Looking Local, Thinking Global

 A guide to healthy beauty ingredients sourced locally around the globe 

One of the best things about travel is the joy of discovery—which, for us, includes coming across indigenous healing ingredients and beauty traditions. Here, we spotlight potent herbal remedies from five countries, and the homegrown product lines that are putting them to good use.


One of the key stops along the historic Spice Route, Sri Lanka’s flavorful past goes back thousands of years. There’s even evidence that cinnamon—native to the island—was buried alongside ancient Egyptian rulers. With the arrival of the British in the 1800s, tea became an integral part of the country’s farming and export industries, and today, most international tea brands still source at least some of their leaves from plantations in areas like Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Dimbula.


CINNAMON Along with a host of internal health benefits (including helping to balance blood sugar levels), this fragrant bark can do wonders for the skin. Circulation-boosting properties help plump and diminish fine lines (which is why cinnamon is also found in lip-plumping products), while antiseptic and antifungal properties make it useful to treat acne and eczema, heal wounds and cleanse the scalp.

PEPPER Available in black, green, red and pink varietals, peppercorn is more than just a staple seasoning—it’s full of nutrients like magnesium, iron, and vitamins C and K; helps boost the metabolism; and has antibiotic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory elements that can help provide relief from coughs, colds and stomach issues. Used topically, it can help with pigmentation, wrinkles and dark spots.

TEA As with the leaves grown in Japan, China and India, Sri Lankan (or Ceylon) tea—grown in black, red, and green varieties—is high in polyphenols, theaflavins and free radical-fighting antioxidants, which help fight the signs of aging, improve skin elasticity, minimize sun damage and protect against environmental damage.



  • Firming Flax Gel, Balancing Day Lotion and Illuminating Foundation from Living Nature, livingnature.com

  • In addition to its existing Organic Manuka Honey lip balms and Queen of the Hive Face Cream, Wedderspoon just launched a full line of cleansers, body lotions, face creams and soaps made with 100 percent organic Manuka honey and up to 90 percent additional organic ingredients. wedderspoon.com



A paradise for farmers and artisans, New Zealand produces and exports everything from dairy and beef to wine and fruit. Along with fertile land and a unique ecosystem, the Kiwi archipelago is also home to the ancient Maori culture—one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world—whose time-honed herbal healing traditions are influencing many modern beauty product lines (and gourmet chefs).

MANUKA HONEY This strain of honey is naturally high in a trio of medicinal ingredients (including hydrogen peroxide) that give it major antibacterial and antibiotic qualities. A global scale known as Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) is used to determine how high a particular honey or honey-based product is in those healing properties; the higher the UMF, the stronger the benefits. When used topically, Manuka is a one-stop-shop of goodness, working to hydrate, heal, nourish, protect and aid in cell regeneration; high UMF batches are regularly used in hospital burn units, as well.

HARAKEKE FLAX New Zealand flax is grown either in the mountains (wharakiri) or in the lowlands or swamps (harakeke). The flax grown in the latter is high in natural antimicrobials and, when used in skincare, can help soothe, hydrate and reduce redness. The clear polysaccharide gel found at the base of the plant also has an astringent effect against acne and oily skin.

KAWAKAWA A member of the pepper tree family, kawakawa’s aromatic, heart-shaped leaves have been used for centuries by the Maori as an anti-inflammatory; on the skin, it can help firm, tone and soothe flare-ups.


Like many Eastern nations, Myanmar has deep roots in herbal medicine. And even with Western medicine now readily available, those long-standing ties have not disappeared; in fact, the government has formally added traditional medicine options to its national healthcare system, and holistic-based hospitals in main cities Yangon and Mandalay have recently been expanded and upgraded.There are also numerous universities focused on herbal medicine, and even three Traditional Medicine Museums where visitors can learn about the technique, ingredients and recipes behind the remedies.



THANAKA Visit Myanmar and you’ll notice local women and girls (and some men) sporting circular or leaf-shaped patches of a yellow-white paste on their foreheads, cheeks, arms and noses. This is thanaka, a cream made by grinding the bark, roots or wood of one of several native perennial trees. Used for over 2000 years, and boasting a light, sandalwood-like fragrance, antifungal thanaka helps smooth skin, treat acne, and prevent and heal sunburn, while also imparting a pleasant cooling effect.


From Caudalie to Vichy, L’Occitane to Sephora, some of the world’s biggest beauty brands have their roots in France. When it comes to natural ingredients, the fragrant herbs and flowers of Provence, mineral-rich seaweed of Brittany, and the olive oils and grapeseed of the wine regions are just some of the French items that make an appearance in wellness remedies—along with a “new” extract that recently debuted on U.S. shores.



OPC Set along France’s southwest Atlantic Ocean coast, the Landes of Gascony—France’s largest forest—is home to a variety of native Maritime pine trees, which for years have helped “dry out” the region’s swampy soils and stabilize the coastal dunes. Since 1932, the family-owned DRT company has sustainably produced a wide array of by-products from the tree bark, for everything from perfumes to tires to dietary supplements.

Following rigorous testing, DRT found that the pine extract polyphenols—or OPC PIN—found in these trees also have extraordinary health and beauty benefits, including antioxidants 30 times more powerful than vitamin C to help prevent signs of aging, plus enzymes and polyphenols to arrest collagen breakdown and boost cell production

Morocco’s most famous native ingredient—Argan—may have taken over the wellness world, but the antioxidant-rich nut isn’t the only healer grown within the country’s fertile borders. Its roses, for example, are used in products and perfumes the world over. Morocco also has a traditional hammam bathing culture, which incorporates a host of natural ingredients.



CAMEL'S MILK Used by Sahara-trekking nomads, camel’s milk helps gently exfoliate and brighten skin using natural alpha-hydroxy acids, breaking down dead cells and revealing the healthy glow underneath.

LAVA CLAY Also knowns as rhassoul or ghassoul, this mineral-rich hammam staple—born deep within the Atlas Mountains—draws and dries out impurities (it’s a must for breakouts), while working to purify and cleanse skin with its smooth, soapy texture.

ORANGE BLOSSOM Splashed on the body post-bath, orange blossom (or neroli) water helps balance oil production, soothe inflammation and tighten pores. It’s also prized for its mood-uplifting qualities, as the scent can help alleviate stress and anxiety, and impart a sense of peace.

By: Sandra Ramani


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