Blame it all on Carla. That’s what I tell everyone who asks why I became such an obsessed traveler. She had come to study in the U.S. from Italy and quickly became my best childhood friend. When I turned 17, my parents let me return home with her after the school-year finished. I stepped off the plane and immediately fell in love with the country.
After running out of the cash my parents had given me for the trip, I called my dad to ask for help. He replied in a stern voice and said, “Get a job!” With no knowledge of how to speak Italian at the time, I grabbed a dictionary and hit the streets. I eventually came across a cosmetics manufacturer and pleaded for a job. To my surprise, they gave me one!
So there I was, standing on a cosmetics line, wearing a net hat, and shoving lipsticks bullets into containers by hand – all for a salary of $2.50 per hour. It would take me four years to save up enough money to get back home, but it was the greatest time of my life. I’ve been chasing that love affair with travel and searching for the world’s best beauty products since.
Fast forward 30 years, and my passport is covered in stamps from countries in every corner of the globe. I’m a city lover — visiting over 100 to date — since that’s where I find inspiration (hitting the Gucci flagship in Florence counts as art of the best kind in my book), can stroll the aisles of the best beauty boutiques, and immerse myself in a new culture. So, what exactly have I learned about beauty on all of these adventures?
Italy, the country renowned for fashion and Ferraris, is also home to some of the most high-quality makeup formulations. In fact, 60 percent of the world’s color comes from Italia. Why is it so good? Italian manufactures have obsessive attention to detail, and they treat color makeup like a work of art. They use premium ingredients like silk powder and pure pigments, resulting in blush that doesn’t streak, eye shadows that have true color payoff, and lipsticks that go on like satin and stay the course. You have to try the Kiko Milano blendable eye shadows.
Later, when I traveled to Greece, my eyes were opened to a country whose people embrace nature in almost everything they do – and manufacture – making it my go-to for bath and body products. I watched their makers utilize the scenic country’s indigenous plants and herbs, helping me realize the power of natural extracts and their beauty benefits. I’ve learned that whether it’s the food you put in your body or the beauty products you use on your body, there’s never too much of a good natural thing. My favorite Greek brand is Korres, and I especially love their rich body butters – think Greek yogurt for your skin.
I recently wrote about my travels to Japan, too. In Tokyo, I stumbled upon boutiques filled with the most luxurious jars and bottles I had ever seen, and I met women with porcelain skin and hair so shiny it looked like glass. They told me about their centuries-old traditions and introduced me to incredibly rare products in which every detail of the formulation had been meticulously crafted. Japan is a culture that adheres to a code of honor, among other principles, and this spills over into everything they do, including beauty.
Then, there’s South Korea. When arriving in this country, it’s impossible not to notice the beauty of the women. No matter their age, they have the most dewy, glowing skin. On my first trip, I became focused on learning their secrets. It was here that I learned the importance of taking care of my skin, staying out of the sun, and taking part in the now-trendy 10-step Korean skin care routine.
When looking for the most advanced skin care, South Korea is a good place to start. My personal picks: Neogen Pore Mousse, which utilizes 73 percent marine algae to gently remove all the gunk stuck in pores, and Neogen Black Volume Cream, which contains over 70 types of berries and botanicals, giving skin an instant drink of water while plumping up lines.
Of course, trying the world’s best beauty products and cool new trends is never not fun (snail cream, anyone?). But coming face to face with a mix of fabulous women, hearing about their beauty concerns, learning their secrets and about their country’s homegrown ingredients – that’s what really makes me keep racking up all those frequent flier miles. Once you start traveling the world, you realize that many of the stateside trends have actually been around forever, and you come to appreciate other cultures.