Beauty and the Beans

Re-posted from Fresh Cup Online Magazine

August 2010


By Dan Leif
Coffee a hot ingredient
in cosmetics industry

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.

“Coffee in general is loaded with antioxidants and is also an anti-inflammatory,” says Lisa Francoise, owner
of Sweet Beauty.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.”