Beauty rituals from around the world

French women are beautifully groomed, the Japanese always have glossy hair and Scandinavians have flawless complexions.

They might be generalisations, but it's amazing how cultural stereotypes have an impact on our looks. In every country, women have their own beauty secrets that are often deeply rooted in history. These tried-and-true beauty tips often incorporate native ingredients, which have been used for generations to beautify and prevent the signs of ageing.

Georgina Heffernan learns some international beauty secrets...

Ireland
Seaweed baths have been practiced in Ireland for hundreds of years; in fact, it is our only indigenous spa therapy. Seawater is pumped directly from the ocean into large cast iron tubs (chosen for their heat retention), and then piles of locally harvested seaweed are added. Within a few minutes, the plants release alginic acid, a silky compound of essential oils that nourishes and heals the skin. A seaweed bath relaxes the muscles, deeply moisturises, detoxifies, increases circulation and heals.

Italy
The secret of hair beauty for the Italian women consists of a mask of two ingredients: yogurt and olive oil. Mix one cup of yogurt with a tablespoon of olive oil, apply the obtained mask on the wet hair, wait five minutes and rinse with cold water. Your hair will be healthier and shinier.

Japan
Bird droppings on your face, silkworm cocoons on your hands, or bull semen in your hair, anyone? From wacky all-natural ingredients through to downing daily skin supplements, it's all on the beauty menu in Japan - where tanned faces and bleached hair are big no-nos and pale faces and glossy locks are the Geisha-inspired goal. For a beautiful and healthy hair, beautiful nails and enviable skin, women in Japan recommend camellia oil. This natural oil can be used in treating burns, stretch marks, strengthen nails and can be used as body oil or treatment to hydrate the dry hair.

New Zealand
Manuka honey, a natural antiseptic with the ability to diminish blemishes, by supplying white blood cells with glucose, which destroys acne-causing bacteria, is commonly used in facials at New Zealand spas to reduce pimples and spots without over drying the skin

India
If you want a long and healthy hair, you can use coconut oil instead of hair conditioner as women in India do. It helps both hair and skin. Use coconut oil to massage your scalp. Your hair will grow faster and will shine more.

Australia
Tea tree oil was used as a medicinal remedy by Aborigines in Australia thousands of years ago. They treated many conditions with crushed tea tree leaves or by bathing in lagoons where tea tree leaves had turned the water into a natural antiseptic bath. Now tea tree oil is used in making hair-care, skin and sun-screen products. Now tea tree oil is commonly found in most households. It's ideal for treating common ailments such as acne, cold sores, minor cuts, dandruff, boils and fungal infections such as athlete's foot.

Chile
For this beauty ritual, women in Chile use grapes and flour. Take some red grapes, crush them and mix them with two tablespoons of flour. Mix until the mixture becomes a paste and apply it on your face. Wait ten minutes and remove the mask. Your skin will be more beautiful.

Greece
It's no wonder that a country with such a rich history and culture should have its own deeply ingrained recipes that cultivate beauty. Greek women use olives, laurel, jojoba, red grapes, and nettles in potions and creams that have kept Greek skin luminous through past centuries. Olive oil, in particular, is great for repairing dry, damaged hair.

Spain
Use potatoes without fearing of carbs! Women in Spain are known for using potatoes to alleviate dark circles. This beauty technique is fast and inexpensive. When you want to recover after a lost night, use a potato slice instead of concealer.

Egypt
Uses of the Aloe Vera plant can be traced all the way back to the ancient Egyptians whose healers used it in 1500 BC; Cleopatra regarded it as her beauty secret. Anyone who looks at the shelves of their local chemist will know the name of Aloe Vera.

There is hardly a cosmetic product untouched by it - shampoos, conditioners, lip balms; creams all contain this magic ingredient. An Aloe Vera plant will grow happily on your windowsill at home, just cut off a section to release the healing sap, which is particularly good for sunburn.

France
French women prefer to do manicure at home and, to prepare their nails, they soften them in a mixture of warm water and lemon juice to help in nail discoloration.

Georgina Heffernan