Ancient Beauty Rituals that Work, And Where to Try Them
Not all beauty treatments are the work of white-coated scientists toiling in ultra-clean laboratoires.
Back in the day, indigenous people used nature -- and not chemicals -- to achieve glowing skin, formulate natural sunscreens and treat skin problems like acne, scars and blemishes.
Their treatments included rubbing powder made from real pearls on their face, sinking into warm mud baths, or rubbing themselves with oil made from gardenias.
The fact that some of these have been around for thousands of years is surely a good sign they actually work.
Here's where to try some of the best ancient rituals still on offer around the world:
Myanmar -- Thanaka Powder
Burmese women have been doing the SPF thing for years -- more than 2,000 to be exact.
Thanaka powder, which comes from grinding the wood and bark of the thanaka tree, has long been used on the face to brighten the complexion and shield the skin against free radicals, polluted air and harmful UV rays.
Thanaka powder is still used today -- women cover cheeks, foreheads and chins with the paste and wear it throughout the day.
Get it: The Spa at Hilton Ngapali Resort & Spa (The Myanmar Thanaka Brightening is an exfoliating treatment using thanaka)
Hilton Ngapali Resort & Spa, 2 Airport St, Zee Phyu Gone Village, Thandwe, Myanmar; +95 43 42130
Tahiti -- Monoi Oil
We can't all experience the relaxing balm of a Tahitian sunset viewed from an overwater bungalow, but a rubdown with warm monoi oil comes a close second.
Soaking the petals of Tahitian gardenias in coconut oil creates a beautifully scented oil called monoi.
Although it's not clear when this ritual began, the origins most likely date back 2,000 years to the indigenous Maohi people of Polynesia who revered the oil as a skin and hair softener.
The oil was deemed so special, it was also used in offerings and burial ceremonies.
Get it: Le Taha'a Island Resort & Spa (The Hot Stone massage uses heated monoi oil)
Le Taha'a Island Resort & Spa, French Polynesia; +689 40 608 400
Bagno Vignoni, Italy -- Thermal Baths
Roman baths were the center of therapeutic healing as well as a place of social gathering.
The sweating was thought to release toxins and impurities and give way to glowing skin as well as relief from rheumatism, arthritis and overindulgence in food and drink.
The baths at the ancient village of Bagno Vignoni were used by pilgrims on their way to Rome, and in the center of the village, there is a rectangular tank from the 16th century that contains an original source of water from a subterranean aquifer of volcanic origins.
Get it: Adler Thermae Spa & Relax Resort in Bagno Vignoni (anti-stress massage on a Vichy bed, under jets of warm thermal water)
Adler Thermae Spa & Relax Resort, Strada di Bagno Vignoni 1, I-53027 San Quirico d'Orcia, Siena, Tuscany, Italy; +39 0577 889 001
Morocco -- Argan Oil
Argan oil was traded as a coveted beauty agent in and around the Mediterranean area in 12 BC.
The Berber women of southern Morocco were known for their exotic beauty, and their secret was applying this golden oil regularly to their faces, nails, hair and body.
Argan oil is loaded with rich antioxidants, rejuvenating Vitamin E and fatty acids that are believed to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and treat scars, acne, eczema and psoriasis.
Get it: La Mamounia Marrakech (The hotel has its own line of face cream, Richesse d'Arganier, which contains pure argan oil).
La Mamounia Marrakech, Avenue Bab Jdid, 40 040 Marrakech Maroc, Morocco; +212 5243 88600
Playa del Carmen, Mexico -- Temazcal
Combining spiritual cleansing with beauty is the Aztec way.
The word temazcal originates from the Aztec "calli," meaning house, and "temas," meaning vapor or steam.
Temazcal structures (some ancient sites still exist in Mexico) are made from mortar and stone and are symbolic of Mother Nature's womb.
Temazcal is a combination of Mesoamerican chants, meditation and heated rocks doused with herb-infused water to create an aromatic, healing steam.
Get it: Kinan Spa at Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa (The temazcal treatment is performed at dusk in a sweat lodge to purify the body)
Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa, Carretera Cancún-Tulum, Km 51, 77710 Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico; +52 998 872 82 00
Napa Valley (Calistoga region), CA -- Mud Baths
Mud baths can exfoliate and soften the skin.
Indian Springs Resort & Spa
Eight thousand years ago, the native Wappo people of North America used nature to their advantage.
Calistoga -- a region in Northern California -- has a volcanic history, and subsequent geothermal springs created an opportunity for the creation of volcanic mud baths -- a flowing relief on weary backs and muscles.
This mud was created by mixing the local ashy soil with warm, mineral waters that bubbled in the springs, which softens and exfoliates the skin.
Even early Americans would flock to the destination by train in the 1800s and walk down present-day Lincoln Street in their bathrobes and slippers.
Get it: Indian Springs Resort & Spa (The Volcanic Ash Mud Bath treatment immerses guests in pure volcanic mud heated with hot mineral water from local geysers)
Indian Springs Resort & Spa, 1712 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga, CA; +1 707 942 4913
India -- Turmeric Powder
In India, the blushing bride is blushing for a reason: For thousands of years, brides in India have used turmeric masks prior to their wedding day to make skin soft and radiant.
This orange clay mask is also used to purify the skin and treat acne.
Get it: Soukya Health Center in Bangalore (the Ayurvedic Health Pack is a facial using turmeric)
Soukya Health Center, Soukya Road, Samethanahalli, Whitefield, Bangalore, India; +91 80 2801 7000 - ext. 08
Costa Rica -- Green Tea
In Costa Rica, the Bribri and Cabécares are the most well-known indigenous people, and both tribes depended on agriculture, producing their own crops and creating traditional medicines.
They discovered green tea has benefits to the skin including improving the complexion, flushing out toxins, healing blemishes and scars and reducing inflammation.
The antioxidants and tannins in the green tea are believed to help reduce puffy eyes and dark circles.
Get it: The Kuö Spa at the Costa Rica Marriott Hotel San Jose (incorporates green tea in its treatments)
China -- Pearl Powder
Pearl powder: A beauty product in China.
Some say the concubine-turned-Empress Dowager Cixi, who ruled for 47 years in the 19th century, popularized Chinese pearl powder for its beauty benefits.
The pearl powder is rubbed onto the face and is said to promote brightening, exfoliation and anti-wrinkling.
Many of the pearls are cultivated along China's river basin in the Shanghai area. After three to four years of cultivation, oysters grow to about 10 inches long and are harvested by fishermen.
Each oyster yields about eight to 10 pearls.
The lower-quality pearls are ground into powder used in the beauty treatments.
Get it: The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong (the spa's new Oriental Pearl Spa Treatment uses indigenous pearl powder for a full body exfoliation and skin-brightening facial)
The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, Shanghai IFC, 8 Century Avenue, Lujiazui, Pudong, Shanghai, China; +86 21 2020 1888
Australia -- Lemon Myrtle
Aboriginal Australians have been using native Australian lemon myrtle in beauty and to revive the body and spirit for thousands of years.
The flowering plant, which smells fresh and like sweet lemons, is used as an antioxidant, antiviral and antiseptic.
Women have long used the native spice for traditional medicine to treat skin conditions and sores.
Get it: Osprey Spa at Elements of Byron resort (the Rainforest Revival Ritual is a foot ritual using lemon myrtle to awaken the feet)
Elements of Byron resort, 144 Bayshore Drive, Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia; +61 2 6639 1500