A bathhouse in the Middle East, a mask from Japanese rice water or a sand stamp massage in French Polynesia: in all corners of the world, people have their own beauty rituals. They’re meant to cut yourself off from the world for a while, to cherish yourself, to soothe and recover.
Did it start in the secret rose gardens of the ancient Persia, with the scented jasmine bushes at the base of the Himalaya? Or was it the daisies in the grass that inspired someone to braid a wreath for a child? A flower garland on the head is one of the eldest, most simple and most beautiful gestures of love. It means: you’re beautiful. You’re welcome. You’re loved.
Flower oil is used all over the world to make hair shine and protect it from drying out. Especially jasmine oil and rose oil are known for their nurturing qualities. But there’s more: these oils surround you with a lovely subtle, reassuring scent that makes your day glow as much as your hair.
Beauty rituals often are intimate rituals – you practice them on your own, or together with a good friend. In the Middle East, it’s a common thing for women to go to a bathhouse together. They soften their skin with olive oil soap, peel it, use masks from rassoul – soft clay from the Atlas Mountains. And in the end, when they’re all clean and languid, it’s time to deal with unwanted hairs. Depilation with a piece of string is called khite in Arabic, and according to tradition, Cleopatra was one of the first to do it. It is more elegant and quicker than using tweezers – once you get the hang of it. Besides, it’s not only good for your brows and upper lip, but also very effective on the light, downy hairs on the cheeks.
The bathing culture, by the way, descents from ancient Greek and Roman culture. At first, bathing had a religious function, but it became much more than that. A bathhouse is the place where you catch up, a place where you have time for each other. The hamam is a place that radiates warmth.
In Japan, rice isn’t just one of the most important nourishments, it is also a symbol of happiness, prosperity, fertility – and innovation, in both the kitchen and the bathroom. Rice water is a fresh skin lotion, and making it is easy. Put some (preferably organic) rice in a bowl, rinse with hot water and drain off. Add new, cold water, until there’s about half an inch of water on top of the rice. Leave for a while, then stir with a chopstick, until the water is milky and non-transparent. Use it as a regular lotion: wet your face with a cotton pad drenched in rice water, rinse off with lukewarm water.
If you have more time on your hands, you can drench a wash cloth in rice water and put it on your face for about ten minutes (a piece of paper towel works too – leave out holes for your eyes and mouth). Pour the leftover ricewater in a clean bottle; it lasts for a few days if you keep it in the fridge. It works fine with scented basmati rice, but also with black rice or regular rice. Is it just you, or do you actually look different when you look in the mirror afterwards?
Text: Anne Wesseling – Photo: Seth Doyle
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