by Christin Mulwitz
Beauty, the universal sign of good health, bonds women of all cultural heritages with the desire to look and feel our best. Lady Liberty, our nations most notable beauty, has long been a symbol celebrating America’s cultural diversity. Her invitation of hope combines ethnicities, traditions, customs, and, yes, beauty secrets. We are not talking expensive passing fads, but time-honored, natural, affordable, and simple secrets.
I couldn’t possibly write a beauty article without an ode to Cleopatra, the original Beauty Queen. Her breathtaking beauty began in the bath. Soak and scrub ladies! Fill your tub with water as warm as you can stand, along with 4 cups whole milk, or 1 cup powdered milk. While your tub is filling, mix up a traditional Egyptian exfoliating scrub with equal parts honey, baking soda, and sea salt. Take the time to breathe and relax. Rinse and moisturize with your favorite lotion or cocoa butter.
A few hours after an exfoliating bath is the ideal time to remove unwanted body hair. Egyptian, Brazilian, Arabic, and Indian cultures are known for their strikingly smooth skin. Their secret… Sugar waxing. Quite often, women gather to encourage each other with the bravado to pull the strips and laugh the pain away. In a saucepan, heat 2 cups granulated sugar, ¼ cup water, and a ¼ cup fresh lemon juice on low until bubbles begin to appear, approximately 250°F. Transfer the wax to a glass container and allow it to cool until warm. Have your cotton strips ready or use an old cotton t-shirt cut into manageable pieces. Use a spatula or popsicle stick to spread the wax in the direction of your hair growth. Press the cotton over the wax with the direction of growth. When you’re ready, swiftly and firmly pull off the wax strip in the direction opposite the hair growth. When the torture is complete, simply remove any excess wax with soap and warm water. It’s important not to wax the same area twice or you run the risk of damaging your skin’s surface layers. Follow up your wax with a soothing moisturizer and aloe. Repeat your Egyptian scrub after a few days, and weekly thereafter, to prevent ingrown hairs.
The luscious locks and bright faces gracing Indian women hold their own secrets; oil and spice. Coconut oil, massaged into the scalp before shampooing, is a must for most. Not only is it a home remedy for dry, limp hair; it promotes hair growth and combats dandruff. The results may take a little longer than prescription or chemical products. However, when it comes to chemicals, less is generally best. For the face… Turmeric powder; you can find it in the spice aisle of most grocery stores. Combining a pinch of turmeric powder, ¼ cup oats, and a teaspoon of lemon will make a fabulous face polish. Scrub and let stand for 5 minutes before rinsing to even out your skin tone and reduce the appearance of age spots, if any. For additional hair lightening and skin toning, sprinkle a little powder over a lemon half and gently massage the face using upward circular motions for a few minutes. I recommend using the polish and lemon lightener regularly to achieve noticeable results, add a soft natural glow, and reduce facial hair growth.
Spanish women have cracked the code when it comes to enhancing their hairs natural tones without the use of chemical colors or lighteners. Brunettes who want to add shine and bump up their natural rich hues can soak their locks after shampooing in equal parts water and cranberry juice, not the cocktail version, for 5-10 minutes. Rinse and follow up with your favorite conditioner. The cranberry mixture isn’t recommended for blondes because it can cause undesirable orange tones. For blondes who want a little brightening or find their hair “brassing” use equal parts lemon juice and water. Soak for 5-10 minutes, shampoo, and deep condition.
Garlic isn’t just for cooking. The secret to strong nails lies within this little bulb. We are all familiar with its health benefits when ingested, but the women of the Dominican Republic find it essential to nail care. To gain stronger nails, resistant to peeling and breakage, try adding it to your manicuring routine. Simply cut a small slice of garlic and rub it along your nail bed and its edge. To make your own strengthening polish: chop half a clove, add it to a base coat, and allow it to set for about a week, then apply as usual. The smell is far from pleasant and will dissipate after drying, but the benefits far outweigh the cons.
South Africa is home to many beautiful women with clear, vibrant, healthy skin ranging in tone from delicate ivory to bold ebony. They battle the harsh environment with Rooibos Tea, both topically and internally. This tea, found in most health food stores, is a great source of zinc and vitamin D essential to healthy skin. When brewed and enjoyed as an iced or hot beverage, the tea works its magic from the inside out to help with eczema, acne, aging, and skin allergies. When a flair-up occurs, the moistened tea bags can be used as a compress to sooth and minimize blemishes.
I’m sure we have all admired the youthful skin of Asian women. Oriental allure is attributed to more than cosmetics; it’s closely tied to diet. We have all heard the adage, “you are what you eat,” but most women of the orient take this to heart. White, green, and oolong teas consumed on a regular basis will help combat the signs of maturity with their natural anti-aging properties. It doesn’t stop there. There are a handful of foods consistent in Asian fare that slow aging, improve the skins elasticity, and decrease the appearance of wrinkles: avocados, cherries, cucumbers, dates, honey, rice, and shitake mushrooms. Mushrooms, in particular, are rich in vitamin D, iron, calcium, and magnesium to help rejuvenate the skin. Let’s not forget ginseng. We have all heard a thing or two about this super root, but it also brings the beauty held inside into the open for all to admire. Ginseng is a natural antioxidant helping to neutralize aging toxins, improve circulation and metabolism, energize the body, reduce stress, and rejuvenate the skin. That’s reason enough for me to make an effort to eat fresh and healthy.
The clean sophistication associated with European beauties can be attributed to their overall theory; less is more. European women exude confidence and self-acceptance, which directly translates to beauty. Love yourself and the uniqueness of your beauty allowing it to radiate through you. Use natural subtle make-up application to enhance your inherited gifts. Beets are a great way to add a little natural color. Mashed beets mixed with olive oil or petroleum jelly (more or less depending upon the desired intensity) can be used to stain both the lips and cheeks. Be sure to keep it off your teeth… Pink teeth have not yet made beauty history and most likely won’t.
Take the time to seek-out, celebrate, and enjoy the gifts our beautiful multi-cultural nation has to give. Make a personal spa day for yourself in your pajama’s, have a mother-daughter pampering day, or invite some of your best girl friends over for a home spa party, complete with a delicious oriental salad. Either way, replacing some of the chemicals and cosmetics in our arsenals with nature’s finest will help us all to look and feel beautiful.