Beauty Tripping

The Global Guide To Looking “Naturally” Hot, By City

From Los Angeles to Nairobi.

by Calin Van Paris
Nine women explain what looking "naturally" hot means to them.
@kuiwrites, @camilacoutinho, @bagandaberet, @monicasantosgil, @caitkiernan, @vasudha.rai, @tamtamvu, @gaelleprudencio, @sabbytan66

When it comes to looking effortlessly hot, the techniques and standards can vary greatly from city to city. In São Paulo, sexy and sultry is the end goal, while Paris favors a no-makeup aesthetic. Nairobi loves bold, playful colors; Singapore tends to keep things clean and minimalist; and NYC is all about subtle enhancements. One fact, though, is universal: “effortless” beauty is usually anything but.

We spoke to a selection of stylish women around the world about their approach to an effortless aesthetic. What we found is a map of varied values, regional influence, and some surprising shared standards — all of which combine to confirm that everyone, no matter where you live, is doing something. Comforting! Here, nine women dish on what “natural” beauty looks like in their home countries.

Nairobi, Kenya: Kui Mwai

What three words would you use to describe the beauty scene in Kenya?

Evolving, bold, and theatrical.

What does “natural beauty” look like in Kenya?

A “natural” look definitely means no foundation, an easy, quickly swept-on sparkly or colorful eye, and a gloss of some sort. More women here are embracing their natural hair, which I love, so I'm seeing a lot of wash-and-go styles and beautiful afros with minimal curl manipulation.

How much time do you dedicate to a “natural” beauty look?

I spend about 10 minutes in the morning getting ready. In the a.m., I’ll use my skin care brand (coming 2022) Karibu Skin’s Laini — “laini” means smooth in Swahili — Cleansing Balm and follow up with our Kila Siku Moisturizer with SPF 16, Nairobi’s first locally-made mineral sunscreen.

I love a no-makeup moment, so I often will just use our cleansing balm to slick my brows, a little mascara and cream blush (I use Fenty's Cheeks Out Freestyle Cream Blush in Fuego Flush and NYX’s Sweet Cheeks in the deep berry shade), and a little gloss sealed with Vaseline.

How much money do you spend on beauty monthly?

I spend $50 to $100 or so every couple of months. Shipping makes it super expensive, and unfortunately a lot of local beauty businesses’ products can be pricey. But supporting those local businesses and the Black-owned beauty brands I love in the United States is definitely worth it.

São Paulo, Brazil: Camila Coutinho

What three words would you use to describe the beauty scene in Brazil?

Feminine, sexy, and natural.

What does “natural” beauty look like in Brazil?

Brazilian women are obsessed with beauty and self-care. There is always this feminine aesthetic. We are very good at doing hair and makeup.

How much time do you dedicate to a “natural” beauty look?

In the morning it's very fast — like, 10 minutes — because I don’t wear much makeup. It’s more sunscreen with [a tint], a concealer, pink blush, eyebrow combing, eyelash mask, and lip balm. And I stay like this all day.

At night, I like to get ready more calmly. [I usually spend an] hour because I do my hair and I care more about [how my makeup looks]. I can't live without my customizable hair care line, GE Beauty, which I launched one year ago. There are seven customizable products that, combined with each other, enable different actions and benefits for your hair.

Any treatments you swear by?

I get Botox and [skin tightening treatment] Ultraformer every six months.

How much money do you spend on beauty monthly?

I'm not a good reference for this, as I [get a lot of products sent to me]. But I think if I were to buy, between services and products, it would be about $200 to $300 a month.

Vancouver, Canada: Mel Kobayashi

What three words would you use to describe the beauty scene in Vancouver?

Natural, fresh, clean.

What does “natural beauty” look like in Vancouver?

We tend to be a no-fuss city when it comes to style and beauty, with a reliance on overall health and wellness. The popularity of yoga and easy access to nature and outdoor sports, like skiing, hiking, and sailing, are reflected in a minimalist beauty aesthetic. That said, we certainly also know how to dress it up.

How much time do you dedicate to a “natural” beauty look?

Apart from showering, I spend up to 10 minutes in the morning and in the evening on my beauty routine. Usually, I just use body moisturizer — I like my vegan moisturizer, La Perla Beauty Firming Body Lotion Serum, which comes in a refillable dispenser with recyclable packaging.

