Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice


Indulge in a sweet body treatment

This Valentine’s Day, feel free to binge on sugar. But don’t eat it instead, indulge in a sugar-based spa treatment. A gentler, more moisturizing exfoliant than salt, sugar’s reputation for numerous healing and beauty properties spans centuries and continents.

Sugar and SpiceRussian-born Alina Roytberg, co-founder of Fresh, looked to her Ukrainian heritage as inspiration for her sugar line. My grandmother, who was full of old wives tales, had the best beauty advice, explains Roytberg. She believed in putting sugar on cuts to help them heal more quickly. We were curious to check out why and discovered interesting facts about the molecular structure of sugar. Now we know that sugar has many beneficial properties for the skin. It’s antibacterial, so it helps prevent infection and scarring. Sugar is also a humectant, so it helps draw moisture to the skin.

Nyakio Kamoche Grieco, of Nyakio skincare, was also inspired by her grandmother, who used to apply a mixture of sugar and grapeseed oil to the bottom of her feet, which were scraped from walking barefoot through her family’s coffee, sugar, and tea farms in Kenya. I did a lot of research into the healing properties of sugar in skincare . . . Sugar is great for the skin because it provides alpha-hydroxy acids.

David Klass, co-founder of Archipelago, cites a 4,000-year old papyrus prescription for a wound salve that is one-third sugar. Throughout the centuries, legendary beauties have used sugar and honey as part of their skin and hair care treatments, claims Klass. Poppea, wife of Nero, used a honey, sugar, and milk lotion on her face.

While some dermatologists are skeptical, others recognize sugar’s healing properties. Dr. Vicki Rapaport, a medical director for Kalologie Skincare, first read about sugar’s healing potential in a professional journal. When presented with open wounds resistant to other treatments, she says, I tell people to sprinkle table sugar in their skin ulcers and everybody gets better. I think it’s a mild irritant; it reminds your body to start healing. Dr. Amy B. Lewis, a New York City dermatologist, explains, Glycolic acid is a derivative of sugar cane; it’s the most frequently used alpha-hydroxy acid in skincare products. You get chemical exfoliation from the glycolic acid, and manual exfoliation from sugar’s granular quality.

To sweeten your Valentine’s Day, spas across the country offer sugar treatments that tantalize senses beyond your tastebuds. At the Gideon Putnam Resort and Spa’s Roosevelt Baths, combine a soak with a Saratoga Sugar Scrub. The Mango Sugar Glo, a signature treatment available at all Canyon Ranch properties, adds aloe, jojoba, and tropical fruit into the mix. The tropical theme continues at the Spa at Hotel Hershey, in Pennsylvania, which offers a Mojito Body Scrub. Featuring lime and sugar, it’s inspired by the Cuban sugar plantations and mills once owned by Milton Hershey. (See Healing News for the spa’s chocolate treatments.)

If Valentine’s Day romance is in the cards, try the ancient Egyptian practice of body sugaring to remove unwanted hair. This process has been updated at modern spas, which frequently choose Alexandria Sugaring Paste, a hypoallergenic product that is natural enough to eat. Try body sugaring at Le Spa du Manoir at the Hotel Manoir Victoria in Quebec or the Ancient Cedars Spa at the Wickaninnish Inn on Vancouver Island.

Bringing Home the Sweet Stuff

Inspired by the home remedies of Roytbergs grandmother, Fresh introduced SugarBath Cubes in 1998. The line has grown to twenty products, including body lotion, lip treatment, and Brown Sugar Body Polish, Fresh’s most popular item. In 2004, Fresh launched its Sugar Blossom collection, supplementing sugar with combinations of fruits and flowers to enhance exfoliation and add aromatherapy’s soothing and toning properties. (

Slough off Valentine’s Day indulgences with Nyakios Kenyan Coffee and Sugar Body Scrub, which utilizes coffee’s benefits as a detoxifying and firming agent for the skin. (

Archipelago Botanicals offers an extensive sugar-based line, featuring three collections “Sugar Cane & Coconut, Brown Sugar & Vanilla, and White Sugar & Mango. (

If you take your sugar organic, Alba Botanica offers Sugar Cane Body Polish with 94% organic ingredients plus oils of tropical fruit and nuts. (

Try the ancient Egyptian practice of body sugaring at home with Alexandria Body Sugaring. (

Other sugar options: Davies Gate Allspice offers a Sweet Orange Powder Sugar Bath Soak that you use like cocoa powder. ( Get Fresh offers a Moisturizing Body Sugar scented with lemongrass and lavender for a shower or bath scrub. ( Pure Fiji’s Coconut Sugar Rub infused with pineapple is great for spa pedicures or manicures. (

Mojito Sugar Scrub

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1/3 – 1/2 cup olive oil or sweet almond oil

1/2  teaspoon fresh lime zest (wash the lime well before cutting and zesting)

Mix ingredients well. Moisten skin in a warm shower. Turn off water. Take a small amount of scrub in the palm of the hand and massage it into the body, starting at the ankles and working upward with small, circular motions. Avoid sensitive areas. Rinse well then apply moisturizing body lotion.

Bess Hochstein

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