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Japanese Beauty Secrets

Tratto da Oprah Magazine

How do you define beauty? Is it a small waist and large breasts? A perfect smile and straight hair? If you flip through the pages of an American fashion magazine, you may think beauty is narrowly defined…but that’s not the case.

Mara, a digital correspondent for NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, says Japanese women believe their skin is the key to true beauty. Miki Okae, one of Japan’s most famous beauty experts, says the ideal is fair, smooth skin. “Everyone demands that,” she says.

While some Americans get collagen and Botox injections to erase wrinkles, Japanese women believe in a different approach—they consume collagen-infused foods. Miki says eating collagen-rich beef tendons is a regular part of her beauty routine. “I sneak out of the office when the supermarket opens to buy this,” she says.

Many restaurants even feature collagen, which is derived from animals like cows and chickens, on their menus. “Collagen-infused food is everywhere in Japan,” Mara says.

Every day for the past five years, Miyuki, a 30-year-old woman living in Tokyo, says she’s been drinking a combination of collagen and water to look more youthful. Some days, she mixes the animal product with tea. “It makes my skin beautiful, I guess.”

After speaking with women like Miyuki, Mara consults a dermatologist, who says there’s no evidence that what you drink or eat will improve sagging skin or erase wrinkles…but that’s not deterring millions of Japanese women. “People really swear by it. It makes them feel better,” Mara says. “It makes them feel healthier and more beautiful.”

One century-old Japanese beauty treatment also relies on an unusual ingredient…nightingale droppings. The bird droppings are made into a powder—known as Uguisu no Fun—mixed with soap and used as a face wash. Mara meets Kamiko and Miki, a mother-daughter pair who swear by this product. At ages 43 and 70, they say bird poop facials are their secret to looking young.

In Mauritania, plump is sexy

Tratto da Oprah Magazine

In the United States and many countries around the world, thin is the standard when it comes to beauty. But in a West African country halfway around the world, bigger is definitely better. Mauritania is a desert oasis that sits on the northwest coast of Africa. Here, a woman’s beauty is revered—but thin isn’t in. In Mauritania, plump is sexy!

While it might sound nice to throw dieting out the window, it’s not all pleasant. For generations, young girls were subjected to the practice of gavage—or force feeding—in order to fatten them up and make them more desirable. In Mauritania, many say the more you weigh, the better chances of you have of finding a husband.

Although force feeding is now frowned upon by the government, old habits die hard in remote areas of the country. Some young girls spend hours each day in the stifling heat, forced to stuff themselves with couscous and high-fat camel’s milk. Vomiting only leads to another helping of food.

Even in Mauritania’s more progressive cities, some women are willing to do anything for a fuller figure, including buying black-market drugs meant for animals.

Nowadays – the government is trying the undo the culture – by pushing a “slim-down” campaign. However, old stereotypes are hard to change in an environment that it is not swamped with mass media.