Women in the U.K. aren't typically product hoppers: "British women come to trust certain products and stick with simple regimens that work for their skin," says Marko Lens, MD, a cosmetic surgeon in London. Maybe that's why they're turning to "skin boosters," potential wrinkle-fighting oils that they drop into their tried-and-true moisturizer to "optimize the benefits, without disrupting their routine," says Jessica Perfect, head buyer for Space NK UK. The active ingredients—classics such as retinol and vitamin C—are so potent that barrier-protecting ingredients like fatty acids and ceramides are often added to offset the chance of irritation, notes Dr. Lens.
"Korean women don't look at skin care as a chore—they aren't just slapping stuff on their skin," says Charlotte Cho, a licensed aesthetician in New York City and co-founder of Soko Glam, a site devoted to K-beauty. A key part of their multistep routine is facial massage, and many use actual massage creams in lieu of standard moisturizer. The goal: to create gliding movements that both stimulate circulation for a healthy flow and drain toxins for less puff.
To use, start by warming up your hands—Koreans believe cold hands keep the product from absorbing fully, says Angela Kim, founder of the Korean e-tailer Insider Beauty. Then tap the product onto your face with the palms of your hands (not fingertips). Starting under your cheekbones, use your knuckles to press—don't pull—up and out toward your temples. Next, trace your knuckles up the sides of your nose toward the top of your forehead, then down the perimeter of your face and along the sides of your neck. Gently massage under eyes with your pointer and middle fingertips, from inner to outer corners.
4 of 11Christine Blackburne
Brazilian bum creams
PRO PICK: Sol De Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Cream ($50; sephora.com)
On the beaches of Brazil, it's all about the booty (see: Brazilian swimsuit models Gisele Bündchen and Adriana Lima). To firm the tush, Brazilians have long been sourcing a local Amazonian plant called guarana for its seed, which contains twice the amount of caffeine found in coffee beans. It's believed that caffeine penetrates the skin for a temporary plumping and tightening effect, explains Constantino Mendieta, MD, a cosmetic surgeon in Miami. Models have been soaking in coffee grounds for years, says dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, director of Capital Laser and Skin Care in Chevy Chase, Md. Happily, you can find guarana extract in Brazilian "bum creams," which have made their way stateside. Firmly massage the cream into skin consistently for a week leading up to your bikini reveal.
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French skin salves
PRO PICKS: La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 ($15; target.com). Avène Trixera+ Selectoise Emollient Balm ($28; amazon.com)
French women are masters of the no-makeup makeup look, says Mathilde Thomas, co-founder of the skin-care line Caudalie and author of The French Beauty Solution. How do they pull that off? "By focusing more on the health of their skin and less on cosmetics," says Thomas. Take a peek in nearly any French makeup artist's kit and you'll likely spy a barrier balm, which is typically used to heal conditions like eczema, acne, rashes, and dryness. But the French also rely on it as everything from a daily moisturizer to a primer to even a soothing makeup remover. "These rich salves coat the skin in emollients to form a protective barrier against irritants and help restore lipids over time," explains Dr. Tanzi.
6 of 11Christine Blackburne
Japanese tone perfecters
PRO PICKS: Boscia Bright White Mask ($38; boscia.com). SK-II Cellumination Cream EX ($160; sephora.com). Shiseido White Lucent MultiBright Night Cream ($90; shiseido.com)
In their quest for bright skin, Japanese women once turned exclusively to skin bleachers such as hydroquinone, but this ingredient causes skin sensitivity and irritation, leading to a search for gentler alternatives. Now Japanese labs have pioneered safer, but just as strong, spot-fading ingredients, including kojic acid (a by-product of Japanese sake fermentation) and chamomilla extract (a naturally derived botanical). "These work on your skin's pigment-producing machinery to suppress the excess production of melanin and help release the pigmentation that has already been produced," explains Dr. Tanzi. Japanese brands suggest twice-daily usage; the longer the actives are on your skin, the better the results.
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Moroccan argan oil for hydration
PRO PICK: Suave Professionals Moroccan Infusion Body Lotion ($4; target.com)
Moroccan argan oil is made up of 80% fatty acids, delivering a dose of mega-moisture.
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Balancing herbs of Chinese medicine
Those who practice the ancient healing methods of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) believe that topicals alone can't cure a skin condition. "It's important to treat yourself holistically, from the inside out," says Laura Kauffman, co-founder of She Essential Beauty and a licensed acupuncturist in New York City who specializes in TCM. While all the organs are thought to affect the skin, the main concern is digestive health. "Many complexion issues, like acne and accelerated aging, can often be linked to the gut," says Dr. Tanzi. To retexturize, an herbal trio called the Three Yellows can help, says Kauffman. The treatment involves consuming and topically applying antibacterial herbs such as huang qin (skullcap), huang lian (Coptis rhizome), and huang bai (phellodendron); find them at health-food stores. If you're interested in consuming herbs, be sure to see an Eastern medicine practitioner first. For topical use, mix one part of each herb (in powder form) with five parts water, apply to the skin with a cotton ball and rinse.
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The African baobab fruit for a radiance boost
PRO PICK: Burt's Bees Ultimate Body Care Lotion ($10; amazon.com)
The baobab fruit from Africa contains six times as much glow-enhancing vitamin C as an orange.
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Dead Sea mud for clear skin
PRO PICK: Ahava Beauty Before Age Uplift Day Cream ($79; nordstrom.com)
Mineral-rich mud from the Dead Sea extracts dirt and toxins from pores without leaving skin tight or dry.
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Chinese black tea for smoother skin
PRO PICK: Fresh Black Tea Age-Delay Firming Serum ($75 for 30 milliliters, sephora.com)
The live cultures in fermented Chinese black tea (aka kombucha) help repair the skin barrier for improved tone.