Monday, December 14, 2009

Secrets of Eternally Youthful Skin

Nightingale droppings, azuki beans, rice bran, seaweed, silkworm cocoons, shark liver oil, mandarin wood vinegar, and sake---Japanese women believe that these are the secrets for achieving smooth, white, and eternally youthful skin.

Contrary to many modern Western beauty techniques, Japanese skin care relies heavily on its roots in ancient remedies passed down from generation to generation and made widely popular by the geisha who epitomized the image of flawless beauty. These beauty treatments have a strong focus on anti-aging and fighting sun damage, both of which are detrimental to having the smooth white skin so prized by the Japanese. By reinventing these ancient beauty techniques and giving them a high tech edge, they have given women around the world a new way to regain their skin's youthful bloom. Touted by celebrities such as Gwen Stefani, these beauty treatments are now likely to be found in a salon or store near you.

But what makes these seemingly bizarre treatments so effective? The answer lies in the ingredients themselves. The Japanese have discovered long ago that using organic natural ingredients was more beneficial to the skin than using chemical-based products. Even today, this continues to be a central theme in the country's billion dollar beauty industry, lead by cosmetics giants Shiseido, Kanebo, and SK-11.

Here are a few examples of the interesting ingredients that are used in these beauty products and treatments.

* Rice bran – Known as nuka, the outer layer of the rice kernel is an effective exfoliant as well as being rich in oil and an antioxidant called phytic acid. This helps improve blood circulation and stimulate cell turnover, preventing blemishes and wrinkles, and giving the user the rosy-white skin prized by the Japanese. Rice bran also contains squalene (an organic compound more commonly harvested from shark liver), a hydrocarbon used as a natural moisturizer.

* Azuki beans (also spelled as adzuki) – Also used in many desserts and other food items, the azuki beans are ground into a powder and used as a gentle exfoliant to cleanse the skin, unclog the pores, and get rid of excess oil. When mixed with a little warm water, the resulting paste can also be used as a facial mask.

* Wakame – This type of seaweed is a popular ingredient not only in miso soup, but also as a detoxifying, smoothing, firming, and anti-aging product. Today, this is a component of many face creams, soaps, and masks.

* Nightingale Droppings - A traditional whitening agent, powdered nightingale guano is combined with water and used as a face pack. In the Japanese language, it is called uguisu no fun. It is almost odorless, and contains an enzyme called guanine that appears to gently bleach the skin while smoothing and toning the complexion.

* Silkworm cocoon (Mayutama) – These are also used as an exfoliant, and are cut to fit on the fingertips and used like a dry sponge. Silkworm cocoons contain a protein called sericin, a silk protein which helps balance the skin's amino acid content and stimulates the epidermis.

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