International Beauty Report: Slime Time

 

My last encounter with a snail happened about 25 years ago, during a game of barefoot tag with my sister. Just as I heard that unmistakable crunch, I felt cold goo ooze between my toes. It was a completely disgusting experience. So, imagine my surprise now in my 30s to discover the latest beauty craze to hit South Korea is the same snail goo that traumatized me as a child.

Technically called mucin, snail slime is filled with proteins, glycolic acids and elastin—all ingredients that repair damaged tissue, replenish moisture in the skin and reduce pigmentation and scarring. Some beauty enthusiasts go as far as applying live snails to slither around on their face, but for the rest of us, companies such as Missha, Mizon, Tony Moly and Nature Republic offer everything from serums to hand creams to face masks that contain the mucilaginous goo.

Despite the loathsome memories from my childhood, I decided to give one of these slippery products a test drive. For about $30, the Snail Solution 80 Ampoule from Nature Republic claims to smooth and soften skin and even out the skin tone. Scent-wise, it was nearly odorless. I squeezed a drop on my hand and rubbed it into my palm. The unmistakable slimy texture became immediately apparent, and I knew that there was no way I could rub the viscous liquid on my face. Snail mucin may work wonders for skin tone and elasticity, but unfortunately, my complexion will never know. 

For those brave enough to add snail mucin to their beauty routine, try the Mizon version on Amazon.

Battle of the Cleansing Wipes

There are two main factors that led to my love of facial cleansing towelettes. The primary reason being that I am lazy with my beauty routine. The second reason is that because I’m always on the go, beauty wipes are super easy to toss in my carry on bag, no 3.4-ounce rule required.

When I lived stateside, my go-to brand was Ponds, until I discovered that for about half the price, the CVS brand of cleansing and make up removing towelettes were as good or even better, and came in different formulations such as gentle and age defying.

But once I moved abroad, I realized that American facial cleansing cloths are useless compared to their foreign counterparts. I’ve tried these wipes in various countries, and the two international best are Skin Food Fresh Celery Cleansing Tissues from South Korea and Bioderma Créaline H20 Dermatological Wipes from France.

The South Korean brand Skin Food is well known in Asia, but it’s only beginning to make an appearance in the U.S. Known for its ‘food therapy’ approach to skincare, all products include edible items on the ingredients list. The Fresh Celery Cleansing Tissues do indeed contain celery extracts and smell like celery. Apparently, celery is an excellent skin hydrator and is loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. These wipes effectively remove makeup and leave my skin feeling cleansed but not tight.

Very chicly packaged in hot pink are the Bioderma Créaline H20 wipes from France. A New York based friend who works at Style.com explained to me that these are a must in the fashion world, and models never leave home without them. Well, what’s good enough for a model’s face is good enough for mine, so I snapped a package up last month at a French pharmacy. Larger and more luxurious than the Skin Food brand, the Bioderma wipes do a slightly better job at cleansing and moisturizing, and do leave my skin hydrated. However, they smell slightly of perfume, and the ingredients while hypoallergenic are less natural than the Korean brand. Another major factor is price. The French ones are more than twice as expensive as their Asian counterpart.

Overall, I love them both, and choosing one over the other would be a Sophie’s Choice style decision. Easy, portable, cleansing and moisturizing? You may never want to wash your face with soap and water again.

Skin Food and Bioderma products are available on Amazon.

International Beauty Report: Sweet Things in Guatemala

The Mayans had a sweet thing going on. Sure they made human sacrifices a la Apocolypto, but on the flip side, their entire culture revolved around chocolate and for that we can truly thank them.

On a recent visit to Guatemala—home to an incredible amount of Mayan ruins, culture and living traditions—I immersed myself in this chocolate fantasyland and what I found was incredibly sweet. Massages and body scrubs so decadent I felt like a human truffle, rich and creamy hot chocolate to accompany every meal (and we’re not talking Nesquick here) and beauty treats so pure they are edible.

We’ve all heard by now about the benefits of eating dark chocolate, but did you know that chocolate is full of hydrating and cell renewing nutrients to enhance your skin topically too? No wonder the Mayans had beautiful, glowing skin.

