Is there a more seductive smell in the world than fresh coffee? It beckons us with its fresh-roasted warmth. It offers the promise of instant energy, in a steaming mug of deliciousness. (Even if we secretly know that later, when the java jolt has worn off, we’ll be feeling more sluggish than we did before.) For many of us, coffee’s how we kick-start our day. And all we’re doing is following centuries of tradition: over a thousand years ago, members of the Galla tribe in Ethiopia noticed they got an energy boost from coffee’s red berries. The world’s first coffee shop, Kiva Han, opened later, in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453. And not long after, Turkish law made it legal for a woman to divorce her husband if he failed to provide her with her daily quota of coffee. (I suspect there are many households where that’s still – um – grounds for divorce.)
Nutritionists will tell you, though: too much coffee is a beauty no-no. It stimulates the heart muscle and the central nervous system, and it’s dehydrating: by stimulating the kidneys, it leads to water loss. But in moderation? As nutrition author Michael van Straten once told me, ‘like everything else in life, a little of what you fancy does you good.’ In other words, a cup a day – sipped, savoured, enjoyed – won’t do you any harm. If you can stick to that one cup – and there’s the challenge…. (To mitigate its effects, though, be sure to drink extra water through the day.)
If you’re trying to give up completely, I suggest you check out Downsize Daily Metabolism: an energy-boosting supplement that doesn’t rely on caffeine for its stimulating powers. And anyone addicted to their caffeine fix should also consider a beauty trade-off. Because while enjoying coffee as a drink may have a negative impact on our looks (think: bloodshot eyes from lack of sleep, dehydrated skin or cellulite, from toxin build-up), it packs a beauty kick when applied to the skin – in some cases, doing the precise opposite of what happens when we drink it. Coffee acts as a wake-up call for our complexions (its 4.5 pH balance is identical to skin’s own, so it helps prevent acne and other blemishes) and actually eliminates puffiness and cellulite: its lipolytic (fat-reducing) action stimulates micro-circulation which encourages the release of fat cells back into the bloodstream, where it will be eliminated. It may even help to prevent skin cancer: in a study at Rutgers University in the USA, it was found that when lotion enriched with caffeine was smeared onto the skins of mice, tumours that were malignant were reduced by 72%.
Coffee’s stimulating effects can even be incorporated into beauty treats you make at home. Craving a coffee fix? These should perk up your looks – beautifully – without making you in the least hyper…
COFFEE HAIR GLOW
This recipe smells divine and really works: you’ll have more lustrous hair after just one application. (It works on all hair colours, but is particularly effective for brunettes.) Simply make a strong brew – espresso, if possible – and allow to cool until only warm. Wash your hair while bathing, pour the coffee through as a rinse and leave on for 20 minutes, then finally rinse with warm water.
Whip one egg white until stiff, then mix in a quarter of a cup of warm, used coffee grounds. Massage gently onto face, then allow to dry and rinse off with warm water. This will gently firm and tone skin, minimising pores and sloughing off dead surface cells to brighten. Follow with moisturiser.
JAVA CELLULITE BODY SCRUB
1/4 cup fresh coffee grounds
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup sweet almond oil
4 drops vanilla extract
This yummy caffeine fix for the body couldn’t be simpler to make: place the coffee and brown sugar in a bowl, add the almond oil and mix. Once you’ve created a loose paste, add the vanilla extract and stir. If the mix is too firm, add more almond oil. Work the mixture into problem zones such as hips, thighs, derrière, but don’t use on the face or on broken skin. (Coffee grounds aren’t as abrasive as some salt-based scrubs.) Follow with your usual body moisturiser or cellulite product. (This will keep for a few days, if you have any of the mixture left over.)