removed with warm towels, then the guest showers off. Finally, a custom massage fragranced with lime oil is administered. “The treatment helps detoxify the body, is extremely hydrating, and helps our guests, lime down,” says Lugo. To ‘lime down’ on St. Lucia means to ‘relax and enjoy.’ Follow it with a lime spritzer or maybe a cool margarita as you watch the sun set over the ocean and you may want to call it, er, sublime.
Lime in the Spa
California Citrus Polish
Montage Resort & Spa, Laguna, CA
La Soufriere & Lime
The Landings St. Lucia
Rodney Bay, Castries, St. Lucia
East Indian Lime Scalp and Body Massage
Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, Orlando, FL
Zesty Lime Pedicure
Westward Look Resort, Tucson, AZ
Key Lime Salt Body Scrub
Cheeca Lodge & Spa, Islamorada, FL
Scalp Massage with Wild Lime Oil
Lake Austin Spa Resort, Austin, TX
Elemis Exotic Lime & Ginger Salt Glow
Round Hill Hotel and Villas, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Punta Mita Manicure
Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, Punta Mita, Mexico
Grated Coconut and Lime Body Exfoliation
Esperanza, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico