When you have a fun job, that requires you to know about beauty products, sometimes it's hard not to think about work all the time. On a recent trip abroad, as much as I told myself I would just relax and not think about anything work-related, it proved somewhat difficult in cities like Paris and Rome, where beauty culture is prevalent.
Sometime around Day Two, I gave up and decided instead to just do a little observing. I wanted to know what beauty tips the Old World might have to offer us. Here is what I learned:
They take skin care seriously
If you've ever visited a Parisian drug store, you might already know what a treasure trove it can be for skin care goodies. In most European countries you won't buy your cleanser or your face cream at the grocery store, but rather from your pharmacy. Topical skin care is a viewed healthcare in addition to beauty. Products are high-quality and infused with potent scientific ingredients, so pharmacists undergo specialized training in order to know about the skin and make recommendations. Having someone who understands skin, on hand while you shop for products helps eliminate some of the guesswork. For this reason many product connoisseurs eschew Sephora and instead make regular pilgrimages to the pharmacy to stock up on their favorite products.
Natural is still best
Although European women seem to be just as obsessed with beauty and fighting off aging, most of their go-tos are still on the natural side. They don't seem to share our fixation with injectables and fancy gadgets. Even with all of the technology out there, a classic European facial seems to still be at the top of every spa menu, with holistic touches such as reflexology or lymphatic drainage massage for a natural lift. The idea seems to be, if it isn't broke, don't fix it.
This goes for products and remedies as well. Natural ingredients such as lavender and green tea are popular staples and appear prevalently in European products. A popular staple in Italy is Robert's Acqua Distillata Alle Rose, a rose water tonic that can be used as toner or for freshening up your skin. The formula developed in Florence, has been around since 1867 and is still a cult favorite centuries later. Many French perfumes are still made, bottled and imported from the South of France in Grasse. Grasse became home to multiple perfumeries as far back as the 1800s and is to this day considered the world's perfume capital.
They love hyaluronic acid as much as we do
An ingredient I'm always preaching the benefits of is hyaluronic acid. Although it is made naturally in the body, this super product is used in skin care for hydrating the skin. It helps lock moisture into your skin and diminishes signs of aging by plumping out fine lines and wrinkles.
Although hyaluronic acid is just starting to catch on in the states, it is everywhere in European skin care. From masks, to serums, mists and moisturizers, it was in literally almost every product I shopped and advertised prevalently as a key benefit. Now that the secret is out, you'll be seeing more of this ingredient in skin care across the pond and with good reason. It's amazing for all skin types.
Other trending ingredients I noticed in many products: plant stem cells which are believed to stimulate cell turnover in the skin, as well as spiruilina and ginseng for antioxidants and brightening properties.
Lifestyle plays a crucial role
You always hear people talk about how French women don't get fat, in spite of a diet that is full of rich foods. And while that may be a mystery worth investigating, I was more curious as to how Europeans can eat as they do and not break out.
After a little observation, my best guess is that it has to do with a lack of processed foods. Eating a diet that is high in healthy fats and omegas (such as those found in fish), antioxidants (red wine, anyone?) vegetables and whole ingredients, rather than chemicals and artificial flavorings has been proven beneficial for your skin. One of the leading culprits behind acne and aging, can be the result of internal inflammation which can be caused by poor diet. The more "real" foods we incorporate into our diet in moderation, the more we reap the benefits of clearer, glowing skin.
There's also something to be said for stress levels. Being that stress can contribute to most skin problems - acne, aging even hyperpigmentation - it makes sense that eliminating some of that stress could be beneficial for your skin health. Cultures that encourage three hour lunches, relaxed multi-course meals, long strolls through the park and less time spent sitting in rush hour traffic, are bound to see less stress reactions in the skin.
They make the same mistakes we do
If all of this has made you feel like a slacker, don't feel too bad. For all of the good ideas I picked up on my vacation, I also saw plenty of people committing skin care Don'ts that would make any esthetician cringe - smoking, skipping sunscreen and sunbathing. The good news is, if they aren't perfect? We don't have to be either.
So what exactly does European skin care have to do with us? Well, if there's one takeaway here, it's that you don't need to live in Italy or use fancy French products to achieve otherworldly skin. Most of these beauty "secrets" aren't really secrets at all and are easy to incorporate into our own daily self-care regimens.
Once upon a time, former Mayor Robert Speer designed Denver with visions of making it more like a sophisticated European city, with lots of beautiful buildings, trees and parks including our Civic Center Park. So who's to say you can't infuse a little Parisian culture into every day Denver life?