seven beauty lessons I learned from my grandmother.

My Nan was a true beauty, inside and out. Full of kindness and grace, she had a way of making everyone around her feel important and loved. She taught me all the best things about being a lady, and while I resisted her beauty advice as a stubborn messy-haired adolescent, I embrace it as a (still messy-haired) woman approaching her 30s.

Here are seven of the most important beauty rules I picked up from Betty Jean:

Keep your skincare routine simple. Nan’s medicine cabinet was always stocked with a gentle cleanser and Oil of Olay beauty fluid. She didn’t bother with overhyped anti-aging products or expensive department store brands; she knew what worked for her skin and stuck with it for decades. Through years of cosmetics experimentation, I’ve found that my skin is at its best with just a few natural, paraben-free products with sun protection (more on that in an upcoming post).

Stay out of the sun. Speaking of sunscreen, my years of sun worship and indoor tanning gave my poor grandmother boatloads of stress. She always encouraged me to be smart about sun exposure to prevent skin cancer and premature aging. I stopped tanning altogether six or seven years ago, and now I never leave the house without SPF on my face, neck and chest. Should you ever find yourself on a beach trip with me, I’ll be the one under a big hat and umbrella, wearing a coverup and lacquering myself with Coola every 20 minutes. 

Don’t forget your neck. From the time I started my first skincare routine (Clinique, age 14) to my early 20s, Nan told me, “whatever you do to your face, be sure to do it to your neck, too.” The skin on our necks is thin and delicate; it’s one of the first places to show signs of aging and the most difficult to fix cosmetically down the road. It’s important to cleanse, exfoliate and moisturize it with care every day, just like the face.

Take care of your hands. Nan was self-employed and cleaned homes and offices for a living, but you’d never know it by her soft and manicured hands. She wore rubber gloves for cleaning and washing dishes, stashed apricot cuticle oil and hand cream by her chair in the living room, and always had a pretty clear coat of polish on her fingernails. I’m rough on my hands at the flower shop and never wear gloves, so I try to use a quality hand lotion several times a day and lather up my paws with avocado oil every night before bed.

Leave your eyebrows alone! I love my dark bold brows now, but it was a long journey to acceptance. I tweezed and waxed my eyebrows into all sorts of tortured shapes and arches through my adolescence, and even into my 20s. After every brow disaster, Nan would remind me to just clean between them — no one likes a unibrow — and pluck the stray hairs around my natural arch, which is exactly what I do now. If I could just keep them from turning gray…

Find your signature, and rock it. Nan wore the same shade of frosty pink lipstick for years. Her sweet sisters teased her for never switching it up, but she stockpiled tubes of strawberries and cream and used them down to nubs. I love the idea of a beauty or style signature, like an identifiable fragrance, a special pair of eyeglasses, or a favorite shade of lipstick.

Happy girls are the prettiest girls. Nan always said that it didn’t matter how pretty you were on the outside if you were ugly on the inside. Respect — for others and yourself — and kindness are the most important kinds of loveliness. She also believed that there was greater satisfaction in brownies and cake than a perfect bikini body, and I personally agree.

Cover image: Margaret Berg Wild Poppies

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70 Comments

  1. 3.5.18
    Carolina Jenkins said:

    I always love and learn reading your blog ! Thanks Keria

  2. 2.21.15
    kkhill74 said:

    Reblogged this on 18khillphotos and commented:
    all of this is true to the core and i love it!

  3. 12.10.14
    strelatz said:

    well said!

  4. 11.2.14

    Reblogged this on Bahja's Blog and commented:
    Well except for the eyebrow bit (which I believe people should never wax or pluck, ever) I love this! Please do give it a read!

  5. 11.2.14
    muslimah said:

    Reblogged this on Dpressedmuslimah.

