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A Spoonful of Sugar

Contact Author Cathy Christensen January 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

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sugar being spooned out of a bowl

Even though it’s quite common in today’s culinary world, sugar’s sweetness still elevates many dishes, transforming them from mere sustenance to transcendent experiences.

Ordinary table sugar was so rare and expensive at one time, it was referred to as “white gold.” And although it is well-known that sugar must be consumed with care, it adds a sweet element to a myriad of desserts, sauces, dressings and beverages that alternative sweeteners have yet to exactly replicate.

In the kitchen

Sugar is available in many varieties, including granulated, brown, powdered and raw, and comes from either sugarcane or sugar beets. Its different types are the result of different processing techniques. Sugarcane is crushed and the juice is collected and filtered, then treated to remove impurities. It is neutralized with sulfur dioxide and then boiled, allowing the sediment to settle at the bottom. When it cools, the liquid crystallizes, producing sugar crystals.1

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For beet sugar, beets are sliced, and the sugar is extracted with hot water in a diffuser. After removing the impurities, the juice is concentrated through evaporation, and a centrifuge removes the sugar crystals from the liquid.1

White refined sugar is a result of selective sieving, while powdered sugar has been ground into a fine powder.1 Brown sugars vary from light to dark brown, depending on the amount of molasses added during the processing of the sugar; the darker the color, the stronger the taste.2 And perhaps the trendiest sugar, raw sugar, ranges in color from yellow to brown and is made from clarified cane juice boiled down to a crystalline solid. It is often considered a specialty item.1

The natural sweetener is often preferred by spa cuisine chefs, as well, used in:

John McCann’s Irish Oatmeal—Mayflower Inn & Spa, Washington, Connecticut;

Low Fat Rhubarb Cake—Coastal Trek Health & Fitness Resort, Forbidden Plateau, British Columbia, Canada;

Black Sticky Rice With Mango—Chiva-Som, Bangkok, and Hua Hin, Thailand;

Cashew, Veggie and Tofu Pad Thai—Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat and Health Spa, Ainsworth Hot Springs, British Columbia, Canada;

Oatmeal Crusted French Toast—La Tourelle Resort & Spa, Ithaca, New York; and

Sweet Potato Soufflé—See the recipe from Chef John Nowakowski of The Regency Health Resort and Spa, Hallandale Beach, Florida.

In the spa

Sugar, in various forms, is used as an ingredient in skin care services and products due to its ability to not clog pores and act as a natural exfoliator. It can be used to help eliminate blemishes and restore balance to the skin’s oils.3 Sugar is also a key ingredient in a hair removal method known as sugaring, which is an ancient Middle Eastern practice that combines food-derived ingredients, such as sugar, water and lemon juice, to remove the hair follicle from the root.4

The following treatments are representative of the many ways sugar is used on the spa menu:

The Ginger Peach Cure blends raw sugar, freshly ground ginger, honey and jojoba for a scrub, followed by a rinse, massage and wrap—Allegria Spa at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort, Avon, Colorado;

The Philippine Journey includes a gentle exfoliation treatment of a fresh ginger and raw sugar scrub followed by a neroli mist—Clarmont Hotel Club and Spa, Berkeley, California;

The Couple’s Loving Luxury treatment includes a signature raw Hawaiian sugar body scrub—Hawaii Island Retreat at Ahu Pohaku Ho’omaluhia, Kapaau, Hawaii;

The Maize Body Scrub combines fine cornmeal with raw organic sugar and sunflower oil for a nourishing body scrub—The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia;

The Express Manicure includes a foot soak and a raw sugar exfoliant for the lower leg and foot—Innovations The Salon & Spa, Merrimack, New Hampshire;

The Royal Velvet Sugar Scrub & Massage fuses brown sugar and essential oils for an exfoliation followed by a massage—The Spa at the Buena Vista Palace, Buena Vista, Florida;

The Oat and Brown Sugar Body Scrub combines oats and brown sugar for an enriching exfoliation and is accompanied by a buttermilk bath—Calistoga Ranch, Calistoga, California;

The Indochine Indulgence, derived from areas surrounding the Indian Ocean, begins with a brown sugar and Dead Sea salt scrub—La Costa Resort and Spa, Carlsbad, California; and

The Teen Sugar Scrub is a gentle exfoliation created specifically for teen skin—See the step-by-step how-to from Cranwell Resort, Spa & Golf Club, Lenox, Massachusetts.

Professional skin care products also include sugar for its cleansing and exfoliating benefits:

American International Industries’ GiGi Sugar Bare Microwave Formula wax contains pure, natural cane sugar for removing hair from sensitive skin.

BABOR’s Revitalizing Sugar Oil Peeling exfoliant contains fine sugar-based exfoliant grains to remove dead skin cells gently and thoroughly.

June Jacobs Spa Collection’s Lemon Sugar Body Polish features sugar granules buffered in oils to exfoliate and help keep skin glowing.

Éminence Organic Skin Care’s Blueberry Soy Sugar Scrub, part of its Berry Refined collection, helps exfoliate and minimize pores.

