Beauty Rituals Around The World
“Beauty” is such a relative term, and one we know goes well beyond narrow, superficial categorization. So this list has more to do with some traditional self-care rituals and practices we have long seen pop up through media, exploring a wide range of multicultural interpretations.
Beauty rituals around the world can be an intriguing topic to explore, as long as one keeps in mind that these rituals are just that, and that physical beauty speaks nothing as to who a women is, nor her value as a human being. Yet it is fascinating to see how traditional beauty are interpreted around the globe, sometimes as markers of traditional womanhood (ie. coming of age or marriage) and sometimes as self care passed down through the age. It would be easy enough to write here about the plastic surgery & diet obsessions plaguing the US, Brazil, Iran and more, as well as the growing medical tourism trends, but I would rather skip those for the purposes of this round up. I highly recommend following photographer Mihaela Noroc’s work “Atlas of Beauty” as she explores how physical beauty is represented around the world as well.
India: Brides in India will put often a mixture of turmeric, lemon and honey on their skin to appear glowing on their special day. Many also embrace henna, traditionally used for special occasions like holidays, birthdays and weddings in Africa, Pakistan, India, and the Middle East. *The art of henna (called mehndi in Hindi & Urdu) has been practiced for over 5000 years, and there is some documentation that it is over 9000 years old.
Japan: Sake, a rice wine that through fermentation produces kojic and amino acid, is a powerful beauty aide. Some Geishas even use sake as a primer before applying makeup. The sake baths have a moisturising, anti-aging, softening and brightening effect on the skin. But more than anything else, sake baths have excellent detoxifying properties. Hence, they leave your skin feeling exfoliated and cleansed to the core. Sake bath spas suggest you sip on some sake while you are relaxing in the spa tub as a beauty tip.
China: Some say the concubine-turned-Empress Dowager Cixi, who ruled for 47 years in the 19th century, popularized Chinese pearl powder for its beauty benefits. The pearl powder is rubbed onto the face and is said to promote brightening, exfoliation and anti-wrinkling. Many of the pearls are cultivated along China’s river basin in the Shanghai area.
Morocco: Argan oil was traded as a coveted beauty agent in and around the Mediterranean area in 12 BC.The Berber women of southern Morocco were known for their exotic beauty, and their secret was applying this golden oil regularly to their faces, nails, hair and body. Argan oil is loaded with rich antioxidants, rejuvenating Vitamin E and fatty acids that are believed to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and treat scars, acne, eczema and psoriasis.
Tahiti: Monoi Oil – Soaking the petals of Tahitian gardenias in coconut oil creates a beautifully scented oil called monoi.Although it’s not clear when this ritual began, the origins most likely date back 2,000 years to the indigenous Maohi people of Polynesia who revered the oil as a skin and hair softener. The oil was deemed so special, it was also used in offerings and burial ceremonies.
Costa Rica: The Bribri and Cabécares are the most well-known indigenous people, and both tribes depended on agriculture, producing their own crops and creating traditional medicines. They discovered green tea has benefits to the skin including improving the complexion, flushing out toxins, healing blemishes and scars and reducing inflammation. The antioxidants and tannins in the green tea are believed to help reduce puffy eyes and dark circles.
Mexico: Temazcal – originating from the Aztec “calli,” meaning house, and “temas,” meaning vapor or steam – manifested as Temazcal structures (some ancient sites still exist in Mexico) made from mortar and stone and are symbolic of Mother Nature’s womb. Temazcal is a combination of Mesoamerican chants, meditation and heated rocks doused with herb-infused water to create an aromatic, healing steam.
Oman: Women in Oman put dried rose petals into boiling water, and rinse their hair with it. They love the rose scent in their hair.
Burma: Many Kayan women in Burma will wrap brass coils around their necks while young, adding more as they age. It is seen as the ultimate sign of female elegance and status. Also, thanaka powder: mainly used as a sunscreen for more than 2000 years as a beauty ritual, and is also used for acne, age spots and hydration.
New Zealand: The Maori culture in New Zealand embraces facial tattoos on many of its men and women. They are called “moko” and are a sacred beauty ritual.
Australia: Lemon Myrtle – Aboriginal Australians have been using native Australian lemon myrtle in beauty and to revive the body and spirit for thousands of years. The flowering plant, which smells fresh and like sweet lemons, is used as an antioxidant, antiviral and antiseptic.
Author: Carrie Mitchell
Carrie A. Mitchell is the founder of L’Aventure Travel, the host of the Suitcase Sojourn Podcast, and author of the children’s travel book “To Be We”. Carrie is a global travel and hospitality expert who works with publications, brands and entertainment outlets on a number of travel related projects, from marketing consulting to editorial coverage to hosting & producing content for the web, TV and podcasts. She is always seeking to learn from people and places around the world, and share through her cultural exploration (40+ countries and counting)