  6. 7.6.14

    Even though I still need work on my hands, fingers and nails and did a lot of plucking to shape my eyebrows into a more feminine appearence as for the rest, I could have been you grandmother’s younger sister except that I was born transgender and didn’t begin my Male to Female transition until I was almost 63 years young. Still I told myself from the beginning that I wouldn’t focus on trying to “pass” as a woman on the outside and that my first priority was how I felt about myself internally. I still must shave my gray whiskers daily which laser hair removal could remove and I can neither afford the expense time or the pain of perhaps years of electrolysis which would cost far more than my main priority of gender reassignment surgery which I have happily completed,and shaving is a constant reminder of my previous life, I am certainly not the only woman who must deal with this inconvenience and it has just become a daily part of my beauty routine which now takes less that ten to fifteen minutes which is about how long I must dialate which I can do simultaneously. My commitment to this way of thinking actually allowed my hard work to be almost effortless because as I transitioned myself on the inside, my outward transition followed in kind and within nine months I was regarded as just “one of the girls” as if I had been seen as one all of my life..

  7. 6.6.14

    Betty Jean sounds like one stellar woman. I’m sure that runs in the family ;)
    Taking care of the neck is something I’ve never heard before, but I need to remember to love on it just as much as my face!

  8. 5.31.14
    diybyamy said:

    This is a beautiful post with wonderful tips. So inspiring I may have to do a post similar to this!

  9. 5.24.14

    This made me very happy. Thank you for posting! :)

  10. 5.20.14
    Bee said:

    I’ve a lovely mental image of my grandmother and your grandmother sharing a high-five over this. She sounds like a wonderful, intelligent woman, and she definitely makes a lot of good points that my own grandmother always used to give me. I’ll have to make sure they stick in my brain this time. <3

  11. 4.15.14

    Great post! I love how simple the advice is, but how great of an impact each one has.

  12. 4.10.14

    Love This!!! :) Thanks for sharing!

  13. 4.3.14

    Great blog! Skincare especially hands,neck and face is so important! I’m afraid of aging!

  14. 4.1.14

    Thanks for sharing this…I swear grandmas always know the best tips and tricks! Just found your blog and I love it!

  15. 3.31.14
    Old Souls said:

    Love this post & wonderful tips, I totally agree, I always forget to moisturize the neck area!

  16. 3.30.14

    Great tips, grandmothers always know best :) I always forget to moisturize my neck so this was a great reminder to to do it in the future!

  17. 3.28.14

    What a wonderful post, your Nan was oh so very wise. Thank you for sharing her wisdom! I love it!

    <3 Jules

  18. 3.27.14

    This is such a helpful post! I feel like these lessons are exactly what my grandma tells me all the time

  19. 3.27.14

    So sweet!! And such great tips :)

  20. 3.27.14

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  21. 3.27.14

    Reblogged this on .

  22. 3.27.14
    Ashley said:

    What a great post! Sometimes we forget the most simple things are the most important.

  23. 3.27.14
    Jess said:

    Reblogged this on My Best Self Challenge and commented:
    A well-written piece from A Pretty Penny on two of my favorite things: family & beauty. I love this blog!

  24. 3.27.14
    rose said:

    wow! this is amazing! feel free to follow my blog at http://justrosesarered.blogspot.com/ :)

  25. 3.26.14

    your grandmother gave great advice!! staying out of the sun is hard sometimes though, because it is so tempting to try to get a thorough tan ;)
    thesartorialcoquette.com

  26. 3.26.14
    clee920 said:

    I love this post!! Any suggestions for good facial SPF lotion for sensitive skin? I used clarins for a long time but find myself breaking out a lot now :(

  27. 3.26.14

    Great post! Thank you for sharing. I believe every women should know these.

  28. 3.26.14

    Love these tips!

  29. 3.26.14

    Oh how I love this post! My grandmother said many of the same things.

  30. 3.26.14

    This was an awesome post. Your Gran sounded pretty darn cool!

  31. 3.26.14
    meyonie said:

    Thank you very much for this awesome post ! Great picture and nice article.

  32. 3.26.14

    Cool!

  33. 3.26.14
    Erin E. said:

    Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful lady, and all of these beauty tips are spot on! Thank you for sharing them with us.

  34. 3.26.14
    Amy said:

    Thanks for sharing this. Grandma have the best advise.

  35. 3.26.14

    Aw this is so very lovely to read. I love the wisdom from a beautiful and dignified lady. This reminded me of my own nan who I miss dearly and was always so elegant even despite being the most active lady I’ve ever known. She always had apricot cuticle lotion too! (The smell just came flooding back to me as I read this!)

