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Iconic Beauty

by Isabel Burton

Traditional routines with deep roots, delivering real results, are taking the spotlight. Here, your guide to ancient-meets-modern skincare.

In the rushed pace of our contemporary lives, a desire to decelerate and reconnect with more intentional experiences has gained traction, particularly in the sphere of beauty. As a much-needed break from go-go-going forward, we’ve started looking back, finding real value in the traditional practices of our ancestors that not only make us look and feel beautiful, but let loose a cascade of benefits to our wellness overall.

“Many ancient beauty rituals remind us of the importance of being leisurely and devoting time to ourselves,” says Stefanie DiLibero, a licensed acupuncturist and esthetician, and founder of the acupuncture studio, Gotham Wellness. “That’s huge in this day and age. And practices that date back thousands of years and still hold up have proven success, certainly much more so than the latest TikTok craze. There’s a distinct elegance in that.”

Indeed. Experiences such as aesthetic acupuncture that entails chilling out while strategically placed needles do their work to revitalize skin, and a hammam’s intensely indulgent body scrub, invite us into the here-and-now with full endorsement to just luxuriate.

These rituals require tuning into our senses, and let us escape, at least for a bit, from the digitized world.

Beyond the physical, ancient customs foster an understanding and appreciation of heritage, points out Ruth-Ann Thorn, founder of N8iV Beauty, a Native American skincare brand. Beauty, in this context, becomes an expression of our personal stories and a way to connect with something bigger than ourselves. “The conversation around beauty is evolving, placing increasing emphasis on a significance deeper than a product. That’s exciting,” says Thorn. “Our mission is to encourage users to honor themselves and ensure that this precious wisdom does not vanish.”

Shrankhla Holecek, founder of the Ayurvedic brand UMA, says she’s also seeing a growing passion for treatments and products that come from age-old knowledge. For one, science is now proving the efficacy of what our ancestors understood experientially. “People want to address their beauty needs with what works. But they want more in the process,” she says. “It’s why our goal with UMA is not just to rejuvenate your skin, but also upgrade your life, help you rest better, and feel more positive—all part of the Ayurvedic philosophy.”

And that positive feeling, and joy, is perhaps the most important factor that plays into these practices. The enduring rituals are designed around peace and pleasure, and really, isn’t that what brings the most radiant glow? Acupuncture, for one, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system—the antidote to the “fight or flight” response, explains DiLibero. “It showers our system with endorphins, and as we relax, our expressions soften. Blockages that obstruct the flow of qi, blood, and lymph dissipate, giving you a healthier complexion.”

The following time-tested rituals and ingredients are making a powerful resurgence in modern skincare, offering a refreshing approach to beauty that blends tradition with today’s science and tech. These practices not only illuminate our skin, they also illuminate our understanding of the past, present, and even the future.

Aesthetic Acupuncture

Acupuncture, which originates in ancient Chinese medicine reaching back to 100 BC, uses hair-thin needles to manipulate energy flow through bodily pathways called meridians. The holistic approach addresses symptoms for better health, and with Gotham Wellness founder, DiLibero’s innovative acupuncture facial, better skin.

The aesthetic experience combines the inside-out benefits of acupuncture with cutting-edge technology. DiLibero’s philosophy: skin issues and skin aging are the tip of an iceberg that goes much deeper than the epidermis. In her version (DiLibero travels to resorts and spas to offer her facials around the world), sessions start with a conversation about lifestyle and health. She then applies acupuncture needles into strategic points on the body to treat problem areas. “Aesthetic acupuncture confronts symptoms of internal imbalance—be it poor digestion, stress, insomnia, and so forth,” she explains. “These imbalances manifest externally as visible signs of aging, hyperpigmentation, acne, and other skin concerns.” She then applies the needles to the face where they stimulate energy, blood flow, and muscles to lift, sculpt, soften lines, and prompt collagen production. DiLibero incorporates a sculpting massage for the face, neck, and chest to activate the meridians, plus oils and masks, and a meditative session under a high-tech LED machine to reduce inflammation and prompt recovery. The result is a totally refreshed appearance with skin that’s firm and radiant.


Modern hammams are emerging as a beauty trend across the United States, reimagining the bath houses that date back centuries and once served as public spaces dedicated to wellness, beauty, prayer, and community. Most prevalent in Middle Eastern and North African cultures, they’ve evolved to be more luxurious and involve hot and cool temperature exposure for their healing and immune-boosting abilities, exfoliation to ramp up circulation and create radiance, and massage for full-body bliss. The benefits extend far beyond an outer glow (though there is that for sure).

“Hammams are also about relaxation, which is something we prioritize,” says Gabrielle Ophals, co-owner of Haven Spa, which offers hammam treatments for a fully sensorial beauty experience to upgrade your skin, along with your connection with yourself. The session starts with a steam bath, followed by a neck-to-toe exfoliation using black Beldi soap, a super- moisturizing cleanser made from olive oil and an essential part of the hammam ritual. Nourishing Rhassoul clay is then applied all over before you’re wrapped in warmth, a process fondly referred to as “the marination phase.” A final massage with dry oil leaves your skin incredibly soft and hydrated, and your mind completely at ease. “In the modern world, we sometimes forget about the value of caring for ourselves by taking time for pampering,” says Ophals. “Just that element goes a long way to make you radiant, gorgeous, and very happy.”

