The Indonesian rite of beauty

  • A young Indonesian woman
  • Kiehl's customer consultation
  • Traditional Indonesian wedding make-up called
  • Deep-rooted beauty

Many beauty rites that are still practiced today have evolved over time while preserving their traditional characteristics. Most of them use natural products and are focused on three main categories: baths, scrubs and massages.

This is especially the case with Mandi Susu, which is a beauty bath used by Javanese princesses for centuries as an elixir of youth. Goat, sheep or cow’s milk was used before more modern formulas were developed that retain the active principles of softening proteins.

Another example is Mandi Luhur, a skin care treatment practiced in Javanese palaces since the 17th century. This scrub is made of a paste composed of herbs and other ingredients – including curcuma, sandalwood, jasmine oil and rice powder – soaked in water. Today, it is regularly performed in beauty salons and ready-to-use pastes can be purchased.

There are two main types of Indonesian massages: urut and pijat. The urut massage is often associated with medical treatments. It works on the muscles and nervous system to stimulate blood circulation and the lymphatic system to help eliminate toxins. The masseurs use their fingers, palms and fists and sometimes even their entire bodies. This is not a “comfortable” or relaxing massage. The more frequently enjoyed pijat massage is gentler and more relaxing. It is a less technical massage and works by relaxing tensions with the use of coconut oil mixed with tropical flowers.

Indonesians are also very sensitive to the beauty of their hair. Long, dark and straight hair and a healthy scalp are the yardstick for beauty for many women. This explains the cream bath phenomenon. This uniquely Indonesian treatment lasts 45-60 minutes per session. Hair is first washed then towel-dried in preparation for the cream application. Different types of hair creams are available for addressing different concerns. Some salons also include fresh, natural ingredients such as aloe vera, avocado, strawberry and lemongrass to the cream. The cream is then applied over hair and scalp with a gentle head massage, followed by either wrapping the head with a warm towel or placing the top of the head in a steamer for 15 minutes to encourage blood circulation while opening hair roots to absorb the properties of the applied cream. Finally, the cream is removed with a shampoo and rinse, followed by the application of hair tonic before being blown dry. Besides being a pampering and relaxing treat, many Indonesians swear by the results: women love it as it makes their hair lustrous and soft, while men believe it is an effective method for preventing hair loss.