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Passport to Beauty
Comments () | Published February 22, 2012

Yuki Kotani, 28
President, Harboring Hearts
Country of heritage: Japan

Born in the United States to Japanese parents, Yuki Kotani adopted her mother’s anti-aging creed: Be proactive and start early.

“I started moisturizing in middle school and was using anti-aging night cream by the time I was in college,” Kotani says. “Culturally, Japanese women are obsessed with looking youthful and having a flawless complexion. When the beauty ideal is fair, smooth skin, every product is about making sure our skin doesn’t age and gets no exposure to the sun.”

How she protects her skin: “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t wear sunscreen. We’re raised knowing that we want to avoid age spots and preserve the skin of our youth. Even now, if I get darker than I want in the summer or while on vacation, I feel guilty. I use Shiseido SPF 25 on my face and neck every day and moisturize my body with sesame oil, which is said to protect against UV rays.”

What she learned from her mother: “Exfoliating your skin is a must. I grew up washing my face with a brush to take off dead skin cells. My mom still regularly gives my sister and me akasuri (“body massage”) towels, which are widely used in Japan. They have a rough texture that sloughs off the top layers of skin.”

Her favorite anti-aging ingredients, inside and out: “Many Japanese dishes include rice vinegar, which is believed to help slow the aging process and maintain good heart health. It’s also great applied to the skin because it soothes breakouts and clears pores—just dilute it with water and apply like a toner. Be forewarned: It doesn’t have the most pleasant smell. Wakame, a type of seaweed, is eaten to make your hair shiny and strong, but you can also get it in cream form to prevent fine lines and protect the skin from sun damage. And I drink green tea every night before bed. It helps maintain a body’s youthfulness and boosts your metabolism.”

The Japanese import she can’t live without: “Aburatori, or facial-oil blotter sheets. They’re made from washi, a paper made with a special tree fiber, and are incredible at absorbing excess oil and shine. They’re a great way to freshen your look in the middle of the day without applying more makeup or powder, and I’ve been seeing them in many US beauty stores over the past few years.”


Patricia Vercelli, 48
General counsel, UATP
Countries of origin: Italy and Argentina

Following in the stilettoed footsteps of her mother and grandmother, Patricia Vercelli hasn’t caved in to her adopted city’s low-maintenance, conservative sensibility—even after 30 years and numerous high-level positions at some of Washington’s most buttoned-up corporations and a law firm.

“In both Italy, where I was born, and Argentina, where I grew up, there’s a pride in embracing your femininity,” she says. “In the US, if you’re attractive or focus on making yourself attractive, you’re often not taken seriously. But my culture believes that beauty and brains go together.”

You’ll never see Vercelli leave the house without mascara, lipstick, or hair that’s been set with rollers. Or in anything other than tailored clothes: “I have an Italian woman’s figure, and I don’t hide it.”

Why her hairdresser is the second-most important man in her life: “For Argentine women, a hairstylist takes on a unique adviser role. Unlike your husband, he must be brutally honest about what looks good or bad. He keeps you in line, and he never holds back. There’s a real trust that goes into that relationship, so it’s not something that can be quickly developed. Once you find it, you’re loyal. I’ve been with my stylist, Manuel, at Manuel Hair Salon in Georgetown for six years and see him every single month. Even if I’m out of the country, I won’t allow anyone else to touch my hair because I’d feel like I’m cheating on him.”

What she learned from her grandmother: “Up until her last days, she would never even go to the corner market without a nice dress, a little makeup, and heels. My mother, who is in her seventies, is the same way and always pointed out that a heel enhances a woman’s legs and figure. I wear four-inch heels daily—including on flights, since I travel often with my job. I’m five-foot-two, so slipping on a pair of heels gives me a different stature and a different sense of confidence.”

How she keep wrinkles at bay: “At 15, I started using moisturizer—morning and night—and eye cream. I use cream-based cleansers and makeup remover instead of soap. And I don’t go to bed without removing makeup, no matter how tired I am, even if I’m on an airplane.”


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Posted at 02:00 PM/ET, 02/22/2012 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Articles