I was sitting in the at the doctor’s office with my Russian grandmother, as the nurse was taking grandma’s blood pressure. “Wow, she is 84? She has beautiful skin”, the nurse said as she put Grandma’s information into the chart. I am used to hearing that Grandmother has beautiful skin. Even at 84, it is practically unlined, bright and has practically no dark age spots. One time I overheard two women talking about Grandmother. “Remarkable skin” said one of them and the other replied, “Eastern European women, they have their beauty secrets or maybe it’s just good genes”.
The fact is that Eastern European women do have their beauty secrets. I only realized that they were “secrets”, when I was in my 20s and other women did not do follow the same routine as I did. To me, these things were as natural as brushing my teeth. My grandmother began to instruct me in following what she called “the skin rules” when I was living in Russia and no more than seven years old. Two weeks before my 15th birthday, Grandma took me to an aesthetician for the first time. It was a rite of passage: she herself began going at the age of 16. “I do not understand how women spend so much money on a dress and not on their face,” Grandma would say. “After all, you wear your face every day and everywhere you go.”
Obviously, small investments she made into herself paid off and I am happy to say, they are paying dividends to me on regular basis. What are the mystical “secrets” of the women of Eastern Europe that were learned from their ancestors, carried through the ages even the Bolshevik Revolution and into the modern age? I will tell you this: they are inexpensive; they are organic and they teach you to take time to love yourself!
Rule #1: Good skin is NOT something that you stumble upon one day. Even the most sophisticated methods available today like fillers, Botox, and lasers, cannot reproduce the results of routine maintenance, which first includes protecting the skin from the sun. We have all read a thousand times that sunlight causes premature skin aging, skin cancer, and skin changes that used to be commonly believed to be due to aging. That doesn’t mean we all listen. But I do: Eastern European women are so adamant about protecting their skin from the sun that before sunscreen protection came in cream or lotion form, they put arsenic into their face powder believing that it blocked the damaging rays. Fortunately, we no longer have to use such drastic measures, but since I was a little girl, Grandma insisted that I stay out of the sun and wear sunscreen every single day, even indoors and in the winter.
Rule #2: “It is a shame to go to bed with someone unworthy of you, but even more of a shame to go to bed with make-up on” was one of Grandma’s favorite sayings. At night, the skin rejuvenates and we have an excellent opportunity to assist it. All make-up must be removed with gentle soap. Do not use bar soap. A good rule of thumb to remember: if the soap dries up after you use it, so will your skin! If there is no gentle but thorough cleanser at hand, sour cream works just as well as any cold cream (just make sure to wash it off completely!). In the morning, there is no reason to use any cleanser at all. Wash the skin with water only. This enables the skin to retain its natural oils and is less stressful and aging. Just as crucial as using sunscreen in the morning, it is important to use a good moisturizer at night.
Rule #3: Facial masks work! It is both easy and fun to create a facial mask in your kitchen.
Rule #4: A good aesthetician is woman’s best friend. Eastern European women have a culture of going for professional facials and peels. A facial cleans, exfoliates and nourishes the skin, promoting a clear, well-hydrated complexion — and can help your skin look younger. A facial must be performed by a licensed aesthetician and it is so relaxing and pleasurable. I began regular facials at 15. A good professional can assess the condition of the skin and prescribe a maintenance routine to be followed at home. The ideal is to have one every month, but at least four times a year as the seasons change is a must!
Rule #5: This one is the most important and might one day save your life. I know it saved mine. Make regular doctor check-ups, especially breast examinations and visits to your gynecologists, part of your self-maintenance. It is amazing that women make time to take the car into the shop, take a pet to a vet and take the kids to a multitude of activities. Yet, they find it so difficult to find time for themselves. As a breast cancer survivor (and my Grandma is a uterine cancer survivor), I know that early detection enables doctors to prescribe less invasive and less devastating treatments; not to mention it increases chances of survival and of healthy life. There is no gift more precious than a woman can give to herself and her loved ones than her own well-being.