Facing Up

How Estonia does beauty (and what it costs).

Photo: The Amazings

Glamorous facial products with fancy packaging and exotic names have always left me cold. I never wanted under-eye creams with wrinkle-reduction isotopes. Instead, my weakness for beauty products has always been for the obscure and unlikely. I prefer that they seem like something no one else would put on their face or even bother to use at all. Here, in order of least to most effective, are the Estonian and American care products I’ve purchased and used in the last two years.

From the Kokos website, now defunct.

Jogurtišampoon takja ja raudrohuga vesilahustuv šampoonipulber (Yogurt shampoo powder with burdock and yarrow)

12,90 euros ($13.59)

Estonians have a great reverence for all things fermented, so yogurt is a natural additive in everything, including shampoo. This shampoo comes as a powder that has to be mixed with 50 ml of hot water before you can use it. Every single time. You can’t cheat and mix the whole thing up, because it will go bad. The water must be near boiling; my lazy attempt to mix it with shower water in the palm of my hand left me a lumpy sludge with dry chunks that stuck in my hair. This shampoo was both highly inconvenient and extremely ineffective, which is perhaps why the company has gone out of business since I bought it.

Photo by the author

Alus Šampūns

(Beer Shampoo)

15 euros ($15.80)

OK, I bought this beer shampoo in Latvia, not in Estonia, but I’m including it anyway. I bought it at the Beer Spa which perhaps accounts for its enormous price tag. In any case, it left my hair flat and greasy and the smell of hops got tiresome pretty quickly. The Beer Spa, however, was definitely worth it. I paid 98 euros ($103.22) for a 20-minute beer bath, which was a soak in a wooden barrel with the hops and beer foam while drinking a Valmiermuiža beer, and then I “had a rest in a straw bed” which was actually quite luxurious and not pokey at all. I also had a one hour beer massage for 60 euros ($63.20) and I smelled like beer for a week afterwards.

Orgaaniline Kadakas Palsam

(Organic Juniper Conditioner)

8,40 euros ($8.85)

This little bottle of conditioner smelled a bit like Pine-Sol and had a strange consistency between liquid and cream. It seemed to last forever, which was actually a drawback. The only plus side was that when I used the beer shampoo and the juniper conditioner together, I smelled like a Finnish tourist on a bender.

Photo by the author

Turbliss Bioactiivne Turbamask

(Turbliss Bioactive Peat Mask)

13 euros ($13.69)

Peat is the “highly organic material found in marshy or damp regions, composed of partially decayed vegetable matter” and this face mask’s peat comes from the Estonia bogs. Bogs are big in Estonia: Lonely Planet claims that bog walking is one of the best activities in the country. I can’t vouch for the bog walking, but the peat mask does make my face feel smooth and tight! It’s also super dark brown and has a chocolatey consistency, which is pretty cool. I’m also thinking about getting some bog shoes now.

Photo by the author

Mother Dirt Cleanser


This cleanser is supposedly the “first one ever to be formulated to preserve the good bacteria naturally found on the skin,”and it’s meant to be used with a bacteria spray to keep your biome intact. I didn’t buy the bacteria spray because it was more than $30, but the cleanser seems pretty good. It comes out in a foam puff, not a liquid, so it feels extra fancy for something called dirt. I still needed a moisturizer after I used it, though, so I guess my biome is ruptured.

Photo from the Mizon website

Mizon Snail Repairing Foam Cleanser


I bought this cleanser while I was back in the U.S., specifically because it was made with snail slime. I bought it at a Korean beauty products store in Chicago, and the saleswoman assured me that snail slime was huge on the market right now. It has a suitably mucus-like consistency and a fresh smell, and I like to think about applying snail slime to my face after my peat mask and maybe nibbling a lettuce leaf.

A++, would purchase again.

So, what have I learned from these forays into the wilderness of self-care (literally so, in the case of the bog mask)? Mostly that “how I will look” and “how this product works” are secondary concerns in my purchases. Perhaps self-care products are usually made with conventional, mundane ingredients like flower essences because those ingredients are effective and pleasant. But I’m unwilling to stop chasing the dream and be someone who just uses Suave. If someone starts producing shampoo made from cactus and chewing gum, I’ll be right there.

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