The Secrets of Traditional Asian Beauty

We take a look at ancient natural beauty remedies that Asian women have been using for centuries.


Closely related to the common tea plant, Camellia japonica is an evergreen shrub valued for its attractive flowers. The plant has been cultivated in East Asia for centuries, even appearing in art and porcelain from the 11th century.

Japanese women, particularly geishas, have traditionally used oil cold-pressed from the seeds of C. japonica to make their hair glossy and sleek. Called tsubaki oil, it is rich in fatty acids like omega-6 and omega-9 that make it an excellent emollient for both hair and skin. It is applied to damp hair after a bath, either by hand or with special combs made from tsuge or boxwood.

Tsubaki oil has spawned an entire industry, with shampoos, bath products and an array of sprays all eager to lay claim to its natural benefits. However, commercially extracted tsubaki oil is often processed with chemicals and high heat, which may reduce its effectiveness.

Photo: Shutterstock.
Photo: Shutterstock.

Rebecca did her PhD at the National University of Singapore where she studied how macrophages integrate multiple signals from the toll-like receptor system. She was formerly the editor-in-chief of Asian Scientist Magazine.

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