By A. Santiago
No matter where you’re from, odds are you occasionally find yourself looking overseas with envy. How do those women in India get their hair so shiny and silky and tame their flyaways? How do those Japanese ladies get their skin so clear? What about those South American women with their luminous complexions? Genetics obviously plays a role in our attributes, but a lot of it comes down to simple beauty secrets which anyone can learn. And odds are if you’re feeling envious, someone else around the globe is looking toward your shores and feeling envious of what you’ve got.
Australia: Yarrow extract for stretch marks.
Do you suffer from stretch marks? These unsightly marks appear after you have had a rapid weight gain or growth spurt or during pregnancy. Once they show up, they are extremely hard to get rid of, because they are essentially scar tissue. But that doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily stuck with them. Yarrow extract is a beauty secret which has been used by Australian Aboriginal women for generations to clear up their stretch marks. Yarrow root contains anti-inflammatory compounds, and can also moisturize your skin. The combination does a great job for soothing and healing all manner of skin irritations and healing old wounds—like stretch marks. Search for a stretch mark cream which contains yarrow root extract for a natural, effective end to stretch marks!
Australia: Tea tree oil for dandruff.
Sick of pulling dandruff away from your itchy, dry scalp? Australians use tea tree oil to combat this problem. This is one of those tricks where a little bit goes a long way, so it’s well worth the investment. Just add a couple of drops into your shampoo and you will be amazed at the difference. The tea tree oil will moisturize your scalp and prevent all that itching and flaking. You can also find tea tree oil shampoos for sale that already have this amazing ingredient included.
Brazil: Oatmeal to heal a sunburn.
You may already know that oats are great for your skin. It’s no wonder; if you’ve ever looked up the nutritional facts on the back of a box of oatmeal, you probably noticed it contains an abundance of minerals and vitamins that your body needs. It turns out that the nutrition that is great for your body as a whole is great for your skin too. Brazilians use oats to ease the pain of a sunburn and speed healing. How do you do it? Next time you get a bad sunburn, tie up some oats in gauze and then position it over the tap for your bathtub. Turn it on and fill the tub, allowing the water to filter through the bag with the oats. Soak in the bath and you’ll get fast relief from your sunburn. Oats have amazing anti-inflammatory healing properties!
Columbia: Avocado for shiny hair.
Avocado is one of the top beauty secrets in Columbia and other Latin American countries. It’s great for your face as well as your hair (we’ll talk about avocado facial masks in a bit, since they are also popular in the Philippines). How do you use avocado to enhance your hair? One of the best recipes is this: Get an avocado, a banana, and a tablespoon of olive oil. Mash them all together to make a uniform paste. Take that paste and rub it into the roots of your hair. Work it down to the tips. Do something else for half an hour, and then get in the shower and shampoo, condition and rinse. The results will astound you!
Costa Rica: Shrink your pores with orange juice.
Have large pores on your face which you wish you could shrink? This is a short-term solution, not a long-term one, but it’s a great idea if you just want to shrink your pores for a photo op. Women in Costa Rica combine orange juice and water (in a 50/50 mixture) and use a cotton ball to swab it onto their faces. Wait a few minutes, and then rinse it off, and your pores should be less obvious. Be sure to rinse thoroughly so that you aren’t sticky afterwards, and try to keep the juice out of your hair.
Chile Crushed red grapes and flour for glowing skin.
Here is another beauty recipe for vibrant skin, this time from South America. If you have ever wondered how Chilean women get their skin looking so luminous, it turns out the secret is crushed red grapes mixed with white flour! A handful of grapes is all you need and a couple of tablespoons of flour. Mix it together, apply it to your face for ten minutes, and wash it off. You should get a lovely glow to your skin. This can work wonders if you are used to looking in the mirror at a fatigued complexion.
Dominican Republic: Garlic for stronger nails.
Here is another great beauty secret from South America. Do you have brittle nails that break all the time? One great way to strengthen them is to use garlic. This tip comes from the ladies of the Dominican Republic, who chop fresh garlic and add it to clear nail polish. They wait about a week to a week and a half, and then apply it to their nails. Be warned: it will smell foul—but the smell will wear off, and the garlic will leave your nails harder and stronger. As an added bonus, garlic has antibacterial properties.
Bulgaria: Rose water as a facial cleanser.
Bulgaria’s Rose Valley is world famous; the valley produces around 85% of the world’s rose oil. So it’s no surprise that Bulgarian women have discovered the many uses of rose oil and rose petals. Rose water is one of the best all-around rinses you can use to enhance the health and beauty of your skin. How do you make it? You can either use well-diluted rose oil, or you can boil a tea out of rose petals. Either way, you will enjoy moisturized, clean, clear skin.
