Beauty Squad member Julia Coney is on a journey to uncover women's beauty secrets from around the world. For this edition of the series, she looks back on a trip to South Africa and finds out from two locals what keeps them looking their best.
I traveled to South Africa in 2010 for the World Cup. Even immersed in all that soccer, I was able to discover some beauty gems along the way. Before my trip, I thought about bringing a slew of my own essentials. At the last minute, however, I decided to discover what prettifying secrets the country had in store for me—especially as it is home to one of my favorite staples, shea butter. Luckily, the nation introduced me to an abundance of other top-notch body moisturizers, along with some insider information and new product lines I was able to bring back with me.
Makeup Mantra: Five-Step Skin-Care System
The basis of any beauty regimen in South Africa typically begins with a solid skin-care routine. I normally use a three-step system for skin care that revolves around cleansing, toning and moisturizing. In this region, typical skin-care brands, like the South African-based Environ, embrace systems that involve five steps or more. Creams enriched with vitamins A and C are often essential to daily regimens to prevent the onset of wrinkles, hydrate the skin and add an inner glow. Serums are also heavily in rotation. A great multistep line that is available in the United States for preventing premature aging is L'Oréal Paris Youth Code.
Beauty Buster: Dry Skin
Due to its geographic location, South Africa's dry season lasts for six months from April to October. The result is skin that tends to be particularly parched. Because of this, the locals' main concern is using products that are heavily moisturizing. Before my trip, I was only aware of shea butter and marula oil as hydrating staples. But this journey introduced me to many other great moisturizers, including Kalahari melon oil, mafura butter and baobab oil. "When I lived in Cape Town, I used baobab oil often—usually just out of the shower or right before bed on my skin since I was in the sun a lot," says former South African dweller Chelsea Coakely. "I've tried grape-seed oil and baby oil in the past for intense moisturizing, but baobab doesn't seem to clog your pores or leave the greasy residue. It's the best for glowing, soft skin."
These hydrating ingredients are readily available all throughout South Africa, but they're less pervasive in the United States. I did discover one brand, however, that is available Stateside and heavily relies on South African ingredients: Rain Africa. Rain Africa Kalahari Melon Body Lotion is a particularly popular product that will be my skin savior during the holidays when the temperatures drop. Formulated with the seeds of a melon found in the harsh Kalahari desert, this lotion has extraordinary water-retentive properties, with just a small dosage needed for deep hydration.
Facial Focus: Glossy Lips
In South Africa, lip gloss is still very much on the beauty radar. Although lipstick is becoming more popular there, lip gloss still hasn't lost its edge. For South Africans, the more color and pigment in the gloss, the better. "Lip gloss is trending well here," says Johannesburg-based photographer Stephanie O'Connor. "In the majority of my photos, women are still wearing gloss. It's a lip gloss that pops, as neutrals are taking a backseat to intense color." A popular lip gloss in the country is Woolworths Lip Gloss Ultimate Colour. This gloss is known for its touch of glitter that provides a hint of shimmer without a heavy texture. Maybelline Color Sensational Lip Gloss is another great option that has a similar texture and effect.
The Crucial Cosmetic: Tea
Although tea might be an odd product to mention when discussing essential cosmetics, to South Africans the secret to beautiful, moisturized skin is in that hot beverage. Rooibos tea, specifically, is frequently consumed by many South African women as part of their beauty routines because of its high levels of antioxidants, making it good for both inside and out. "Coffee is big here, but most people have a daily cup of rooibos tea," O'Connor says. "It's like toasting to good heath daily. It took some getting used to at first, but now I love it." Rooibos tea can even be found in topical skin-care products; the South African brand Inheritance Skincare created its entire line with rooibos tea.
Like many women around the world, dry hair is a common beauty concern for lots of South Africans due to overstyling, excessive heat and harsh weather. Shea butter is the key to moisturized and healthy hair in this country. Although shea was originally known more for coddling skin, it's now frequently used in the locals' hair products, too. Africology Shampoo contains substantial amounts of shea butter, doesn't strip hair and leaves it healthy and manageable. The Kérastase Nutritive line is also great for tresses that needs a little more love than average.
Photo: Chelsea Coakely (courtesy of Coakely); Stephanie O'Connor (courtesy of O'Connor); landscape (Thinkstock); products (courtesy of the brands)