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