Croatia: Wash your itchy scalp with nettles.
Here’s a great tip from Croatia for those who suffer from dandruff or a dry, itchy scalp. Croatians gather nettles from the fields and boil them in water. They then use that water to wash their hair, often skipping shampoo altogether. That’s how effective it is at cleaning your hair and nourishing your roots!
France: Get rid of nail stains the easy way.
Have unsightly stains on your nails? A lot of women in France do their own manicures, and they are experts at dealing with beauty problems like this! It turns out they have the simplest solution in the world for nail stains. Just soak your fingers in lemon juice for ten minutes, and most of those stains should go away. It’s very fast and easy!
Greece: Olive oil for healthy skin.
Do you envy the mesmerizing complexions of Greek women? It’s not all in the genetics as it turns out; Greek women have a number of beauty secrets, one of which is olive oil. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants and vitamins, and is one of the all-around best things you can eat. In Greece (and Italy), women make olive oil a regular part of their diet, but in many other countries, butter or margarine is a more common choice. Neither butter nor margarine contains all the healthy antioxidants and vitamins that olive oil does, though. So consider buying a bottle of olive oil the next time you hit the grocery store. Spice it up and use it as a dip for bread at dinner time, instead of going with butter or margarine as you usually do. You can also cook in olive oil instead of vegetable oil! It is better for your skin, and healthier all-around.
Greece: Rosemary for healthy hair.
The women of Greece not only have gorgeous clear skin, but shiny locks. If you’ve ever envied their beautiful hair, you will love this Greek beauty tip. Greek women rinse their hair using water that’s been steeped in rosemary. Rosemary removes buildup from your hair for a deep cleansing effect. An even better alternative? Steep a hair rinse out of rosemary and apple cider vinegar. In the shower, combine a few tablespoons with water and use that to rinse, and you’ll get an even more amazing effect. Plus, a little bit goes a long ways, and you can use your rinse again and again before you run out. Be warned, however, that rosemary can darken hair, which is great if that’s what you are going for, but if you want to keep your locks light, you might want to skip it.
Greece: Yogurt and olive oil for shining locks.
Staying in the Mediterranean, you will find another great olive-oil related beauty tip in nearby Italy. Italian women also eat plenty of olive oil, but they also have figured out that it can be mixed with yogurt and applied directly to the hair as a conditioner. All you have to do to get the same silky effect is to mix a cup of plain whole-milk yogurt with a teaspoon of olive oil. Wash your hair and apply the conditioner afterwards. Wait for five minutes and then rinse it out. You should have a nice lustrous shine to your hair when it dries, and should also find it softer and more manageable.
Greece: Try an egg white hair mask.
Here’s another quick trick from southern Italy, where the sun is intense and can dry out hair really quickly! Purchase some egg whites, and then whip two egg whites (or more, depending on how long your hair is) so that they get frothy. Apply them to your hair while your hair is wet. Wait ten minutes, shampoo your hair, and rinse it all out. This will really boost the moisture content in your hair!
Spain: Cranberry juice to bring out red highlights.
If you are a redhead, a brunette, or even a strawberry blonde, there is a wonderful beauty secret from Spain that can help you to bring out the red tones in your hair. It’s really easy! All you have to do is mix cranberry juice with water (about half and half), and pour it over your head when you are done washing your hair in the shower. This technique works especially well if you then head outside and spend some time in the sun. Another alternative is hibiscus flower. If you purchase hibiscus tea, you can use this as a rinse; you may find this a better option because you do not have the sticky sugary residue from the juice. You don’t have to rinse it out as a result.
If you are a blonde and don’t want to be a strawberry blonde (or simply have no red tones in your hair to bring out at all), you might want to try lemon juice or chamomile or calendula instead. All three of these are great choices for bringing out blonde highlights and lightening your hair. Once again, spending time in the sun will enhance the effect. If you do either the cranberry or lemon juice rinse on a regular basis, you will get a great effect over the long term!
Spain: Potato slices to get rid of dark circles under your eyes.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you get dark circles around your eyes when you are fatigued, you can get rid of them by cutting thin potato slices and putting them on top of your eyes for ten minutes. This will lighten the skin around your eyes. You’ll find this trick works particularly well if you do it routinely. A perfect trick before you head to that early morning job interview or sales presentation. Show everyone how awake and alert you are, whether you feel it or not!
Sweden: Green tea, mineral water, and sauna treatments for healthy, beautiful skin.
