Today, in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re paying tribute to Hispanic culture. When we think of Hispanic culture, we think of their amazing food, their lively music, or their vibrant energy. But Hispanic culture, just like any culture, also has some incredible trade secrets that they've passed down through the generations.
In this article, we’ll talk about five amazing Hispanic ingredients for glowing skin that you may not have heard of before, and we’ll highlight some amazing Hispanic founders in sustainable beauty who are making a difference in the world with their innovative and effective products.
What is National Hispanic Heritage Month?
National Hispanic Heritage Month is an appreciation of Hispanic culture. If you live in the United States, chances are you are pretty familiar with their amazing food, vibrant festivals, Cinco de Mayo and Day of the Dead celebrations, Mariachi bands, and the colorfully-ruffled and tiered dresses their beautiful Folklorico dances wear.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing people from Mexico, you’ll know that they are humble, hard-working, and hilarious. Their sense of humor is unlike any other I've ever met. They are known to use mockery and insults towards friends and family as terms of endearment.
Despite their comedic nature, Hispanic people are equally just as thoughtful and sincere, particularly when it comes to their traditions. These are traditions that have survived centuries because of their values of passing tradition on to their children and grandchildren.
The Difference Between Hispanic and Latino
As we are becoming more culturally-sensitive in society, it’s important to understand the difference between Hispanic and Latino people. Hispanic people are technically all Latino, but not all Latino people are Hispanic. Let me explain.
Any Spanish-language population is known as Hispanic. These include Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
The term “Latino”, on the other hand, refers to the geography of the 20 Latin American countries, such as Venezuela and Brazil, who speak other languages besides Spanish, like Portuguese. However—throwing you a curveball, here—just because this is the case in theory, does not mean that a person from any of these regions will identify as either Latino or Hispanic (1).
A study done in 2012 found that the majority (51%) of people say they most often identify themselves by their family’s country of origin—so “Mexican”, “Cuban”, “Colombian”, and so forth; compared to just 24% who say they prefer a pan-ethnic label, like “Hispanic” or “Latino”. While 21% say they identify as “American” most of the time.
This is also changing because, thanks to multiculturalism, many of the younger generations are of mixed-race. According to a report, Hispanic women are estimated to become 30% of the total female population by 2060, while the white female population will drop to 43% (2). The report also predicts that by 2060, there will be no single dominant ethnic group. Instead, the population in the US will be a diverse ethnic population.
But if what I just explained sounds a little confusing, the safest and most respectful way to go about this is to just ask. Most people will welcome your question if it’s coming from a place of curiosity and respect.
Just like any culture, Hispanic families have many secrets, like the secret ingredient in Abuela’s salsa, or Abuelo’s cure for a hangover. But after being passed down through so many generations, many of these “secrets'' are now common knowledge to many of us, and some secrets have even evolved slightly as civilization has changed and integrated with other cultures.
Today, more than ever before, people are looking for ingredients that are cleaner, safer, and more natural, from household cleaners to our skincare regimen. Lucky for us, we only need to look to our ancestors for the answers.
In many ancient civilizations, scientists have found evidence of native herbs and botanicals being used for medicinal and skincare purposes. Ayurveda is a popular and well known modality hailing from ancient India, but is still popular today. Take Anit Hora’s M.S.Skincare, for example. M.S.Skincare is where Ancient Ritual and modern science intersect.
African tribes were (and are still) known to rely on nature for its healing benefits. Argan and Shea Butter are two widely-used ingredients found in parts of Africa and are used to treat and nourish hair and skin.
Hawaiian natives have an amazing range of botanicals right on their doorstep. Kapua Browning’s Honua Skincare is an example of skincare brands that utilize what Mama Honua (Mother Earth) has given us, without compromising her integrity.
Eastern medicine is another ancient tradition that is still widely used today. Chinese herbalism takes ingredients from nature to heal and restore our wellbeing.
And, of course, in Mexico and other parts of Latin America you may have heard about curanderos (3). Curanderos were (and still are) traditional native healers or shamans found in Latin America who dedicate their lives to the administration of remedies for mental, emotional, physical and spiritual illnesses using botanicals and herbs from nature.
The modern beauty world is notorious for taking credit for ingredients that have been in use for centuries (4). According to Dakota Fahrenkrug: When the dominant culture in society takes aspects from another culture that’s experiencing oppression, that’s best understood as cultural appropriation.
Take smudging sage, for example. This custom comes from Native American/Indigenous culture, used in a sacred ritual. But today many non-native-owned brands offer sage smudging sticks in their products without understanding the cultural significance. So it’s important for consumers to be culturally-sensitive.
Five Amazing Hispanic Ingredients for Glowing Skin
Maize (corn) Extract.
Corn was domesticated by native people of Mexico over 9,000 years ago. This versatile grain is now one of Mexico’s most-loved ingredients in their food, and has some pretty significant skin benefits that you may not have known about.
