How you look at yourself in the mirror may depend on where you live. We travelled (virtually, of course) across the globe to gather cultural perspectives as well as natural health and beauty secrets, and we picked up some lifestyle and health trends along the way.
The French aspire to the au naturel. But they can be secretive about the beauty routines they use to pull off that natural look, in an attempt to conceal what it took to look so “naturally” beautiful. And, instead of trying to cover up blemishes with makeup, most learn how to wash and care for their skin from a young age.
In Ayurvedic medicine, “beauty radiates from the inside of someone who is internally healthy, and encompasses your mind, body, and soul,” says professor Gayatri Kalia, doctor of Ayurvedic medicine.
Modern Indians inherit ancient Ayurvedic remedies from the previous generation. “However,” explains Kalia, “Ayurvedic practitioners can accurately prescribe you these remedies according to your dosha,” your genetic constitution combined with diet and lifestyle.
Your dosha explains why you have dry, oily, or healthy skin, for example. Modern cosmetics companies have often consulted ancient Ayurvedic texts for ingredients to use in their formulations.
China—Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)
“Natural beauty is an indication of a well-balanced internal system and an associated healthy flow of blood and qi,” says Sherry Fang Liu, a TCM practitioner.
“We know when we are in the presence of natural beauty due to our fundamental interconnectedness and the vibration of health and positive emotion that we feel when we are receptive and in the presence of naturally beautiful people,” explains Liu.
Spices, virgin coconut oil, and aloe vera—India
Here, all of the beauty products you need are in your kitchen. If you are putting something on your skin, it should be edible, according to Kalia. That way, there is no question about whether it’s toxic.
Before their wedding, brides are traditionally painted with a mixture of turmeric, chickpea flour, milk, and herbs such as sandalwood, which beautifies the skin.
Tip For dry skin, mix equal parts of virgin coconut oil and aloe vera. Massage it into your face every day. “This elixir works on wrinkles, too, because wrinkles begin with dry skin,” says Kalia.
Jade roller and a gua sha tool—China
“Outside appearance reflects inside state,” says Liu. Preserving natural beauty, then, means minding the basics of health, such as reducing stress and getting plenty of sleep, and avoiding activities that lead to imbalances, such as excessive drinking and worrying.
Tip To improve facial circulation and reduce puffiness, Liu suggests an ancient Chinese skin care tool: the jade roller. Chill before use to reduce skin irritation. “Roll from the center of the face outward below the eyes and upward on the forehead,” instructs Liu. “The roller can then be used downward, toward the neck, at the peripheries to help draining.”
A facial gua sha (pronounced “gwah-shah”) tool, a smooth, half moon-shaped stone, can also be helpful for improving circulation. It provides a gentle facial massage to relieve tight muscles and reduce the appearance of wrinkles due to tension, Liu adds.
Coconut oil for face, body, and hair—Brazil
Locals praise coconut oil for saving their skin and hair from the drying effects of the sun and salt water. Clinical studies show virgin coconut oil improves the symptoms of skin disorders through moisturizing and soothing the skin.
Natural lifestyle trends for better health and beauty
Biking instead of driving—Scandinavia/Netherlands
According to a 2018 report by the Dutch government, people in the Netherlands cycle for over 25 percent of their total trips and Denmark cycles over 15 percent. As for us Americans? We cycle less than 5 percent during our total number of trips.
Cold water plunges—Russia
Many Russians swear by cold water plunges. These icy dunks typically range from one to five minutes. Adherents attest to a euphoric feeling, improved immunity, better joint health and skin, and a decrease in fat deposits and cellulite. On the other hand, Russian scientists who studied this practice recommend caution, as it may be harmful to the body over time.
Forest bathing—shinrin-yoku—involves slowly walking through the forest while taking in the environment with all of your senses. Key to the experience is the inhalation of wood essential oils, similar to natural aromatherapy, but visual, auditory, and other sensory stimuli are also important.
Scientific studies support the idea that forest bathing has positive effects on physical and mental health, including a decrease in pulse rate and lessening of negative moods such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, and confusion.
A trip to the jjimjilbang—a spa with a bathhouse (with bath water temperatures ranging from about 38 to 42 C) and sauna—is a health and beauty habit of South Koreans. In the sauna, you may relax while lying on a hemp mat or jade or salt crystals. South Koreans are big fans of exfoliating at the bath—you can do it yourself, or ask an ajumma (“auntie”) to scrub you down.
Beauty from the inside out
|preliminary studies report collagen supplementation may improve hydration and reduce wrinkles in the skin
|has anti-inflammatory properties and many antioxidants that protect your cells from aging, your environment, and lifestyle
|may defend against sun damage, reduce acne, and moisturize
|vitamin C (serum form)
|may protect against ultraviolet rays and reduce signs of aging in the skin
|studies show turmeric can significantly reduce appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmented macules
|vitamin A and E
|vitamin A is often used topically for antiaging; vitamin E helps your body regulate retinol levels, necessary for healthy skin
The wheels of changes
The roads in the Netherlands were not always dominated by cyclists. In the 1950s and ’60s, cars were becoming more popular. It took activists concerned about the number of car-related deaths and the 1973 oil crisis, among other things, to cause the Dutch to take to bikes.