Ever wonder how those Swedish women keep their skin so radiant and clear? One great treatment recommended by Swedish makeup artist Petra Strand is green tea! If you have green tea bags, you can freeze some green tea in an ice cube tray, and use the ice cubes in place of a toner. If you are not so keen on the idea of rubbing ice cubes over your skin, you can skip that and just use the tea bags themselves after you make your tea! Strand also advises the use of saunas as a skincare treatment. Saunas are very popular in Sweden, and help to purge the body of toxins. Strand recommends a recipe combining olive oil, eucalyptus essential oil, and rock salt as an alternative. Rub it over your body and rinse it off, and you will remove toxins from your skin.
Here’s another tip from Scandinavia. Mineral water is great for your skin, but you’ll get the best effect if you go with icy mineral water. Splash it on your face and you will firm up your skin. If you have puffiness around the eyes, it can help you reduce that (those Scandinavian women sure are brave, coming in out of the cold and splashing ice water on their face or using ice cubes as toners!).
Poland: Try an egg yolk hair mask.
That Italian hair mask using egg whites isn’t the only way you can nourish your hair using eggs. It turns out that those Italian ladies are actually missing out on the amazing nutrients in egg yolks! In Poland, women make hair masks using the yolk of the egg along with a few drops of lemon juice and olive oil. They leave the mask in their hair for fifteen minutes and then rinse it out. Apparently the egg yolk nutrients strengthen hair so it is less likely to break. Which is better for hair, the yolk or the whites? You will have to experiment to decide. Maybe you will end up combining the suggestions from Poland and Italy and using the whole egg. Sounds like a plan!
Romania: Olive oil and vitamin A for stronger nails.
Looking for a great way to improve the texture of your nails and strengthen them? In Romania, there is a great secret to strong nails, and that is to soak them in a bowl with warm olive oil and vitamin A oil. It only takes a few drops of oil, and you only have to do it every couple of weeks for a few minutes each time. The vitamin A and olive oil will nourish the cuticle beds, which will cause your nails to grow stronger. They should be less prone to breakage after a few of these treatments. You may also have less skin peeling around them, which is a symptom of really dry nail beds.
United Kingdom: Wash your hair less.
Women who live in the UK have a unique beauty challenge to tackle thanks to the abundance of lime in their water supply (and you thought your hard water was bad!). Lime makes hair dry, brittle, and breakable, so it is a constant uphill battle to keep hair strong, soft, and shiny.
How do they do it? It’s actually what they don’t do more than what they actually do. Many women in the UK don’t wash their hair more than three times a week, and keep it under a shower cap the rest of the time. How do they keep their hair clean on days they don’t wash it? Dry shampoo. Even if you don’t live in the UK, this is great advice. Why? First off, hard water in many countries creates similar beauty struggles. The less you wash your hair, the less mineral buildup you have to deal with. Plus, most women wash their hair more than they should to begin with, stripping out the natural oils. Wash your hair less and you will keep your natural oils intact.
China: Rice water as a facial rinse.
China is of course famous for its rice. Rice is not just a dietary staple in China, though, it is also a beauty secret! The women in China use rice water as a cleansing rinse for their faces. Rice is chock full of antioxidants, which nourish your skin and fight harmful free radicals that lead to aging. How do you do it? Buy some Chinese rice, and soak it in water for 20 minutes. Strain out the rice, and then use a washcloth to mop the water on your face. Do this on a weekly basis and you should notice a difference!
China: Camellia oil for stretch marks.
Here’s another way you can tackle stretch marks. Chinese women rub camellia oil onto their stretch marks in the morning and the evening. Over time, this can reduce the appearance of stretch marks as well as other types of discoloration (like sun damage).
India: Turmeric for vibrant skin.
Turmeric is used as a spice in a lot of Indian recipes, but it is also used for beauty! Before an Indian wedding, the bride performs the “haldi” ceremony. This involves applying a turmeric paste to her face and body and washing it off so her skin will be vibrant. You can make the same paste by mixing a teaspoon of turmeric powder with honey and yogurt. You want it to get a thick pasty consistency. Put it on your face for fifteen minutes and then wash it off. Don’t worry, your skin won’t turn yellow—but you should see a nice glow. Apparently this can also help you get rid of unwanted facial hair, so this is a really great weapon in your beauty arsenal.
India: Coconut oil for smooth, shiny, healthy hair.
