Sunday, June 8, 2014

Beauty Secrets from Asia

Growing up, my grandmothers used to remind me to moisturize my skin every day.  As Chinese immigrants, they were extremely frugal people and never spent a dime on anything...except good moisturizers.  Why?  In Asia, there tends to be a holistic attitude toward skincare, which is reflected in the use of ingredients inspired by nature and the belief that our skin is a reflection of our inner health and wellness.  

Within the last few years, beauty has gone viral.  People everywhere have been able to share skincare tips, product reviews, and makeup looks through YouTube videos, social media, and blogs.  In the process, beauty secrets from different countries have crossed borders and spread to places like the U.S.  Many European beauty brands entered the American market decades ago, and more recently, more Asian brands have made their way here as well.

There is a lot that we can learn from Asia when it comes to beauty.  The Asian philosophy is to be as gentle as possible to your skin, which means refraining from pulling or tugging on skin.  While we in the U.S. as well as in the Western world like to tan, Asians strive for fairer complexions.  Why?  Well, it all relates to status.  Historically, in the Western world, having a tan signified that you had the financial resources to take vacations in expensive, sunny destinations.  On the other hand, in the Eastern world, a tan complexion meant that you were a part of a poorer class that made their living from physical labor in the sun.  Thus, in Asia, sun protection is important (parasols and wide brimmed hats are a must on sunny days).  

Different Asian countries have different beauty rituals.  Here are some valuable beauty secrets from some of the most influential Asian beauty capitals:

1.  Korea
First impressions are extremely important in Korean culture, and skin health certainly plays a part.  Having good skin demonstrates that a person is healthy and takes care of him/herself.  Tons of recent cosmetic staples like BB creams that we've recently discovered in America have been around in Korea for years.  In general, Koreans are pioneers in hydrating cosmetics and often use products like water masks and cleansing oils regularly that keep skin looking radiant.  One of the newer trends that has made its way from Korea is royal jelly in skincare products.  Royal jelly is naturally derived from bee pollen and offers healing, moisturizing, anti-aging, nourishing, anti-inflammatory, and protective properties.  So, all skin types - mature, sensitive, blemish-prone, normal, etc. - can benefit from it.  Additionally, Korean products often incorporate ginseng, which is a
strong antioxidant and provides defense against aging. 
Korean Brand Product Recommendations:

2.  Japan
Japanese women age really well because they take excellent care of their skin.  Many of their skincare habits originate from the days of geishas.  Geishas wore bright lip sticks and dark eye brows, so Japanese color cosmetics are often bolder than other Asian brands.  Although it was typical for geishas to cake on piles of makeup, they still had beautiful skin because they took measures to repair and replenish it when they weren't working.  While most women in the U.S. stick to the core 3: cleansing, toning, and moisturizing, it is common for Japanese women to have daily 7+ step regiments.  In the process, they nourish their skin with super ingredients for the skin like rice bran and nightingale droppings.  Rice bran is rich in fatty acids and vitamin E that is an extremely powerful skin softener that soothes, smooths, and leaves skin feeling elastic and supple.  It also provides antioxidant protection that helps slow signs of aging.  Nightingale droppings sound nasty, but the ones used in facials are sterilized so no need to worry!  Celebs like Victoria Beckham get nightingale dropping facials regularly.  It's worth trying if you can get over the thought of
it because it has enzymes that help break down dead skin cells to exfoliate.  The droppings are also full of guanine to bring out a healthy and beautiful sheen.  Interestingly, Japan is a small country with a smaller population, but it is the second largest world beauty market.  It is the home to many powerful plant botanicals that are becoming popular in American skincare products.  One of my favorite skincare brands is Boscia, which is essentially a Japanese/American fusion brand, combining powerful Japanese BOtanicals with Western SCientific techniques (Get it?  Botanicals + Science = Boscia).  

Japanese Brand Product Recommendations
3.  China
Skincare has always been a priority for most Chinese women, since skin appearance is a reflection of how healthy a person is.  Ancient beauty secrets such as applying crushed pearl powder to the skin started in China.  Pearl powder is expensive because it is perhaps one of the most powerful skincare ingredients that you can use.  First of all, it is detoxifying and healing.  It also smooths and softens skin by stimulating processes including collagen production, cell regeneration, and cell repair.  Most importantly, it is brightening, leaving your complexion more even and with a pearly luster.  On the other hand, makeup is just starting to become popular in the China.  Decades ago, Mao Zedong outlawed self-expression through fashion so that wearing makeup, accessories, certain hairstyles, and colorful clothing were illegal.  However, now that the social and political climate in China is changing and people have
more disposable income, Chinese women seem to have a newfound love of beauty products.  In fact, the Chinese interest in beauty has grown to the point that it is currently the fourth largest beauty market after the U.S., Brazil, and Japan.  Estee Lauder even launched a brand called Osiao specifically for the Chinese market.  I wouldn't be surprised if we see the growth of more Chinese brands in the near future... 

Product Recommendations (there aren't really any major Chinese brands yet in the US)
    4.  Indonesia
    Indonesian personal care is based on Jamu, traditional, herbal Indonesian medicine.  Because of the tropical climate in Indonesia, exotic super plants flourish, and have been worked into cosmetics.  For example, turmeric, a part of the ginger family, is a strong spice that is used in Indonesian cooking.  However, it is also a strong antioxidant in the fight against aging, and its healing powers make it suitable for
    blemish-prone skin as well.  Drinking health elixirs such as kombucha supports the philosophy that what you put into your body affects skin appearance just as much as what you put on it.  Kombucha is fermented black tea that helps tighten and smooth fine lines and provides antioxidant protection.  And don't forget that the caffeine helps reduce puffiness so that you appear more awake.      
    Product Recommendations

    For more on Asian beauty secrets, check out Asian Beauty Secrets: Ancient & Modern Tips from the Far East by Dr. Marie Jhin who is a dermatologist and beauty expert.  I attended her book signing and can say from experience that she is a really knowledgeable and sweet person.  And not to mention that she does not have a single wrinkle or dark spot ;)

    **All product recommendations are toxin-free.