I basically called my mom for help. Except when I say mom, I mean an esthetician.
You might think moving from Mexico City to New York--the Big Apple, concrete jungle where dreams are made of (English isn’t my first language, but I know that’s terrible grammar, ALICIA)--would mean kissing my motherland’s beauty products goodbye and never turning back. So many options!
I definitely developed Duane Reade Syndrome (or Walgreens Syndrome, CVS Syndrome, etc.); I get a thrill every time I enter a fully stocked chain drugstore, with every product, every brand, every color, every promise to fix and rejuvenate and revitalize, all stacked up, shiny and new, staring at me, calling my name in beautiful, creepy harmony that only I can hear.
But when I relocated to New York for college, I accepted that there were certain products that these stores wouldn't have, and no matter what American version I found to replace them, they simply didn’t compare to the ones I’d left behind. While they were decent substitutes in a pinch, my trips back to Mexico always involved multiple trips the local pharmacy (Farmacias Simi, anyone?) to stock up on my beloved products.
HOLD THE TELÉFONO. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised when I recently discovered these products in none other than New York City. Not in a Mexican deli, or Spanish Harlem, or even in Loisaida--at Rite Aid.
Walking past the store, unaware of what I was about to find, I began to feel the symptoms of The Syndrome: a magnetic force pulling me into the store and, upon walking in, feeling I needed everything on the shelves. I grabbed a smartwater, a BumpIt, and a couple string cheeses before making my way over to my usual section, the For Women of Color shampoo aisle, which, for me, is synonymous with For Latina Women with Curly Hair.
And that’s where I saw them, lined up in all of their Mexican glory: my precious ex-pat products.
The best part? I can recommend my three favorites to you knowing that you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to fly to Mexico to get them, or even tens of dollars on international shipping.
Vitacilina is basically petroleum jelly, except it’s made of MAGIC. This multi-use ointment, I swear, cures everything from blemishes to chapped lips, and gives your face a dewy glow in the process.
I’d seen it my whole life--it’s a staple in every Mexican household--but never actually used it until my cousin got engaged when I was 14 and suddenly every woman in my 60-person-and-counting family began following strict beauty rituals every night in preparation for the wedding. One aunt applied Vitacilina to her entire face every evening and swore her skin felt softer, younger and more supple in the morning. (Maybe only do this if you sleep alone, which I do, TG.)
On my visits Mexico, I’d bring back at least five tubes of Vitacilina, and I wouldn’t let my family in during their visits to NYC without making them hold up a tube in the peephole. It also makes the rounds with my roommates.
“I’m breaking out!”—Vitacilina.
“My skin is dry!”—Vitacilina.
“Undereye wrinkles at 20?!”—Vitacilina.
“Is this rash normal?”—Vitaci-uh, I think the health center is just a couple blocks away.
Speaking of things found in every Mexican household, mothers douse their children with Manzanilla spray and lather their hair in Manzanilla shampoo and conditioner.
I don’t mean to make any overarching generalizations, but in my very personal opinion, Manzanilla accounts for probably 67% of every Mexican blonde kid’s hair color. A natural hair lightener made with chamomile extract, Manzanilla tames, detangles and gives hair sun-kissed brilliance, without turning it orange. Like a Sun-In that never was. But is.
I don’t use it often--my roots are well past my ears at this point--but plenty of my blonde friends down south can’t live without it. If anything, Manzanilla will hold you over during those weeks your bank account can’t quite handle a salon touch-up.
Run out of Vitacilina during a breakout? Perhaps you were particularly moody on a bad skin day and went to town on your face, leaving an unwanted skin crater? What if, three weeks ago, you burned your hand on The Wand (like I’m really going to use that complimentary glove it comes with) and now you have an S-shaped scar developing on your hand?
Concha Nacar, friends. This cream fades any kind of mark that a cut, scrape, burn or picked-at-pimple left behind. Just dab it on the affected area and rub it in until the mark gradually, but surely, fades away.
Sometimes, when I have a few post-breakout marks that need attention, I spot-treat overnight. (Like with Vitacilina, I don’t recommend trying this unless you sleep alone.)
What about you? Are there any products from your homelands that you’ve incorporated into your beauty routine? Do tell!