"I was going to get the Caesar salad until I saw it's made with kale," my friend Kristina said when we were getting lunch at a new restaurant in my neighborhood last weekend.
"I was just thinking the same thing!" I responded, feeling relieved that I'm not, as I'd suspected, the only New Yorker who hasn't enthusiastically embraced kale and actually kind of hates it.
I can't be sure, but I suspect it's the ingredient in green smoothies that creates the scent that makes me gag if anyone's drinking one within 10 feet of me. Cucumber? Love it. Various types of lettuce? Yes, please. Broccoli? Card-carrying member of the fan club. But I just haven't warmed up to the It veggie.
Maybe it's the smell, or maybe it's the media saturation. I don't think a vegetable has gotten this much pop-culture attention since Dan Quayle misspelled potato 23 years ago. In 2014, it ended up on Beyoncé's Yale-spoof sweatshirt (causing authentic and knock-off versions of it to sell out all over the damn place), and a graffiti tag stating "kale chips" started popping up in Brooklyn (of course in Brooklyn). I thought it might have jumped the shark last year, but then, on the most recent episode of Law & Order: SVU, Missi Pyle played an anti-vax "lifestyle blogger" who, at one point, could be seen wearing a green script kale necklace (which I just found for sale on khaikhaijewelry.com for a measly $1,150).
I guess I'm willing to give kale a chance, but it's gonna have to be put it in something I already enjoy. Something in which it's virtually undetectable. Something that isn't edible.
Because kale has a shitload of vitamins — A, a whole bunch of B's, C, E and K — a steadily growing number of beauty brands has realized that it could benefit skin and nails when applied topically. Although kale itself hasn't been officially, scientifically proven to improve skin, those vitamins have, so it stands to reason that using beauty products that include kale could very well be a not-stupid thing to do.
Here are four that have impressed me so far. (And I say "so far" because it really does seem like kale isn't going anywhere any time soon.)
In addition to the 16% stabilized vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in this expensive-but-not-as-expensive-as-a-diamond-kale-necklace serum, kale provides a bit of its own collagen-boosting vitamin C to the formula (as does the titular citrus, in the form of grapefruit and lemon oils). And if you were paying attention a couple paragraphs ago, you probably know that it provides some of the antioxidant vitamin E promised in the name.
But kale, being one of those annoying overachiever types, also provides lutein, a carotenoid that supports elasticity and hydration. All together, these benefits help keep skin looking youngish.
I'd love to tell you that kale is what makes this verbose moisturizer capable of fading acne marks, but it's not that multitalented. It's salicylic acid and willow bark extract (which is essentially more salicylic acid) that do the "correcting."
However, the kale in this formula isn't exactly getting in the way. Just like in the serum above, it provides lutein and vitamins to boost skin's resilience. And it's only $10!
If the scent of green smoothies bothers you like it bothers me, though, this may not be the product for you. Alba Botanica's entire Good & Healthy range smells like my gag reflex.
Kale's benefits aren't limited to skin, silly consumer! Nails Inc. has an awesome line of nail polishes that include not only keratin, but kale (duh), which helps nourish the keratin that's already in your nails. (I mean, keratin basically is your nails.)
But even if you're not dazzled by the inclusion of kale, these polishes come in range of gorgeous colors — the plummy burgundy above is called Holland Walk — and they are opaque as hell! You can totally get away with a single coat, meaning the $15 bottle will last you that much longer.
OK, back to skin.
This 10 minute mask has kale, of course, but it's pretty much a whole salad in a bottle; there's an antioxidant-packed blend of extracts from broccoli, tomato, carrot, spinach, brussels sprouts, onion, as well as a fancy mushroom known for its exfoliating enzymatic quality.
Throw in some other botanical extracts and a sag-fighting peptide, and you've got a treatment that makes skin look all glowy and decongested.
I wouldn't be surprised if a whole new wave of beauty products start including kale in their formulas, so if the idea appeals to you, keep an eye out for Brassica oleracea in ingredient lists.
Also, keep an eye out "Brassica oleracea chips" graffiti in Brooklyn.