While the U.S. certainly has its share of weird beauty secrets (i.e. coconut oil on everything), each country has its own unique holy-grail products and ingredients unavailable or unpopular Stateside. If you’re going to any of these places, make sure to check out local markets for these innovative ingredients.
Japan: Activated Charcoal
Charcoal has been used by our ancestors for centuries to heal wounds, clear infections, or withdraw poison from the skin, and for good reason: charcoal has proven antioxidant and cleansing powers. Charcoal masks are popular for acne-prone, dull, skin with clogged pores, and charcoal scrubs use charcoal’s natural exfoliating texture to help brighten and smooth problematic skin. You can find charcoal in lots of weird places, too: look for Japanese lemonade made with charcoal to cleanse the digestive tract while you’re picking up the rest of your skin care.
South Korea: BB Cushions
As a personal convert from American BB creams to Korean BB creams, I have to tell you: Korean BBs are life-changing. Unlike American BB creams, from which the FDA has prohibited adding skin care actives because BBs are considered “makeup” here, Korean BB creams have the best of all worlds: skin care actives, high SPFs, and a beautiful cosmetic finish. With Korean BBs, you can treat your skin while you’re covering it, making it a perfect multitasker. The best part? You can find incredible BB cushions in super cute packaging for half the price of a high-end American BB cream. Your wallet, your skin, and your makeup counter will thank you.
Scandinavia: Marine Algae
It might sound gross to put something slimy like algae on your face, but have you looked at the skin on those Norwegian models? Their secret ingredient comes from the microalgae, a compound with almost as much protein as soy, that has incredibly moisturizing humectant properties and functions as a wonderful anti-ager and overall skin brightener. Places in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark offer tours of local lakes, with entire skin care lines made from the algae they produce.
Yes, you read that right: snails. Snails have been infiltrating Eastern skin care for a while now, whether in the form of sheet masks, creams, serums, or even facials that feature live snails chilling out on your face (no, thank you). As weird as it sounds, snail mucous is one of the most multi-tasking ingredients for your skin care routine: it’s been proven to fight aging, brighten skin tone, improve skin texture, and help fight and prevent acne.
While Henna is a well-known Indian tradition that usually involves a dark red skin dye applied in beautiful patterns on the skin, henna also has many other uses. White henna looks beautiful on darker skin tones, and is a gorgeous alternative to regular henna for a bride. Henna can also be used to temporarily dye hair: the traditional red henna imparts a beautiful dark auburn tint, and darker henna can help tone brassy hair. Look for a henna artist who’s serious about their work, and can both apply the henna as well as give insight into the long history of henna.
So bust out your language guide and head to the nearest market at your next travel destination: you never know if you’ll find the beauty secret you’ve been looking for.