16 Unusual Beauty Practices From Different Countries That Make Our World More Colorful
Although the idea of beauty is universal, it can appear in many shapes and forms. Its definition has often changed through history, and its standards can vary drastically across cultures and countries.
In Western countries, straight white teeth, plump lips, and long hair have been the epitome of beauty for a long time. But there are groups of people and ancient tribes across the globe who redefine beauty norms. Using various inventive techniques, they break the mold and create their own rules. And quite often, their inventiveness becomes an inspiration for the rest of the world too.
1. Long-horn Miao people, China
Members of this tribe believe that very long hair and an elaborate hairstyle that involves many folds are essential for female beauty. The women of the tribe wear huge wigs made of hair strands that belonged to their ancestors, making them a very precious beauty accessory. However, this gorgeous but complicated hairstyle can be very heavy, so it’s worn only on special occasions, not on a daily basis.
2. Mursi tribe, Ethiopia
For the Mursi tribe, large, colorful lip plates are a symbol of great beauty. This interesting accessory is more frequently worn by newlywed and unmarried women than by older married women who have children. They are usually worn on specific occasions and for important rituals, like weddings.
3. Karo tribe, Ethiopia
Body painting has been practiced by the Karo tribe for more than 500 years. They use body art in eye-catching patterns for combat as well as for beauty. Male members paint their bodies in bright shades to appear more fearless and attractive. The body paint is usually a mixture of ash, water, animal fat, and water.
4. Southeast Asia and Oceania
Teeth blackening is an old tradition mostly present in Southeast Asia and Oceania, but it was also common in India as well as Japan before it was prohibited in the Meiji era. Some tribes in Peru and Ecuador also practiced it in the past.
Teeth blackening is usually done during puberty to help prevent tooth decay and preserve healthy teeth for decades to come. The effects of the technique are similar to modern dental sealants, so it was seen as a symbol of higher social status, maturity, beauty, and being civilized.
Unlike in most Western countries where the unibrow is considered unattractive, in Tajikistan, it is seen as a symbol of vitality in men and purity in women. Those who are born without this unique facial feature often use herbs and coal sticks to create an artificial one. Aside from Tajikistan, the unibrow is also considered fashionable in some other Middle Eastern and Asian countries, such as Oman.
7. Northeast India
Apatani women look both fierce and unique wearing large wooden nose plugs inserted in the sides of their nostrils and vertical tattoos across their faces and chins. Legend has it that Apatani women were considered the most beautiful in the region. The original aim of unusual tattoos and nose plugs was actually to make Apatani women less attractive so that men from other tribes would not consider marrying them.
8. South Korea
Aesthetic surgery is immensely popular with South Koreans, especially among young adults. There is a common belief that looking attractive increases the chance of landing a good job. Unlike in many Western cultures, South Korea is free from the plastic surgery stigma. As a result, it’s not uncommon for parents to give it as a graduation gift.
9. Namibia and Angola
Tribes in Angola and Namibia are famous for their striking hairstyles. The women use crushed red stones mixed with oil, herbs, and dried cow dung to make a pigmented hair paste. To make the hairdos even more elaborate, they often add shells and even dried food as hair ornaments.
Nose surgery is such a popular beauty procedure among Iranian people that the country holds the record for rhinoplasty. And even though it’s expensive, people are often willing to pay to get a small, straight nose that is considered beautiful. Those who can’t afford the surgery walk around wearing bandages on their nose to appear wealthy and make it look like they just had a procedure.
12. Omo Valley, Ethiopia
As a result of the rapid development of this region over the past decades, some new fashion trends were born. One such example is hair clips. After they were introduced into the community, both men and women started wearing them. In this tribe, various accessories that the Western culture associates with women are not gender-specific, and many male warriors often wear “female” accessories without being mocked.
Tribes in this region are very stylish and inventive, and they have a talent for turning ordinary household items into stunning accessories. Their creativity and sense of fashion even inspired some of the world’s biggest fashion brands, like Dolce & Gabanna.
13. Africa and Indonesia
The beauty ritual of tooth sharpening can be found among many tribes across the globe, but is most common in Africa and Indonesia. In these tribes, pointed teeth are seen as the symbol of maturity and beauty.
14. New Zealand and Myanmar
The gorgeous Māori face and lips tattoo tradition called moko kauae has been around for centuries, but it was only recently that it became more represented and visible in New Zealand. It represents knowledge, skill, status, and a woman’s leadership within her community. Oriini Kaipara was the first news presenter with this traditional facial tattoo to appear on the national news in 2019. Facial tattoos are also common in Myanmar’s Chin tribe, who started practicing this custom in ancient times.
15. Thailand and Myanmar
Women of the Kayan tribe accentuate their beauty by wearing neck rings. Girls usually start to wear these decorative coils when they are around 5 years old, and more rings are added over time. It is theorized that this practice originates from the desire to look more attractive, but it has also been suggested that these rings make the woman resemble a dragon, an important figure in this tribe’s folklore.
16. Europe and the US
A relatively new trend of growing out and dying armpit hair has taken Western countries by storm. After decades of being taught that women should shave their body hair if they want to look attractive, the rules are changing before our eyes. Many women chose to treat their hair as a beauty accessory rather than an obstacle to feeling and looking attractive.
Do you know of any other peculiar beauty rituals that deserve to be added to the list?