And Bamboo Aesthetics, Inc.’s Microrose Renew Gentle Rose Exfoliator combines fine sugar crystals with French pink clay to detoxify and hydrate.

The sweet spot

Indulgence is a good thing in moderation, so encourage your clients to enjoy a sugar fix that is actually good for them by providing professional spa services, treatments and morsels with a natural sweetness they won’t forget.


1. (Accessed Nov 5, 2009)

2. (Accessed Nov 5, 2009)

3. (Accessed Oct 22, 2009)

4. (Accessed Nov 5, 2009)

5. (Accessed Nov 5, 2009)



Quick Facts: Sugar

  • A grain of sugar under a microscope is a translucent crystal, reflecting light from its 14 facets like a jewel.5


  • A pinch of sugar on the tongue is a traditional remedy for hiccups.5


  • A spoonful of sugar added to a vase will prolong the life of freshly cut flowers.5


  • Babies are born with an innate preference for sweet tastes.5


  • Chemical manufacturers use sugar to grow penicillin.5


  • Sugar has been used for centuries to successfully aid in the healing of wounds by drying the wound, helping to prevent the growth of bacteria.5


  • Three or four cubes of sugar in a suitcase before storage will help prevent odors.5

Recipe: Sweet Potato Soufflé

From Chef John Nowakowski of The Regency Health Resort and Spa,Hallandale Beach, Florida

Makes 6–8 servings, 310 calories, 7 grams of fat


4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

2⁄3 cup of rice milk, almond milk or soy milk, heated

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg


½ cup Earth Balance* natural buttery spread, softened but not melted

½ cup organic raw sugar

2⁄3 cup organic rolled oats

2⁄3 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup chopped pecans (optional)


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook 15–20 minutes until tender. Drain potatoes and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

2. Preheat oven to 400°F.

3. In a large bowl, combine the oats, sugar, flour and cinnamon.

4. Add the Earth Balance, and mix with a fork or dough cutter until the mixture resembles little crumbles. Fold in the pecans if desired. Put aside.

5. Mash the potatoes with the hot milk, cinnamon and nutmeg.

6. Place the potato mix in a 10x13-inch casserole dish and smooth the top with a spatula.

7. Cover the potatoes with a generous layer of the oatmeal topping and bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 30–35 minutes or until the topping is light brown and crispy.

8. If there is topping leftover, place it in a plastic bag, refrigerate and save for future use as a topping for fruit cobblers or this recipe.

*Earth Balance is a trade name of Smart Balance, Inc., Paramus, NJ.

Treatment How-to: Teen Sugar Scrub

From Cranwell Resort, Spa & Golf Club, Lenox, Massachusetts

The granulated particles of sugar in the Teen Sugar Scrub serve as tiny scrubbing beads that slough off dead surface skin cells and smooth rough patches of skin. The sugar scrub must be applied to dry skin in a gentle, circular motion in order for the exfoliating action of the beads to work properly, removing as much of the dead skin cells as possible while also unclogging skin pores. The sugar glides over the dried patches of skin, removing them to reveal soft skin underneath. The glycerin in the scrub moisturizes the skin, making it soft and giving the complexion an overall glow. A sugar body scrub rejuvenates the skin and can be used on any part of the body.

Treatment duration: 50 minutes

Treatment cost: $115

Products needed:

1 scoop lemon sugar body scrub

1 pump citrus shower gel

1 pump citrus massage oil

Citrus body balm, warmed in hot cabinet

Step 1: Greet the client and ask her to fill out a health questionnaire. Go over any issues that may arise from this information, check for ingredient allergies and remember that scrub contraindications include broken skin, rash or sensitivity.

Step 2: Make sure the treatment room is warm, and ask the client to disrobe and lie face down on the treatment table under the sheet. Leave the room for privacy and return when the client is ready.

Step 3: Rub some of the citrus body balm on your hands and place them under the client’s mouth and nose. Instruct her to breathe in deeply for three or four breaths to experience the aromatherapy benefits of the balm.

Step 4: Starting on left side, apply scrub gently in upward motions toward the heart, working all areas, including feet, legs and back. Complete the entire backside of the client.

Step 5: Next, help the client turn over, holding the sheet for privacy, and continue the treatment on the front of the body, exfoliating all areas including feet, legs, arms, décolleté and stomach, if the client desires

Step 6: Use warm towels to remove scrub from feet before showering to avoid any accidents due to slipping.

Step 7: Help the client wrap in a towel and lead her to the shower. Instruct her to take a warm shower to rinse off the scrub residue.

Step 8: While the client is showering, remove the used towels and sheets, and reset the treatment table.

Step 9: After the client is finished showering, have her lie face down on the table under the sheet again.

Step 10: Apply citrus body balm to the back of the body using effleurage strokes. Next, ask the client to turn over and continue moisturizing the front side of the body.

Step 11: End with gentle scalp movements to conclude the treatment.

Step 12: Provide sandals and allow the client time to dress. When ready, provide her with a glass of lemon water and guide her to the relaxation room.

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