Welcome to our May series, International Beauty Code. As part of this month’s theme, Byrd’s Eye View, we’ll be talking to women the world over to find out what typical beauty routines are like in their countries. Yes, we love French pharmacy buys, and Scandi trends are very much on our radar, but alongside these destinations, we’ll be shining a light on some of the lesser-known beauty cultures—unearthing the beauty ideals, go-to looks and skincare routines in these places too. Following Mumbai-based makeup lover Rosalyn Manuel Fernando, we spoke to Russian-born model and creative Sonya Esman.
Name: Sonya Esman
Occupation: “Professional human being (artist, video producer, model, writer, creator, destroyer—I hate labels.)”
City and country of residence: “I was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and lived in Kaliningrad until I was 5. I then emigrated with my parents to Toronto, where I went to school was raised. I moved to Los Angeles alone when I was 19, and after some time in New York City, I moved to Venice Beach, California, last year.”
Beauty icons: “Erin Wasson, Magdalena Frackowiak, Angelina Jolie.”
The skincare products she can’t live without: “Sunday Riley Good Genes Treatment (£85), Natura Bisse Diamond Extreme Eye Cream (£171), NuFace Trinity Toning Device (£300), GlamGlow FlashMud Brightening Treatment (£42), Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Foaming Cleanser (£32).”
The most popular beauty trends in her country right now: “I think one of the coolest trends (that hopefully won't just be a fad) is using skincare as makeup. The market is saturated with amazing skincare brands, and women are a lot more focused on the quality of their skin. Jade rollers are EVERYWHERE.
“Everybody wants cheekbones. I see a lot of accentuation on a natural highlight you can achieve from face oils. If you open any online beauty retailer’s website, the homepage will almost definitely have large shiny section labelled ‘natural.’ Brands like RMS Beauty prove you can use makeup that’s natural, luxurious, functional and long-lasting. Natural, cruelty-free beauty is everywhere.”
Where she finds beauty trends: “I think it happens so naturally because women in the U.S. are exposed to the media nearly 24/7. It happens like a domino effect. You see a girl on your Instagram feed got a short haircut, you think it looks amazing, you ask for the same haircut, post it to Instagram, one of your followers get inspired, and so it goes. Social media influence and exposure to beauty from all over the world keeps trends exciting and inspiration never far from reach.”
Her favourite Russian beauty tradition: “Sea buckthorn berries. I used to drink them in a tea, but they’re also a popular staple ingredient in shampoos, conditioners, and face creams and oils. [Ed. note: We like Elemental Herbology Vital Cleanse Facial Cleanser, £29 and Oribe Radiant Drops Golden Face Oil, £84.] Also, fish oil. I know a lot of Slavic women who drink a spoonful of cod liver oil, krill oil and others every day for healthy skin, hair and nails.”
Her definition of healthy living: “I would define healthy living as a lifestyle where you treat your body with compassion and as if it belonged to someone you love. If you get too caught up and obsessed with being healthy, that’s certainly not healthy. I can remember moments in my life when I felt like I was living healthy, and it was when I was happy to wake up the next day and felt fulfilled with every aspect of my life.”
“I think healthy living in America these days means anti-everything that was marketed to us in the 20th century. Instead of microwaveable meals, cook yourself. Whole Foods is everywhere. Organic markets are in every neighborhood. Friends hang out by trying new workout classes together. The health industry is booming, and it’s cool to watch and participate.”
The most popular wellness trends in her country: “One of the most popular wellness trends right now is cryotherapy. I personally love infrared saunas with LED light therapy. Nootropics are also huge, along with biohacking, but that’s if you wanna get deep into it—it’s fascinating.”
Her favorite way to stay active: “I’ve always been a huge advocate of walking everywhere. When I lived in NYC, I would never take a cab, I’d walk 20 kilometres a day from meeting to meeting, even in the snow and wind. Walking for half an hour a day is the most effective way I get rid of stress and recharge with new ideas. It’s also a fun way to discover all the streets and shops in your city.
“Other than that, I love doing barre. A few months after going to a barre class twice a week, my muscles were so much more defined and lean. When I can’t go hiking in the hills of L.A., I go Equinox and use the treadmill at an incline of 15% (max) and walk for an hour—it basically imitates hiking.”
The way she practices self-care: “Oh, I love this question. There are so many things I do. Lavender oil in my oil diffuser, burning palo santo, being in bed before midnight, dry-brushing my body, sheet masks, long walks in nature as a form of meditation, stretching and breathing deeply, and (most importantly) going MIA from social media.”