The cultural influences happening at the beauty counter today are part of a rich tapestry, woven from vibrant threads handed down from generation to generation. From the potent ancient hair oil smoothing a grandmother’s flyaways in Wisconsin to the TikTok-viral kajal eyeliner that dates back to the Egyptians and Mesopotamians, many of our modern-day beauty and self-care rituals originate from cultures around the world. Forever altering the Western beauty space are brands rooted in tradition that are reviving ancestral rituals, techniques and ingredients, one grooming practice at a time.
Fable & Mane
When sibling cofounders Nikita and Akash Mehta were growing up in London, they looked forward to visits from their grandmother, who would bring “magical potions” from India. “They consisted of Ayurvedic ingredients and herbs, and she would massage them into our hair for 20 minutes while she told us Indian fables. They were designed to be left in overnight.” By using storytelling, their grandmother shared her knowledge and self- care practices through fables told on the living room floor. Fable & Mane was inspired by those stories and features Ayruvedic remedies like ashwagandha and dashmool. The siblings are proud to have helped bring the 5,000-year-old practice of Ancient Indian hair oiling to the masses, including A-Listers like Mindy Kaling and Julia Garner, who are big fans of the line.
The use of unique, indigenous ingredients, such as shea butter from Africa and camellia oil from Japan, is a key differentiator for globally influenced brands. For Ceremonia founder Babba Rivera, who was raised in Sweden by Chilean immigrant parents, ingredient sourcing is led by what has historically worked for Latinx and ethnic hair types. “Our hair remedy oil is inspired by a staple hair growth oil used in hair rituals in the Dominican Republic.” Throughout her youth, Rivera says she spent many years running away from her culture and shaving off parts of it in order to fit in, but today, she feels a sense of responsibility to honor and celebrate it. “That’s why I wanted to create an accessible brand that was proudly rooted in that heritage. It feels extremely relevant in today’s beauty space, as many of the trends we see today actually stem from brown and black culture, and the Latinx community.”
Many of our modern-day skin-care approaches, like glass skin, often stem from techniques that originated from far away places. New York facial plastic surgeon Eunice Park, MD opened her Korean beauty-inspired medical spa, AIREM, based on the concept of gwallee 관리, a centuries-old principle of maintaining self-care. She was inspired by her own postpartum experience to incorporate a Korean tea ceremony known as dado, or “the way of the tea,” into spa experiences to cultivate a deeper sense of beauty. “We should strive to balance our perception of external beauty with internal well-being,” she says. Eastern culture focuses on wellness from the inside out. The goal, she adds, is to slow down and prioritize self-care.
Made to Measure
Anastasia Beverly Hills
In some cultures, traditions are passed on through hands-on experience, which was the case for “Brow Queen” Anastasia Soare. The architect of eyebrows says it all began at her mother Victoria’s tailor shop in Constanta, Romania. “If I go back to my roots, it all started there. I was in art classes—I was very good at drawing—and she would have me design clothes, help cut patterns and measure clients.” Soare recalls her mother may not have taught her the concept of the Golden Ratio, but through their work she began to understand the importance of proportion and a complementary fit. “I learned the Golden Ratio in art classes, which also helped influence my approach to beauty, but I was already doing it,” she explains. “When I first came to Hollywood, I kept wondering why no one was paying attention to their brows. I then took those same tools I used to draw and perfect shapes and proportions, and applied them to eyebrows.” The human eye is encoded to recognize balance, says Soare, and the skills that helped her reshape countless brows around the world (including A-list clients like Jennifer Lopez and Cindy Crawford) also built an empire that helped change our approach to makeup and contouring. “Now, my daughter Norvina continues our legacy of visual artistry.”
By promoting diverse beauty standards and catering to different ethnicities and skin tones, makeup brands like UOMA, founded by Nigerian-born Sharon Chuter, have helped increase access and representation in the industry, and not just by expanding shade ranges. “In Nigeria, makeup is bold and loud, but you can only approach it when you’re older. We are always told that you must love yourself first before you can wear it,” says Chuter, who created the line to honor her African roots and celebrate inclusivity. “In Nigeria, colored gloss is the signature lip look. It’s typically a dark liner complemented by a very creamy, milky gloss.” The founder believes we’ve reached a new level of influence when we see trends started by black and Latina women being presented on social media as a new concept, like the “brownie glazed lip” worn by Hailey Bieber. “Perhaps it’s a sign of how much we’ve influenced current standards,” she says. “However, we can never lose sight of where those influences come from.”
Some rituals are learned through observation, and founder Lydia Sarfati says her brand’s seaweed-centered approach to skin care began in her mother’s kitchen in Poland. “What motivated me to become an aesthetician were the facials my mother had in her kitchen every week. The kitchen was the beauty salon, and they used whatever you could buy at the store. Clients would bring the ingredients and they would literally cook the potions right on the stove,” says Sarfati, who recalls rosewater, cucumbers and seasonal, farm fresh ingredients being used. “It was a wonderful, sensory experience. When you see this magical thing happening as a child, you say, ‘Yes, I want to do that.’” Her daughter and co-president Shiri Sarfati grew up in America, but says she was taught the same hygiene and skin-care habits her mother observed in Poland in the ‘50s, which make up the basis for the brand’s philosophy. “Here you’re taught to shower and brush your teeth, but she had me on a three-step routine from early on. By fourth grade, I had my honey scrub, foaming cleanser, moisturizer and SPF routine down.”