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Next time you’re wandering a food market in an unfamiliar country, indulge in a few local ingredients. Not to taste, but to put on your face. Eating your way across a new continent is half the fun, but after hours spent in airports and on trains, your skin can benefit from food too. Plus, who doesn’t like being elbow-deep in a mixture of avocado and honey?
Japan: rice water and adzuki beans
Using rice as a key ingredient in skincare dates back thousands of years in Japan. Geishas were infatuated with how bright and soft rice water made their skin. It helps to rejuvenate elasticity and smooth out skin texture – it also puts your leftover rice water to good use. Another traditional beauty aid, aduzki beans, are native to Japan (you’ll likely know them as that red bean paste in your desserts) and are packed with antioxidants to help protect your skin from sun and pollutants. When broken down, these red beans make a soothing exfoliant.
Cook a cup of rice and let it steep for a few minutes after cooking, then strain. Meanwhile, crush 3 to 4 tablespoons of adzuki beans in a food processor until fine. Add beans to the rice water and mix until it creates a paste, then add a teaspoon of honey and stir. Apply to your face much like a scrub and let sit for five to ten minutes before you wash off thoroughly.
Pair your locally sourced face mask with a traditional Japanese face massage with just a few guidelines in mind:
1. After cleansing your face post-mask, gently pat skin to dry. 2. Add a light moisturiser and massage in a circular motion from your nose outward to your temples. Be gentle under your eyelids, but feel free to give added pressure to cheeks and nose. 3. Gently blot off excess cream with a tissue or blotting paper. This is especially beneficial when you’re breaking out or your skin is dehydrated after a long bout of travelling.
Colombia: coffee, lulo and bananas
There is nothing quite like a cup of Colombian coffee – and it just so happens to be the perfect ingredient to add to a brightening face mask. Made from some of the highest quality Arabica beans in the world, ground Colombian coffee can help stimulate cell re-growth, which keeps your face looking hydrated and glowing.
You might be unfamiliar with lulo – a fruit only found in Colombia and parts of Ecuador. It is citrusy, a bit tart and surprisingly fantastic for your skin health. Lulo is full of antioxidants that fight off free radicals, is antibacterial to help clear up acne, and contains Vitamins A and C, which help to strengthen skin.
Mix together half a lulo fruit and one banana. Then add in 1 to 2 tablespoons of coffee – depending on how exfoliating you want your mask to be – and 3 tablespoons of milk. Mix and if needed, add small amounts of water until consistency thins out. Apply to a clean face and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
Finland: pine tar, oatmeal and yoghurt
A friend of mine told me about an old Finnish saying: “If a good drink, the sauna and pine tar can’t help you – it must be fatal.” Put pine tar, a major Scandinavian staple, to good use and mix it in with your next mask. This syrupy substance is the result of burning pine tree wood and is a popular ingredient in just about anything beauty-related, from soaps to shampoos and lotions. It smells incredibly fresh and is often used to treat skin conditions because of its anti-fungal qualities. If your skin feels inflamed or bothered by the harsh Finnish winter, this face mask is all about relief.
You can buy pine tar at local grocery stores or markets in Finland—but make sure it is 100 per cent tar without any added ingredients. Mix about 1/3 cup pine tar with 1/3 cup oatmeal, and whisk together with 2 or 3 tablespoons of plain yoghurt. Preferably apply after a steam in the sauna when your pores are most open, and leave on for 10 to 15 minutes.
Morocco: Maghrebi mint tea, lemon and sugar
Crafting the perfect cup of Maghrebi mint tea is an art form in itself, something Moroccans treasure and delight in almost daily. For this soothing DIY mask, you’ll have to try your hand at this North African tradition. Green tea is wonderful if you need to reduce puffiness or get rid of dark eye circles. Mint acts as a natural astringent, as does lemon, unclogging pores and drying out unwanted acne.
Add a tablespoon of plain or rose water with a tablespoon of loose green tea and a couple crushed up mint leaves. Then squeeze a few drops of lemon and mix in a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of honey. If the mixture is too sticky, add another tablespoon of water. After 15 to 20 minutes, your skin should feel refreshed and even a little tingly from the mint.
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