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Spice Up Your Spa

Cathy Christensen October 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

My husband and I are complete opposites when it comes to preferences—he likes 2% milk, I prefer skim; he likes to go with the flow, and I like to plan ahead; he likes cinnamon and I like mint. This may seem like a small detail, and admittedly it was, until cinnamon became a popular flavor for dental floss and toothpaste. Until recently, I could rest comfortably in the knowledge that our toothpaste and floss would be mint-flavored, and there would be no debate.

Nowadays, though, the choice of cinnamon or mint depends on which one of us goes to the store on the trip that calls for new toothpaste. Luckily, each of us can stand the other’s preference—after all, compromise is one of those skills that comes easier after years of marriage. But truthfully, cinnamon is a flavor I would prefer to enjoy in desserts and smell as an invigorating essential oil, not taste in my toothpaste.

In the kitchen

Of course, cinnamon’s flavor and aroma are instantly recognizable, and have been around for centuries. Cinnamon sticks, known as quills, are actually the brown bark of the cinnamon tree, which, when dried, rolls into the familiar tubular form.1 The other preferred way of enjoying cinnamon is ground.

There are approximately 100 different varieties of cinnamon, but the most popular are Cinnamomum zeylanicum, otherwise known as Ceylon cinnamon or “true cinnamon,” and Cinnamomum aromaticum, known as Chinese cinnamon or cassia. Both have similar characteristics, but the Ceylon variety is more refined, subtle and rare in North America. Cassia is the less expensive variety that is most popular in the United States. Ceylon is mainly produced in Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Brazil and the Caribbean, while cassia is found mainly in China, Vietnam and Indonesia.1 Both varieties are commonly used in dessert dishes, as well as to flavor meats, syrups, creams, spiced mulled wines, teas and soups.2

Cinnamon often lends its fragrant, sweet, warm taste to a variety of dishes, making it as versatile as it is delicious. The Heartland Spa in Gilman, Illinois, offers Pumpkin Pancakes flavored with cinnamon for a tasty breakfast; which is also provided courtesy of the Wholewheat and Cinnamon French Toast With Warm Orange Sauce at The Hills Health Ranch in 108 Mile Ranch, British Columbia, Canada. The Regency Health Spa in Hallandale Beach, Florida, provides a delicious Sweet Potato Souffle made with mashed sweet potatoes, rice milk, organic cinnamon and nutmeg; and for a tasty lunch, Bamboo Spa Café at Red Door Lifestyle Spa, Elizabeth Arden at the Hyatt Regency Bonaventure Conference Center & Spa in Weston, Florida, offers a Cinnamon Scented Chicken Wrap with quinoa and rice vinegar vinaigrette. The refreshing Tropical Fruit Plate With a Cinnamon and Yogurt Dip can be enjoyed at L’Aqua Day Spa at the Watermark Hotel & Spa in Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia; and Mohonk Mountain House offers its Vintage Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding recipe to help celebrate its 140th anniversary. (Editor’s note: For this recipe, log on to

Also, for a decadent treat to celebrate the cooler months, check out the >Mayan Hot Chocolate house recipe courtesy of Rancho La Puerta, Tecate, Baja California, Mexico.

In the spa

Along with its uplifting, distinctive scent commonly used in aromatherapy services, cinnamon offers skin care benefits, as well. It does contain slight astringent properties and might be a bit overwhelming for more sensitive skin types; however, cinnamon combined with other ingredients is less likely to cause skin irritation. Cinnamon oil also has a stimulating, warming effect that makes it a popular choice for massage services.3

At Spa Gregorie’s, which has locations in Newport Beach, Santa Margarita and Del Mar, California, clients can take advantage of the Epicuren Facial that includes a hot cinnamon peel and two enzyme masks to help draw out impurities and maximize the skin’s elasticity; and the Tropical Brown Sugar Polish at R Spa at Renaissance ClubSport Hotel and Fitness Resort in Walnut Creek and Aliso Viejo, California, combines cinnamon, honey and Tahitian vanilla. The Cinnamon and Spice Aroma body wrap from the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago Spa wraps clients in warmth, incorporating a massage and stimulating cinnamon aromatherapy; and Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs, California, provides a Ginger Cinnamon Scrub that exfoliates and moisturizes skin. Myra & Company in South Miami, Florida, offers a Vanilla & Cinnamon Sugar Scrub to remove stress and sweetly exfoliate; while the Cinnamon Sugar Scrub at El Morocco Inn & Spa in Desert Hot Springs, California, is a Moroccan-style scrub the combines essential cinnamon oil with raw sugar to leave skin smooth and delicious-smelling.

Also, see the step-by-step how-to recipe for the Cinnamon Enzyme Facial from The Spa at the Wedgewood Hotel, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Spa products also capitalize on cinnamon’s astringent properties and rejuvenating aroma. Dermalogica’s Sebum Clearing Masque features cinnamon bark to help eliminate bacteria and reduce comedones for clearer skin, and pHaze 35 Acne Gel from PCA Skin uses cinnamon bark extract to help clear acne blemishes while reducing oil production. Cinnamon Paprika Body Lotion from Éminence Organic Skin Care uses cinnamon as a stimulating agent to help tighten and sculpt skin with cellulite; and Szép Élet’s ilike organic skin care offers Spicy Cinnamon Lip Balm with cinnamon oil to help relieve chapped lips and skin. Cinnamon’s aromatherapeutic benefits are combined with those of mandarin orange, thyme, lemongrass and lavender in Eve Taylor’s No10 Professional Aromatherapy Treatment Oil; and Spalasium offers Cinnamon Organic Essential Oil to help increase circulation and improve respiration with its warming and antimicrobial qualities. And for a healthy, warm meal during the cold months, Healing Herbal Soups offers the Metabolism Stimulator Soup that energizes metabolism and warms digestion, featuring Saigon cinnamon and a variety of other flavorful ingredients.

