I basically called my mom for help. Except when I say mom, I mean an esthetician.
I'll admit that I had preconceived ideas about Tel Aviv prior to arriving. I was told that there was a buzzing nightlife scene and impressive food culture, but I still assumed the city itself would be relatively quiet and conservative. Not only was I unaware of how hip Tel Aviv is, but I had no idea how innovative its people are, as well.
In fact, I learned that there are more start ups per capita in Israel than any other country in the world, which kind of blows my mind. It was explained to me by Joanna Landau — founder of Vibe Israel and an entrepreneur herself — that this ingrained, innovative spirit is part Chumbawumb-ian ("I get knocked down, but I get up again"), part Chutzpah, and part desire to live better.
In any case, I came across that kind of spirit in all parts of the city, including the beauty and skincare realm. From Ahava's impressive laboratories (where they're literally growing skin on which to test their products) to a young owner of a boutique spa who opened her own specialty shop, to funky soap companies not afraid to stray from the norm, there was no shortage of inspiration. With that, I'd like you to join me on a digital walking tour, of sorts, of Tel Aviv's Beauty Scene.
Paula Rosenberg: Natural Nutritionist And Skincare Guru
I'll start at the very beginning, which entails a visit with one of Tel Aviv's most influential beauty gurus, Paula Rosenberg. She's a natural nutritionist who has her own popular skincare line, and also works as a TV host/local celebrity who isn't afraid to "get real" and bare her soul. It was a refreshing visit, and it honestly inspired me to start wearing natural deodorant more often because hers is legit.
While visiting her home, we DIYed two products: a water gel cream and a face mist/toner.
I've made a zillion face masks and hair masks — heck, I've even made hair conditioner — but I have actually never DIYed a face cream before. I was shocked at out surprisingly easy it was.
All we did was combine a water gel with oil, blended it, then added a bit of vitamin E to help naturally preserve, as well as some essential oils. I went with lemongrass, a popular skincare ingredient in Israel and one of my favorite scents. (I'd love to do a full tutorial for you all in the near future if that's of any interest!)
Speaking of customization, I noticed that was a trend across all of Israel in regard to wellness products. It makes sense, as not everything is a "one size fits all," and that includes skincare, too.
Sidebar example: While in Jerusalem I visited The Etrog Medicine Man, a bizarre but lovable human who assesses you and then prescribes a natural concoction (which may even include alcohol!) made specifically for what ails you. This tiny shop has been around for ages because people keep coming back.
In any case, we also made an incredibly aromatic toner, processing below, by steeping lemongrass with calendula and rosebuds. We then added a bit of essential oil to customize.
One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to walk around — without a destination and by myself — to simply explore what the city has to offer. This time around, I walked around with beauty and skincare in mind.
Let's start with Zielinksi & Rozen, an offbeat, apothecary-esque soap and fragrance shop with lots of personality. Unfortunately, the products are only available in Israel, but I visited this store twice. It has several locations, and is home to Israel's only nose. The store I visited was located in an old Arab district called Jaffa.
The product names alone were enough to make you want to thumb through every last product and read the label, and the fragrances themselves were unusual and heavenly. Some of my favorite scent combos were a passionfruit and black vanilla, and a black pepper, vetiver, neroli and amber. Hhnnnng...
Another tiny store I wandered into specialized specifically in pomegranate-infused products. Like lemongrass, I found that pomegranate was a really popular ingredient used in skincare throughout the country, partially because it grows naturally there.
I played with the lotions and creams and found them rich, but light. The same is true of the pomegranate seed oil, which soaks into skin similar to the way camellia or rosehip oil does.
Walking right along... I happened upon an upscale, very trendy lifestyle boutique by Sharon Brunsher that was meticulously conceived from begin to end. There was clothing and paper ephemera and home decor and beauty products, and it all fit together without a single trace of "try hard."
I admittedly didn't spend a ton of time inside drugstores or giant shopping centers in Tel Aviv, but I did poke around a little bit just to see what was offered.
As an aside, I actually spoke to a beauty writer who lives in the city and now works for Vibe Israel, the non-profit I traveled with. She lamented that Israel doesn't have a ton of access to skincare products from other countries. This is partially due to a perceived lack of interest in the market there (which is incorrect), and also because of strict regulations, especially on liquid products. There is no Sephora, there is no Ulta and — the horror — they've only just started getting access to Korean sheet masks. Many women travel specifically with the purpose of shopping for beauty and skincare products to bring back home.
That's not say Israel doesn't have some incredible things made within the country (they obviously do), but everyone likes diversity, and everyone wants to try the hot products going viral online.
Above is a shot inside of a drugstore. It's not so different from our own: pore strips, Neutrogena, sunscreen and makeup-removing wipes.
AHAVA is a very popular brand in Tel Aviv, and it's also available in the states. They utilize ingredients from the Dead Sea, and are doing some impressive things in their laboratories. For example, I mentioned previously that they're growing their own skin, which I was told "is the most beautiful thing" you've ever seen by the beauty writer I mentioned above.
They've also just discovered a plant at the Dead Sea that contains a natural version of what's found in Accutane. It's still about five years in the making, but it's very exciting stuff.
Another big name brand in Israel is Lavido, which has just made its way over to the states this year. It's known for its inclusion of organic ingredients (specifically oils) and cutting-edge technology.
A Tel Aviv Wellness Spa
Finally, I want to give you a peek into a tiny boutique spa I visited, mostly to share a specific example of how Israel places an emphasis on both organic/natural and personalized wellness.
Lila's sweet, two-room boutique spa is loaded up with natural ingredients, often sourced as locally as possible. Her individualized treatments are yet another extension of Israel's "we customize to you" philosophy.
Her method involves observing a client who walks in and then asking them questions to help figure out their needs. She was able to assess that I was going through a major life change, which is very true, and determined that the best treatment for me would be something simple and gentle. I found this interesting because I'm the type of person who loves the full-shebang potent facial and "bruise-me" deep tissue massage. It made me re-evaluate what I think I want versus what's good for me in the moment.
I love the concept of Lila's scrub bar, pictured above. The idea is that you chose one, two, or three of the natural ingredients to create an individualized treatment. On the adjacent wall, she had various oils you could dispense into a container, as well as salts, and you'd bring them all home wrapped separately. When ready to use, simply combine and scrub.
I didn't do a scrub, but I did walk away with a scented bar of pure shea butter, which you rub onto skin like lotion.
So there you have it. Clearly, one can't discover all of a city in two weeks' time, nor can you put two weeks worth of discoveries into one 1500-word story. But I hope that you walk away feeling like you at least have a cursory introduction to what Tel Aviv's beauty scene is like, and that it inspires you to visit the country yourself.
- Is there anything above that you'd love to shop?
- And have you tried any Israeli beauty brands before?