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A Hot Little Number

By: Cathy Christensen
Posted: August 21, 2008, from the September 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Peppers are a common addition to both everyday and gourmet cooking, with a huge range of flavors, textures and colors that support many entrees. Who knew the red pepper also had a secret ingredient that can help with anti-aging whims and circulation woes. Although not recommended as a food for those who suffer from rosacea, red pepper is becoming a hot addition to many spas’ anti-aging arsenals.

In the kitchen

Summer and early fall are the seasons red peppers are at their peak for flavor, and those with deep, vivid colors, taut, clear skin and healthy-looking green stems are the best choices for cuisine. The spicy veggies provide a heaping helping of alpha tocopheral vitamin E, a potent antioxidant, and have more vitamin Cthan oranges. Lycopene, which is becoming famous for lowering men’s risk of prostate cancer, is what provides the bright red color of the plant, and although red bell peppers and red hot peppers are in the same family, red hot peppers have higher levels of capsaicin, which gives the hot pepper its heat and is being researched for its affect on fat cells.1 In fact, researchers recently found that capsaicin prevented early fat cells from becoming full-fledged fat cells.2

A colorful ingredient in Ludlow, Vermont’s, Green Mountain at Fox Run’s Summertime Potato Salad, red bell pepper can also be found in Gilman, Illinois’, The Heartland Spa’s Chili Seared Salmon with Sweet Pepper Salsa. Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa in Ainsworth Hot Springs, British Columbia, Canada offers a Roasted Red Pepper Soup, and the pepper is a star ingredient in the Vegetable Lasagna at Red Mountain Spa in St. George, Utah. Check out the delicious Spa Burrito from Executive Chef William Mendez at New Age Health Spa in Neversink, New York.

In the spa

Red hot peppers are No. 7 on Nicholas Perricone, MD’s Superfoods list because of their capsaicin. It helps relieve headaches, arthritis and sinus pain. In spa services, red pepper is often used in body treatments due to its anti-inflammatory abilities. Nuclear transcription factors (NTF) in the human body, largely responsible for cancer and premature skin aging, are activated by ultraviolet light and free radicals. NTFs can be blocked by capsaicin. And capsaicin also is being hailed as a fat-burner, increasing overall metabolic activity and helping the body burn fat and calories.3

The Deep Tissue Massage at Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa in Lake Placid, New York, features optional thermal red pepper oil that creates a deep-heating sensation to help relieve sore muscles, and the Oleaslim & Black Moor Mud Sculpture Wrap at Skinsations Spa in Sacramento, California, features a blend of essential oils, including red pepper, to increase circulation and reduce the appearance of cellulite. At Pantages Spa in Toronto, the Chocolate Souffle Wrap features a combination of thermal mud, cocoa and red pepper to slim and detoxify, and the Contouring Mud Stone Wrap from Ste. Anne’s Spa in Grafton, Ontario, Canada, uses red pepper to help activate circulation and tighten skin. Another detoxifying treatment can be enjoyed at Wiesia Salon & Spa in Toronto, with the red pepper-infused Mud Wrap.