Imagine yourself walking up and down the streets of Malé, minding your own business. And curiously observing everybody around you looking incredibly beautiful. With faces well made, and smelling of impeccable fragrances. Not a beard in sight that has not been neatly clipped, not a cheek that is not sharply contoured.
You start to wonder if there is a conspiracy that prompts these people of Malé to look exceptionally beautiful. And if somehow you have missed it.
Worry not! It is neither a conspiracy, nor is it perfection. It is simply the power of cosmetics.
What used to be a simple after-thought before leaving the house, has now evolved into lengthy procedures that people insistently adhere to. Be it tedious makeup techniques or ‘one-step-two-step’ lotioning routines, people of our city are persistent. Without a doubt, every city in the Maldives and in the world are presently tangled in this curse of constant beautification.
This practice, naturally, is a reflection of the time we live in. A time of entire internet websites dedicated to, for lack of a better term, 'looking cute'. A time that glorifies online racey pictures of ‘reality-stars’. A time which reveres celebrities and encourages vanity.
In this window, however, I would like to evoke a time where we had limited access to cosmetics, and an all round simpler approach to beauty. Maldivians were more natural and not as preened.
Here are some beauty products that extended solace to hair, faces and bodies of Malé during a time of minimal cosmetics.
A well-liked hair oil that gained popularity among Maldivians in the mid-to-late 70s. Country of original production is traced back to Bahrain. The word 'otto' is derived from the Arabic word 'ottor', which means perfume. The Maldivian adaptation of the word :'atharu', also means the same.
This rose infused hair oil, bottled in glass and capped with plastic, was the most favored commodity among Maldivians to keep their hair healthy and shiny. Especially among the ladies, whose long hair had to survive the tropical weather of the Maldives.
Translated from Cantonese as 'Three Winds Begonia' powder, this press powder was a popular option for Maldivian women who wished to add a little color to their faces. Country of original production is traced to Hong Kong: from a cosmetics company by the name of 'Sam Fong Cosmetic. Co. Ltd'.
Although available in both white and pink, the more widely used product in the Maldives was the pink colored powder. This tiny, square shaped, plastic box was a must-have on every 70's Maldivian woman's dresser.
As an American variation of 'Cologne Water - Eu de Cologne', Florida Water has been a popularly used alternative cologne-water in the world since the turn of the 20th century. With production expanding to outside of its originally produced America.
'Jade Butterfly's original production is traced back to Hong Kong. It gained popularity in the Maldives as, not only a fragrant cologne, but also a cooling solution that was used on skin irritations. It will be ineluctable for any Maldivian to reminisce the very specific scent that this cologne has, since every household in the Maldives owned at least one of these sleek glass bottles of 'Jade Butterflys’.
One of the staple talcum powders in the world, Cuticura is an American brand synonymous with healthy skincare products. The company, since it's establishing in 1865, has produced a wide range of skincare products including soaps, ointments and powders.
The bright orange, plastic talcum powder bottle has been widely used in the Maldives since its introduction to the market in the 1970's. Cuticura Talcum Powder has been used as relief for dry, irritated and eczema-prone skin. It was an essential commodity to have in our homes taking into consideration the hot weather of the Maldives.
Dating back to 1916, this sandalwood soap has been an excessively saleable product on the market. The country of original production is traced to India. The state of Mysore used to be one of the largest producers of sandalwood in the world.
Sandalwood, even in its unprocessed form, has been a 'classic' among Maldivians for purposes of beauty and skincare. Without a doubt, this beauty soap that consisted pure sandalwood became a commonly used product among Maldivians back in the day.
With this short insight, let us keep our heads held high be it without the excessive use of modern-day insurmountable beauty products. Neither the belligerent make-up routines nor the bourgeoisie perfumes qualify as a necessity for keeping ourselves clean and groomed.
A few basic products kept our grandparents and parents looking exquisite, hot and tasty! Come to think of it, who wouldn't aspire to look as ‘cool’ as they did back in the day?