MUCH is new in the development of our health care system from surgery techniques to the latest drugs and the many innovative health products on the market but especially in the latter tradition still plays an important part especially for many Cambodian women.
There have been many breakthroughs in skin-care medicines and lotions, but Khmer traditional skin-care methods are still widely used by Cambodian women, especially those who have just given birth.
Steaming, applying ginger wine to the skin, drinking wine and herbal medicine are among the many ways that post-natal women use to rejuvenate their skin.
Thirty-year-old Vorn Nimul, who is currently living in Kanda province said: “When just delivering my baby, I regularly steamed and applied ginger wine to my skin twice a day, once in the morning and again in the afternoon.”
She also drank wine and herbal medicines, all of which were prepared by her mother.
“I think they somehow work. For example, ginger made my skin look fresh.”
Nimul, however, did not use only Khmer traditional skin-care methods, but also medicine prescribed by the doctor.
“Comparing the two, I think [scientific] medicines may work better than Khmer traditional ones, but I will not abandon them,” she said.
While Nimol said she would use Khmer traditional skin-care methods again whenever she had other babies, not every woman, especially those who live in Phnom Penh, believe in the effectiveness of Khmer traditional skin care.
Muk Sochanda, 21, said that despite using these products for about two months, she did not believe in their effectiveness.
“I was forced by my mother to use them, but I did not use them regularly,” she said. However, Leng Songheng, owner of Sun Khmer Herbal Medicines shop, said he believed that because Khmer traditional medicines were really effective, people still used them and would not get rid of them.
“Herbal medicines rejuvenate the mother’s skin, heal her womb, and make her have plenty of milk. Steaming makes her get rid of the bruises, while drinking wine make her skin fresh and beautiful.”
Dr Ly Changhuy, the owner of LCC Medical Care Centre, recognised that some Khmer traditional skin-care methods could help make the skin healthy, but said they could also be harmful to the skin.
“Steaming is a way to get rid of dead substances on the skin, and help the respiratory system, but it depends on the substances used to steam,” said Dr Changhuy.
“If the herbal compounds are useful substances steaming may help to some extent but if they are not steaming may even cause other problems.
“Drinking wine may help by providing the drinkers with water, but it contains harmful substances which can negatively affect both the mother and her baby.
Dr Changhuy said that the liver and other organs could be adversely affected by alcohol and that while applying ginger wine could help to some extent it could also harm the skin if the substances were applied every day by it being affected by bacteria.
He said that people’s skin was healthy and beautiful mostly due to our hormones, food, and depending on our age and that some people wrongly practised traditional skin care which could put them at the risk of harm.
He has some sage advice. “Eating sufficient nutritious food and doing exercises will make the skin healthy.”