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

What Do You Think?

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  1. Carolina Jenkins wrote:

    I always love and learn reading your blog ! Thanks Keria

    Posted 3.5.18 Reply
  2. kkhill74 wrote:

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

    Posted 2.21.15 Reply
  3. strelatz wrote:

    well said!

    Posted 12.10.14 Reply
  4. 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!

    Posted 11.2.14 Reply
  5. muslimah wrote:

    Reblogged this on Dpressedmuslimah.

    Posted 11.2.14 Reply
  6. 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..

    Posted 7.6.14 Reply
  7. amybareham wrote:

    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!

    Posted 6.6.14 Reply
  8. diybyamy wrote:

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

    Posted 5.31.14 Reply
  9. This made me very happy. Thank you for posting! :)

    Posted 5.24.14 Reply
  10. Bee wrote:

    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

    Posted 5.20.14 Reply
  11. Great post! I love how simple the advice is, but how great of an impact each one has.

    Posted 4.15.14 Reply
  12. Love This!!! :) Thanks for sharing!

    Posted 4.10.14 Reply
  13. Great blog! Skincare especially hands,neck and face is so important! I’m afraid of aging!

    Posted 4.3.14 Reply
  14. Thanks for sharing this…I swear grandmas always know the best tips and tricks! Just found your blog and I love it!

    Posted 4.1.14 Reply
  15. Old Souls wrote:

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

    Posted 3.31.14 Reply
  16. 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!

    Posted 3.30.14 Reply
  17. What a wonderful post, your Nan was oh so very wise. Thank you for sharing her wisdom! I love it!

    <3 Jules

    Posted 3.28.14 Reply
  18. This is such a helpful post! I feel like these lessons are exactly what my grandma tells me all the time

    Posted 3.27.14 Reply
  19. So sweet!! And such great tips :)

    Posted 3.27.14 Reply
  20. Please visit my blog if you can!

    Posted 3.27.14 Reply
  21. Reblogged this on .

    Posted 3.27.14 Reply
  22. Ashley wrote:

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

    Posted 3.27.14 Reply
  23. Jess wrote:

    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!

    Posted 3.27.14 Reply
  24. rose wrote:

    wow! this is amazing! feel free to follow my blog at :)

    Posted 3.27.14 Reply
  25. 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 ;)

    Posted 3.26.14 Reply
  26. clee920 wrote:

    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 :(

    Posted 3.26.14 Reply
  27. Great post! Thank you for sharing. I believe every women should know these.

    Posted 3.26.14 Reply
  28. Love these tips!

    Posted 3.26.14 Reply
  29. Oh how I love this post! My grandmother said many of the same things.

    Posted 3.26.14 Reply
  30. This was an awesome post. Your Gran sounded pretty darn cool!

    Posted 3.26.14 Reply
  31. meyonie wrote:

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

    Posted 3.26.14 Reply
  32. Cool!

    Posted 3.26.14 Reply
  33. Erin E. wrote:

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

    Posted 3.26.14 Reply
  34. Amy wrote:

    Thanks for sharing this. Grandma have the best advise.

    Posted 3.26.14 Reply
  35. 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!)

    Posted 3.26.14 Reply
  36. 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.

    Posted 3.26.14 Reply
  37. Posted 3.26.14 Reply
  38. Love it…especially the happy girls are the prettiest girls part…so true. A lovely post about your grandmother.

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  39. itscarly wrote:

    Reblogged this on Love and Looks.

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  40. 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….

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  41. lruthnum wrote:

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

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  42. Carolina E wrote:

    Good tips ! Enjoy this post.

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  43. You wrote a lovely tribute to Nan. Thank you for sharing her wonderful advice with your readers.

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  44. vestitini wrote:

    nice post… thank you!

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  45. slpuckett wrote:

    Smart lady!

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  46. Love this!

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  47. Great tips!!! Thanks for sharing!

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  48. Shreya wrote:

    wow awesome tips and tricks ! thanks for sharing dear

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  49. This is all so true, especially the last point… Loved it! Keep smiling :)

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  50. Giulia wrote:

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

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  51. brittney wrote:

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

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  52. Reblogged this on Sarah Coughlan.

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  53. 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.

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  54. Wow great post and she was lovely!

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  55. marieltan wrote:

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

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  56. As I read this it made me remember I needed some hand cream! Haha thanks for the reminder!

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
    • Tokyomilk Dark makes my favorite hand creams!

      Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  57. Brittany wrote:

    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 :)

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
    • Aww, please do. I would give anything to be able to call my Nan just one more time and chat with her :)

      Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  58. Merrissa wrote:

    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! :)

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
    • Two of my closest girlfriends are sisters, and they say that their grandmother used vasoline as moisturizer for decades! Her skin is incredible.

      Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  59. Elizabeth wrote:

    Fantastic post!

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  60. What a great read, especially love the last paragraph :) xx

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  61. She must have been an exceptional Lady. :)

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  62. divinemzm wrote:

    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.

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  63. Stacey wrote:

    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.

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply
  64. Thank you so much for sharing! I’m going to hang on to these. :)

    Posted 3.25.14 Reply