My Globe-Trotting BFF Brought Me Back Awesome/Weird/Mysterious Beauty Products From Her Travels!

Not pictured: a "volcanic breast mask."
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Not pictured: a "volcanic breast mask."

It’s been a while since I’ve been on vacation. My idea of a break is taking a bath on Saturday night, then marathoning Downton Abbey

Luckily, I have friends whose lives I can live vicariously through (what are friends for?) like my BFF Natalia who, about six months ago, announced to me that she was quitting her high-stress architecture job to travel around the world for several months.

Please take a moment to admire Natalia’s glorious hair cape.

Please take a moment to admire Natalia’s glorious hair cape.

Why even fake happiness? I was extremely jealous about my friend’s dream-life scenario. Her impending adventure would take her to Istanbul, Athens, Madrid, Berlin, Copenhagen, and all over Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, I would be left behind, grinding away in NYC, while Natalia went all eat, pray, love on my ass. 

“Yeah, have fun finding yourself, beesh”, I told her after I promised to make fun of her inevitable bandana when she returned.

Eat, Pray, Selfie

Eat, Pray, Selfie.

OK, deep (really deep) down I was happy for my amiga. Aside from the overwhelming feeling of envy, I knew I was most upset about missing my friend, the only person in the world who shared my demented sense of humor. Who else could I wassap in the middle of the night for a Karlie Kloss discussion?


Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, I was surprisingly able to keep in touch with my friend while we were on opposite sides of the world. She would tell me about all of the weird and funny things that were happening to her like when her entire toenail fell off (WARNING: picture not safe for life) in Istanbul or when she visited the beach from The Beach and pretended that she was Leo DiCaprio. And yes, the fact that she didn’t pretend to be Tilda still shames her.

*Moby playing in the background*

*Moby playing in the background*

After I saw this bottle of pigeon oil posted on her Instagram, I dared Natalia to collect weird beauty items from every country she visited. I once dared this girl to eat a raw onion at a party and she did, so I knew she would ante up and, at the very least, send me some amazing photos or videos.

Natalia finally returned to Brooklyn and inevitably crashed on our couch because she was a dirty hippy traveler at this point whose only possessions included a dream journal and an assortment of beautiful sarongs. Luckily, I forgave her new ways after she threw down her enormous backpack on my couch and emptied out a treasure trove of exotic beauty supplies.


There were face masks containing green tea, collagen, bee venom, and snail goop dumped out before me. The words “volcanic breast mask” were uttered, but the most mysterious and intriguing product I saw was a tiny block of a yellow chalk-like substance with an indiscernible label that she had picked up in Myanmar.


Natalia couldn’t remember the name of this particular product but showed me video of a local Myanmar woman making it by grinding up some root, then applying it to her face, leaving streaks to enhance the contours of their faces. 

This mystery products is used by locals as a face mask, sunscreen, and contouring makeup. It can be worn alone or under makeup all day.


I decided to try it out by wetting my chalky block, then rubbing it on my face right before I had to head to a work meeting. Photographing this mask was pointless once I realized that this yellow chalky substance matches my natural skin color almost exactly.

The horror.

The horror.

I was thinking I would apply makeup over it and head to my meeting, but it just looked crumbly and awkward on me without the expert application of a Myanmar expert.

The envy was creeping back in along with panic as I washed the yellow crumbs of my crummy yellow skin and realized the yellow chalk sucked all the oil off my face--precious oil that I needed during the polar vortex! My mini exotic beauty adventure was literally going down the drain.

I decided to reach for the next product that Natalia brought me of menthol peppermint oil from Thailand that was intended to soothe and calm my nerves. I don’t know if it was the essential oils or the old wise man staring out at me on the package, but I felt better.


I decided to try the Watsons Bird’s Nest Whitening & Firming Facial Mask that Natalia picked up in Hong Kong. This mask apparently contains parts of actual bird’s nests, so it definitely satisfied my desire to try out a WTF beauty product.


Natalia told me it was difficult to find beauty products in Asia that didn’t claim to be whitening. I’m already a ghostly-pale person, but I thought this mask might give me a less jaundiced complexion.

I kept sniffing my magic oil hoping for the best.

I kept sniffing my magic oil hoping for the best.

My skin tone stayed the same, but I was pleasantly surprised at how soft and supple my skin felt after the mask. At least I could go to work without my face flaking off. I took it as a win.

Natalia and I also did some exotic mask sheets together--green tea for me and collagen for her--while we blew into the backsides of Vietnamese ceramic animal flutes and my husband side-eyed us in the corner. Some things just ain’t the same when you’re a world apart.

I feel all lovey-dovey knowing that not only was my friend thinking of me during her trip, but she knows me so well.

So who can tell me what the packaging on the yellow chalk says?!