Those Indian ladies really know what they’re doing! Here’s another great beauty tip from India, this time for your hair. If you are looking for a natural conditioner, look no further than coconut oil. A little bit of this stuff goes a long ways, so all you need is around a tablespoon. Heat it up (you can just warm it up in the microwave) so that it turns into a liquid, and then massage it onto your head. If you can, try to reach your scalp and the roots of your hair, as well as the ends. The coconut oil will promote circulation in your scalp, which will help to bring nutrients to your hair follicles. This in turn will make your hair grow faster!
Coconut oil is a great moisturizer, and will work great on dry or damaged hair, so make sure you get the ends and not just the roots! You can wash it out or leave it in; if you leave it in, your hair will be nice and shiny all day (and also easier to comb than usual). If you have ever used a product like Biosilk, the effect is similar.
While you’re at it, if you have dry or rough skin, you can rub coconut oil in as an excellent alternative to lotion or moisturizer! This is a popular thing to do in Belize. The coconut oil also has protective properties that shield your skin against the damage of harmful UV rays, so it makes a great natural sunscreen.
The Philippines: Aloe for glossy hair.
If you have ever been to the Philippines, you probably were astonished by how glossy and beautiful everyone’s hair was! How do Pilipino women get their hair so shiny? It turns out the trick is aloe. Break an aloe leaf to get at the juice, and then rub it into your hair and scalp. Don’t have an aloe leaf handy? That’s okay, you can buy aloe gel from the store. Rinse it out and you should see glossier locks. Tip: Don’t forget that aloe is also great for your skin! Combine it with ginger and lime and it makes a wonderful moisturizer. Its inflammatory properties make it an excellent salve for irritated skin too.
The Philippines: Shun the sun.
Have you ever wondered how the women of Japan and the Far East manage to keep their skin so beautiful and clear? They have a number of beauty secrets, but one of the simplest and most effective is simply to stay out of the sunlight. In Japan, it is perfectly normal to carry around a parasol on sunny days. Japanese women also are more likely to cover their arms and legs and wear a hat. Sunbathing may bring a warm coppery glow to your skin, but it does nothing for your complexion! Over time, sunbathing will lead to sun damage—age spots, wrinkles, and dry, leathery skin. If you shun the sun and carry a parasol or umbrella, however, you can keep your skin soft, hydrated, and healthy like the women of Japan.
The Philippines: Seaweed for luxurious locks.
Japanese men and women alike are recognized globally for their long, silky, gorgeous black hair. How do they get their hair looking so fabulous? Part of it may be the increased amount of iodine in their diets. Seaweed is a major part of the Japanese diet, and a rich natural source of easily-digested iodine. Iodine is added to table salt, but it isn’t as easy for your body to digest as the iodine in seaweed (and if you use sea salt, you are getting even less of it). Head to your local Asian grocery store and stock up on seaweed and start adding it to your diet!
You don’t have to use it to wrap sushi. It goes great in salad, rice dishes, stir-fry, or soups. Experiment with some recipes and you will probably find a lot of tasty ways to eat it (snacking on the sheets is also fun!). This is a really great way to jazz up a boring bowl of store-bought ramen. Iodine has a lot of health benefits that go under recognized, not just for your hair, but for the rest of your body.
The Philippines: A sake bath for glowing skin.
Love sake? If you can bear to part with several glasses of it, try pouring it into your bath water. Sake contains kojic acid, which is a great exfoliate. This is yet another beauty secret the women of Japan use to maintain their beautiful complexions and keep their skin looking so fresh and youthful over the years. Sake can also reduce the appearance of age spots and discoloration from the sun.
Singapore: Coconut oil to tame humidity-induced frizz.
Humidity levels in Singapore are crazy. The average is around 90%, and that’s year-round. Ouch. If you live in a place with high humidity levels like that for even part of the year, you know what a pain they can be. Your hair frizzes up and you can’t control your flyaways. How do those ladies in Singapore cope? They rub some coconut oil into the ends of their hair before going to bed and leave it on there. The next day, their hair is manageable and tame despite the ridiculous humidity.
Singapore: Avocado or papaya for radiant skin.
Here’s another great tip from Singapore! Mash up an avocado or a papaya (both work great), rub the mixture onto your face, wait for fifteen minutes, and rinse it off. Both of these have some great oils in them which are ideal for moisturizing your face. Papaya also works as an exfoliating agent thanks to an enzyme called papain. This is a great way to make use of avocados that are just a little too ripe. Otherwise they just go to waste!
Egypt: Bathe in milk and honey.