And there’s also Doña Gavi. Her shop in Antigua, Guatemala is a treasure trove of organic skin care, including, of course, a line of products containing the wonderworking cacao—shampoo, conditioner, creamy lip balm and soap—all temptingly good enough to eat.

La Tienda de Doña Gavi reminded me of a curiosity shop of old: Large pots filled with soaps, jars and boxes bursting with balms and butters and shelf after shelf of Doña Gavi’s hand made skin savers. See her skin—she’s 62 and looks like a glamorous film star of old—and you’ll start touting the benefits of chocolate from the rooftops.

Sadly, her products are unavailable to purchase online because they are simply too fresh and small batch and have a limited shelf life. If you go: La Teinda de Doña Gavi, 3a Avenida Norte #2, Antigua, Guatemala.

International Beauty Report: The Swiss Standard

The Swiss are known for their perfection. Watches, banking, chocolate, train schedules … the list goes on. I’ve never known Switzerland to be particularly associated with beauty products, but with the anti-aging Neocutis skincare line, that may well change. 

According to the website, one thing that makes Neocutis different from other beauty products is a form of Swiss technology called PSP, or Processed Skin Cell Proteins. This ingredient uses a unique mixture of proteins and polypeptides that “harness the power of human growth factors and cytokines, to help deliver state-of-the-art skin revitalization.” It may sound like something out of a science fiction movie, (and let’s face it, who ever heard of cytokines) but does all this futuristic-sounding skin care jargon mean the products really work?

I took two Neocutis creams for a test run, last week. The Bio-Cream Riche Bio-Restorative Skin Balm and the Lumière Bio-Restorative Eye Cream. If packaging could speak, these products would most certainly sound very posh.

I’ve come to that terrible point in time when the crow’s feet on my eyes and creases around my mouth don’t quite disappear after I stop smiling. The shadow of fine lines may still be very faint, but they are there nonetheless. The Bio-Restorative Skin Balm and the Bio-Restorative Eye Cream claim to change all that wrinkle nonsense. These velvety creams felt smooth and non-sticky as I massaged them into my skin. Although the ingredients include caffeine for plumping and wild yam to smooth skin’s texture, the lotions have no distinguishable scent other than what I would call “clean.”

It’s been a week (the labels state that it may take up to six weeks to see results), and while I can’t say the fine lines have disappeared yet, I have noticed a smoother complexion and suppler, well-hydrated skin. Until now, it’s only been chocolate that’s included in my Swiss repertoire, but Neocutis has just earned a well-deserved spot. 

International Beauty Report: English Beauty

 

As Murphy would predict, I recently ran out of all my facial care products simultaneously. I debated whether to purchase the same humdrum products that I had previously used—ones that had done nothing extraordinary or even noticeable to my face, but ones that I was simply used to. In the midst of this skincare conundrum, I became introduced to a new brand that had never before crossed my path. It’s called Eve of St. Agnes, and it is a handcrafted skincare line based out of England.

Now, I’ve always had a slight fascination with the UK (I just became engaged to an Englishman after all!) and decided to give this all-natural skin care line a shot. It was love at first try. The Nourishing Cleansing Cream is buttery soft, smells of zesty essential orange oil and also contains honey and cocoa butter. The detergent and soap free product comes with a linen cloth that is meant to be used as a gentle emulsifier and skin smoother. The product claims to remove make up and deeply cleanse the skin in one silky step, and it doesn’t disappoint.

In addition to the loveliness of the Nourishing Cleansing Cream, I have become a fan of the Hydrating Facial Silk, which is the most hydrating yet least thick and sticky moisturizer I’ve ever used. It is easily absorbed and doesn’t make my skin feel overly heavy or coated. It too has a lovely citrus scent that has become my new obsession.

As well as the products being effective and handmade, the packaging is as adorable as can be, and affects a black and white Alice in Wonderland feeling—think quaint doodles of owls, trumpets and bamboo shoots—on each product. Not only does it make facial care fun, Eve of St. Agnes products are good for the environment and they actually work. Way to go, jolly old England!