If you’re comfortable in the kitchen, you might have used saffron at some point, accenting risotto or a bowl of bouillabaisse, but would you ever consider using these elegant threads as part of a skincare regime?
As an Ayurvedic esthetician, I’m always on the lookout for new plants to play around with. Saffron has quite a track record for glowing, healthy skin in Southeast Asian skincare, so I thought I’d explore the “pearls” of the crocus.
What is Saffron?
One of the most sought-after and priciest spices in the world, saffron is harvested from the perennial “saffron crocus”, aka Crocus sativus. It’s made from the stigmas and styles of these charming purple flowers, oft seen as harbingers of spring. First cultivated in Greece, it’s also found in India, Morocco, Iran, and even the United States.
Primarily used to tint and season foods, saffron has an intense red pigment and costs about the same ounce for ounce as gold. Its exorbitant price-point is due to the fact that it must be hand-harvested, plus you’ll only find a precious three filaments per crocus. Once plucked from their flowers, saffron is dried in the sun or over charcoal, yielding an elegant, exotic spice.
With a subtle bitter taste and pungent aroma, it contains antioxidant plant compounds that block harmful free radicals which cause premature aging. Two of these said antioxidants are crocetin and crocin, carotenoids with antidepressant properties that give these firey stands their red hue.
Sometimes referred to as the “sunshine spice,” studies have shown saffron is anti-inflammatory, helps fight and prevent acne, brightens skin, reduces hyperpigmentation and protects against UV radiation. Naturopathic practitioners tout it as an herbal anti-depressant that lowers our cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
I recently spoke with Hannah Milman, longtime craft editor for Martha Stewart Living and founder of Vegetable, Mineral, Inc. in NYC. She planted thousands of saffron corms as part of her New York Saffron Project at Martha’s farm in Bedford, NY, and shared a few pointers with me. “Place just a few threads in some filtered water overnight for an amazing face toner. A little goes a long way when it comes the efficacy of saffron in both skincare and cooking.” Milman has crocuses growing allover NYC in rooftop gardens and sells her plants at the Cold Spring Farmers’ Market.
Ready to explore saffron as part of your selfcare routine? Scroll down for a few saffron product picks including a couple Beautyologie items the Indian Ayurvedic skincare brand Aroha Oils as well as my DIY saffron face mask recipe.
Organically grown, Pure & Premium Saffron Spice. Super Negin grade has longer threads, less crumbs, and no yellow/orange style. This type of Saffron is the highest quality of all Saffron. Handpicked in Herat, Afghanistan.
Rani Age Defying Face Serum is a unique Ayurvedic serum containing 26 precious herbs & ingredients, which help to protect your skin’s elasticity with powerful anti-oxidant properties. Rani works to nourish your skin and balance its natural oil production while helping to unify your complexion. This robust preparation nourishes the skin and helps to improve its texture. Formulated with pistols of Saffron extracted from the high altitudes of Mountains in Kashmir once per year, this carefully formulated oil can help reduce the appearance of 11 signs of aging including dullness, sagging, fine lines, firmness, elasticity, wrinkles, redness and so on.
This anti-aging body oil is an exceptionally rich, cold-pressed, and unprocessed formulation with highly rejuvenating properties. A combination of herbs including Lotus Saffron, Palash Flower, Rose and Cardamom nourishes the skin leaving it lingering with a youthful, glowing and radiant shimmer. Yes, please!
Anna Maria’s Healing Saffron Mask
- 4 saffron strands
- 3 almonds
- 1 tbsp filtered water
- Soak the saffron, water, and almonds overnight.
Using a food processor or mortar and pestle, grind the mixture into a paste. Apply to face and neck. Leave on for 10-15 minutes. Gently remove with a warm, wet face cloth. Enjoy!