Put the care back into skincare
“We [Asian women] treat our faces better than we treat our Chanel bags, but Western cultures seem to have a different approach, where women are often super-gentle on their bags but quite rough on their skin,” says Tina Chen Craig, founder of U Beauty. “My cousins, for instance, always use tissue to blot their skin dry after (gently) washing their face, because they feel towels are too harsh against their silky skin. And skin that feels like silk is the ultimate goal.
“My grandmother taught me that beauty is about self-love, not vanity. If you take care of yourself, you feel more confident – and healthy skin is a great confidence-booster. So, instead of covering up our faces with makeup, we should embrace our glowy skin.”
Avoid extreme temperatures
“Try to avoid using anything cold or iced on your skin – even cold or icy foods are thought to be bad for women (but fine for men) because of the hormonal changes that occur in our bodies. I use filtered water at room temperature (but no cleanser) to rinse my face first thing in the morning – and most Chinese women I know won’t ice their faces because they don’t believe in any extremes. The same goes for hot water, as it’s very drying on the skin. My grandmother always told me that hot water would age my skin – and we would never bath our children in hot water. Warm water cleanses the skin just as well.”
Don’t use scrubs, and avoid using soap
“Chinese women don’t tend to scrub their skin or bodies, unless it’s with dried silk gourd – and that would generally be just for the feet or the back. We might use a silk loofah on the legs and feet only. When showering, we were taught to use only soap where necessary, including behind the ears, but not on the arms, legs, back, chest and belly. For those areas, we use only gentle cleansing oils and water, as it’s all about preserving our skin.”
Gua sha is for the body, rollers are for the face
“Gua sha is an important part of Chinese culture, but we mainly use it on the body to release toxins. If I didn’t feel well as a child, my grandmother would use gua sha on my back, along each side of my spine, to help release toxins – also along the sides of my neck and shoulders, down to the lymph nodes. I keep a gua sha tool in my work and travel totes, as it’s a great stress reliever and helps release the tension I hold in my neck.
“I’ve been face-rolling for as long as I can remember, and so have all the women in my family. But I only roll my face when it’s wet, or with a face oil – never when it’s dry – so that I’m not stretching the skin or pulling too hard on it. I’ll use a face roller whenever my face feels puffy and needs some sculpting.”
Eat collagen-rich foods
“The foods I’ve been taught to eat since birth are all ones that are packed with collagen, as great skin starts from the inside out – which is why my grandmother always told me that it’s important to take care of yourself holistically. This includes eating bone broth, but also foods such as chicken feet, pigs’ feet, pork-belly skin, fish skin and jellyfish – which is also rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and omega-3 fatty acids. Also, generally speaking, my family tends to believe that anything bitter will make you ‘pretty’, especially bitter gourd – we even drink bitter-gourd water. Bitter black-grass jelly, made from a powerful grass herb, is said to calm inflammation and nourish the skin.
“Two other essentials for our diet are lotus seed and goji-berry water. But sesame-oil chicken soup is our number-one secret. We think of it as the ultimate restorative soup. After giving birth, for example, we drink it for a month straight, to restore our health and help bring our skin back to normal after any hormonal chaos. Finally, just like our skincare, everything we eat should be at room temperature or warm – not hot. Many Chinese people even believe that iced drinks aren’t good for the body and can cause all kinds of health problems.”