This beauty secret is so old that it literally dates back to Cleopatra, who reportedly bathed in milk and honey to keep her skin radiant and soft. She also added lavender and rose petals to her baths, and according to some historians, raspberries and strawberries. The milk she used came from goats, but cow’s milk will give you the same benefits since milk contains alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). These compounds help to slough off dead skin cells, gently exfoliating your skin. This allows healthy new skin tissue to grow for a fresh, youthful complexion. Other famous historical ladies who have used Cleo’s secret include Valeria Messalina, Emperor Claudius I’s wife, and Pauline Bonaparte, Napolean’s sister. Francois I, King of France, also used to take milk baths—so this secret goes for any gents reading this too!
Don’t want to pour honey into your bath? Honey is expensive, but a great alternative is to take the occasional milk bath, and then purchase an organic soap which includes honey as an ingredient! This can cut down on your costs while you follow in Cleopatra’s footsteps!
Israel: Mud from the Dead Sea as a cleansing mask.
Have you ever taken a mud bath? If not, you may wonder what compels so many women to jump into a basin full of mud. It turns out there is actually a really simple explanation, and that is that certain types of mud can do wonders for your skin. Why? Mud contains minerals, and minerals are good for you! Mud from the Dead Sea in particular is renowned for its rich mineral content. Women in Israel cover their bodies with mud from the Dead Sea, then go for a dip in the salty water. Many even take jars to the beach and gather up the mud for use later at home. While you don’t have the luxury of jumping right into the Dead Sea, you can purchase Dead Sea mud from anywhere in the world, as there are many bath products which use it!
Israel: Ginger and honey to prevent wrinkles.
Want to prevent wrinkles and maybe reduce some of the wrinkles you already have? One time-tested tradition in India is a mixture of fresh ginger and honey. Add a little water, and rub the mixture onto your face. The honey gives it a pleasant sweet aroma, and the ginger has a revitalizing warmth. This makes it a great “wake up” routine in the morning! You will immediately feel fresh and ready for the day, and you’ll look fresh too. Start this routine when you’re young and keep doing it daily and you will stay looking young for a very long time.
Morocco: Argan oil for just about everything.
Argan oil comes from Morocco, and is a really amazing product that you can use in so many ways! It is easy for your skin to absorb and has great moisturizing properties, which makes it an excellent lotion or bath oil. You can also use it as a moisturizer. A couple of drops are all you need; it goes a long way. Suffer from dry hair as well as dry skin? Rub a few drops of argan oil into your hair in the morning or at night. You don’t need to wash it out; it is a great substitute for any leave-in conditioner. It will tame flyaways, smooth out your hair, and bring out its silky shine. You’ll find it easier to brush and style. Unlike most leave-in conditioners you can buy, argan oil is 100% natural and healthy!
Turkey: Lighten your hair with daisy water.
If you live in a place with daisies, you can use them to lighten your hair and bring out highlights. This works best if you are blonde or have light brown hair. In Turkey, women who want to lighten their hair boil a cup of daisies. After around five minutes, you can remove the daisies and pour the water over your hair. Don’t rinse it out, just let it air dry, and spend some time out in the sun. This is another trick where you can substitute apple cider vinegar for water and use it as a diluted hair rinse over an extended time period for even better results.
Mexico: Curl your eyelashes with a spoon.
Wish you had beautifully curled eyelashes like the women of Mexico? It turns out they have a special trick to achieve those perfectly curled lashes, and it’s an easy one you can do at home! Do you have a teaspoon? If so, close your eye, and place the teaspoon over your eye so that it is cupping your lid. The bottom edge of the spoon should touch the roots of your upper lashes. With your thumb, press your lashes up against the spoon, and then push the spoon edge up to the ends of your lashes. The pressure from your thumb and the edge of the spoon will nicely curl your lashes. After that step is complete, set the spoon aside and put on your mascara so that your beautiful lashes really stand out. This has a really dramatic effect, and it’s so easy! Caution: spoons have sharp edges, so be careful putting a teaspoon near your eye.
Russia: Oatmeal facial mask.
It turns out oats are great for more than just treating sunburns. Women in Russia know that they make great facial masks. The recipe is simple. Just take two tablespoons of oats and soak them in warm water until they turn soft. This usually takes about ten minutes. Once that step is done, you need to add a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Mix it up into a paste, and then apply it to your face. Wait for ten minutes and rinse it off. Your face should have a lovely, vibrant glow and feel silky smooth. This is one of the best facial masks you will ever find, and it is so cheap and easy!
We hope you enjoyed this selection of amazing beauty secrets from around the world! As you can see, most of these ideas are inexpensive, easy, and use standard ingredients you probably have in your kitchen right now.