If you’re a beauty junkie, you know that non-toxic skin care is all the rage these days. Everywhere you look, there’s a new product that promises quick results and organic ingredients—the best of both worlds. In tandem with cutting-edge, clean ingredients, many are also seeking out centuries-old modalities to keep the body-mind connection rooted in nature. Among the most effective? Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM.
Based on over 2,500 years of medical practices, TCM involves a number of techniques including herbology, acupuncture, and dietary therapy, and is centered around the idea that all organs in the body are connected. “TCM may take longer to cure your symptoms, but it will cure them good because you’re getting to the root cause,” says skin-care specialist Cecilia Wong, founder of Cecilia Wong Skincare Spa in New York City.
So, what exactly is Chinese medicine, and how do you incorporate it in your day-to-day life? One of the main bases for TCM is preserving your energy or qi, which is stimulated by opening up your meridiens and preventing any blockages. According to the modality, blockages can be responsible for everything from inflammation to skin problems, all symptoms leading to a larger root cause.
“I use Chinese medicine in my life every single day with myself and my clients,” says Wong. “I incorporate a lot of acupressure, especially facial massages, which works really well for firming and toning of the skin, and releasing energy there. I drink goji berry and red date tea every day, because that’s super easy. It nourishes the blood and helps with circulation. In terms of products, they should be calming instead of stimulating—more herbs like liquorice and sage, and fewer acids.”
Want to incorporate some of these TCM practices into your own life? You don’t have to run to your nearest herbal store to find a hormonal acne blend (though, that sounds awesome, IMO). So many new, clean brands are giving a modern spin to TCM—keep scrolling to find out exactly how to add them to your beauty routine for your glowiest skin ever.
Launching this month, Qi takes ,your nightly cup of bedtime tea to the next level. Consisting of three collections of dried flowers that have been picked in China at peak times to preserve optimum freshness, one is meant to brew each flower as a tea by simply pouring hot water over it. While each tea helps to destress, detox, heal the immune system naturally, and aid digestion, the individual flower you pick also has an additional benefit.
“Our products are more about self-care; preventative care, if you will,” says founder Lisa Li. “Rose is amazing for your skin and hair, and is known as the beauty flower. The chrysanthemum is great for lowering cholesterol and helping with vision and heart health, and finally, the lotus is anti-inflammatory and has so many antioxidants.”
Li also recommends adding other ingredients to the teas, depending on how you’re feeling: “I add honey, or you can add goji berries for a warming effect,” she says. “The thing about our products is they’re kind of a treat because they taste so good, but they’re also really good for you.”
You’ll be in good company if you invest in Ling products—the brand boasts a slew of famous fans, including Naomi Campbell and Mariah Carey. Founder Ling Chan’s products promise a unique marriage of traditional Chinese beauty principles with state-of-the-art ingredients, taking the best of both worlds to create non-toxic beauty products that work—and she was also one of the first proprietors of the jade roller.
“Many of the practices in our spa come from Chinese traditions and ancient beauty secrets that have been passed down for generations,” says Chan. “I was first exposed to jade as a beauty tool in Beijing decades ago, and learned how the Qing Dynasty used it to treat their skin back in the 1600s. In Chinese culture, the jade stone emits a very powerful energy, which helps to protect and heal the body.”
Another vital ingredient used in her products is ginseng: “It works to bring balance to the skin through energy, or qi as we call it in TCM,” she says. “Ginseng helps to energize the skin and the body, which is a very important part of our overall health and wellbeing.”
Instead of having you go through the whole rolodex of Chinese herbs, IN: Total Wellness offers plant-based solutions that are based on whatever’s ailing you. You can choose from a Pain formula, Sleep formula and Stress formula—founder Simone Wan experienced firsthand the benefits of TCM in 2002 after struggling with second and third-degree burns when a pressure cooker exploded in her NYC apartment, and now wants to spread her knowledge.
“Each of our proprietary blends uses a synergistic balance of therapeutic herbs to address a myriad of symptoms for multi-functional use, based on modernized Traditional Chinese Medicine formulas,” explains Wan. “TCM has studied, tested, and used these ingredients as a medical practice for over 2,000 years, so there has been extensive research done on which herbs help what organs and symptoms, and the dosage needed. As herbalists, we study how the ingredients should be formulated and prescribed: A single herb is never prescribed because we believe in the balance and synergistic effects of combining herbs.”
The first Chinese skincare brand to launch at Sephora, Wei was created by Wei Young Brian, who grew up studying TCM—and she even credits it for saving her son’s life when western medicine couldn’t. Consisting of everything from eye creams to cleansers, Wei uses a unique blend of Chinese herbs (sometimes more than 20) to help address a wide variety of concerns, including aging and dull skin.
“All our herbal formulas work together to bring yin and yang balance to skin—our farm-to-face philosophy ensures our herbs are freshly harvested at the optimal time and best locations to ensure its effectiveness,” explains Brian. “TCM’s foundation is based on yin and yang balance, but today, our fast-paced world causes much imbalance in our life. This is why we believe TCM is the remedy: Our commitment to the health of your skin is based on our approach to life. Where there is balance, there is beauty.”
Based on the Chinese tradition of gua sha and developed by holistic facialist Britta Plug of NYC-based Studio Britta, Wildling uses purely organic oils that encourage the body to get back to its natural state. “Gua sha facials have been used for centuries, where you gently massage your skin using a special stone, and it scrapes off dead skin cells and detoxifies the body,” explains Plug. This also stimulates your qi or life energy, which, when dormant, is believed to be the root cause of all inflammation.
Wilding sells the crystal massage tool, also known as the Empress Stone, as well as a natural essential oil and tonic that cleanses the skin. When done regularly, Plug promises “clear, smooth, rejuvenated skin, and a huge reduction in under-eye circles and puffiness.”
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