Cucumbers are a wonderful food. About 90% water, they contain an impressive array of vitamins – C, A, K, B5 – and minerals – potassium, magnesium, manganese – which fight inflammation and infection, produce energy, and strengthen bone and heart health. Recent studies have also shown that cucs contain powerful lignans that contribute to reduced risk of some cancers, including, prostate, breast, uterus, and ovarian and they are loaded with other phytonutrients, called cucurbitacins, known as strong inhibitors of cancer cell development.
But there are ways other than eating to enjoy the benefits of cucumbers. This member of the gourd family (technically a fruit because of its seed-bearing structure that develops from the ovary of a flowering plant, whereas vegetables come from other parts, like stems, roots, leaves) is a real treat for the skin! Vitamin C and caffeic acid in the flesh of the fruit soothe skin irritations and reduce swelling. Cucs have the same pH as the skin, so they help protect the acid mantle, which acts as a barrier to bacteria and other potential contaminants. Hydrating, nourishing and astringent properties give skin a healthy glow and the skin of cucs is rich in fiber plus silica, potassium, magnesium – all essential for healthy connective tissue.
Some ways to use cucumbers for skin health:
- Soothe puffy eyes. Take a cold cuc from the refrigerator and cut 2 thick slices. Relax on a recliner or couch and put a slice over each closed eye for about 10-15 minutes. The high water content hydrates the tender skin around the eye, and the chill helps contract blood vessels to reduce swelling. Could this be where “cool as a cucumber” came from?
- Skin toner. This is good for calming and tightening skin: ½ cucumber with peel, chopped; 3 tablespoons witch hazel; 2 tablespoons distilled water. Blend all ingredients until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove solids, then pour into a bottle with a tight lid. The toner stores in the refrigerator for several weeks. Apply to your face with a clean cotton ball.
- Face mask. Puree 1/2 cucumber in a blender. Mix in 1 tbsp. plain, whole yogurt. Apply on face and neck and relax for 15-20 minutes. Rinse off with warm water, followed by a splash of cold water. Be prepared for your face to feel alive!
- Conditioner for chlorine-damaged hair. Blend 1 egg, 1 tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil, 1/4 peeled cuc (coarsely grated). Spread the mixture evenly through your hair, leave on for 10 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Best results when used monthly.
- Skin tonic. Put a whole cucumber, cut in chunks, and 4 tbsp. fresh mint in a blender. Purée. Strain off the juice and apply on your face. This toner stores in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Tip: to increase the life of the toner, add 1 tsp. vodka.
- Cooling summer bath: Add 2 cups Epsom salt to a tub of warm water. Stir in 1 sliced cucumber, a handful of peppermint leaves, crushed to release oils. Soak.