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Beauty industry increasingly market 'food-based' cosmetics products

NEW YORK: Laura Mercier has body washes in "flavors" like creme de pistache and fresh fig. Philosophy sells a vanilla birthday cake gift set including bubble baths. Fresh's Sugar line of lip balms, inspired by the mother of a founder, Lev Glazman, who used sugar to keep his childhood scrapes from becoming infected, now has seven shades. 

These days, one might be forgiven for confusing the candy store and cosmetics counter. What started with sweetscented lotions in Bath & Body Works has become enough pumpkin-spice exfoliators, licorice serums and creme brulee body washes to stock a French patisserie. 

And now the 
beauty industry is going even further, marketing what it calls "food-based" products like coconut shampoo, grapefruit body scrub, mushroom anti-aging cream, pomegranate-pigmented lipstick and cucumber eye-makeup remover. 

The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the term "food-based," but companies claim that these products are organic, natural and, in many cases, safe to chew on. It's an understandable strategy in an era of juice detoxes, handwringing over added chemicals and fears about unseen contaminants. 

"Just as you eat food to nourish your body on the inside, we use the same food to nourish the skin on the outside," said Susie Wang, the founder of 100(PERCENT) Pure, a beauty brand in California that offers a Cocoa Kona Coffee Body Scrub made of organic Kona coffee beans and chocolate extract. 

Wang said her co-workers have been known to dip pretzels in the scrub and eat it, with one employee sprinkling the exfoliator on ice cream. Kimberly Cornwell is the founder and chief executive of Celadon Road in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, a kind of Avon for eco-friendly products that are sold only by Celadon representatives. 

"Our sugar and salt scrubs are literally edible," she said. "We don't recommend it, but they are." 

Regardless of whether you decide to take a snack break mid-beauty routine, some psychologists say smearing sweet substances on our bodies might make us less likely to eat them. "Substituting scents for actual food can be a good alternative to binging on those foods that we are most tempted by," said Amanda Baten, a psychologist and certified nutritionist who founded the Center for Integrative Practices, a holistic wellness 
clinic in Manhattan. 

"Chocolate-flavored scents can induce some of the same responses in the brain which can result in feeling pleasure, in a similar way that eating can." 

Others doubt that what you smell (or pat on your skin) has much of an effect on what you eat. 

"I wouldn't use it as a diet tool," said Brian Wansink, the author of "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think" and the director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. "A smell seems to a have a very satisfying feeling initially, but that wears off in 5 to 10 minutes."