How much money do you think you spend on beauty monthly?

Probably less than $30, although I will occasionally splurge to try new products. My husband has a talent for cutting my naturally silver hair, which also eliminates salon expenses.

San Juan, Puerto Rico: Monica Santos Gil

What three words would you use to describe the beauty scene in Puerto Rico?

Eclectic, vibrant, and fresh.

What does “natural beauty” look like in Puerto Rico?

There’s a big multicultural mix in Puerto Rico, where hair can range from beautiful bouncy curls to straight and silky. Everyone’s skin is glowing and radiant due to the tropical climate, and makeup varies from a natural I-went-to-the-beach-today look to over-the-top going-out makeup. Every look is celebrated!

How much time do you dedicate to a “natural” beauty look?

I usually spend around 15 to 30 minutes on my morning beauty routine, depending on the state of my skin. Throughout the week, I like to do a lot of at-home DIY masks with natural ingredients, such as a turmeric-honey face mask or pure aloe hair mask. I also swear by Youth to the People’s face products — mostly, the Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser, Superberry Dream Oil, and Adaptogen Deep Moisture Cream. I use Fresh’s Rose & Hyaluronic Acid Deep Hydration Toner twice a week and Briogeo’s Avocado + Kiwi Hair Mask once a week. For hair, I’m a big fan of Briogeo and Crown Affair products — the Hydrating Hair Oil leaves my naturally frizzy/wavy hair silky-smooth.

I’m very low-key when it comes to makeup. Although I don’t wear a lot of makeup personally, I do like an occasional glitter eyeshadow paired with light concealer and a cream blush for a night out.

How much money do you spend on beauty monthly?

I’ll spend roughly around $200 to $250 on skin care products, $150 on hair, and $80 to $100 on makeup — they’ll usually last me between three or four months.

New York City: Cait Kiernan

What three words would you use to describe the beauty scene in New York?

Innovative, passionate, and devoted.

What does “natural beauty” look like in New York?

I think our aesthetic is chic. Yes, there will always be people who take it to the next level, but what I love about New York is that makeup, hair, skin care, cosmetic work is less focused on trends and more about what enhances your look — no matter what your age. It’s natural-looking and sophisticated. Less is more for New York women.

How much time do you dedicate to a “natural” beauty look?

In the morning, I’ll spend 30 minutes (15 minutes for skin care, 15 minutes for my microcurrent routine), followed by one hour if I need to do hair and makeup. Since the pandemic, I’ve stopped doing glam unless I have to. Now, more than ever, I focus on good skin care and hydrating hair treatments and leave it at that. I use SPF in the morning and retinol every other night.

My evening routine takes 30 minutes — 15 minutes for skin care and 15 minutes for LED treatment.

Do you get any treatments?

At home, I use LED and microcurrent devices. I get Botox and do laser treatments twice a year in the fall and spring.

How much money do you spend on beauty monthly?

The things I do are not inexpensive. I’ll leave it at that.

New Delhi, India: Vasudha Rai

What three words would you use to describe the beauty scene in New Delhi, India?

Dynamic, traditional, essential.

What does “natural beauty” look like in India?

In my country, clean skin (without foundation and with just a touch of kohl) is considered natural. Dark, textured hair is also considered natural.

How much time do you dedicate to a “natural” beauty look?

I spend a lot of time on beauty because I like to experiment with traditional remedies. So, let’s say 15 minutes for a face massage, plus five minutes of dry brushing and maybe a DIY face mask, which I keep on my face for an hour as I write, edit, or reply to emails.

My favorite beauty treatment is a daily facial massage, which could either be manual or with a kansa wand or a gua sha tool. I also love a daily face mask with Ayurvedic herbs. My favorite combination is 1/2 teaspoon each of red sandalwood and wild turmeric mixed with raw honey and saffron-infused milk, which is probably as brightening as a vitamin C serum. I also love LED masks and short-contact tretinoin.

[For a natural look], I like use a Givenchy concealer, a bit of Nars Laguna Liquid Bronzer on my cheekbones, and a tinted lip balm — I like Enn’s Closet Hyaluronic Lip Mask.

