• Give a Gift
  • Customer Service
  • Promotions
  • Videos
  • Blogs
  • Win
  • Games

September 4, 2012

Beauty Travelogue: Istanbul

In a city that (literally) bridges Europe and Asia, beauty rites run the gamut from hammams to healing teas. Ying Chu hunts for true Turkish delights.

Special Offer

FROM THE MOMENT MY 11-hour flight from JFK touches down at Atatürk International Airport, I realize that things in Istanbul are changing—and fast. Modern Turkey (formed in 1923) is a stark contrast from its Byzantine roots, and it's obvious as I approach the city: Ornate mosques juxtapose sleek skyscrapers (many of which house luxury malls like The Kanyon), bustling women in hijabs (headscarves) shop alongside others in jeans and flirty blouses. I blend in the best I can with flowy dresses and scarves, ready to explore the eclectic culture, old and new. One thing's for sure—the steely blue Bosphorus Sea, which acts as a physical divide between Turkey's European and Asian sides, is the pride of Istanbul. The water is credited with the city's vibrant energy (and serves as a picturesque backdrop for the upcoming Bond flick, Skyfall). A trip by ferry is also a dream because, like in NYC, traffic here is a mess. I feel instantly at home.

"We are brought up living and breathing the roses—it's in our skin tonics, shampoos, perfumes. We drink it in teas, eat it in lokum [Turkish Delight]," says Seren Yücel, a 24-year-old reservation coordinator at The Edition Hotel in the Levent, Istanbul's financial mecca. Tall, thin, with rolling chestnut waves and honey-complected skin, Yücel is a poster child for Turkish gorgeousness and my first anthropological source for this story. Needless to say, I'll have what she's having.

I learn that these magical Turkish roses are grown in Isparta, a town in the Anatolian countryside, where they're hand-harvested once a year in June. Cosmetics companies from far and wide flock here for the divinely fragrant petals and oils—the latest being DKNY (which has forged a sustainable-sourcing pact with the farmers) and Jo Malone. Closer to home, rose teas, scented soaps, and skin tonics are found in abundance in The Spice Bazaar.

Back in the day, hammams—public bathhouses—were social hubs, where women could congregate sans husbands in tow. Today, many historic spots—like the Ayasofya, established in 1556—still operate. But instead of gossiping locals, tourists top the client pool. The treatments, though, remain authentic: the mélange of steaming and head-to-toe scrubbing and sudsing by besmocked therapists all happens in a bright marble room full of strangers in the buff.

For contrast, I also splurge on a private session at The Edition with Lale (her name charmingly means "tulip"). An hour of serious exfoliation in her capable hands (she's a seventh-generation therapist) and my skin is buttery, purged of city grime. As Yücel notes, young Istanbullus don't have time for a weekly hammam, but preholiday sessions are a must.

Connect with Marie Claire:
daily giveaway
One winner will receive a year’s supply of makeup products from Lancôme ($389) and a year’s supply of hair products from Garnier Fructis ($90), as selected by the Sponsors.

One winner will receive a year’s supply of makeup products from Lancôme ($389) and a year’s supply of hair products from Garnier Fructis ($90), as selected by the Sponsors.

enter now
You Know You Want More
More From Hair & Beauty
Why I Invest in a Manicure

What a good polish job can reveal about you.

A Weekend in the Life of a Nail Aficionado

Co-owner of New York's favorite nail salon, TenOverTen, Adair Ilyinsky, shares her weekend with us.

15 Reasons Your Makeup Looks Bad

Is your eye liner too red? You're doing it wrong!

post a comment

Special Offer
Link Your Marie Claire Account to Facebook

Marie Claire already has an account with this email address. Link your account to use Facebook to sign in to Marie Claire. To insure we protect your account, please fill in your password below.

Forgot Password?

Thanks for Joining

Your information has been saved and an account has been created for you giving you full access to everything marieclaire.com and Hearst Digital Media Network have to offer. To change your username and/or password or complete your profile, click here.

Your accounts are now linked

You now have full access to everything Marie Claire and Hearst Digital Media Network have to offer. To change your settings or profile, click here.