I almost always have a garlic bulb in my cupboard to add to dinnertime recipes. I really hate chopping it up though, because its juice lingers on my hands for hours, and no amount of scrubbing can totally eliminate the powerful scent. So when I was browsing my local beauty store and saw beauty treatments containing garlic, my initial reaction was “disgusting!” But then I got curious: What did these products smell like, and why would anyone seek out garlic of all things in their skin care regimen? I had to know more.
What It Is:
Talk about ancient history: the Allium sativum plant (or what we call garlic) dates back 6,000 years. It’s even mentioned in both the Bible and the Talmud. The herb is native to Central Asia, but is now grown worldwide. Not everyone likes the strong, sharp taste of garlic – in fact, its pungent taste and odor are the plant’s defense mechanisms. It’s said that if you eat a lot of garlic, your sweat starts to take on the herb’s distinct smell. (Not to mention that you may develop a serious case of halitosis and have fewer close friends.)
What It’s Used For:
Okay reader, I’m not going to pretend that you don’t know when to use garlic in the kitchen. (I mean, can you imagine a rich Bolognese sauce without garlic? Life wouldn’t be worth living.) But it’s not only in Italian food; garlic is a favorite in many dishes throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Northern Africa, as well as Southern Europe. And it’s more than just a food flavoring; according to the National Institutes of Health website, garlic has been studied for its ability to lower blood pressure, slow the development of atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in arteries), and lower the risk of certain cancers.
What It Does:
“Allicin, a compound in garlic, is considered to be anti-fungal and anti-bacterial,” say Dr. Adam Cirlincione and Dr. William Spielfogel, co-founders of Dr.’s Remedy nail products. And it’s ideal for treating acne, because of the high amounts of sulphur and vitamin C that it contains. “Sulphur balances oil production and treats blemishes without overly drying the skin. And the vitamin C in garlic works to stimulate collagen and balance the complexion,” says Stephanie Baresh, Marketing Director of Eminence Organic Skin Care.
No doubt your biggest concern is actually smelling like garlic. (Or not wanting to smell like it, as the case may be.) Of all the garlic products I could find, all thankfully claimed to be odorless. Baresh explains that Eminence uses fermented, cold-pressed garlic, which delivers the same nutrients and active properties of raw garlic, but is gentler on the skin and – most importantly – doesn’t stink!
Who Should Use It:
Some people are allergic to garlic when its eaten as food, but Baresh says that when applied topically, the ingredient is safe for everyone.
Where To Find It:
Garlic, more than any other ingredient I’ve tried, intimidated me; there’s just something so unbeauty-like about garlic. But even though Dr.’s Remedy Enriched Nail Polish (pictured at left) contains garlic bulb extract (thanks to its anti-fungal properties), I couldn’t tell that it was any different than a regular polish. And while the Dr.’s Remedy doesn’t claim to be able to treat a nail fungus, it can protect nails. As far as my toes are concerned, I consider it another safeguard against athlete’s foot that lurks in the gym locker room all too often.
The ingredients in Eminence Organic’s Garlic and Tomato Mask (pictured above) made me grimace a little: Was I putting pasta sauce on my face and hoping for a miracle? But after washing it off, my skin tone was more even, and I had a healthy glow. Of course, those aren’t the kind of amazing skin benefits that last; the mask only provides a temporary boost. Still, my skin looked good. So the tomato/garlic concoction now has a place on my bathroom shelf – I use it as a pre-date ritual, or on those early mornings when I look like hell. (But hey, at least I don’t smell like it!)
top garlic photo: Flickr user Mullica