5 Traditional Beauty Secrets Russian Women Know

My grandmother was perfect, and not by accident. She was an architect and photographer; beauty was literally in her bones. Tosca’s aria “Vissi d’Arte” played at home on loop: “I lived for love; I lived for art,” she’d say were life goals. She designed the country homes of politicians, composers, and generals of the highest order—all while looking perfectly coiffed in a frame of history that did not coif.

Russia was cauterized for most of the 20th century. Secrets from the past empire or homemade treatments were the only color horse. I was born stateside the year the Soviet Union collapsed. Most of my formative memories take place in Moscow’s Red Square neighborhood, dancing ballet and learning tricks of the trade from my grandparents. When I told my grandma I had a migraine headache, she sent me into a room with her canary to hear the isotones in its melodies for natural pain relief. During the summers, she’d make antioxidant face masks and herbal skin teas from the mushrooms she’d freshly foraged at her country house. One birthday, I asked my parents for a mortar and pestle so I could muddle petals to make rose oil like I saw her do. In my years of ballet, I realized all of my Russian girlfriends had different secrets from their grandmas too. Learning and teaching beauty hacks through my single digits felt normal. Later, I brought these regimens home in the States, where my confused friends became amazed by the results. Before my grandmother died, she told me that attention to detail is everything and to never have more than two of the three major face regions heavily made up at once (eyes, lips, and brows.) “Look good; feel good,” she always said—in Russian, of course.