A couple of years ago, I spent three weeks eating and drinking across eastern Europe. I had packed insanely light and forgotten most of my skincare products at home, which was initially a total disaster, but eventually a complete revelation.
In each stop along the way I picked up some amazing tips and even better products, and by the time I came home, I was addicted to Old World beauty.
Luckily for me, and now you, all of these items can be purchased in North America--no airfare required.
Having left my usual cleanser, exfoliator and moisturizer in another bag, I was stranded in my first stop, Berlin, with just some summer clothes and a good attitude. Since the weather was fairly mild when I arrived, I was able to get away with some simple warm water and face-towel scrub the first night without irritating my face.
But as the weather got muggier, my face got crankier, and I scoured my friend and host’s bathroom cupboard for supplies that looked familiar. She got me onto Weleda Iris Hydrating Day Cream, a light moisturizer with jojoba and beeswax.
I’ve written about Weleda before because I am absolutely in love with this line. From the super-simple packaging, to the fresh scents of their creams, it’s like visiting an old-school apothecary that just happens to be in the forest. Their philosophy is based on natural, safe ingredients. They also use fair trade practices and strive to be as green as possible. What’s not to love?
When the weather got worse, an esthetician I visited in the trendy Mitte neighbourhood suggested I add Dr. Hauschka Normalizing Day Oil, a beautifully scented regulating oil that allows your skin to breathe while keeping it soft and shine-free. This is another line of products that smell good, feel good and are good for the environment.
When I landed in Prague, the weather took a dramatic shift, and so did my skin. Hours on a hot, crowded train had left me with hella clogged pores, plus a week of partying in Germany had left me dehydrated. My skin was congested and dry, plus there were little bumps everywhere. It was a beauty 911.
One thing I noticed right away in Prague were the multitude of skincare salons; there was a facialist on every corner, it seemed. In an hour of desperation, I threw down my credit card at one of the fancier ones and begged them to do something about my face.
An hour and a half later I left with a depuffed and decongested face. I felt like they’d just performed a major surgery.
The facialist’s main tip was to do a steam every night before bed in the hotel sink to make sure I kept my pores unclogged. She even pointed me to a health food store nearby, where I picked up some dried lavender and calendula buds to add to the steam each night.
I’m not saying it was a miracle but I am kind of saying it was a miracle. Not only did the nightly steaming help open and clear my pores but the lavender and calendula soothed my irritated skin.
Still recovering from the wear and tear in Prague by the time I got to Budapest, I was ready to just wear a bag over my head and get drunk instead of thinking about my face.
Now, to be clear, I definitely didn’t let any of this cramp my party style, but it did have me feeling more self-conscious than usual. But it all turned around in Hungary.
Fresh off a couple of back-to-back days in the Turkish baths (highly recommended!) that were doing wonders for my skin and mood, a friend took me to see her Hungarian aunt who was an old-school beauty freak. She swore by this skincare line called Eminence, which was started in Hungary over 50 years ago. Just like in the Czech Republic, women in Hungary are all about high-quality skincare.
She let me try this amazing Stone Crop Masque from the line that gave me insta-glow. I didn’t try the line again until recently when I discovered that you can get it over here. Once again, I’m hooked on the Stone Crop Masque and I’m b-a-n-a-n-a-s for their rosehip mask as well.
Between Eminence and the goulash, Budapest saved my soul.
I came home from that trip with a bag full of amazing skincare, a belly full of weird beer and liquers, and a new love of the Old World.
Do you have any global skincare finds that you’re crazy for?