If you haven’t heard of Blue Zone beauty, you probably will soon. This new skin care notion is being propelled into the beauty business by Chanel, who has launched a Blue Serum ($110) that is supposed to be inspired by the world’s Blue Zones, or places where people tend to live the longest. Is this a passing fad to lure you into the department store, or something we should take seriously?
Blue Zones were first defined by a couple of researchers who determined longevity hotspots in Sardinia, Costa Rica, Greece, Japan and amongst a bunch of Seventh Day Adventists in California. Their common characteristics are fairly stress-free lifestyles, a high consumption of plant-based foods, a moderate consumption of alcohol, antioxidants and physical activity. I was a bit surprised to see Costa Rica on the list as life expectancy there is 79.70 and researchers have speculated that harsh conditions in childhood result in a survival of the fittest. But, in any case, there is a pocket of very long-lived folks on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula.
It doesn’t seem unreasonable for the longevity-inducing habits of Blue Zone people to inspire anti-aging skincare. Arguably, their food choices could be the basis for skin-rejuvenating plant extracts. I do find, though, that Chanel’s Blue Zone ingredients are pretty uninspired: green coffee from Costa Rica, olive from Sardinia and lentisk from Greece. Lentisk, by the way, is a shrub that produces a resin or gum that is used in the manufacture of toothpaste. Chewing the resin is supposed to help reduce high blood pressure, and it can be used to help skin disorders. While these sources do have their benefits, I can’t help but think that Blue Zoners have more going on than a chewing gum, coffee and olives, so I decided to see if I could compile my own list of Blue Zone beauty ingredients.
First, I found that turmeric was a critical component of Japan’s Blue Zoners. This bright yellow spice is not only an important antioxidant, but it is an anti-inflammatory, soother of irritations and a skin brightener. Turmeric is turning up more often in skincare. You’ll find it in Your Best Face Control ($160 in the shop). As is soy, another staple of the Japanese diet and especially useful for menopausal skin. An herb that the Japanese Blue Zoners are particularly partial to is mugwort. Although not often seen in skin care, it is in Ao Skincare’s Restore. And as you might expect, this group is big on seaweed (which appears as various forms of algae in skincare).
I was pleasantly surprised to find that when not sipping wine (think resveratrol and grape extract in your potions and lotions), the Sardinian Blue Zoners are quaffing milk thistle tea. This is one of my favorite ingredients. The main component of milk thistle is silymarin, an amazing antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory benefits. It is in the Truth Vitality Treatment Gel ($49 in the shop) and Difinsa53 Skin Protectant Lotion ($62.50 in the shop). The Adventists — who are also not adverse the odd glass of wine, I was pleased to note — eat a lot omega rich avocados and salmon. The powerful antioxidant astaxanthin is also an important component of salmon. In fact, it is astaxanthin that makes salmon pink. You’ll find it in Ao Skincare Protect ($59.95 in the shop).
Costa Ricans are a bit harder to emulate in the context of beauty product formulation since their diet is mostly beans and squash — neither of which come readily to skin care. The most important aspect of their diet is the tortilla, which didn’t seem very inspiring until I read that they soak the corn kernels (to make the flour) in lime and water. This is essentially calcium hydroxide and it releases amino acids that normally wouldn’t be available. Now amino acids I can do! Some of Sciote’s serums major on amino acids. The antioxidants and caffeine in green coffee, which is prevalent to Costa Rica, protect and revitalize skin. Try La Vie Celeste Restorative Rose Hydrosol Eye Cream ($60 in the shop). Costa Ricans in Nicoya live longer than anyone else in the world, and I noted that they also eat a lot of papaya, an ingredient useful for its exfoliating enzymes.
All in all, I think there will be plenty to emulate in Blue Zone skin care for years to come.