Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.
Many people’s first interaction with beauty happens in the context of a mother-daughter moment. For you, maybe it’s the gentle touch of your mom’s fingers as she detangles your hair; or perhaps you loved watching your (very glam) grandmother slide on a velvety shade of lipstick when you were little. Maybe there’s a special ingredient or stalwart product that has remained a family ritual for decades. Beauty is everywhere, and, for many, it’s a conduit for connecting with the ones you love most.
So with Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, we’re highlighting the best skin care, hair, and makeup tips experts have gleaned from their mothers and grandmothers—and how these memories have shaped their beauty worldview.
Your skin is your greatest teacher & biggest cheerleader.
“As a kid, my mom always told me to use moisturizer after a shower to seal in moisture and keep your skin hydrated. When I became a dermatologist, I learned how spot on her advice really was.”
I want [my daughter] to remember that her skin is her greatest teacher and her biggest cheerleader. What shows up on her skin is information she can use to better understand her state of health and wellbeing. For example: When she sees blemishes or dark circles under her eyes, her skin is giving her clues that it needs her attention. It’s an opportunity for her to get curious about how she may need to better nourish herself mind, body and spirit, rather than interpret what she’s seeing as if she’s broken and needs to be fixed. On the flip-side, when she is practicing self-care and self-love, her skin will shout it from the rooftops with a clear and glowing complexion.”
—Keira Barr, M.D., board-certified dermatologist.
Treat your hair with love & your shiny strands will thank you.
“There are many favorite tips and pieces of advice I’ve learned from my mother and my grandmother, Miss Jessie, about hair care and beauty in general over the years. My grandmother took a very big interest in mine and [my sister] Titi’s hair as my mother was Japanese American, and my grandmother didn’t have experience with multitextured hair.
Whenever we visited Miss Jessie, she would whip up concoctions of conditioners for our hair at her kitchen table, using everything from mayo, butter, eggs and oils, and would send us home with mason jars of her special formulas to use between salon visits. These treatments, as she called them, were so incredibly conditioning, and made the post-wash detangling and styling process so much easier. After washing our hair, we would apply these concoctions on our wet hair, put a plastic cap on for at least 30 minutes and rinse, and our hair was always left so soft and shiny.”
My grandmother was a great cook, which is why we named the Miss Jessie’s product line after her. Miss Jessie’s products are formulated to convey the same love, and the same attention to detail as our grandmother put in at her kitchen counter. Not only did it make us feel loved—love being one of the main ingredients of my grandmother’s formulas—but it also made our hair feel so much more manageable. This is why many of the Miss Jessie’s product names have food references; we were thinking of her and the many positive experiences we had with her growing up in her kitchen.”
—Miko Branch, hairstylist & co-founder of Miss Jessie’s.
Beauty is bold—and so are you.
“I clearly remember my grandmother painting her nails bright red and putting on bright red lipstick before she went out with my grandfather, her dentist husband. Grandma had a long, slender figure, and a beautiful head of hair. An amazing smile and infectious laugh completed her charm. I thought she looked like a movie star.
She put my grandfather through dental school, and then told him she wanted fur coats, jewelry, a house in Westchester, and that she was never going to work again. My grandmother always got everything she wanted!
An original diva, I remember Grandma telling me that women should ‘never give up’ and should ‘always try to look their best; I know she would be pleased that I became a cosmetic dermatologist!”
—Jeanine Downie, M.D., board-certified dermatologist & co-host of The GIST Show.
Everything we need already exists in nature.
“[My mom] used to save scraps from the kitchen, be it orange peel leftovers from making orange juice that morning, or maybe papaya seeds that no one wanted to eat with the fruit. She used to make her own face masks and treatments with these kitchen ingredients instead of throwing them away. She would also make her own hair conditioning treatments with henna, alma, soap nut, and shikakai. I think of those memories fondly. She taught me how everything we need already exists in nature and that these natural elements could be just as effective as conventional products. I have come to appreciate this synergy very much.
I remember when I was about 10 or 11 [years old], my mom gave me this special homemade bath scrub. It was made of chickpea flour, lemon juice, yogurt, and turmeric. I had so much fun with it and I remember asking mom for it every weekend ever since. It was such an unpretentious ritual, and yet has stayed with me over all these years. I still treat myself to those every now and then.”
—Krupa Koestline, clean cosmetic chemist and founder of KKT Consultants.
Hydrated skin is happy skin & the power of a red lip.
“I was an active child—always outdoors—and somewhat ‘rough and tumble!’ Being a brown skinned girl, when my skin became dry (which was not infrequently!) it would look dry and ashen. In our community, we used the word, “ashy” to describe dry, flaky ashen looking skin. My elbows, knees and legs were ashy more often than not; and in those childhood years, my mom taught me the importance of moisturizing my skin to keep it well hydrated, soft and glowing—an to avoid looking ashy! She would hand me a tube of cream, a stick of cocoa butter or a bottle of lotion and say, “Put this on those legs!” She told me then, “Your skin might not mean much to you now, but one day you’ll care about how it looks.” And of course, my mom was right.
One of my first and fondest beauty memories was watching my mother apply lipstick. My mom never wore much makeup (didn’t need it!), but she almost always wore lip color, usually in some enchanting shade of red or burgundy. I remember watching her standing at her vanity, and sliding these satiny, transformative, utterly captivating shades onto her lips. I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world, and I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to wear lipstick too. To this day, I have a thing for red lipstick.”
—Raechele Cochran Gathers, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of MDhairmixtress.com.
