Beauty and the BeansCoffee a hot ingredient in cosmetics industry
By Dan Leif
If you’re a coffee lover, you no doubt want quality beans at the heart of your morning latte and maybe in the ice cream or cake you nibble on later in the day. But how about in shampoo or body cream? Thanks to a pair of recently rolled-out cosmetic lines, coffee consumption doesn’t have to stop when the eating and drinking do. Goodbye, aloe. Hello, Arabica.
The two cosmetic brands in question are Seattle-based Sweet Beauty, which has begun pushing its “mocha collection” that includes a sugar scrub using espresso beans from Caffe Vita, and Barista Bath and Body, a company that’s based in Portland, Ore., and uses coffee in a variety of products, including shampoo, conditioner, soap and lip balm.
Not surprisingly, the people behind both lines are longtime coffee drinkers. But both say the choice to bring coffee into a realm traditionally dominated by unpronounceable chemical ingredients is more than just a novelty play. “Coffee in general is loaded with antioxidants and is also an anti-inflammatory,” says Lisa Francoise, owner of Sweet Beauty. “It’s a real gift from nature when it comes to skin care.”
Francoise’s company was built on creating cosmetics using another bean-based food product, chocolate. But within her latest line, she formulated a lip balm, massage oil and body cream from coffee bean butter, which is made by extracting oils from organic coffee beans and adding them to hydrogenated vegetable oil. Don’t worry, though—it won’t lead to a triple bypass. “Hydrogenated vegetable oil is scary when you think about eating trans fats, but for the skin it’s an amazing product,” Francoise says. “It provides an occlusive barrier and seals in the moisturizer and antioxidants from the coffee bean.”
Sweet Beauty’s final coffee-based product, a sugar scrub, has an independent coffee shop at its roots. When Francoise needs a fresh batch of the cosmetic, she heads to a shop in her Seattle neighborhood and buys Caffe Vita espresso beans by the pound. Back at her workspace she grinds the coffee and combines it with coffee bean oil, chocolate and sugar. “We use the organic espresso beans just to add an extra exfoliation to the scrub,” says Francoise. “You’re not getting much benefit other than the feel and the look from the coffee beans.”
Barista Bath and Body, for its part, incorporates actual brewed coffee into several products. The company got its start last year when Christine Willett, now CEO, spent an afternoon lamenting about hair woes with her mother and cousin. They wanted a product that could help hair shine but not strip it of color, and eventually decided to create their ideal shampoo themselves. “As we started doing more research,” Willet says, “we discovered the pH from brewed coffee, being in the 4.5 range, is actually phenomenal for hair.”
The brewed coffee—which is a fair-trade Guatemalan, for those keeping track, and is roasted especially for the company—is a primary ingredient in Barista Bath and Body’s shampoo, body gel and soap. The products are the color of a rich single-origin brew, and they carry the smell of coffee as well. Might that be a turnoff to consumers? “That brewed coffee aroma is a familiar scent to all of us, whether we drink coffee or not,” says Willett. “It’s pervasive in all the products. It gives them that natural, almost edible feel.”
Barista Bath and Body made its official debut at last month’s Cosmoprof North America beauty trade show in Las Vegas (where it won the Discover Beauty Award in the new-product category) and is in the process of finding distribution channels. Sweet Beauty products are available at a number of spas, salons and markets nationwide. Both companies have their eyes on cafés as possible retail outlets, however. Says Francoise, “Our lip balms are a great near-the-register purchase for any coffee lover because its ingredients are pure and it has a great coffee flavor.”
And whether you end up selling coffee cosmetics in your shop or not, don’t expect this to be the last you hear of the category. “The benefits of coffee are being documented and studied,” Willett says. “I’m sure [coffee cosmetics] is going to be a growing market.”
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