Maize is high in ferulic acid, which protects the skin from UV-induced peroxidation—a process where the skin’s natural fats are broken down from sun exposure. Maize also has strong antioxidant and amino acid properties, and is effective at treating hyperpigmentation and dark spots.
When milled into a flour and applied as a mask, maize can strengthen hair and skin, and can also be used as an effective manual exfoliant, leaving skin glowing.
Calendula (also known as Cempasuchil or Marigold) has been used for centuries in herbal remedies. Calendula was introduced into Mexico hundreds of years ago by Europeans, and for generations has become one of Mexico’s most effective botanical ingredients in treating skin conditions.
Calendula is naturally anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, making it an incredible skin-soother for eczema, dermatitis, and dandruff. Also known to stimulate the skin’s collagen production, this powerful plant promotes glowing skin.
Some of our favorite sustainable beauty brands use calendula in their formulations. See them here.
Copal is a type of tree resin that is somewhere between gummy sap and hardened amber. Ancient Aztecs and Mayans used to use copal in ceremonies where it was burned during rituals. It was also used as makeup, and tooth adhesive in dentistry during the 16th Century. Due to copal’s link to our crown chakra, it is still used today as an incense in sweat lodge ceremonies and sacred mushroom ceremonies.
Copal has incredible antiseptic properties. When applied to the skin it facilitates the skin's healing from burns, to bites, and even infections.
Nopales are one of my favorite plants. This spiky Mexican native is abundant throughout South and North America, with over seven million acres dedicated to growing cactus, just in Mexico alone.
Not only is nopales a delicious ingredient in a taco (if you haven't yet, you must try it), but it is an awesome skincare ingredient. Nopales can survive even the most ridiculous drought. High in vitamins, water content, and antioxidants, these succulents hydrate and protect the skin from free radical damage, while boosting the collagen production deep in your dermis.
Stevie Fox has an amazing toner made using cactus flower and prickly pear that plumps, tones, hydrates, and exfoliates skin, leaving it feeling dewy and soft.
Here’s a little ingredient you may not have heard of. Tepezcohuite is a fern-like tree found in south Mexico. Ancient Mayans used the plant for healing burns and regenerating the skin.
Tepezcohuite is a natural antimicrobial and antibacterial agent for protection against infection, and is also high in antioxidants for skin repairing, and an anti-inflammatory for soothing inflamed skin. There's good reason why 55-year-old Mexican-native Salma Hayek swears by this ingredient in her skin regimen.
Four Hispanic-Owned Sustainable Beauty Brands
Ericka Rodriguez is the founder of Axiology, a sustainable makeup brand. Ericka designed the industry’s very first zero-waste crayons for lips, cheeks and eyelids, known as Balmies. Balmies have all-natural ingredients and come in lightweight paper packaging that can be recycled.
See the range of Balmies here.
Colombian-born Tata Harper has designed her skincare products with 100% natural ingredients, 80% of them organic. Not only that, but Tata Harper’s packaging is 95% recyclable glass, and they have partnered with Lonely Whale, a foundation committed to finding ways to save our ocean from single-use plastics.
Latina founders Christina and Ann started Vamigas when they learnt from a study that Latina women were found to have more hormone-disrupting chemicals in their bodies than white women. The study states that it was due to anti-aging skincare (known for containing more nasty chemicals than other products). Cleaner-ingredient skincare usually came with a higher price tag and was usually marketed to white women. So Christina and Ann decided to create a skincare brand that would be clean, sustainable, and accessible to all women.
Sandra Lilia Velasquez, a Latina from the US created Nopalera when she realized that Mexican artistry was not regarded as highly as products from other countries, like France. She wanted to elevate and celebrate Latina culture through her artisanal skincare products. As the name suggests, Nopalera is a range of skincare formulated with nopales (cactus). Her product range is small for now, with three soap bars, a moisturizing lotion bar, and a body scrub. But the ingredients are naturally-derived, and wildcrafted where possible. The brand is absolute rockstar, with an edgy design, and almost 100% plastic-free packaging.
Hispanic people have brought the United States so much culture, from their delicious food, to their festive music and celebrations, and more recently, to their contributions to the beauty industry.
It’s important to us that we highlight women-of-color in the beauty industry whenever we can. Particularly when there are so many out there doing us all proud with their innovation and forward-thinking, planet-first mindset. We need to elevate and celebrate them together.
Emma Masotti is an Australian now living in Austin with her Hispanic husband, and has been a trained esthetician for over 15 years. She is a sustainable skincare writer, educating and building awareness around proper skin health that doesn’t cost the earth.
Some of the products promoted in our blog are from our online store. Many others are brands we have researched and found to be great examples of sustainable, ethical, and innovative brands in their field, and we don't make any profit from mentioning them in our blog. #CollaborationOverCompetition