The Ayurvedic Facial

Ayurvedic beauty is grounded in self-understanding, explains Misa Kubo, owner of Wild Lotus Ayurveda. “We’re each a distinctive mix of five elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. It’s your unique blend that establishes your characteristics, or dosha, which guides your personal beauty and wellness path.”

An Ayurvedic facial takes cues from your dosha to harmonize your skin and your whole being, thereby promoting wellness, serenity, and a natural glow. Kubo explains: “The treatment considers all facets of your body and mind. When I give facials, I select the appropriate blend, weight, and temperature of certain face oils for your dosha to produce the most effective skin benefits.” Kubo applies them through a face, neck, and head massage, varying her intensity according to your needs, to both stimulate and soothe. She also incorporates sound and vibrations using bells that she places on your body to reverberate through your muscles. “All of these components aid in balancing those five elements in the body, which, collectively, contribute to the health of your complexion,” she says.

Beautifying Botanicals

Long before the advent of modern medicine, ancient cultures relied on nature, cultivating an impressive knowledge of the potency of indigenous ingredients. Beauty brands are taking those learnings to create products that combine heritage botanicals with science-backed results. Not only do they enhance your skin, they leverage our connection to the earth, and introduce new-comers to long-held customs.

Redmint, a TCM wellness brand, offers what it calls “ancient care,” with herbal supplements and skincare products based on the wisdom of Ancient Chinese Medicine, and updated with science, to feed the skin’s microbiome, moisturize, and restore elasticity and luminosity.

The Native American skincare brand N8iV Beauty looks to the highly nutrient acorn oil as its hero ingredient. “In our culture, the medicinal use of acorns dates back over 14,000 years,” says founder Thorn. Due to its richness in tannins, the oil, which shows up in its serums and moisturizers, deeply penetrates skin to allow its nutrients to heal, restore, and revitalize. “We’re all searching for places to bring meaning, and beauty that feels good,” Thorn says. “We want to deliver potent skincare, and to empower you to feel proud of your uniqueness.”

Founded by Moroccan entrepreneur Hind Sebti, Whind makes products that promise highly effective results plus a deeply sensorial experience. The full lineup of skincare products is created to have textures and scents that are as pleasurable to use as they are potent. Sebti’s upbringing instilled in her an appreciation for the joyful beauty practices characteristic of her culture. Noticing a lack of this delight in the contemporary beauty industry, she was inspired to chart a new path. “The brand revives precious rituals and bolsters them with science-backed formulations, using powerhouse ingredients native to Morocco, like rejuvenating prickly pear oil, deep cleansing Rhassoul Clay, hydrating rose water, and brightening orange blossom water,” she says. “Whind’s mission extends beyond skincare though—it’s about recreating a sense of joy, indulgence, and the transformative power of self-care.”

Acaderma harnesses the medicinal properties of Kinkeliba, a plant native to the arid climates of West Africa’s Sub- Saharan region. “Kinkeliba is a powerful antioxidant, and helps protect skin from signs of aging,” says founder and cosmetic scientist, Dr. Shuting Hu. “It’s been utilized in Africa for centuries as a tea to cure health issues and promote wellbeing, and for the first time, we’re incorporating the ingredient into cutting-edge skincare.”

The brand has extracted the active components of the plant to create a proprietary ingredient, Seh-Haw EX, included in formulas such as the Oasis Barrier Booster Serum, that is scientifically proven to reduce redness, repair the skin barrier, and combat inflammation, which often leads to collagen and elastin breakdown, according to Dr. Hu. It also enhances cell survival rates, contributing to healthier, more resilient skin.

But Acaderma is not only about high-performing products; it’s also about nurturing community, prosperity, and keeping tradition alive. Partnering with ASNAPP (Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products), the brand employs and supports local women to participate in the growth of the company.

Rooted in Ayurveda, UMA utilizes a long list of nutrient-rich botanicals including aloe, Indian gooseberry, and chamomile to create a range of face and body products that work with Ayurveda’s holistic philosophy: Address the root cause of ailments and you’ll bring about good health, and great skin. “Our products aim to rejuvenate, heal, and add luminosity, but also foster peace of mind and optimism,” says Holecek, who points out that alongside tradition, they also employ rock-solid science. To prove efficacy, the brand had over a thousand women test their blends, and they delivered visible results in skin brightness and clarity, and reduced fine lines in 93% of participants. “Ayurvedic beauty emphasizes the interconnectivity of the mind, body, and environment to deliver results,” adds Holecek. “This is stuff backed by over 5,000 years of science and instinctual knowledge. And yet, it’s the next frontier in beauty.” 

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