For my hair, I like to use a leave-in conditioner from Sachajuan and then braid semi-dry hair, tucking the front sections behind my ears. When dry, I just unbraid my hair and et voila — natural waves. I love applying oil on my hair as a mask twice a week; these days, my holy-grail hair oil is Ohria Ayurveda Japa Pushpa Thailam.

Do you get any treatments?

I take care of my skin at home and rarely get a facial. This year, I’ve only gotten two facials at the doctor’s office.

How much money do you spend on beauty monthly?

I don’t spend money on beauty every month — however, every few months, I'll spend anything between $200 to $500, primarily on skin care.

Los Angeles: CeCe Vu

What three words would you use to describe the beauty scene in Los Angeles?

Cutting-edge, diverse, daring.

What do you think “natural beauty” looks like in Los Angeles?

A fresh faced, no make-up makeup look is considered natural here, but it also takes work and confidence to sport it. I personally think a "natural" beauty look is glorified and misinterpreted in many ways. There are already so many made-up beauty standards nowadays. What is natural to one group of individuals might not be natural enough for others.

I love that the amazingly diverse community in Los Angeles is willing to experiment and get adventurous with their beauty approach.

How much time do you dedicate to a “natural” beauty look?

I spend around 30 minutes for a.m./p.m. routines respectively. For me, having healthy skin is a good start for a natural beauty look. In the morning, I wash my face with purified water, then gently press the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence onto my skin and follow with the Shiseido Benefiance Eye Cream. These two products have been my staples for more than 12 years. The last steps of my routine involve U Beauty Resurfacing Compound (which has simplified my shelf space and time spent significantly), Augustinus Bader the Cream, and of course, Supergoop sunscreen for daytime. I recently incorporated Tripollar Stop VX Gold into my weekly regimen to to stimulate collagen production as I age.

Makeup is actually a lot simpler for me and takes around 15 minutes.

Do you get any treatments?

I try my best to have a customized facial done once a month at [skin care clinic] The Things We Do.

Paris, France: Gaëlle Prudencio

What three words would you use to describe the beauty scene in Paris?

Chic, effortless, unique.

What does “natural beauty” mean in Paris?

I think most of the time a “natural” look is a healthy glow on the skin and some glossy lips, but not too much. People can be so judgmental here about [being different] that most of the women follow the same trend and won’t let their own personality and beauty shine through. I think that’s actually boring. There is a real lack of taking risks with beauty standards.

I am definitely not the “traditional” Parisian girl. I every day work on demystifying the vision of the typical French woman.

How much time do you dedicate to a “natural” beauty look?

I spend 15 minutes in the morning and night for my skin when I am not working, and 10 to 30 minutes for my hair, depending on my hairstyle. I am very much into taking care of my skin. I love Keys Soulcare Comforting Balm — I fell in love with it a few months ago.

Most of the time, I only wear makeup while on set. Apart from that, I love wearing liquid matte lipsticks — they don’t get ruined when I wear a face mask! I used to hear that [people with] big lips shouldn’t wear bright colors. Since I’ve learned to embrace my own kind of beauty, I’ve decided that lipstick is my signature.

About much money do you think you spend on beauty monthly?

I receive a lot of products [for free], but for sure I spend more or less $200 at the hair salon as I change my hairstyle quite often. I would also say $60 each month for nails and eyebrows.

Singapore: Sabrina Tan

What three words would you use to describe the beauty scene in Singapore?

Wellness from within. Asian beauty focuses on the environment and lifestyle pressures that affect your skin and starts with what you ingest and how you treat yourself.

What do you think “natural beauty” looks like in Singapore?

Singapore beauty is a combination of Japanese and Korean beauty, mixed with a Southeast Asian flair. In addition, Japanese and Korean beauty is about amazing natural ingredients, but also a minimalist [aesthetic].

How much time do you dedicate to a “natural” beauty look?

I don't spend more than five to 10 minutes in the morning and five to seven minutes at night.

I use my brand Skin Inc’s My Daily Dose serum with our award-winning absorption optimizer skin device, called Optimizer Voyage Tri-light — it helps boost absorption by 300%. I also swear by Olaplex Shampoo and Treatment Conditioner and Aesop Geranium Leaf Body Cleanser. My current favorite product is our newly launched Booster Shot, a super-cool product that is used as spot treatment.