My favorite thing to do when I visit another country (aside from eating, taking in the sites, and eating some more), is to scope out the beauty products. I’m a big believer that you can learn a lot simply from perusing a foreign beauty aisle, whether or not you wind up stashing some of your finds into a suitcase and taking them home with you.
While traveling full time over the last three years, I made it to 22 different countries—which means I shopped the shelves of (at least) 22 different beauty destinations. And let me tell you: I found some real drugstore diamonds and luxury wins. From the water-based skin-care in France to, well, everything I could get my hands on in Japan, I always left each place with a carry-on that was a whole lot heavier than what I’d left home with.
The good news? Some of the best beauty brands I found while scouring the world actually happen to be available right here in the United States—no plane ticket required. Scroll through for some of my all-time faves.
United Kingdom: Elemis Ultra Smart Pro-Collagen Complex 12 Serum, $335
The British-owned brand Elemis made its way to the United States a couple of years ago, and found all the praise from shoppers at places like Ulta, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus alike for its superfood-packed, results-driven formulas. This Neiman Marcus exclusive is the newest entry in the line. The creamy serum melts down to a watery milk to coat skin with gleamy collagen-promoting ingredients that show their effects on skin, both now and then.
Australia: Kora Organics Rose Quartz Illuminizer, $28
Not only is Kora Organics from Australia, but it happens to be Australian supermodel-approved. Created by Miranda Kerr, the brand stemmed from her passion toward wellness and natural ingredients. She’s committed to keeping everything in her line clean and eco-friendly, and the products are perfect for anyone who shares the same commitment to their own beauty routines.
The recipes for Uma’s line of beauty and wellness oils have been passed down for generations, and each oil is blended to follow along with the Ayurvedic tradition. Oils are an important part of Indian beauty in general—women use them in their hair as well as on their faces and bodies—and Uma has a potion to fit every need.
France: Bioderma Sensibio H2O, $10
When it comes to drugstore beauty, France really know how to do it right. And you can’t talk about “affordable French skin-care products” without talking micellar water—namely, this one. The tricked-out H2O—which is readily available in the U.S.—uses tiny “micelles” to help lift dirt and grime while also giving skin the added bonus of hydration. It’s the perfect first step in a double-cleanse routine, or can be used on its own (I do the latter every morning) as a non-drying way to wash.
Many Mexican skin-care ingredients are super potent on skin, and here in the United States we can get our hands on some of the top products that tap them by way of Vervan. Maize, cocoa, tamarind and amaranth—which you’ll find in Vervan’s line of skin care—are all available on Amazon.
La Bruket’s products are inspired by the natural landscape in Sweden. Think: Wind, mud, salt, rock, ice, sand, water and sun. The brand harvests its own seaweed, and each element of its skin-care line is completely clean and, as someone who has tried pretty much every product they offer, is also really, really good. You’ll see ingredients like carrot, broccoli seed, and cotton on the labels, showing just how innovative the Swedish line really is when it comes to harnessing the beauty benefits of nature.
Innisfree has been huge in Korea since the turn of the millennium, and when opened its doors in the U.S. in 2017, it didn’t take long for those of us on this side of the Pacific to understand why. The brand—which is paraben-free and gloriously affordable—features Korean-fave ingredients like lava seawater, camellia, marine seaweed, volcanic ash, and green tea. Beauty editor Rachel Lapidos swears by their green tea eye cream, because it feels like a “tall drink of water” for her skin, and makes it look the “most moisturized it ever has.”
It’s not exactly new, SK-II is most definitely a holy grail beauty product. The stuff is everywhere in Japan—from drugstores to department stores—and while it will admittedly put a pretty large dent in your wallet, IMHO it’s honestly worth it. The esssence, in particular, is one of those products that everyone from celebs to makeup artists to my mom swears by. It’ll help you achieve an unparalleled level of glowing skin.
Speaking of beauty worth traveling for, read what happened when one editor spent three days at Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. And these are the bathing traditions from around the world that we’re stealing for our own bathrooms.
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