Next time you slice open an orange, take a deep breath and notice how the fresh, clean scent makes you feel. Happier? Energized? Absolutely, says Ingrid Martin, an instructor of aromatherapy at Ashmead College in Seattle and author of Aromatherapy for Massage Practitioners (Lippincott, 2006). "Citrus scents lift your energy and mood," she says. But citrus does more than just make you feel better; it can actually make you look better. When infused into skin care, it can improve the texture of your skin, fight wrinkles, and clear out your pores. "Citrus is the original cosmeceutical," says Kenneth Beer, M.D., clinical instructor of dermatology at the University of Miami.
But rubbing that slice of orange directly on your face won't do it, cautions Heidi Waldorf, M.D., director of laser and cosmetic dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. "That will only irritate your skin," she says. Instead, you want to seek out formulas that have citrus extracts to get the following benefits.
Bioflavonoids are the plant pigments responsible for the bright colors of citrus fruit. Their antioxidant properties lessen free-radical damage from sun and pollution. "They help protect the skin in the same way that a squirt of lemon juice keeps apples from turning brown," explains Jack Davies, CEO of Davies Gate, a skincare company in Irwindale, Calif.
The antiseptic properties of citrus fruits make them great for any natural cleaning formula. "They tighten the skin and remove oil, making them a great choice for oily skin," says Beer.
"Citrus fruits are full of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) that will mildly exfoliate the skin," says Beer. Since AHAs can be intense, be sure to test the product first. "Before using a facial treatment with citrus, try it in a small patch along your jawline to make sure you don't have a reaction," cautions Waldorf.
Citrus is known in aromatherapy to be refreshing and rejuvenating, says Waldorf. "Citrus scents have a balancing effect," adds Martin. They can boost your spirits while calming your mind.
For a soothing facial mist or fresh, energizing scrub, try these at-home treatments from Channing's Day Spa in Chicago.
CITRUS FACIAL MIST
16 ounces purified water
12 drops citrus essential oils (tangerine and lemon or orange and grapefruit or lemon and lime)
Shake, then pour into facial mist spray bottle.
PINK GRAPEFRUIT BODY SCRUB
1/2 cup coarse sugar
1 teaspoon honey
6 drops grapefruit essential oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
Blend, then scrub onto damp skin.