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6 DIY Beauty Customs From Around the World (and the Science Behind Why They Work)

As a celebrity makeup artist, Stephanie Flor has worked plenty of red carpets and fashion spreads, but her true passion is discovering beauty tips from all over the globe and sharing her experiences in Around the World Beauty.

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“I wanted to discover a different perspective on beauty,” Flor says. “I’ve talked to women in more than 30 countries about their ingredients, and took part in their rituals.” Stephanie has stored up a treasure chest full of time-tested beauty recipes and gratefully credits the women she meets in her travels.

She shared with us a few of her favorite global DIY beauty recipes, and we consulted with dermatologist Debra Jaliman, M.D., to learn exactly why these traditional treatments have stood the test of time, scientifically speaking.

1. Turmeric Mask, India

Turmeric is an essential ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine and is used to bring a warm golden color and slight bitterness to curries, make milk tea, and even treat inflammation—but it also does wonders for your face. “Turmeric is loaded with antioxidants, which help slow down the aging process by protecting and firming your skin,” Jaliman says. That said, turmeric can temporarily stain your skin, so best to try this mask on a rainy weekend in.

The other ingredients in this mask pack a punch too—honey is a natural moisturizer and has antimicrobial properties which can help with irritation and acne, while yogurt helps cool and soothe skin while also hydrating and improving brightness.

Recipe: Mix a couple tablespoons of full-fat, plain Greek yogurt; one teaspoon of turmeric; and one teaspoon of honey until smooth. Apply the mixture to your face and leave on for 10-15 minutes before rinsing off.

2. Coffee Cellulite Scrub, Colombia

A cup of joe can perk up more than your morning (yes, we’re talking about butts). Although there’s no miracle cure for cellulite, this scrub can give you a tighter, more radiant backside—temporarily.

“It pulls water out of the skin, making the skin look less dimpled,” Jaliman explains. Caffeine is a popular anti-cellulite ingredient found in most pricey firming creams. With this scrub, you’ll not only save a wad of cash, but you’ll also get the exfoliating benefits of brown sugar particles and the nourishing, essential fatty acids found in coconut oil. “Your skin will be super soft—and you’ll smell amazing!” Stephanie says. (And you’ll probably taste pretty sweet too… just saying).

Recipe: Grind half a cup of Colombian coffee beans fairly fine (or smash them with a mortar and pestle). Add two tablespoons of unrefined coconut oil and a teaspoon of brown sugar. Mix it up and start scrubbing, or transfer to a jar for later use. Wash off and admire.

3. Wine and Oat Mask, Argentina

Have you heard the latest wine news? Turns out, drinking might not be so good for you after all. While this is a major bummer, wine can be put to good use on your face. “Resveratrol, found in red wine, is a powerful antioxidant that can fight skin aging,” Jaliman says. Red wine also has anti-inflammatory properties, while oats are known for their ability to calm down skin irritation. But if you’re prone to rosacea, you might want to sit this one out.

Recipe: Combine a tablespoon of yogurt, two teaspoons of honey, and a handful of dry oats. Add a splash or two of red wine and mix. Apply to your face using circular motions and let sit for 15-20 minutes before rinsing off.

4. Rhassoul Clay Rubdown, Morocco

Flor got this traditional Berber recipe from La Roseraie Spa Retreat in Morocco. Rhassoul clay, found in the Atlas Mountains, is a staple in Moroccan beauty. It’s known for its exfoliating powers as well as its rich mineral content. “Minerals such as magnesium, silicon, potassium, and calcium all help to nourish the skin,” Jaliman says, and all are present in rhassoul clay. Be warned, this recipe is both labor- and time-intensive, but at least you can save the airfare and order the clay online.

Recipe: In a bowl, mix equal parts rhassoul clay and freshly steeped herbal tea with your hands, adjusting amounts of each until you get a paste. Flor suggests also adding a drop of essential oil, such as rose or lavender. Once you have a smooth consistency, free of lumps, transfer the clay to a pan to air dry for a couple of days.

When you’re ready to get your rub on, apply the paste to your face and body and let dry for 15-20 minutes. Turn on the warm water and, using an exfoliating glove or your hands, start rinsing the clay off in circular motions. This might taa whileile, but your body and a clearer mind will thank you.

5. Matcha Powder Hair Mask, Japan

Flor was introduced to matcha as a hair treatment for the first time in Japan. “Women were using it as a way to prevent hair loss and get some shine,” she says. “Matcha’s loaded with antioxidants, which, as we know, is always good for the skin,” Jaliman says.

