The lotus plant is a cultural icon and religious symbol in some Asian countries. For some people, it’s also a natural medicine and health food. For Fresh, it’s a stressed-skin saver.
Fresh sources lotus plants from different parts of the world – not just Cambodia – to get the best.
It’s a surreal experience sitting in a rickety boat as it’s slowly rowed across the lotus-filled lake of Phnom Krom Lotus Farm, just outside the eponymous Cambodian town. The plants’ huge leaves scrape against the sides of the boat; every metre or so, beautiful pink flowers peek out from among the foliage. The blooms – some as large as salad bowls – are magnificent, with translucent pink-white petals that open to the sun.
This ride from the start to the end of the farm, which connects to the Tonle Sap River, takes a good 30 minutes. Though the boat seems to rip through the plants as it drifts along, these flora are hardier than they look, springing right back into place after.
The local guide says the lotus grows wild in Cambodia but is also cultivated, and every part is useful. Its flowers are used for decoration as well as brewed into a health tea which Cambodians believe is rich in antioxidants. Its stems, seeds and rhizomes – said to be nutritious – are eaten in salads and local dishes. The huge leaves are used to wrap food, and fibres in the stems are woven into silk-like fabrics.
The indigenous people of Cambodia are also said to use various parts of the plant for medicinal purposes, boiling or grinding down the seeds to treat diarrhoea and kidney problems. And local women make a facial paste with the petals to maintain their youthful looks.
Not only is the lotus revered for its beauty and usefulness, it also figures strongly in the culture and heritage of Cambodia and other parts of Asia. At Angkor Wat, the plant is part of the temples’ design, from the sprawling lotus pond at the front entrance to the wall carvings of apsaras (heavenly nymphs) with lotus flowers in their hands and woven into their hair. Even the temples’ peaks resemble the shape of closed lotus buds.
All the virtues of the lotus were not lost on Lev Glazman and his wife, Alina Roytberg, co-founders of US skincare brand Fresh. “The lotus is considered sacred in many cultures, but I especially love the way the Buddhists regard it. They believe that it is the ultimate symbol of complete purification, as it journeys through muddy water to rise above the surface and blossom into a stunning flower,” says Glazman.
The couple says they “just knew the lotus plant was something worth investigating” and tasked their research labs to, well, investigate.
Their findings are good news for stressed skin: According to the scientists, the antioxidants that enable the flower to remain pristine despite growing in murky waters also help to calm, balance and strengthen skin.
In 2013, with these findings, Fresh produced the Lotus Youth Preserve Face Cream, an anti-ageing moisturiser. This month, it adds the Rescue Mask, a fiveminute wash-off cream that reportedly works like an SOS facial to address a variety of stress-induced symptoms – dry, flaky skin from frequent flying; imbalanced, oily skin; and inflamed blotches.
Antioxidant-rich extracts from the flowers are used in the cream mask, and the seeds are finely ground for gentle buffing when the mask is massaged into skin.
“These natural exfoliants are so much more beneficial as they have vitamins and minerals,” says Roytberg. “Plus, they are not harmful to the environment like plasticderived microbeads.”
The mask can be used any time skin looks tired or acts up – even daily if necessary. Roytberg’s advice: Whip it out after a flight, a late night out, or a hectic workday. – MC
The mask, $105, also has red algae.