For centuries, saffron has been deemed the world’s most coveted – and costly – spice. It even outranks gold in terms of price per weight. This is because of the labor-intensive process of hand extracting crimson “stigmas,” or threads, from the tip of the saffron crocus, also known as the crocus sativus flower. To sum it up, each flower only produces three of these sought-after strands and it takes thousands of them to equal one ounce of the precious spice. Hence the dollar signs you see next to saffron in souks and supermarkets alike.
Saffron is super versatile and can be used in everything from seasoning and fragrance to cosmetics, dyes, medicine, and yes, skin and hair care. Basically, if you had access to saffron in places like Greece, Iran, and India back in the day, you were probably bougie AF, or royalty.
Saffron Beauty Benefits
These days saffron is making its way into mainstream beauty in the form of anti-aging serums, shine-inducing hair oils, and antioxidant toners. There are even entire brands centered around saffron, such as Joon Haircare. “Growing up in a Persian family, my grandmother always used saffron in not only her cooking but in her beauty rituals,” explains Joon co-founder Shiva Tavakoli. “She would make hair and face masks that contained saffron and when it came time to creating Joon, I knew we needed to incorporate saffron into the line.” We recently become obsessed with Joon’s glossy hair oil, but more on that later.
Saffron also contains several anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory skin benefits. According to Vicki Morav, skincare expert and celebrity esthetician, the spice has properties that stimulate, activate, and tone, as well as act as an anti-pollutant. “Having a barrier from environmental factors is essential and saffron carotenoids create a protective layer on the surface of the skin,” she says. “Saffron brightens dullness, diminishes fine lines and scarring, and is an amazing source of vitamin C (an essential antioxidant for cellular turnover).” What’s more, saffron agrees with most skin types, making it even more universally appealing.
Luckily the surge in saffron products doesn’t come with the hefty price tags you might assume. Rather than exhaust your savings account for shiny strands and glowing skin, you can get many saffron-based must-haves for under $100. Just be sure they’re legit, however. As Tavakoli points out, it’s important to make sure the beauty company is trusted and sources their saffron from other reputable companies. “Research the grade of saffron used – the higher the grade, the more potent,” she adds.
With that in mind, behold a few of our saffron beauty favorites.
Joon’s shampoo and conditioner feature the antioxidant powerhouse blend of saffron, rose, pistachio, and pomegranate – the ultimate match for split ends. Also worth trying is Joon’s Saffron Hair Elixir Oil, $28, which transforms even the most damaged strands into a smooth-as-silk mane without sulfates, parabens or phthalates.
This superfood-packed serum has all kinds of superpowers. A potent blend of cold-pressed oils and extracts (think: raspberry, blueberry, saffron, cranberry, kale, chia seed) can improve hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and a dull complexion, while hydrating and stimulating new cell growth at the same time.
Akar Balance Toner, $55
A non-irritating toner that’s been likened to “Holy Water?” We had to know more. Akar’s vegan formula merges stem cell extracts from rare saffron flowers with salicylic acid from white willow bark to keep your pH balance in check, boost elasticity, and prevent pore build-up. It’s lightly scented with rose and neroli and not sticky in the slightest, so obviously we’re mega fans.
Dry hands seem to be an all too common issue these days. Quench chapped mitts with an ample slather of BYREDO’s luxe cream that smells divine, thanks to a fragrance cocktail of juniper berries, pomelo, saffron, black violet and vetiver.
Dealing with tangled, unruly locks? Pre-cleanse with this mighty detangler. Pracaxi oil makes hair more manageable, while saffron provides shine, and natural sugars strengthen weak tresses to avoid breakage.
Banish puffiness and heavy-set bags with this deeply nourishing eye cream that feels nice and rich to the touch, and combines organic ghee, saffron and rose to plump up the delicate skin around the eyes.
Some of the highest-quality saffron in the world comes from the Greek town of Kozani, where Krocus flowers bloom once a year. Naturally, Korres takes advantage, hand-picking the one-day fresh saffron at its maximum antioxidant level. Cocktail that with amino acids, polysaccharides, and copper, and you have yourself a winning formula for fighting fine lines and resurfacing lackluster skin.
Okay, so this might be the splurge of the bunch, but it’s an overnight miracle worker that’s a welcome treat for parched skin. Infused with soothing saffron flowers, restorative shea butter, and moisturizing cottonseed oils, you’ll wake up to softer, glowed-up skin after one application.
Ayurvedic skincare brand UMA has developed a cult following for their precious oils comprised of natural botanicals grown in India. Their best-kept secret? A saffron and sandalwood brightening mask, which gives you a J.Lo glow. Highly-coveted saffron was used by Indian royalty to fade dark spots and even tone, so we’ll be making some room on our top shelf for this one.
Have you tried saffron in your skincare routine? Let us know in the comments below.