Growing up Asian, I distinctly remember one of the beauty rituals imposed by my mother: coating my hair with coconut oil. To keep my hair shiny and strong, the thick coconut mousse sat on my head for 15 minutes before rinsing off. I didn’t like the ritual because the scent stank but it was a home beauty remedy passed down from his mother, and, it did leave my hair with a noticeable shine. âIt’s a Filipino thing,â she said.
I also remember the trips I took with my mother to Chinatown where I saw ginseng roots submerged in jars filled with liquid. As a child I found them disturbing, but my mom talked about the healing and energizing effects of ginseng, buying virtually any supplement that contains the ingredient. In his mind, it was a panacea, like the Vicks Vaporub of tubers. To this day, my mom prefers cosmetics to ginseng. (She has a stash of ginseng-infused sheet masks.)
I have fully embraced these trends and more. The Asian in me has connected to the Asian in my vials and my serums. To this day, I only buy Asian brands of sheet masks – just a meticulous selection that I have perfected over the years. I am drawn to what I know to be Asian ingredients. Rice leaf masks? I’m in. Green tea products? Awesome. Ginseng? Even better.
The recent wave of horrific hate crimes directed against the AAPI community has caused the beauty industry to take stock. Consumers are noticing brands that don’t talk about anti-Asian hate and those that go beyond an Instagram post, giving proper credit to Asian practices and ingredients and recognizing the Asian contribution to beauty.
While Asian culture is most commonly recognized when it comes to Korean or Japanese beauty, the reality is that our culture has been instrumental in influencing and shaping the entire beauty industry tremendously.
âAsian beauty practices are incredibly unique, complex, and passed down from generation to generation. I learned a lot of my beauty routine from my mom, âCocokind founder Priscilla Tsai told POPSUGAR. âWhile Asian culture is most often recognized when it comes to Korean or Japanese beauty, the reality is that our culture has helped to tremendously influence and shape the entire beauty industry. we use the way we build the steps for our daily skin care routines. ”
Cary Lin, founder of sustainable beauty brand Common Heir, added, âAsia has definitely become a hub of innovation for beauty and skin care culture. Manufacturers are reinventing these traditional herbs and rituals. and develop some of the most innovative and forward thinking formulas, textures and ingredients in the industry. â
Unfortunately, some brands go beyond “reinvention”, whitewashing our practices and traditions. It’s not just a problem with the beauty industry. (Remember that mahjong debacle?) But as the AAPI community goes through tough times, it’s more important than ever to give credit where it’s due.
âThe AAPI community is not a monolith, but I think we have always felt underrepresented, harassed and reminded that we don’t belong here,â says Lin. “Representation is a force against xenophobia because it offers evidence of belonging. To feel seen is an emotional experience.”
Asian practices are more than cool, trendy ingredients and gadgets. These are centuries, if not millennia, of traditions passed down from generation to generation and it is time to start honoring their origins. Here we have compiled some of the most common beauty tools and ingredients of Asian origin.
Jade rollers, typically double-ended massage tools, are ubiquitous in the beauty market today sold at every retailer from Ultra to Goop. They come in many colors and a variety of gemstones – rose quartz, opal, amethyst, or bifurcated permutation – but jade scrolls were used long before its boom in the United States. âJade rollers have been used by Chinese women for centuries,â certified dermatologist and author of âAsian Beauty Secrets,â Marie Jhin, MD, told POPSUGAR. “Jade contains essential magnesium, iron and calcium for the body. These properties, along with the stone’s freshness, help flush out internal toxins and reactivate bodily rhythms.”
Another ancient Chinese staple, a Gua Sha is a massage tool carved out of a stone, usually jade. âGua Sha involves using a stone to massage the face to relieve tension and improve lymphatic drainage and improve circulation,â says Dr. Jhin. By sliding the tool across your face, it helps boost energy and reduce inflammation. In addition, the drainage of the lymphatic system also drains toxins, which reduces puffiness.
The thin, serum-soaked masks that typically come in individual sachets have a history beyond the arrival of K-beauty. The earliest variations of a sheet mask were used by Japanese geishas. According to Elle, an 1813 manual on geisha skin care and makeup titled Miyakofuzoku Kewaiden or “Capital Beauty and Style Manual”, includes descriptions of the first sheet mask. The outlet said it included “instructions for moistening a piece of kimono silk with distilled flower water and placing it on the face,” which in practice is what constitutes a mask. in sheet. Today there are countless iterations made of materials ranging from aluminum foil to rubber with all kinds of permutations of ingredients.
Turmeric is definitely more than a kitchen staple. More and more beauty companies are using the properties of the Ayurvedic yellow spice native to South Asia. Turmeric is one of the key ingredients in Cocokind’s products and Tsai says turmeric is one of those beauty ingredients that “are extremely common” that “arise directly from Asian beauty practices and play an important role in various Asian cultures “. According to Cocokind, it has been used for over six millennia for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Plus, its active ingredient, curcumin, is a polyphenol (which is packed with antioxidants) that helps reduce the appearance of dark spots and UV damage. The ingredient can be seen in a line of beauty products ranging from face masks to vitamin C serums.
Green tea is another beauty ingredient with a history spanning millennia, according to Dr. Jhin. âAlthough tea was discovered by chance by Chinese Emperor Shen Nong 5,000 years ago, unfermented green tea is now a Japanese superhero,â she says. “The polyphenols in green tea neutralize free radicals and help detoxify the body and skin.”
Have you ever tried this rice water TikTok hair trend? There is a reason the rice water took off. Rice water has been used by court women for their hair since the ancient Heian period. But it wasn’t just used as a hair product. âRice was an abundant staple food in Korea and Japan in ancient times. Women used to bathe in water that has been used to wash rice for centuries, âsays Dr Jhin. “They found their skin to be smoother, more supple, and free from blemishes. Rice water was a gentle, easy-to-use cleanser.” According to Healthline, fermented rice water, or rice wine, helps reduce sun damage to the skin. Plus, it releases collagen to keep the skin taut. Nowadays, rice water is infused in products ranging from toners to creams.
âGinseng originated in Korea and Manchuria in northern China and was a precious and expensive elixir of life for royalty and the wealthy,â says Dr. Jhin. In these ancient practices, achieving Qi, or the overall balance of the body, was the goal and ginseng played a huge role in this regard. âIt is revered as an overall tonic to restore balance to the body. It is rich in phytoestrogens, called ginsenosides, and is a powerful antioxidant, âshe explains. Ginseng stops the production of melanin which helps hyperpigmentation. In Dr. Jhin’s book, âAsian Beauty Secrets,â she also mentions the anti-inflammatory properties of ginseng which helps fight redness and swelling. In addition, she adds that ginseng stimulates the circulation of blood vessels, triggering the production of collagen. More collagen means firmer skin.
The fleshy fruit is believed to have two places of origin: one near the Pacific Ocean, in Southeast Asian countries, and the other near the Indian Ocean, in South Asia. . It should come as no surprise, then, that the cultures of Southeastern and Southeast Asia have passed down beauty rituals and home remedies centered on coconut for generations. No part of the coconut is wasted. Coconut water, besides being refreshing, has antioxidant properties and its electrolytes are hydrating while coconut oil has a range of benefits of being an effective hair conditioner and breath freshener.