Even 3,000 years ago, the Maya (a collective term for people in areas including Southern Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador) placed a lot of emphasis on beauty and, what we now define as, moments of self-care.
Sophisticated before their time, the ancient Maya healers would busy themselves creating concoctions of herbs and plants that would guarantee benefits when applied to the face and body. Bathing was also intrinsic to the culture as a purification process — though there were likely no rubber ducks in sight, all those years ago.
Here’s how to incorporate some time-old Mayan beauty traditions in sync with celebrating Cinco de Mayo earlier this month. Margaritas and guacamole: optional.
Just like the Finnish swear by saunas and the Turks are devout to the Hammam, the Maya are similarly big fans of heat. Evidence of steam baths have been found at Maya ruins, and archaeologists say that sweat baths were a key part of the rituals before ceremonies at these sites.
The 'Temazcal,' an indigenous sweat lodge, is another common practice. It’s essentially a steam treatment purported to help get rid of toxins by using medicinal herbs which have been infused over heated volcanic rocks.
So how to DIY? Consider upping the ante for your next soak in the tub by adding restorative and purifying herbs like rosemary. The Maya would also light Copal incense to clear negative energy. *Adds to cart.*
Not just a delicious brunch staple, avocados were a revered beauty staple for the Maya. Thanks to its vitamin E content, when mashed up into a paste, the food makes for an inexpensive hydrating and glow-boosting face mask.
Depending on your skin concern, consider adding other Mayan favorites like rosehip oil, aloe vera, arnica, and lemon for the additional benefits.
Mayan Hair Wrap
The one-stop solution to dry, damaged, and dull hair? A nourishing and rich hair mask.
Enter our hero friend, the avocado, once more. Experts recommend combining one half-full avocado — depending on hair length — with a tablespoon of olive oil, one half-full banana, and one egg yolk for a strengthening formula. Apply the mixture to your locks and wrap your hair up in plastic or a shower cap for at least an hour before shampooing as normal.
Mayan Abdominal Massage
This traditional hands-on technique could be a game-changer for anyone who suffers from digestive issues. Passed down through generations of healers, the abdominal massage is also said to be beneficial for reproductive systems or pelvic pain.
In this YouTube video, a pelvic physical therapist explains the right way to carry out this therapeutic process.
Balché is an ancient Maya ceremonial drink that is prepared with the bark of the balché tree and melipona honey. While it’s mildly intoxicating, the premise of the beverage has inspired modern-day spa treatments in areas like Cancun.
A popular balché body treatment usually involves a cleansing scrub with brown sugar and cinnamon, followed by a massage with a mixture of blaché and herb-infused oils. Put your own spin on it at home by deeply exfoliating and then applying a skin-smoothing, honey-scented moisturizer.