Want to shake up your beauty routine? Try these secrets from around the world to look your best.
“We Thai people are close to nature and are keen to use herbs in all aspects of our lives, including beauty,” says Kaidsuda Suriyayos of Bangkok. Use tamarind oil when bathing, Suriyayos suggests-it makes the skin soft and shimmery. As well, it helps lessen dark spots in areas such as the ankles, elbows and armpits. Also, turmeric makes a good body scrub; it will help make your skin glow.
Coconut oil, says Suriyayos, is terrific for protecting skin from the harsh environment, and it benefits hair, too, by helping to bring out the shine. Finally, “aloe vera is great for healing and lightening skin, and helps to cure acne.”
Olga Ovchinnikova of Moscow offers some interesting insights into how some Russians stay beautiful: “For the skin, apply mashed straw-berries to the face,” she says. And for shiny hair, soak rye bread in water and work it through wet hair, then rinse.
A Russian banya (or sauna) tradition involves applying honey-based face and body masks, and drinking tilia (lime-tree) tea
“Most of the women from my generation learned about this country’s beauty traditions from their grandmothers,” says Anca David Titorov of Bucharest. She says women in Romania use cornmeal as an exfoliating or peeling scrub on damp skin, working it in with circular motions.
“There are many different recipes,” says Titorov. “It can be as simple as mixing the cornmeal with a little water to make a paste. Some women add bran; others add egg white or yolk.” She says you can also mix a few spoonfuls of cornmeal with a little honey and olive oil, and a drop of lemon juice.
“For dark circles, many women apply castor oil around the eyes and massage it in gently.”
“Here’s a good beauty tip and it involves buttermilk,” says Martina Mach of Stuttgart. “Apparently, your skin benefits both from drinking and bathing in buttermilk. Add two litres to your bath to soften and nourish the skin.“
“Keep your eye cream in the fridge,” suggests Ingrid Kragl of Paris. “Cold stimulates micro-circulation and helps to de-puff the eye area.”
Many French also use savon noir, Kragl says. It’s a black linseed-oil soap that is also popular in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. Typically, it is used in hammam spas to scrub the body, and is great for exfoliating and helping your circulation.
“The Chinese people of Taiwan have many ancient beauty secrets,” says Raycine Chang of Taipei. Women eat and use jobi-a kind of millet rich in calcium and vitamins (including vitamin B1)-to lighten skin and keep it smooth. “A popular homemade facial scrub is a paste of jobi powder mixed with a bit of water or your toner.”
The juice of a fresh-from-the-sea loofah sponge is a tonic lotion that has been used for thousands of years. “Here’s how we collect the best loofah juice: At early dawn, we cut into the loofah and place a bottle underneath to collect the juices, without letting the juice come into contact with sunlight. We use this to help lighten skin, reduce inflammation and cool the skin after sunburn.”
Another idea for a mask makes use of rice wine. Says Chang: “We make a paste with vinasse, the liquid left over from the distillation process for rice wine. It is an ancient Chinese secret that fermented rice residue makes the skin smoother and reduces wrinkles. In fact, the Japanese created a line of skincare products around this fermentation secret, called SKII. These are now among the most popular and bestselling skin products in Asia.”
Finally, says Chang: “We eat pig skin, though not the fatty parts. It’s rich in collagen and protein, so we feel it’s good for skin resilience. We cook it with soy sauce and Japanese star anise, and sometimes add meat or tofu.”
Says Daniel Weigandt of Buenos Aires: “Cosmetic surgery is quite common here. In fact, it’s a part of our culture. And many people from neighbouring countries come to Argentina for surgical intervention to ‘fix’ physical imperfections.” Various laser surgeries, liposuction and “liposculpture” are among the popular cosmetic procedures done.
As far as natural beauty goes, says Weigandt, “Yerba maté is very popular here.” The leaves of this shrub, which is native to South America, are used to make tea and other drinks. “And in Uruguay and Paraguay, they use an infusion of yerba maté to both hydrate and exfoliate skin.” Yerba maté is also thought to help keep skin healthy; it contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants. (You can find it in health food stores in Canada.)