Beauty Around The World – Part 5

Africa, Middle East, Spa & Beauty — By on May 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm

by J’Nisha Towne

The final installment of our series about what women around the world do in their quest for beauty and eternal youth.

Beauty regimes, whether waxing stubborn hair from sensitive body parts and injecting fat into facial creases to eating animal entrails and smearing bird droppings onto blemished skin are performed with a variety of beautifying and bizarre methods across the four corners of the world- Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America.

Africa:  Scarring, Hairstyles, and Big Behinds

For women of the Karo tribe in Ethiopia, scars do not get the Mederma treatment; instead, they are seen as a sign of beauty. Puncture wounds (namely in the stomach) are carved in a young girl’s stomach in order to later draw a man’s eye. A Karo girl must receive a designated number of scars before being allowed to marry and have children. The scars hold a variety of meanings identifying family lineage, ethnic groups, life stages, and beauty. When performed on the skin of young girls, scarring marks stages of puberty, marriage, and children. The scars appeal to the man’s touch as well as indicate a woman with fortitude and strength of child-bearing. Scars are not to be diminished, whitened, or removed- only lauded as a cultural sign of personal health and beauty.

Hair remains a versatile accessory for women worldwide- an expression of individualism, hairstyles are known to span decades with the famous Farrah Fawcett fly-away and ever-requested “Rachel” shag from hit TV-series Friends. Also regarded with staying power and expression are the hairstyles of the nomadic Fulani tribe reigning from North Africa. Reuniting festivals welcoming men home from tending cattle to the religious slaughter of livestock, coaxing tresses into elaborate shapes and intricate designs celebrate the occasion. Amber coins weaved through hair provide structure to the strands. Coiffures are also added to hair with a variety of intricate instruments- metal rings, amber balls, and wooden or ivory pins allows for curvature and style. Depending on the age, social, and marital status of the women, hairstyles are adjusted accordingly. Older women tend to wear their hair low and braided in corn rows across the nape of the neck while married women lean to the usage of stone or large plates to indicate a calm spirit. The hairstyles are worn and created with such artistry that names are often given to the individual styles. Never underestimate a really good hair day.

In Mauritania, a country in West Africa, men love their women to be large, divorced and with stretch marks. Revered as seductive for women include thick ankles, big behinds, and squishy arms. Stretch marks are a sign of health, thus lauded as being well-fed and not starving, poor, or sickly-looking. As women are taking 100-calorie snack packs in order to keep hunger at bay, women from Mauritania focus on force-feeding young girls in hopes of landing a hubby. Subjected to the practice of “gavage”, or force-feeding, young girls are forced to eat starchy grains and full-fat camel’s milk for hours. Sick to your stomach? Eat another helping. Your future lies in those hefty thighs.

The Middle East:  Snake Massages and Turkish Fish 

With massages varying in time, length, purpose, and ambience, the variety of stress-relieving methods of relaxation have yet to contain the inclusion of wild animals in the US- namely snakes. Located in Talmei Elazar, Israel, snakes are becoming a common companion to massages. Consisting of non-venomous King, corn, and milk snakes from Florida and California, Ada Barak’s snake spa, in northern Israel provides a tantalizing experience for the brave. Spurred from the belief that snake contact provides a stress-relieving experience, the massages are being lauded for relieving deep tension for muscle aches. Large snakes provide a kneading, “swedish”- type style of massage while small garden snakes caress the limbs in tender strokes for a “fluttering” effect. The slithery experience is available for $70 a snake session.

You don’t have to have a foot fetish (or a fish tank) to enjoy the experience of tiny Turkish carp nibbling at your toes. No exfoliation needed- these rufa fish are used to treat psoriasis and eczema as well as nibble at dead skin and calluses created by heels that never quite fit for the price. Becoming popular in Eastern Europe and Asia, the pedicure is making waves in the United States with warm pools of bath water and carp. Warm water does not sufficiently support aquatic life therefore the Turkish carp are prone to nibble on what they see- dead, flaky skin. Toothless and tickle-ensuing, fish pedicures are a precursor to a standard pedicure…just don’t fall in- the full bath fish makeovers are soon to be established as the treatment to try!

Photo credit: Matlock-photo/flickr

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