Global beauty customs reveal an interesting dialogue about how various cultures perceive youth and aging. They teach you about tradition, innocence and wisdom — along with the evolution and transformative power of self-care.
Unfortunately, much of the industrialized world’s beauty regiments revolve around aspects of fixing or hiding oneself, warring with self-care as preservation, when self-care is about so much more for everyone around the world, leaning into how people lead their daily lives with care and consideration for the whole self.
At its simplest definition, self-care means finding out what makes you feel well and doing something about that, guilt-free. In the western world and on a personal level, self-care needs to evolve a bit more to transform perceptions of beauty, outside and inside, while integrating wellness into a vital practice of self-love. Look at what self-care looks like around the world for inspiration:
In Scandinavian countries, such as Denmark, creating an intimate and warm atmosphere is essential to your wellbeing. Scandinavians are experts on staying warm in the cold, and understandably, they take the meaning deeper.
“Hygge,” pronounced “hooga,” stems from an old Norwegian word for well being, and as a practice, hygge is about enjoying warmth and goodness in life among others. Hygge is a sensation and an experience of sitting around a fire or sipping a simple cup of tea as joy stretches your expression into a laugh with a child’s joke. It comes in the simple moments of enjoying the company of others or the company of oneself.
In Hungary, the people rely on gyógyfürdő, or hot baths, to resolve various needs in daily life. For example, you might take a hot dip try to cure a hangover after bar hopping.
The hot baths have health benefits similar to exercise, and the waters contain healing minerals like sodium, calcium, magnesium, fluoride, hydrocarbonate, metaboric acid and sulphite. Interestingly, these minerals provide health benefits for the body, such as lowering blood pressure. Hungarians benefit socially, too, as they sit for hours and catch up — the women chat, and the men play chess.
Gender-separate, communal hot baths are also popular in Japan, but the healing aspect is more social and spiritual. Onsen refers to the natural hot springs where women come for their whole lives to socialize and recharge, while those in the cities go to sentō to bathe indoors.
To be courteous, you must shower first to onsen or sentō, as going into the bath dirty is a faux pas. It is a social ritual, after all. To maintain the peace, keep your voice low, and attempt to cover tattoos since they’re still a little taboo.
Coffee is a major part of most American work lifestyles as your get up and go juice. Sweden has a similar love for coffee, but there is a traditional coffee break that the Swedish participate in called “Fika” typically taken during the daytime.
Fika is both a verb and noun and a prominent social institution engaged in by family, friends, dates and colleagues. It’s just a part of Swedish daily life, but everyone else used to the hustle and bustle needs to learn the concept of slowing down during a break, which is what fika is all about.
What if you set aside a particular time frame daily where you checked in with yourself? What if you practiced mindfulness over a cup of coffee or tea? It’s a small ritual of beauty for yourself — plus, there’s coffee!
Though western beauty products swept through India in the 90’s, natural oils and herbs of ancient Ayurvedic tradition remain an intrinsic part of self-care rituals. Mothers rub oils in the hair of their daughters, and regular massages with oils are a normal part of wellness in the family. Oils may be coconut, sesame or olive, among others, with or without Ayurvedic herbs.
Though aging presents its cultural and personal challenges, natural beauty practices remain an inherent part of self-care.
Look closely at your own beauty rituals and coping mechanisms you use to move through the day. How many of those are true self care?
Take inspiration from these self-care rituals from around the world and implement aspects of them your own wellness practices — whether that’s to take a moment to pause, nurture your hair or connect with a friend. Get back to beautiful.