Asian Beauty & Culture
The continent of Asia is considered the largest continent in the world and consists of various ethnic groups that have impacted the world beauty for hundreds of years. Beauty traditions of the AAPI community are not just trendy, gimmicks. Similar to other marginalized groups, Asian beauty practices are generational and have deep historical meaning. Buddhist monks for example shave their heads as a symbol of their religious order, whereas in East Asia, women who wear their hair in a braided plat or structured bun signal their level of responsibility. In countries like India, women typically grow their hair especially in rural areas where long hair is viewed as an essential part of womanhood. As more emphasis is placed on diversity and individuality, cultural norms are evolving, however it is important to acknowledge AAPI beauty contributions and influence.
CULTURE & HISTORY
For instance, did you know that coconut is thought to have originated in Southeast Asian countries as well as near the Indian Ocean? And because of the Asian practice of not letting any part of the coconut go to waste, coconut water is used for replenishment of electrolytes and moisturizing the body from the inside out. And coconut oil has been used in countries such as the Philippines to condition hair and freshen breath. Rice is known as a staple crop on Korea and Japan. Rice water was used in China and Japan during a period known as the Heian period (794-1185 AD) as a gentle cleansing conditioner and was known for leaving skin and hair soft.
Styling throughout Asian history has also been an important indicator of identity as well. For instance, Pacific Islanders such as Samoans believe that their hair is connected to their Mana-a strong spiritual force connected to the body. As a result, long hair is important for both men and women and a right of passage for young boys transitioning into manhood is often accompanied by a ritual hair cutting ceremony. Also, in ancient China for instance, young, unmarried girls kept their hair in braids until their fifteenth Ji-Li ceremony, where their hair would transition into a combed twist secured by a Ji pin. This style indicated marriage readiness. So many of the styles in Ancient China required long hair which was a sign of parental respect and religious piety. And while styles varied depending on dynasties, the political and religious implications were a sign of the times.
Beauty from the East
Modern Asian beauty standards have evolved from ancient customs and beliefs. Hair in ancient Asian civilizations told stories of age, social status, religious beliefs, and political affiliation. Beauty standards vary from country to country. For instance, Korean beauty ideals include slim figure, pale skin, and straight eyebrows. Chinese beauty ideals focus on double folded eye lids, pale skin, and goose-egg face shape. Paler skin, slim build and taller height are viewed as attractive male characteristics. Hair is still an important focus for defining beauty standards and there are tremendous contributions from Asian culture that has impacted the beauty norms. For instance, more natural ingredients such as rice water and ayurvedic oils for nourishment and shine, are showing up in leading hair and skin products. While some ancient traditions remain, such as shaved Buddhist Monk heads and long hair, western influence has begun to create wider acceptance of length variations and style variations such as hair color.