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14 Beauty Rituals and Ingredients From Around the World

Would you ever get a snake massage in Israel? How about applying bird poop to your face, as they do in Japan? Just like learning the history of our go-to skincare products, there is something quite fascinating about discovering all the beauty rituals that seem so foreign to us, but are run-of-the-mill skin staples in other cultures. Some with results so effective, spas and beauty brands have started to adopt them here in the US. Get to know the beauty secrets, skincare ingredients, and other cosmetic rituals from around the world below. 

Pearl Powder in China

An ingredient so beneficial even Chinese royalty was known to use it, pearl powder is rich in calcium and amino acids and is known to encourage collagen production and treat breakouts. Its usage dates all the way back to 320 AD and is typically mixed into skincare creams. 

Nightingale Poo in Japan

Uguisu no fun, translated to nightingale feces in Japanese, was first introduced by Koreans but adopted by Japan during the Heian period. Geishas used these bird droppings—yes, you read that correctly—to exfoliate, treat hyperpigmentation, and brighten their complexion. Nightingale poo facials are still performed today.

Olive Oil in Italy

Not just for pasta: Olive oil is also a staple in Italy for its moisturizing properties. Italians slather olive oil all over their body for smooth, supple skin. Science backs this one up, too. Olive oil is rich in vitamin E, which has been proven to strengthen skin’s moisture barrier and soften dry complexions (which is one of the reasons we include it in our Smoothing Eye Cream). You can even use some in lieu of lip balm to heal dry, cracked lips. 

Thanaka Powder in Myanmar

Walk around Myanmar and there’s a good chance you’ll spot Burmese women sporting this white powder on their faces. Thanaka powder is mixed into water to create a paste that not only provides protection from the sun but is also believed to help heal acne and moisturize the skin

Beer Baths in Germany

Who needs a bar when you can bathe in beer instead? In German spas, beer baths have been trending as of late. The ritual itself is relaxing but surprisingly beneficial: The yeast found in beer has antioxidant properties, soothing inflammation and correcting damage. 

Coconut Oil in India

Many of us use coconut oil for cooking, but Indians are known to incorporate it into their beauty routine, too. Coconut oil (among castor and sesame) is used to oil hair. It’s also a favorite among Indian moms, who use its moisturizing properties to soften their baby’s skin. Its smoothing benefits are one of the reasons we include it in our Keep It Supple Body Oil.

Venik Massage in Russia

A sauna-like bathhouse in Russia, banyas are communal bathing areas. In fact, Russians sometimes meet there to conduct business. Its bathing ritual can include wearing a wool hat to protect yourself from the heat and getting a venik massage, where you’re slapped with oak tree branches to restore the skin and help prevent premature aging.

Black Castor Oil in Haiti

​lwil maskriti, or black castor oil, is a centuries-old ingredient used for both its medicinal and beauty benefits. Rich in vitamin E and fatty acids, the oil is used to fight scalp infections, boost hair growth, and fight acne. 

Snail Slime in South Korea

Believe it or not, snail secretions have been used by numerous countries (including Chile and Italy) and before being popularized in K-beauty. South Koreans use snail mucin to moisturize, smooth wrinkles, and calm sensitized skin

Kakadu Plum in Australia 

This yellowish fruit—also called billy goat plums—are native to the Outback and are rich in vitamin C. Like many other vitamin C products (such as Stroke of Brilliance) kakadu plums offer numerous skin benefits including brightening skin tone and providing antioxidant protection.

Snake Massages in Israel

Unlike the other beauty rituals, snake massages are fairly new and not exactly rooted in history. They were started by Ada Barak, owner of a snake spa in Israel, who believes snakes’ slithering motions are uber relaxing when used in massage. While the beauty benefits aren’t proven, many have traveled to experience the ritual themselves. 

Monoi Oil in Tahiti

Polynesians have used monoi oil for centuries for everything from blessing babies to restoring skin. This oil is created by infusing Tahitian gardenia (flower petals) in coconut oil, then applying it to the hair, scalp, and skin to reduce frizz, improve acne, and more. 

Temazcal Ceremony in Mexico

This 2+ hour-long ceremony involves sitting in a sweat lodge while being led by a temazcalero. Temazcals originally were used as a cleansing ritual before heading to war but are mostly used today for their mental, spiritual, and physical benefits (such as reducing cortisol levels to de-stress the body and skin and relieving joint pain).

Shea Butter in Africa

The usage of shea butter dates all the way back to Cleopatra, who used the now-popular beauty ingredient for skin and hair care. Shea butter has been known to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, reduce signs of aging, heal razors bumps, and more.

Shop shea butter products and more from some of our favorite Black-owned beauty businesses.