When It Comes to Beauty Products, Listen to the Mums (And Grans, Aunts, Godmothers, Etc.)

Using products that have been recommended to you by a woman you look up to is a way to stay connected to them when they're not around. The smell of a lipstick or face powder can instantly evoke memories and emotions which may be bittersweet, but are still worth feeling.
Publish date:
November 21, 2012

After introducing you to my dear mama during London Fashion Week, I thought it might be fun to turn her loose on the beauty section of xoJaneUK too, seeing as she’s so good at dishing out advice when it comes to my hair, makeup and style in general and is INVARIABLY RIGHT DAMMIT. Sigh.

I’ve inherited a lot of my favourite beauty products from my mum over the years and I’m going to share them below. It makes sense because we share a lot of the same skin and hair issues, being, y'know, related. However, don’t think this is entirely one-way traffic -- occasionally I get to impart some wisdom to my mother too!

Leave Eyebrows Alone! I think many of us ignored this advice during the 90s, to our deep, searing shame and regret now. Yeah, this is one piece of advice I really wish I’d actually listened to.

Lancôme Make-up Remover

I’ve extolled the virtues of Lancôme's faffily-named Galatéis Douceur make-up remover before and for me this really is the best. I’ve tried wipes, oils and creams but some don’t shift my liquid eyeliner while others make my eyes sting. So it’s this stuff for the rest of my life. And, yes, it’s what my mum’s always used, proving, yet again, that mother knows best.

Blue Kohl Pencil

Usually Lancôme too, but I’d as happily go with Rimmel. My mum always sported blue eye pencil during the 80s and I’m trying it out now -- it goes nicely with hazel eyes, is less harsh than black and has a pleasingly retro, grown-up feel (like a lady in a Roxy Music video would wear). If bright royal blue is too big a leap, swap black for navy -- there is something so understated, chic and elegant about navy.

Acqua di Parma Colonia

When I feel like it’s time to put my beloved Agent Provocateur eau de parfum out to pasture, this is the scent I will be graduating to. My mum wore Anais Anais by Cacharel during the 80s, then Dior Essence in the 90s and this is what she wears now. I think it’s officially a man’s fragrance but plenty of women wear it -- it’s the olfactory equivalent of an oversized white shirt, all androgynous and confident, fresh and thoughtful. $86 for 50ml, Sephora.com.

Sorting Out My Hair Mum suggested I get my hair cut to all one length, blunt with no layers, to make it look and feel thicker –- and she was right. Again. Those whispy layers were making it look thin and limp and now it feels all heavy and swooshy. She also stopped my unfortunate habit of clipping my growing-out fringe straight across my forehead like an old man’s combover and now I twist it into a little Gwen Stefani-esque micro-quiff -- much better.

But wait, I DO know some stuff about beauty -- I shouldn’t quit my job just yet! Here’s what my mum’s learned from me:

Pale Pink Eye Shadow

Don't freak out -- pink eye shadow will not make you look like a rabbit with myxomatosis -- I'm talking about the palest, softest ballet slippers pink here, an incredibly flattering shade for when you don't want to look like you're wearing makeup but still want a little coverage.

I’m a fan of Stila’s legendary Kitten eye shadow ($18, stilacosmetics.com) which is the very palest pink, like the inside of a seashell, with an iridescent shimmer. I love the formulation of Stila’s eye shadows -- they feel like silk, you can smudge them on with your finger and you don’t need much to cover the eyelid.

MAC Sheen Supreme Lipstick in New Temptation

It's always deeply satisfying when my mum goes "I like your lipstick, where's it from?" This is one of my favourites (can you see it's worn down to a little stump?) which she now wears too. It's MAC's Sheen Supreme, which is their line of super-moisturising, balm-like lipsticks which give a lovely wash of colour -- in this case, tomato red. It's so sheer you don't need to worry about applying it precisely like a "proper" lipstick -- I can dab this on easily without a mirror. And the colour looks natural because your own lip colour is coming through, so it's flattering on everyone. LOVE. $16, maccosmetics.com.

And it's not just me -- this is what Rebecca had to say: "Because I was acne-riddled from the age of about 10/11, my mum because obsessed with squeezing my blackheads, despite me hating it. I distinctly remember her begging to be allowed to "just do one more, it's a big one" on a Saturday night. She was certainly invested in my skin looking nice though -- when I got older and stopped breaking out every 10 seconds, she's the one who told me to use a rose day cream in the winter, and to always put a serum on underneath my moisturiser, which I now do religiously."

Taking beauty advice from a woman whose style and spirit you admire is a sign of maturity; admitting that you don't have all the answers shows you're confident enough in your sense of self to accept constructive criticism. I'm glad I had my bratty teen/early '20s "experimental" phase, but I'm happy to admit I don't know it all now and all feedback -- as long as it's gentle -- is gratefully received.

Using products that have been recommended to you by a woman you look up to (who needn't be a mum -- I'm thinking aunties, grannies, godmothers and mentors too) is a way to stay connected to them when they're not around. The smell of a lipstick or face powder can instantly evoke memories and emotions -- which may be bittersweet, but are still worth feeling.

So what’s the best bit of beauty advice you’ve ever been given and what’s the best tip you’ve passed on to someone else?