There is a vibrant energy in Mexico like nowhere else, from its huge capital of CDMX to small, rural villages. As a self-proclaimed beauty junkie and explorer, I make it a point to find, research and delve into the skincare and beauty industry everywhere I go. After spending much time in Mexico, and relentlessly scouring every product I can get my hands on, I am here to tell you—Mexican women know their beauty stuff. From city to city, I noticed that the women who lived there have the most glowing skin—not a blemish in sight and seemingly so effortless. I had to know the secret to their glow.
Then, I was introduced to calendula, the vibrant yellow and orange-colored flower seen and used in traditional Day of the Dead ceremonies. It’s believed that its bright color and scent can lead souls back to the living. With a vast history, the flower was also considered sacred by the Aztecs for its healing and anti-inflammatory properties. Unlike many plants, the entire flower (stem and all) is beneficial for use in both topical and ingestible forms.
While it’s beloved and used worldwide, calendula is widely available in pharmacies throughout Mexico. That’s exactly how entrepreneur María López Blanco discovered it while living in Mexico City. After struggling with acne and reactive skin, she was handed a calendula balm in a local pharmacy. Fifteen days later her skin was the clearest it had ever been, and she felt that the results were magic. So much so that she created an entire brand, For All Folks, around her discovery. Every single product in her unisex line from face cream to lube features calendula. The other ingredients used in the formulations, like aloe vera and ginseng, are specifically included to enforce the power of the calendula.
Crediting the plant for her skin transformation, López Blanco says that most Mexican women are very interested in natural skincare and utilizing traditional ingredients. Given the wide-reaching benefits calendula can have for all skin types and concerns, she used her background in advertising to establish her brand as a fully gender-neutral line that’s able to reach everyone and is meant to be shared between partners, friends and families.
For Paula Lucero, founder of Virmanik, a skincare boutique in Oaxaca City, Mexico that features only made-in-Mexico brands, calendula is included in many of the products she stocks, from the very small and artisanal to the higher-end. She loves it because of the calming effect that it offers, no matter the product, and that it’s suitable for all skin types.
“It has a very long history in Mexico, and it’s easily accessible and affordable," says Lucero. "We’ve been using it for everything—from stretch marks to calming itchiness from bug bites, and even for my dogs, when they get hurt." She also notes that it is the first ingredient most women in Mexico look for when a dark spot or any source of potential scarring occurs on the skin. The antioxidants found in the plant make it perfect for cell regeneration, and the petals are anti-inflammatory and antiseptic (thanks to flavonoids, the nutrients responsible for its bright color and skin cure-all benefits) which aids in the healing process, while also increasing blood flow.
Calendula does it all. From eczema to acne and diaper rashes, its multipurpose uses led me to spot a trend in Mexican skincare: the focus on anti-inflammatory products. Why does that matter? Inflammation is usually the culprit behind chronic skin issues like acne, rosacea and eczema, and also leads to faster collagen breakdown and less elasticity. Using natural ingredients to treat and resolve it gives your skin the opportunity to heal, while maintaining that smooth and toned glow. Ahead, four more of our favorite Mexican beauty ingredients to soothe inflammation.
Another intoxicating and traditional healing ingredient found in Mexico is copal. The tree resin has been used by indigenous people for years to treat burns, cuts, rashes and other skin irritations. It’s also burned as a ceremonial incense and has a deep spiritual meaning and is said to purify the mind and body. For me, I’m pretty sure it’s better than therapy—I’ve never met a product with copal in it that I don’t love. And judging from the number of compliments I receive when wearing anything copal (a strong but not overpowering delicious scent), you will probably agree. If there was ever a time to try copal, it’s now. Small-batch skincare line Relato Nativo is the definition of “slow beauty” and formulates many products containing the resin. Combined with other traditional botanicals, their copal detox bath, incense, healing balm and body butter feel like a dream, from the scent to the extra gleam, softness and moisture it will give your skin.
Used alone or paired with calendula, aloe vera is a powerhouse plant and the perfect solution to revive stressed, sunburnt or sensitive and irritated skin. I was given a whole aloe chunk to rub all over my body and in my hair after a traditional Mexican sweat lodge experience, which felt almost euphoric after all the intense heat and sweating—the bonus was that my skin and hair afterwards glowed like never before. In the summer, my rosacea can be especially triggered by the heat, humidity, and, at the moment, my cloth face mask. I’m in need of more than just moisture and have turned to slathering on all the aloe and calendula to keep my rosacea at bay. Luckily, Kiehl’s is onto this combo and has a perfect calendula & aloe soothing hydration mask.
Is it possible to mention Mexico without thinking of avocado? The same reasons it’s a superfood snack (vitamins A, C, E, K, Omega 3 and fatty acids, among others), avocado oil is also a favorite for skincare because its emollient properties are perfect for nourishing and protecting skin. Mexican brand Xamania Ecoskincare’s avocado eye cream is the creamiest, most gentle, and effective eye cream I’ve ever used. It seeps into the skin and really penetrates puffiness and dryness. It’s my very own nighttime fairy godmother—I apply it at night and wake up in the morning with the delicate skin around my eyes bright and glowing. Pro tip: this eye cream is also a game changer for your neck and hands too.
From a bark tree in Southern Mexico comes another centuries-old and antimicrobial ingredient used to heal the skin. With regenerative properties and the ability to repair skin while also increasing collagen production, tepezcohuite has been used in hospitals to treat burn victims. It’s also great for hair by preventing scalp buildup and strengthening. Oh, and Salma Hayek swears by it, so say no more.
Most importantly, what I've discovered is that the majority of women in Mexico aren’t concerned with tiny fine lines, eye wrinkles or a dedicated anti-aging routine. There is an aversion to a lot of chemicals or harsh ingredients for results (retinol, chemical peels, etc). Instead, they prioritize natural and anti-inflammatory skincare. In turn, this approach actually inevitably slows down wrinkles by reducing damage from environmental and lifestyle factors. There is an acceptance to protect and care for the skin, not to change it, or cover up imperfections and every little pore. The same lively energy that you feel when you are in Mexico is the same energy they put towards skincare. It’s like a breath of fresh air for your mind and skin. And for this beauty lover, I have yet to find a better philosophy when it comes to skincare.