Women from many of the countries in Asia enjoy good health and a longer lifespan thanks to their traditional diets -- Japan has more than 50,000 centenarians, for example, and China traditionally has low rates of breast cancer. It turns out that some of the homegrown secrets that keep Asian women healthy on the inside also help them look great on the outside.
North Americans are embracing many of the traditions that have been popular in countries like Japan, China, and India for centuries, including massage, tea consumption, and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Now as ingredients like green tea and coconut show up in more and more skin care products, we're clearly embracing the continent's rich beauty traditions as well. Here are nine ways to take advantage of that knowledge at home, with ingredients you might already have in your cupboard.
Tissue or sheet masks aren't as well known in North America, but they're a popular part of Japanese and Korean beauty routines. These masks come all in one piece for easy application: just open, unfold the mask, and apply. Many of them include anti-aging ingredients, including some of the newest in skin-care technology, and there's one for every skin type. Garnier’s Dark Spot Treatment Mask is loaded with vitamin C and hydrates skin for 24 hours.
Lighten dark spots on your skin with mint
Looking for a gentle and natural way to lighten dark spots on your skin caused by sun damage or acne scars? Use mint: grind the fresh leaves into a paste, apply it over your face as a mask, and leave on for 15 minutes before washing off. You'll get the best results if you repeat this daily, but be careful if you have sensitive skin.
Eat goji berries
In Chinese Traditional Medicine, it's believed that skin health is directly related to the amount of heat in the blood. Wolfberries -- better known in North America as goji berries -- are believed to nourish both the liver and blood, which is related to healthier skin as well. As a bonus, they also contain vitamin C and beta carotene.
Cleanse your skin with rice water
Next time you cook some jasmine rice at home, keep that water and use it to wash your skin to increase softness. (Let it cool first!) Rice is a source of antioxidants like vitamin E, and some of those end up in the water when you cook it. It's an inexpensive way to take advantage of ingredients found in many expensive skin-care products.
Exfoliate with coffee beans
Indonesian women have long used coffee grounds as a powerful natural exfoliant. The caffeic acid in coffee is anti-inflammatory and may boost collagen production, and caffeine is used in skin tightening products. And it smells great! You can give new life to your leftover coffee grounds or buy a product that already contains them.
Amla oil (or gooseberry oil) is a potent source of vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant. For centuries, Indian women have been applying amla oil to their hair and scalp every day in order to make their strands stronger and thicker and prevent hair loss.
Use matcha as a face mask
Matcha is a powdered green tea used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. It's a source of antioxidants when you drink it, and that will help your skin on its own, but you can also use it on your skin to increase brightness and help treat acne. Many skin products now contain green tea or matcha, if you don't want to take the DIY approach.
It sounds counterintuitive, but cleansing your skin with oil can actually improve its texture and fight breakouts. The Japanese brand Shu Uemura was making oil cleansers decades before they became trendy on this side of the Pacific, and now sells several varieties. The company's founder says that oil cleansing is the best way to get a gentle but effective cleanse for your skin.
Here's another beauty trend that originated in Japan: fibre mascaras. These mascaras attach fibres to your lashes to actually make them longer, not just longer looking, and the technology has now been embraced by North American brands like Maybelline. As a bonus, you don't need eye makeup remover to get the mascara off -- just use warm water and gentle wiping.
Cover your face in kelp
Seaweed and kelp are used in Chinese and Japanese cuisines for their concentrated nutrients, but they are also a part of traditional skin-care treatments. Imperial courtesans in China used natural exfoliants to remove dead skin cells, and seaweed and kelp were among their favourites. You can make your own gel mask using aloe vera gel -- a great skin soother -- and seaweed or kelp mixed in a blender.
Embrace the beautifying power of bird poop
Here's a beauty secret that Posh Spice is allegedly a fan of: nightingale droppings. Japanese geishas have used the dried droppings from these birds for centuries because of their rumoure11. d abilities to soften and brighten skin. The pricey facials are now available at spas across North America -- maybe this is a twist on the superstition that it's good luck if a bird poops on you?
Get gorgeous all over with coconut oil
Coconuts are used in many traditional Thai dishes, but they're also a source of one of the best beauty products out there: coconut oil. This oil, which is solid at room temperature, is an excellent moisturizer for skin and hair -- it even makes a great diaper cream! And there's nothing bad about smelling like the beach all the time.