Up until last week, I had never been to Bali. As an Aussie, I guess that makes me something of an anomaly—most people I know have been at least twice. Some twenty times or more. My reasons for steering clear of the island were multiple. My mum's bestie died in the 2002 bombings which has always played on my mind, but really it was horror stories about obnoxious tourists in Bintang singlets that kept me from packing my bags. (That and my sensitive stomach.) Not one for pub crawl-tourism—I'm more into hanging by the pool than necking beer—I'd figured Bali just wasn't the place for me. How wrong I was. Having just spent the last six days in literal paradise, I can't stop thinking about how I'll get back.
Depending on where you go in Bali (I spent most of my time in Seminyak), you'll find a veritable smorgasbord of beauty treatments on offer. A travel-buddy (who is also a regular visitor) took me to Think Pink Nails promising the best manicure of my beauty editor life. She was right—I've never seen my cuticles look so neat. My new husband and I also indulged in full body massages at Body Works. The experience was so heavenly I swear I floated out the door. While I fully expected to sample treatments like this in Bali (half the appeal of doing beauty in Bali is in getting a luxury treatment for half the cost you would at home, after all), what I didn't count on was taking away any tips.
Ahead you'll find the five life-changing beauty secrets I learned in Bali, and exactly how you can put them to use in your very own bathroom.
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Tea is a big deal in Bali (for proof try the Indonesian High Tea at the Mulia—it's amazing), and the beverage's benefits don't end with an ability to complement coconut milk pancakes. Overhearing me complain about my chapped lips, a local woman advised me to press chilled green tea bags to the area for relief. She explained that the active ingredients help heal inflammation and tackle free radicals caused by the sun, making this natural remedy multi-benefit.
A treatment designed to infuse hair with serious moisture, hair cream baths are extremely affordable and considered by local women as necessity not indulgence. (The closest thing we have in Oz is an in-salon mask, but the Balinese version can cost as little as $7.) Depending on where you go, you'll have a slightly different experience, but you can expect to have a hydrating treatment (sometimes natural and house-made) massaged into your hair and scalp before a steamer is placed on top to supercharge the effects. Generally, a neck and shoulder massage is also involved, as well as a wash and hair tonic, and the whole process takes around half an hour. As a beach-bound tourist, this treatment was the perfect antidote to my frazzled holiday hair, but seeing the commitment Balinese women showed to their strands also made me rethink my home haircare routine. I'll be recreating these at home with Evo's The Great Hydrator ($30) and a hot and steamy towel straight out of the microwave.
We've discussed the beauty benefits of turmeric previously but I was surprised to discover that Balinese women have used this antibacterial and antiseptic spice to boost glow for eons. A traditional pre-wedding body treatment (which I felt compelled to try given I just got hitched), combines turmeric with yoghurt to soften and refine skin. Called lulur, this homemade scrub is said to have been originally intended for beautifying Indonesian princesses before their big day. The best bit? It's easy (and affordable!) to do at home. Try this recipe to DIY..
No surprises here—coconut water is a very big go-to for boosting hydration levels for Balinese locals and tourists alike. As a traveler cursed with a sensitive stomach (damn you Bali Belly), I often opted for fresh coconuts over bottled water for the extra electrolyte hit. I also almost always chose cocktails made with a base of coconut water instead of simple syrups and soft drink to offset the dehydrating nature of alcohol. Although coconut water is significantly more expensive here than it is in Indonesia, I will definitely be adopting it as my mixer of choice come summer. I find dehydration lines appear on my face after a boozy session, but I didn't get a single one this vacay. That's proof enough for me that the locals are onto something.
Jamu is more complex than your average beauty supplement in that it is also used to treat serious illnesses, but this traditional Indonesian medicine is also part of daily upkeep for many Balinese women. The very small part of it I experienced was via a street seller hawking large bottles of herbal drinks, all packaged in recycled water bottles. Formulated to treat everything from itchy skin to a toxic system, jamu is created with flowers, nuts and spices (amongst other things). Each tonic is made with ingredients chosen for their individual effects on the body, meaning there is a different drink for every condition. I sampled a lemongrass-based beverage meant to repel mosquito's (I also wore insect repellent while on holiday so the jury's out on its effectiveness) and a skin-boosting tipple made with turmeric and ginger. Not unlike a potent juice which you might select based on how you're feeling (or how your skin's looking), I plan on researching and experimenting with jamu at home.
Interested in more global beauty secrets? Read up on what Japanese women do to look younger.