  36. 3.26.14

    Hi Keira …. found your blog very intriguing. This post appealed to me. Since early adulthood my mom was dead against parlour visits, as a result I have developed an aversion towards salons for any beauty treatment. However I am very concious about the way I carry myself. I donot follow fashion. To me style is more important because it sets an individual apart from the crowd. I am quite stylish and my motto is “less is more”. I believe in good skin care regimen that enhances natural good looks and not on cosmetic looks. Therefore I found this write-up very interesting.
    I must admit that the lady was absolutely a diva on her own terms and was much ahead of her times.
    :)

  37. 3.25.14

    Love it…especially the happy girls are the prettiest girls part…so true. A lovely post about your grandmother.

  38. 3.25.14
    itscarly said:

    Reblogged this on Love and Looks.

  39. 3.25.14

    That was beautiful, thanks for sharing your grandmother with us. :) The take care of your hands….I’m horrible and it was even a resolution. I must be better!! This was just the inspiration I needed….

  40. 3.25.14
    lruthnum said:

    Such a lovely post and all such a great advice – the same my nan gave me to live by! xx

  41. 3.25.14
    Carolina E said:

    Good tips ! Enjoy this post.

  42. 3.25.14

    You wrote a lovely tribute to Nan. Thank you for sharing her wonderful advice with your readers.

  43. 3.25.14
    vestitini said:

    nice post… thank you!

  44. 3.25.14
    slpuckett said:

    Smart lady!

  45. 3.25.14

    Love this!

  46. 3.25.14

    Great tips!!! Thanks for sharing!

  47. 3.25.14
    Shreya said:

    wow awesome tips and tricks ! thanks for sharing dear

  48. 3.25.14

    This is all so true, especially the last point… Loved it! Keep smiling :)

  49. 3.25.14
    Giulia said:

    Thanks for sharing such great tips :) Loved this post!

  50. 3.25.14
    brittney said:

    I absolutely love this, so endearing and so true. Thank you for sharing!

  51. 3.25.14

    Reblogged this on Sarah Coughlan.

  52. 3.25.14

    I agree with all the points you have made here. My grandmother and my mum are also strong beautiful women and these are pieces of advice that they have always given me. Being unique and find your own beauty and embracing it is the most important. Then, take care of it.

    Moniquemonica.wordpress.com

  53. 3.25.14

    Wow great post and she was lovely!

    http://www.khoasinclair.co

  54. 3.25.14
    marieltan said:

    These are amazing tips!! Olay works so well!!

  55. 3.25.14

    As I read this it made me remember I needed some hand cream! Haha thanks for the reminder!

  56. 3.25.14
    Brittany said:

    Thank you for sharing great tips and special advice from your nan this really hit home for me and brought so many memories of my nana and things she has taught me. I am definitely calling her tonight and thanking her for her advice :)

    • 3.25.14

      Aww, please do. I would give anything to be able to call my Nan just one more time and chat with her :)

  57. 3.25.14
    Merrissa said:

    My grandma used vasoline (even though they frown on this product nowadays) on her face/neck everyday and when she passed at just 80 years old, she didn’t have a wrinkle on her face. She also taught me to keep my lipstick in the fridge to make it last longer!
    Great post! :)

    • 3.25.14

      Two of my closest girlfriends are sisters, and they say that their grandmother used vasoline as moisturizer for decades! Her skin is incredible.

  58. 3.25.14
    Elizabeth said:

    Fantastic post!

  59. 3.25.14

    What a great read, especially love the last paragraph :) xx

  60. 3.25.14

    She must have been an exceptional Lady. :)

  61. 3.25.14
    divinemzm said:

    Wonderful post. This reminds me of my grandmother – oh, how I miss her. She also used Oil of Olay, always wore rubber gloves when cleaning, and believed in keeping her nails neat. I cannot remember a time when she didn’t have nail polish on and her nails neatly filed.
    http://www.divinemzm.com

  62. 3.25.14
    Stacey said:

    What a great tribute to a beautiful lady….one of the best I’ve ever known. Miss her so much, Keira! I know in my heart that she’s so proud of you and smiles down on you every day.

  63. 3.25.14

    Thank you so much for sharing! I’m going to hang on to these. :)