Quinoa, the superfood, as a key ingredient in skin care? Yup, now available in Vancouver

Zue Beauty arrives via Colombia; meanwhile, Canada's first Lemongrass House, makers of natural Thai spa products, sets up shop in Gastown

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      Any self-respecting health-conscious foodie or home cook out there knows quinoa and knows it well.

      The seed is high in protein and fibre, gluten-free, and contains all nine essential amino acids. It also contains various other nutrients, like B vitamins, calcium, and iron.

      No wonder it shows up on menus all over the place; Nigella Lawson even includes recipes with it in her latest cookbook, At my Table, despite not giving a damn about food trends.

      Now, a trio of entrepreneurs is using the superfood as the key ingredient in a new skin-care line called Zue Beauty.

      Amino acids are said to improve and preserve the health and appearance of skin, while quinoa has hydrating properties that are suitable for dry or sensitive skin.

      One of the founders of Zue Beauty is Bruce Akers, a green chemist who helped Whole Food Markets develop its cosmetics guidelines. The team, including CEO Gabriel Maya and cofounders Nathaly Millan and Felipe Maya, was on a research trip in Colombia, where they met the indigenous Paez tribe in the Cauca region. They discovered that the people’s main revenue source was illegally growing coca crops for drug lords.

      A certified B company based in Fort Lauderdale, Zue figured out a way to pay Paez farmers more for organic quinoa than the drugs lords would pay for coca, and the process of crop substitution began. It now employs more than 120 farmers through Fair Trade practices.

      Zue products include a daily facial moisturizer (with green tea and vitamin F), restoring night cream (with seaweed, gotu kola, and vitamin A), exfoliating facial scrub (with apricot seeds, macadamia oil, sesame oil, aloe vera, and ginkgo biloba). Then there’s a purifying facial cleanser enriched with witch hazel and a facial toner with cucumber.

      The products are vegan and cruelty-free, with a portion of proceeds going to the company’s Give Back Program.  From beach cleanup in Vancouver to aiding the Frontier Animal Society in Quebec, consumers choose which organization or cause to support.

      Locally, people can find Zue Beauty at Langley’s Nature’s Fare Market (120 - 19880 Langley Bypass), Burnaby’s Vitamin Centre (4567 Lougheed Highway), North Vancouver’s Victoria’s Health (1637 Lonsdale Avenue) and Nutraways (1320 Lonsdale Avenue), Greens Organic & Natural Market in Vancouver (1978 West Broadway), and other regional shops.

      Natural Thai-style pampering

      Lemongrass House, meanwhile, comes to Vancouver via Thailand.

      Bobby and Palita Duchowny created the spa-products company, it having evolved from the couple’s toxin-free and effective mosquito sprays that UNICEF used for teams out working in Thai fields.

      They went on to sell products at Bangkok’s chaotic and colourful Chatuchak Weekend Market before opening their first retail outlet in 2000 on Phuket’s Surin Beach. With its production house still on that tropical island, the company makes hundreds of aromatherapy, personal-care, and spa products, free of parabens, sulfates, and dyes, which are available in 17 countries and at hotels like some Four Seasons Resorts and Le Meridien.

      Its first Canadian shop—its flagship—is newly open in Gastown at 209 Abbott Street.

      Helmed by Maxine Druker and Ben Horne, it has products for everyone and their dog (literally, and their kids). Among the all-natural, hand-made and -packaged items that are never tested on animals include hair care and room sprays. Other examples: White Orchid Foaming Face Cleanser, Calming Body and Massage Oil, and Shea and Blue Chamomile Extra Moisturizing Hand Cream.