Have you imagined what it would take for your skin to look and feel like a million dollars?
Famous beauty Cleopatra allegedly bathed in donkey’s milk (!), honey and olive oil to keep her skin looking radiant and flawless. During the Ming Dynasty, pearl powder was highly prized for moisturizing skin and giving it a luminous aura. African women have used saffron, which is rich in antioxidants and acts as a natural sunscreen, in ancient times as their lip and cheek stain. It’s still in use in many makeup and skincare products today but the substance itself carries an extremely high price tag.
Uguisu or the Japanese Bush Warbler is a small bird found in Japan, China, Taiwan and other East Asian countries. It’s famous because of, well, its poop, which was used in ancient Japan by geishas and kabuki actors to remove their heavy stage makeup (which contained zinc and lead). They realized that the bird feces (Uguisu no fun) softened and healed their skin. Designer Victoria Beckham was reported to have used the treatment to make her skin smooth and shiny.
Asian skincare always looks to reintroduce ancient beauty secrets (think of the fermented ingredients that were originally used only by ancient Korean royalty) and certainly isn’t afraid to push the envelope by using unique ingredients such as snail slime, pig collagen and horse oil.
Below are six (6) ingredients that up the ante for ultimate skin pampering.
This shining substance has always been worth a king’s ransom. But did you know that it also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties? It can calm acne and skin redness, and protect skin against free radicals that lead to wrinkles and sun damage. Colloidal gold, which is essentially microscopic particles of gold in a liquid suspension, is sometimes used by doctors in injections to treat rheumatoid arthritis. If applied topically, it will give your skin an irresistible glow.
Using crushed pearls to give skin a lovely luster has long been a beauty secret among ancient Asian royal families. Traditional Chinese medicine has also used pearls for centuries because of its anti-inflammatory and detoxifying benefits. Pearls are high in calcium and contain amino acids and trace minerals as well as conchiolin, a complex protein that helps replenish skin’s collagen levels. Skin that’s smooth, flawless and radiant is often described to be “pearlescent.”
Actress Angelina Jolie was said to have used Baerli sturgeon caviar to reduce the appearance of her stretch marks after giving birth to her twins Knox and Vivienne. While it seems a stretch (pun intended) that caviar can actually make stretch marks disappear, fish eggs (which is what caviar is, really) contains nutrients and antioxidants such as Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids that help prevent cellular inflammation in the skin and promote collagen production . They also have potassium and selenium, which increase skin elasticity. Luxury skincare brand La Prairie is one of the most well-known brands that use caviar in their skincare lines.
Ginseng has long been used in China and Korea for its many benefits. In particular, red ginseng is highly prized in skincare because it relieves dryness, reduces fine lines and wrinkles, and also brightens dark under-eye circles. A study on fermented red ginseng as a “novel skincare anti-aging ingredient” published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website indicates that fermented red ginseng has higher ginsenoside metabolites, which “offers increased anti-wrinkle efficacy and whitening efficacy.” Ginsenosides are ginseng compounds that have antioxidant properties. Among the most popular Korean brands that use ginseng as their primary ingredients are Donginbi, Sulwhasoo, SooRyeHan and LLang.
Bee Venom and Propolis
Bees are some of the most hard-working little creatures on the planet and mankind certainly benefits from their industriousness. Honey, pollen, royal jelly, beeswax, propolis and bee venom are widely used for many purposes, including skincare. Honey is proven to be a great humectant and anti-bacterial substance that helps heal wounds. In particular, bee venom is increasingly being used in more cosmetic products to supposedly trick the skin into thinking it’s been stung, producing a plumping and tightening effect that eases the signs of aging by relaxing the facial muscles. It was reported that Kate Middleton supposedly received a bee venom facial before officially becoming part of the British royal family and the Duchess of Cambridge.
Propolis is another nutritious substance for which we should all be grateful to bees! Essentially, it’s a resin-like substance that bees obtain from tree buds, sap flows, and other botanical sources. Propolis is used to seal the chambers where the bee larvae live and also acts as a natural disinfectant. Right now, research is still being done on ways to use propolis. Some preliminary studies show that some types of propolis have in vitro antibacterial and antifungal benefits and may be effective in combating acne. Propolis is also said to be an antioxidant and is being studied for skin cancer treatment and cancer prevention. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, was said to have used propolis to heal wounds and treat infections.
Bird’s nest figures as a foremost ingredient in many Asian skincare brands as well as food dishes. Bird’s nest soup is known as a traditional Asian delicacy, and is heavily used in traditional Chinese medicine to strengthen the immune system, relieve asthma, serve as an aphrodisiac, and boost brain power. The swiftlet is the bird behind this famous ingredient. The male swiftlet uses its saliva to glue its nest together. The saliva that actually makes up most of the nest is said to be the prime ingredient of these beauty products due to its high levels of antioxidants, Epidermal Growth Factors (EGF) and amino acids that primarily help with cell growth and tissue repair. The result is softer, firmer and more resilient skin. Swiftlet nests are traditionally located at high elevation on cliffs and in caves, and there has been some concern raised over the extensive harvesting, which could endanger the birds.
Get to try all these super luxe ingredients on your skin! See our recommendations below.