Go all-out on fluttery lashes & leave the brows alone!
“I was raised in my grandparents’ house, and I remember watching my Grammy apply her strip lashes almost every morning. She used to be a beautician and a wig artist in 60s (swoon). I’d walk by her room and see her sitting on her bed with a magnifying mirror in one hand and her lashes in the other hand (I have still never seen her without them on to this day). My Grammy is Japanese and has beautiful almond eyes with slightly hooded lids (similar to my own). From watching her process, I learned to one—never be scared of falsies because they can smell fear; two—use eyeliner close to your natural lash line to hide a heavy lash band; and three—trim the lash strip to your eye length, and cut them an extra ¾ more to fix to the outer edges for major fringe impact.
My second tip is one that I learned from my mommy. I grew up in the 90s and she never let me touch my eyebrows with tweezers, razors, or scissors (although, at one point I even tried pulling hairs out with my fingers out of desperation). It was super embarrassing to be the girl with a unibrow when ultra-thin brows were having a moment, but it was for the best, after all.”
—Alexandra Compton, makeup artist & product development manager at Credo.
You’re never too young to focus on moisture.
“[I watched] my mother put on her moisturizer before bedtime every night. I adored her and felt I wanted to be as beautiful as her so I started to use moisturizer twice a day by age 16.
[I want my children to remember] that replacing the skin’s store of healthy oils is very important even when our skin seems oily. This is the best way to keep a healthy skin barrier, the foundation for youthful and attractive skin.”
—Loretta Ciraldo, board-certified dermatologist & founder of Dr. Loretta skincare.
Florals are your friends.
“When I was little, I would go to my parents farm in China, pick flowers, and then make a floral bath out of them. Somehow I believed I would create a floral essence from the water that I soaked myself in. Later I would use my mom’s creation, one with pearl ingredients. [From there], I guess I always thought about getting ingredients from nature for my personal beauty rituals.”
—Amy Lin, founder of sundays.
“One of my most cherished possessions is a gold-rimmed glass tray in which my mom would showcase her perfumes—a tray that belonged to her mother. She let me have it when I moved away from home. It may hold my fragrances now, but I can still remember the scents that used to sit upon it when it was hers: A bright orange-blossom option for day, an airy beachwood summer number, a thick amber-and-jasmine blend for evenings. It’s a lesson she never said explicitly, but I learned instinctively: Fragrance is elemental, it’s magical.
Now as a beauty editor, I have only learned to appreciate the world of perfumery even deeper. I’m endlessly fascinated by how certain notes can change your mood—or by how smell works in relation to memory and sensory experience. I love learning how other people use and embrace scent in their lives, whether it be through aromatherapy, essential oils, or the new crop of clean perfumes. I love seeing how perfumers work, drawing inspiration from the far flung corners of the globe and blending notes together to create something that’s never been before. I love how fragrance is never final—it’s a dynamic, changing thing that evolves and blossoms on its wearer.
And, ultimately, I love how fragrance can blanket us in comfort and connection. Recently my mom shared with me that she still repurchases the perfume I wore in high school—so she can spritz it on whenever she misses me most. I, too, keep my mom’s signature notes around me: And whenever I smell them, instantly I’m back at home, sitting on her bed, and watching her get ready for the day. I can’t tell you how many times over this past year that there was no place I longed to be more.”
—Alexandra Engler, mbg Beauty Director.
Your beauty is utterly & absolutely yours.
“My mom and I resemble each other in pretty much every way, save for our hair. While she sports dark, stick-straight strands, I was born with a mop of blonde curls and a perpetual halo of frizz. Wanting to be just like her, I’d tip-toe into her bathroom to borrow her stylers (she had an arsenal of sprays, serums, and tools, whereas I had a few hair clips to my name). We would get ready together, and she would frequently tell me to put down the hot tools, to embrace the curls rather than sear them into submission—that she wished she could flaunt some definition of her own.
Sometimes, I would listen. Oftentimes, I rebelled. But the memory has stayed with me, as it has evolved into a lesson I now hold close: Your beauty—hair, skin, makeup, all of it—is utterly and absolutely yours. You shouldn’t try to transform it to meet anyone else’s mold. (And, of course, hair health is paramount.)
My curl pattern has relaxed quite a bit in my adult life—more S-waves than full-on ringlets—but I now find myself missing the way those healthy tendrils used to spring up and around my face. Mother knows best, as they say.”
—Jamie Schneider, mbg Associate Editor.
Beauty inspires creativity & confidence.
“When I was little, I lived for Halloween and dance recitals. My mom propped me up on the bathroom counter and put a bit of makeup on me. And I loved it. You see, my mom has always been the most glamorous person in the room, and by giving me a little ‘lippy’ (a dab of lipstick) or a swipe of mascara, I was a tiny bit closer to being like her—confident, beautiful, and put-together.
As I grew up, I realized she didn’t tell me ‘to go put my face on’ because I needed to cover up my face, but because she knew it put her in the right headspace to tackle whatever came her way. Her beauty routine always has been and always will be just for her. Putting hot rollers in her hair or picking her perfume for the day transports her, giving her time to think and space to be creative.
While as an adult, I’ve opted for a more natural look (turns out I’m not that great at putting makeup on), I still call on her penchant for a bold lip, a perfectly shimmered lid, and a few too many spritzes of perfume when I need a confidence boost. Just like Mama, I do it for me. While I know feeling sure of yourself comes from within, it doesn’t hurt when you like what you see on the outside.”
—Hannah Margaret Allen, mbg Executive Editor.