Peppermint oil has a cooling effect on the skin, has been shown to stimulate hair growth, and may increase circulation to the scalp, although we’d love to see more studies demonstrating this. However, don’t overdo it! Like all essential oils, peppermint oil is highly concentrated, so keep the dosage super low. For most folks, though, you can use this mask once a week, and it won’t cause any irritation.

Recipe: Warm a tablespoon of coconut oil in a bowl with one teaspoon of high-grade matcha powder, stirring gently, since matcha is very delicate. Add 1 drop of peppermint oil and mix. Part your dry hair, and, working in sections, apply the paste to your whole scalp. Work the remainder of the mask into the ends, gently brush through, and wait 30 minutes before rinsing off and shampooing.

6. Clove Scrub, Zanzibar

This scrubdown is used by Zanzibar brides for a week before their nuptials to get their skin glowing and fragrant. “You’ll find cloves in a lot of skin products for acne-prone skin because of their antiseptic properties,” Jaliman says. “They’re also full of antioxidants.” And bonus: They smell divine! Rose water has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, while coconut oil is all kinds of moisturizing.

Recipe: In a large bowl, combine three tablespoons of coarsely ground cloves, two tablespoons of rose water, two tablespoons of coconut oil, and three tablespoons of ground dried flowers. You can create a mix of your favorites, but Stephanie suggests roses, jasmine, and ylang-ylang. Mix all of the ingredients together and vigorously massage into dry skin for a few minutes before washing off.

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My Unexpected (but Totally Worth the Wait) Journey from Diet-Obsessed to Body Positive

I’m not sure when I first started worrying about my weight, but I suspect it started around the same time I started growing breasts and worrying what boys thought of me. Or, more likely, what other girls thought of me.

Until then, I assumed that adolescent girldom came the way it was depicted in movies — at least back then. The “average-sized” girl always played sidekick to the model-type who had it all: the grades, the looks, and the boy.

So by the time I was 14, the word “diet” to me meant “eat like this until you reach your goal weight and then everything will be OK.” Though it never was, I spent those formative years trying to balance my love of food and my disdain for any form of exercise that broke a sweat outside the swimming pool — my weight yo-yoing within a narrow range through the remainder of my teen years.

When I went away to college, this range moved (mildly) up the scale. Still, since I constantly charted my weight, I didn’t see it as concerning. Instead of losing the initial five pounds, I’ll just have to lose 10 pounds, I thought. And on came the weeks, if not months, of fad diets before they officially entered the mainstream (paleo, keto, and Dukan come to mind) and charting my ups and downs — at first on paper with a habit tracker and later with a Fitbit.

At 24, however, I reached my heaviest: 137 pounds. I was two years into therapy and one thing became increasingly clear: I did not have “it” (whatever it was) together, especially when it came to my body.

Consumed by my day-to-day life — school, work, and the social life that comes with college — I didn’t even realize my initial weight obsession started out of sheer neuroticism. Working out blanketed me into believing I was in control of my anxiety.

With a Fitbit, I was constantly reminded of my daily goal and whether or not I had reached it. I would jog on the spot until midnight to make it, or excuse myself at a friend’s and take a freakishly long call or an extended visit to the restroom until the black band on my wrist started buzzing to signal that I was done.

On days I missed ticking a box or making my step goal, I’d mentally scold myself like a child, guilt myself into doing more tomorrow, and watching my food twice as closely in the days that followed.

Until therapy, it never occurred to me that my anxiety and eating were also enmeshed in something bigger — that gaining weight during my years of therapy was linked to reliving repressed memories.

When I happened upon old diaries from my teenage years, one thing became obvious: Every hundred odd pages, without fail, I’d start a health kick, hoping that “this” would be “it.” My monologue was always consistent: “If I’m 110 pounds, my anxiety will go away, and I’ll be happy and not have to binge-eat when life gets tough.” For me, food was comfort, and I needed extra comfort in those days.

But that was then – and this was now. I was at my heaviest weight ever, and something had changed. It wasn’t until the elastic of my underwear was digging into my hips that I realized this bout of weight gain was different. Unlike years gone by, this time I didn’t hate myself for it.

At my largest, I suddenly discovered that I was much more than my weight. For the first time, I didn’t feel exhausted by the continuous cycle of weight watching, and I realized that being healthy wasn’t at all about vanity.

I was, without knowing it at the time, body positive. So much so that when I did start working out again — on my terms this time — I questioned whether or not I was being true to my new, body-positive self.

I thought, just as many women did, that body positivity couldn’t go hand in hand with weight loss or healthy eating or working out. And that’s simply not true. As cliché as it sounds, for me, body positivity is a mental state that involves accepting my body the way it is today.