The spice of life

Whether it be used for its astringent benefits, uplifting aroma or warm, sweet flavor, cinnamon can spice up any spa’s offerings during any season of the year. And maybe even consider providing cinnamon-flavored toothpaste in your locker room as a surprising pick-me-up for those clients who prefer cinnamon to mint. It’s good to try something new once in a while.






(All accessed July 28, 2009)

Related Content



Quick Facts: Cinnamon

  • Recent studies have determined that consuming as little as 1⁄2 teaspoon of cinnamon each day may reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.2
  • Ceylon cinnamon dates back to 2,800 B.C. in Chinese writings.4
  • Ancient Egyptians used cinnamon during their embalming process.4
  • As a sign of remorse for murdering his wife, Roman emperor Nero ordered a year’s supply of cinnamon to be burned.4
  • Cinnamon’s essential oil qualifies as an antimicrobial food and has the ability to help stop the growth of bacteria and fungi.1
  • Chewing cinnamon gum or just smelling cinnamon has been found to enhance cognitive processing.1
  • Cinnamon is valued in traditional Chinese medicine for its warming qualities and is used to provide relief when faced with the onset of a cold.1

Recipe: Mayan Hot Chocolate

From Rancho La Puerta, Tecate, Baja California, Mexico

Rancho La Puerta's Mayan Hot Chocolate

Makes 6 servings, 208 calories, 8.3 grams of fat


1 cup cooked butternut squash pulp

3 1⁄2 cups milk

3 ounces Ibarra brand Mexican chocolate

3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1⁄8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg


1. In a blender, puree the squash with 1 3⁄4 cups of the milk until perfectly smooth.

2. In a large saucepan, mix the remaining 1 3⁄4 cups of milk, chocolate and spices.

3. With a whisk, stir over low heat until the chocolate is melted, then add the pureed squash. Do not boil.

4. Strain through a coarse sieve to remove any trace of the squash fiber.

5. Serve in little demitasse cups with a crisp cookie for dipping.

6. If making into a sorbet, cool at room temperature, stirring occasionally, then chill completely. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.

Treatment How-to: Cinnamon Enzyme Facial

From The Spa at the Wedgewood Hotel, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 60–90 minutes

This facial is often described as a nonsurgical face lift. It provides deep cleansing, exfoliating and, if needed, extractions, followed by a cinnamon enzyme peel and an intense tree bark enzyme mask that helps lift, tighten and firm facial skin.

Treatment duration:

Treatment cost: $150–180

Room setup: A heated bed should be turned down, ready for the client to disrobe. Candles should be burning and aromatherapy should be used. Play soothing classical music in the background during the treatment.

Equipment needed:

Hot towels


Extraction tools

Supplies needed:

Citrus herbal cleanser


Citrus herbal exfoliant

Tree bark enzyme detoxifying mask and soothing mask

5% cinnamon hot peel

Mineral mask

Pure aloe gel

Moisturizing serum

Step 1: Greet the client, offer a bottle of water and request the completion of a medical history form. Escort the client into the treatment room and address any questions or concerns the client may have in regard to her skin. Discuss contraindications, which include rosacea, because the cinnamon is too stimulating and can cause rosacea to act up, and claustraphobia, because the mask gives a tightening sensation that could cause a claustraphobic feeling. Tell the client you are going to leave to allow her to disrobe and ask her to lie down face up on the heated bed.

Step 2: Re-enter the room and place a hot towel on her face to warm the skin and relax the client. Cleanse the skin using an herbal cleanser and apply toner to balance the skin’s pH levels.

Step 3: Apply the citrus herbal exfoliant on the client’s face to remove any unwanted debris and dead skin cells.

Step 4: Administer steam over the client’s face for 15 minutes to remove the exfoliant. For approximately eight minutes during the steam, perform a relaxing head and scalp massage.

Step 5: Once the exfoliant is removed, begin extractions, if necessary, to clean out clogged pores.

Step 6: Apply toner after extractions have been completed.

Step 7: Provide a facial, neck and shoulder massage for 15 minutes. Apply a hot towel to the client’s face to remove any excess product.

Step 8: Massage the 5% cinnamon hot peel into the facial skin. This invigorates the skin, bringing blood to the surface. As the peel heats up, be sure to fan the client’s face using your hands to counteract the heating sensation.

Step 9: Apply the tree bark enzyme detoxifying mask to lift and cleanse using a fan brush. While this mask sets, which takes seven minutes, perform a hand massage on the client.

Step 10: Apply the tree bark enzyme soothing mask with a fan brush to calm the facial skin over the first mask. While this second mask sets, which takes seven minutes, perform a foot massage.

Step 11: Mix the mineral mask with the pure aloe gel—equal parts of each—and massage it into the skin to dissolve the 5% cinnamon hot peel, detoxifying mask and soothing mask.

Step 12: Place a hot towel on the skin to remove any excess product.

Step 13: Apply toner to the face. Depending on the client’s skin type, add a serum as a form of more concentrated moisture, along with a moisturizer, eye cream and lip balm to finish off the treatment.

Step 14: Once dressed, escort the client to the reception area and advise her to drink as much water as possible and thank her for her business.

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