From the effortless appeal of salt-soaked, Californian hair, to the enduring mystique of the French it-girl, to the ethereal complexions of Korean bloggers, beauty looks different around the world. And while the concept of human beauty remains largely subjective, one thing is for certain—women all over the globe participate in rituals, regimens, and traditions in order to achieve it.
Whether we realize it or not, our beauty standards and tastes are steeped in our country’s traditions—they’re ingrained in our culture, our landscape, and even the native flora and fauna that thrive there. While strobing and boy brows are big in the U.S., beauty trends we consider “normal” may not be the norm in South Africa or Brazil.
In honor of International Women’s Day, we decided to do a little investigating: how do women across the globe achieve their “everyday” look, and what makes their particular brand of beauty unique? From South Korea to the United States, here’s the current “beauty climate” in six different countries:
The mood: Immaculately undone; mussed-up hair and minimal makeup.
The details: French beauty is all about working with what you’ve got—not changing what you have. Instead of concealing flaws and fighting natural hair texture, ask yourself, “What style works best with this face and this hair?” When it comes to makeup, it’s all about playing up your favorite features. So, instead of applying a full face of foundation, try dabbing some only where it’s needed, and leaving the rest of your skin bare. Then, pick one feature and make it your primary focus—be it a crimson red lip or smudgy, smokey eye. For hair, toss out your blow-dryer. French girls opt for cuts that require little to no styling, and let their hair air dry for that perfectly imperfect, lived-in texture.
Whatever you do, don’t aim for perfection. Remember: French beauty celebrates the je ne sais quoi, and interesting beats pretty every single time.
Beauty tip: French women have a special relationship with fragrance. In fact, they can’t imagine living without it. A touch of perfume in your hair, behind your ear, and on the nape of the neck is trés Parisan. Another trick? Spray a cotton handkerchief with your favorite fragrance, then place it in your suitcase or handbag so the scent lingers.
The mood: Bombshell sensuality. Sexy, beachy beauty boosted by a whole lot of confidence (and a little effort.)
The details: Famous for their glowing tans and barely-there bikinis, Brazilian beauty is in a league of its own. (This is the country that gave us Gisele Bündchen and Adriana Lima, after all.) Brazilian women believe beauty has immense power, and they’re not afraid to devote some serious time and effort into looking their best. Manicures, pedicures, waxing, and makeup are not only routine in Brazil—they’re a part of everyday life.
In Brazil, beauty is about feeling happy with yourself. It’s about being the sexiest, best possible version of you. When it comes to makeup, Brazilian women aren’t afraid to go full-coverage, as long as it complements—not competes with—their natural beauty. Hair is also a national obsession, with long, bouncy, voluminous waves being the mane (see what we did there?) event.
Beauty tip: We tend to associate the word “Brazilian” with “wax”, but Brazilian women don’t wax it all away. Since Brazilians find stubble very unsexy (who doesn’t?), they never shave their arms or upper legs. Instead, they lighten where they don’t wax. The result? A gorgeous, glistening veil of blonde peach fuzz. So, if you wanna do beauty like a true Brazilian, use your peach fuzz—don’t lose it!
The mood: Fresh-faced, playful and colorful.
The how-to: South Africa is a unique, culturally diverse landscape with women of all skin tones and types. In general, South African women favor a fresh-faced, dewy look—the basis of their beauty routine is a solid, three-step skincare regimen. (Think cleanser, toner and moisturizer.) When it comes to makeup, they tend to highlight one feature, like lips or eyes, and keep the rest of their face glowy and gorgeous. One thing is for certain—in South Africa, color is key. Whether it’s a bright eyeshadow or lippie, neutrals take a backseat to intense, playful pops of color.
For hair, South African looks vary from intricate, elaborate braids, to short crops, to ‘dos wrapped in colorful fabrics and scarves.
Beauty tip: The secret to gorgeous South African skin? Rooibos Tea. Chock-full of antioxidants and anti-aging enzymes, Rooibos helps eczema, acne, aging and skin allergies. Drinking the tea helps promote gorgeous skin from the inside out, but it can also be applied topically to provide instant relief. Another South African obsession is rose oil. Women use it all over as a body moisturizer. It’s extremely hydrating, and they love the natural, earthy scent.
The mood: Youthful, clear skin and minimal touches of makeup
The details: It’s no secret: in Korea, beauty begins and ends with skincare. It’s all about healthy, radiant skin that looks dewy and hydrated from within. Those hauntingly beautiful Korean complexions don’t just happen, either—they’re oftentimes the result of intricate, 10-step routines.
Since Korean women invest so much time in their skincare, makeup is meant to amplify—not cover up—their perfect complexions. Thick, straight-across brows are a staple, along with stained, gradient lips. The key to applying lipstick the Korean way? Start at the center of your pout and blend outward, so it looks like you’ve been sucking on a cherry-flavored popsicle.
For hair, South Korean women love any style that looks sleek, frizz-free, and smooth.
Beauty tip: Many South Korean women take their intricate skincare routines to the next level by performing a series of stimulating facial massages. Starting on the forehead, then the cheekbones, cheeks, and working down to the jawbone, tap your skin in steady, rotating motions. Massaging helps increases circulation, tone facial muscles, tighten loose skin, brighten the complexion, and even slim the face.
The United States
Mood: “I woke up like this” vibes
The details: It’s hard to sum “American beauty” up in one neat little package, but right now, less is definitely more. Blame it on our nationwide obsession with Beyonce, but fresh, glowy, “I woke up like this” makeup is definitely hot right now. Even on the red carpet, we’re seeing a lot of fresh-faced, “no-makeup” looks. (Think dewy skin, beachy waves, brushed up boy-brows, and glossy, peachy-nude lips.) Here’s the thing, though: “no-makeup makeup” and “tousled bedhead” are not as effortless as they appear—in fact, they actually require a lot of product. In order to re-create those coveted model off-duty vibes, every American girl needs a good BB cream, highlighter, mascara, brow gel, and loads and loads of dry shampoo.
Beauty tip: While it’s not exactly unique to the US, “beauty from the inside out” is very big here. Whether it’s skin-brightening green juice or pore-clearing hot yoga, beauty is becoming more and more holistic. We believe drinking water is the foundation of a good beauty regimen, and we’re even experimenting with supplements and drinkable beauty.
The United Arab Emirates
The mood: Intense, sultry and dramatic. Full on glamour, everyday.
The how-to: When it comes to makeup in the Middle East, minimalism isn’t really a thing. From a strong contour to bold, matte lips, makeup in the Middle East is all about intensity right now. In Dubai, woman don’t shy away from the dramatic: in fact, they’ll rock bold brows, thick eyeliner and flutter-worthy lashes pretty much every day. (Even at the grocery store. And gym.) Contouring is huge there, as are spray tans—as long as the products can stand up to the 100 degree heat. According to Dubai-based beauty blogger Huda Kattan, Kim Kardashian is a huge inspiration for women there.
In the United Arab Emirates, thick, shiny, healthy hair is a sign of beauty. Women in Dubai are hooked on their hair oils, and use them at least once a week before washing their hair to moisturize and nourish the scalp.
Beauty tip: Rose water is big in Dubai, and all over the Middle East, for that matter. Since the weather in Dubai is so hot, women keep rosewater in their purses as an on-the-go toner/refresher. It’s also used as a soothing, acne-fighting treatment in their daily routines. Rose water is not just for applying topically, either. Women in Dubai drink dried rose petal tea—which is rich in vitamin C—to aid in digestion and keep skin looking young, bright and healthy.