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iVillage: Global Beauty: Skincare Traditions from Around the World

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Ireland: Seaweed as a Curative Soak

Seaweed may be most associated with Japanese cuisine and culture, but the Irish have a long, deep tradition of soaking in seaweed-infused baths to cure dermatological ailments. For the treatment, seawater is pumped directly from the ocean into large cast iron tubs (chosen for their heat retention), and then piles of locally harvested seaweed are added in. Within a few minutes, the plants release alginic acid, a silky compound of essential oils that nourishes and heals the skin.

Cultural practice: In the Edwardian era, dedicated seaweed bathhouses dotted the coastline in County Sligo and County Kerry, with people of all ages using the baths medicinally and recreationally, enjoying a pint or cocktail while they bathed and strolling along the seafront post-soak. After a drop off in popularity, the tradition has recently experienced a resurgence, as psoriasis sufferers rediscover the treatment's healing benefits.

(CREDIT: Paul Kay/Oxford Scientific/Getty Images)
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