There’s a slightly cheesy quote I think of whenever I do weigh in after a swim, about how it’s not the destination, but the journey itself. For me, my journey involves swimming because I enjoy it and it expels anxiety from my mind — or choosing to meet a friend at a chocolate workshop because that’s something I enjoy too.

There’s so much more to a healthy life, I’ve found, without all the extra weight that comes with chasing a goal that ends where it’s met.

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The Fitness Membership That Saved Me From Sitting at a Desk All Day

This article was created in partnership with Peerfit.

My weekday routine goes a little something like this: Sit and drink coffee. Sit and boot up computer. Check hair in bathroom mirror to make sure dry shampoo doesn’t look like dandruff. Sit and work. Small talk with coworkers. Sit and work. Bathroom break. Sit and work. Lunch at desk. Sit and work. Maaayyybe make it to the gym before crawling home for dinner, where I sit on my butt some more and reflect on how tired I am.

You get where I’m going with this. If sitting was an exercise, my bum would be in amazing shape—like superhero-in-tights-shape. Sadly sitting doesn’t really do us any favors. And I should know: I’m so freaking good at it.

While the solution is fairly obvious—stand up, doy—giving in to that sedentary life is so easy. That’s why Peerfit is my butt’s new BFF.

Imagine a fitness subscription that lets you sign up for a range of fitness classes and gyms near your office without any blackout times or price hikes. That’s Peerfit in a nutshell, but it gets better: Peerfit works with employers and your insurance to foot the bill, and it comes with social networking tools so you can coordinate workouts with friends at the office.

Here’s how it works:

  • Create a personal or corporate account. If your insurance/company won’t chip in, you can get a subscription for $ 8.95 a month, then pay a discounted member rate for each class you book.
  • Find your gym or a workout class. You can filter your search by type (boxing, dance, HIIT, yoga) and reserve your spot with one click.
  • Grab a friend. Once your class is booked, you can sync it to your calendar and invite coworkers with an email invite or social media event or by sharing a special link.
  • Sweat and save your butt from another full day in a chair.

I can attest that the system works. Our associate fitness editor (and wonderful pal) Jamey Powell lured my hermit self into the world with a boxing invite. After an hour of winded jokes, punches, and kicks, I felt totally revived and ready to annihilate my to-dos. A few days later, I kept the momentum going with a lunchtime session at my favorite NYC studio, 305 Fitness. It’s weird how making time for exercise becomes second nature when you’ve got a mile-long list of classes to try and good friends to sweat with.

So look, sitting might not be the new smoking, but being active with friends has benefits on benefits. Wouldn’t you rather give your desk a break and do your body and mind some good? Trust me when I say I can’t think of a $ 9-per-month subscription with more value than Peerfit. My butt totally agrees.

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Some Big News From Greatist

I’ve got some big news to share.

Greatist has been acquired by Healthline, one of the best and biggest health sites out there.

It’s no doubt a wild ride for digital publishers these days, and we’re excited to partner with a brand that’s so complementary to ours. Healthline is great at scale, quality, resources, and profitability—all things that make them a smart business for us to align with! Oh, and we’re hopeful some of Greatist’s strengths, like our strong brand and voice, will have some influence here too. I’m sure our brand will evolve in the coming months—that’s always the way it works—but we’re excited for Greatist to grow while maintaining its soul and important message.

When I started Greatist eight years ago, I set out to build a brand in health and wellness that would make you feel better about yourself instead of worse. A brand that spoke to you like a friend who’s just a little further along. A brand that encouraged you to improve and celebrated when you got even a little better. Since then, the health space has changed an awful lot. Wowza. Health is cool now! (Even salads, I think!) And while a lot of what’s new in health is presented through an uncertain Instagram filter, it’s heartwarming to know a lot has improved for the better. And I’d like to think we played a role in pushing the right narrative forward.

I couldn’t be more proud of what Greatist and its extraordinary team have accomplished, from day 1 to whatever-the-heck day it is now. And I’m excited about how the space will continue to change. As our Healthline chapter begins, I’ll be taking a break before starting work on my next great brand that does good (if you’d like to keep up with what I do next, sign up here).

Thank you all for an amazing, unforgettable ride—and thank you all for being such a greatist.

– Derek Flanzraich
Founder & CEO, Greatist

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We Could All Learn Something From This Teacher’s List of 101 Ways to Stress Less

Trying to be a real person is stressful. Lucky for us, one all-star high school teacher (shout out to you, Mr. Philips!) made a list of 101 ways for his students to stress less. Just reading through it made us feel more relaxed.

One of Philips’s students tweeted screenshots of the list, which includes suggestions like “learn the words to a new song,” “dance a jig,” and “schedule play time into every day.” Check out all the tips below:

stress less list Photo: Alina Ramirez Photo: Alina Ramirez

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