Before YouTube and Instagram, the biggest beauty influencer in everyone’s lives was Mom. Mine was no exception. I would sit in awe as she took a flame to her eye pencil, created full roller sets without a mirror, and collected lipsticks in an array of shades that I would sample and swatch on our apartment walls while she napped (Sorry, Mom!). Without her, I likely wouldn’t be so in love with the power of transformation that cosmetics offer or the power to repair mistakes with a proper skincare and hair care products (and I’ve made a lot mistakes). But throughout my career, I’d like to think I’ve helped my mom learn a trick or two that she’s helped to pass along to others, sharing her favorites and helping to build community through beauty. So in honor of her big day, I’ve rounded up some of the best advice we’ve shared with each other. Happy Mother’s Day, and if you can, give your mom a hug for me!
What She Taught Me: Eyeliner Is Always Alluring — Mom’s makeup routine was always streamlined but striking, thanks to her lover of liner. As a toddler, I’d watch her primp in the mirror and paid close attention when she would whip out her pencil and a lighter, igniting the tip for just a few seconds to make the pigment even darker than it was. My biggest question: how did she apply it without poking her eye out. I mean, didn’t she tell me not to do that all the time? But after a few swipes along her waterline, she wasn’t just Mom anymore—she was pure smolder, a femme fatale just like I’d seen on TV, ready to paint the town red. I wanted to be just like that.
What I Taught Her: SPF Is Everything — We all know now how important sunscreen is for not just our looks but our health, but things were different when my mom was growing up. She’s shared stories of how she used to slather on baby oil, or in her friends’ cases, iodine to get their skin as tan as possible. “Hey, it was the ’70s,” she’d quip. Now, instead of her chasing me down to slather on sunscreen before running straight into the water, the roles are now reversed with me reminding and sometimes chasing down the rents to reapply a shot-glass amount every two hours or as soon as they get out of the water, no matter how water-resistant the formula is.
What She Taught Me: You Can Never Go Wrong with a Red Lip — As many tubes of lipstick as she had, most of the shades revolved around red. I didn’t understand it at the time, which lead to me nosing around her vanity and suffering the consequences (mostly a bath and a stern talking to). It wasn’t until I saw the shades on her that I understood that red looks ravishing on everyone, you just have to find the right shade for you. Different undertones and finishes could completely change how you look, making teeth appear whiter, lips look plusher, and more. While pops of pink were fun to shake things up, she always kept a tube of red in her purse just in case she needed to quickly change up her look for an event without much effort.
What I Taught Her: How to Bring Back Your Brows — Thin brows were in when my mom was my age, but after plucking for years, there wasn’t much left. As Cara Delevingne made bold brows the biggest beauty trend in 2012, I saw solutions like lash enhancers and brow pencils as my mom’s biggest asset to bring her brows back to life. I started her off, giving her brows nightly nourishment with a last enhancing serum and gifted her the Clarins Pro Palette Eyebrow Kit, which she would whip out anytime she was going out. In just a few months, she started to see her brows become fuller and she looked as lovely as she did in some of the pictures I’ve found of her before I was born. Needless to say, she shared her secret with her friends and they all hopped on the bold brow bandwagon.
What She Taught Me: Beauty Is What You Make It — While she had her beauty staples (lots of liner, red lipstick, and big curls), she was never afraid to switch things up. The ’90s ombre lip? She tried it in a gold and red combo and killed it. A super short pixie? Puh-lease, you know she looked amazing even as it grew out. Her openness about beauty kept my eyes open to seeking it out in whatever form it took, whether it was the drag queens of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert or the goth kids in front of Hot Topic. The woman allowed me to dye my hair green as a sophomore in high school and even shut down my history teacher who tried to bad-mouth me as a student just because of it. “She’s an honor roll student, and it’s just hair,” I remember her saying to his face. Her bravery (beauty or otherwise) became mine, and I’m forever grateful.
What are some of the beauty secrets you’ve swapped with your mom?