It is fascinating to explore how different beauty and personal care routines can be across cultures. Even rather similar consumerist cultures, full of global chains, adapt to the ways locals organise their daily routine or prepare for a trip. So on your next trip, keep your eyes open – maybe you can enrich your daily routine or stock up supplies for your future travels.
Olive oil soap – Middle East
Made with olive oil, water and alkaline sodium compound, as in the case of Nabulsi soap, or with laurel and lye (a product from ashes) in the case of Aleppo soap, these simple castile-type soaps count centuries of history in household use. Made without animal fats, alcohols or hazardous chemicals that produce lather, these soaps are better for the environment and your body than the usual daily chemicals. In the West Bank, these soaps come wrapped in paper, helping you avoid layers and layers of plastic that most beauty products reach us in. Olive oil soap is used for washing hands, body and even hair.
Rice blotting paper – Japan and South Korea
From famous models to seasoned travellers, people are discovering the benefits of blotting paper, especially in situations where it is difficult to reapply make-up or freshen up before taking close-up photos. Made from rice, these thin sheets take very little space and can be used discreetly. Around ten years ago this product was difficult to find outside of East Asia, but now it is available from various online shops. Still, they really know how to make it in East Asia, and it’s a useful travel gift to oneself.
Travel minis – Central Europe
Rossmann, the ubiquitous retail chain in countries like Germany, Hungary and Czech Republic, always has the cutest and the most inventive travel minis. From hand cream to deodorant, from conditioner to mosquito repellent, they will help you travel light, avoid spills in your luggage, and save space in your liquids bag.
Ear spoon – Japan and South Korea
Even if you were stone-hearted enough not to be moved by the iconic photo of a lonely seahorse holding on to a discarded ear pick, oceans are not the only casualties of daily ear pick use. Doctors have been warning for decades that ear picks are bad for us, as cotton fibres stay in people’s ear canals, leading to inflammation and infections. In East Asian countries, people have developed healthier and more sustainable ways. Ear spoon is known in its bamboo variety in Japan, whereas in South Korea it easy to find them made from stainless steel and nicely rounded for safety. These reusable ear picks will save you space in your cosmetics pouch – and make sure that cute seahorses have far better companions in the oceans.
Rose water – Bulgaria
Bulgaria is a leading rose producer, so it is no wonder that rose oil products are everywhere. Conventional creams and soaps aside, rose sprays for hair and body make a unique souvenir. They also come handy both when travelling in Bulgaria during the hot summer months and when back in Malta.
Mint perfume – Egypt
While it may appear not sophisticated enough as evening perfume, it makes great home fragrance, and a vendor in Cairo claims that it has soothing and headache-reducing properties. Even if it there is no scientific base for it, this is a placebo I choose to believe.
Personal care products make a better travel keepsake or souvenir than fridge magnets or dust-gathering figurines. In your next travels, they will always remind you of the moments you enjoyed in the previous country you visited.