Hawaiian Beauty: What to Try, Where to Stay, What to Know

Photo Credits: Melinda Podor / Getty Images / Image used for illustrative purposes only

This article first appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of NewBeauty. Click here to subscribe.

Joan Didion, one of the more famous Honolulu tourists, described Hawaii as a magical place where “winter does not come, and no one fails and the median age is twenty-three.” This Imaginary Hawaii, captured in the tiki-kitsch of Elvis and the Brady Bunch or bottled by good-vibe, escapist beauty brands like Hawaiian Tropics and Maui Moisture, has been reclaimed—redefined, gently but powerfully, by an inspiring collective of H-Beauty founders who are tapping into their culture and celebrating their land. “I’m in good company in Hawaii as far as women entrepreneurs go,” says Oahu-based Jennifer Binney, the creator of surf-chic Samudra. “All of these creative women—wahine—are deeply tied to our natural environment, whether through surfing, paddling, hula, lei making, or just being outside and one with nature.” Oahu-born aesthetician Kapua Browning, founder of skin-loving Honua, remembers how her mother and grandmother taught her that ocean water was the ultimate beauty/life fix. “If you have a cut, if you have acne, if you have a broken heart: we were taught to just go jump in the ocean. It cures everything.” And any problem the ocean can’t solve, ‘olena (turmeric from local ginger) or kukui nut oil will. “I think the focus here is function and ease,” says Binney, who notes that makeup takes a backseat to skin care. “Most girls just get their brows and lashes done, and that’s it. That’s all the makeup you need here in Hawaii—you just have to take care of your skin.”

MIRACLE WORKERS
Absorbent and calming, body powders are an island essential to protect skin from the intense heat and ever-present humidity. Mamalani Lohaki ($18), formulated by Mamalani founder Mele Kalama-Kingma, uses a combination of taro, kaolin and arrowroot plus “gently antifungal” essential oils. “I just love Mele’s energy; her deep roots in Hawaiian culture,” says Binney. Newly reformulated, bestselling Honua Aloha Youth Serum ($92) now packs bakuchiol and vitamin C–rich noni into the original turmeric and kukui nut formula. “It’s the perfect serum-and-moisturizer-in-one for humid days, but it’s also great for layering under your favorite moisturizer in winter months,” says Browning. Papaya and pineapple enzymes combined with hydrating macadamia oil make Pamplemousse Tropical Cleansing Oil, from Kauai-based Leahlani, our current cleanser obsession ($54). “Once you try Leahlani, you are addicted!” Binney promises. Also from Kauai, buttery Mahalo Skin Care Rare Indigo Beauty Balm ($110) calms angry skin with TLC superstars like indigo, marula and kukui.

CLOSE ENCOUNTER
During an artist residence at Waikiki’s Ritz-Carlton, LA-based perfumer Alia Raza, cofounder of Régime des Fleurs, fell in love with the soporific, quite physical presence of the humid air—she couldn’t tell where her “skin stops and the air begins.” This sense of being cradled, held by the environment—“the natural humidity felt nurturing, instead of oppressive”—inspired Personal/Space, five mesmerizing, moving fragrances ($125 each) designed for use in your home and on your skin.

Photo Credit: Four Seasons O'ahu at Ko Olina

WHERE TO STAY
Four Seasons O'ahu at Ko Olina
When developing the innovative Wayfinders Program, this luxury westside resort consulted with Hawaiian alaka’i (leaders) such as kapu Auntie Nettie Tiffany—who still blesses local babies in the waters of the adjacent Aniani Ku (The Looking Glass) beach—to design meaningful experiences for guests desiring to learn more about Hawaiian culture. Change your body language with powerful foundational hula steps taught by acclaimed La’akea Perry, the kuma hula for Ke Kai O Kahiki. Or, visit surf breaks curated by pro surfer/photographer Ha’a Keaulana, the granddaughter of surf legend Buffalo Keaulana. And when the sun goes down, stargaze with the help of a NASA-affiliated astronomer and a massive Orion telescope.

Must try: At the award-winning Naupaka Spa & Wellness Centre, brave the hot and cold plunge pools, then fall asleep during an authentic lomilomi massage.

WHAT TO PACK
Doctor's Orders

Top derms head to Hawaii each winter for the Winter Clinical and Maui Derm conferences. Here, their must-pack essentials.

“Hawaii has banned sunscreens with oxybenzone or octinoxate starting in 2021: in heavy swim areas, sunscreens are blocking light from the coral reefs. Mineral versions, like EltaMD Pure, with only zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, are considered safer.”
—Holly Gunn, MD Birmingham, AL

“Because you’re in paradise, your beauty products need a little tropical touch: Kopari Rose Toner is fun and hydrating for the long plane ride, and Kopari Body Milk is great for post-beach moisture.”
—Ritu Saini, MD New York, NY

“Coolibar dresses, Wallaroo hats, Dr. Tony Nuara’s Foundation polypodium supplements, Colorescience Sunforgettable powder sunscreen and SPF 30 tinted lip balm, Baleaf’s long sleeve rash guards and knee-length swim knickers, ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica sunscreen. Whew! And Sockwell compression stockings for the airplane ride—because no one wants puffy ankles or a pulmonary embolism on vacation!”
—Gretchen Vanderbeek, MD Portland, OR

“Add a little Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs body makeup to your favorite sunscreen to make your own bronzing lotion. And I like to add Skinbetter Science Alto Defense Serum over my facial sunscreen to provide additional free-radical protection.”
—Mariel Bird, MD Scottsdale, AZ