We always hear sweet stories of beauty secrets our favorite celebrities and It girls learned from their moms. There’s something undeniably beautiful about classified intel being passed along from woman to woman, mother to daughter, from one generation to the next. We’re so fascinated by these familial lines of beauty knowledge that there are countless roundups of motherly beauty tips, tricks, and lessons in the media. Just a couple months ago, I covered how stars from Kendall Jenner to Kaia Gerber have their moms to thank for their best beauty advice.
And though all these nostalgic narratives are lovely to read (and certainly informative—after all, mother knows best), they don’t always ring true for non-celebrities who have endured such awkward phases as troubled skin, overplucked eyebrows, or a bad dye job. So while we’ll always love our moms, anyone who winces when they catch sight of their go-to “beauty look” in an adolescent photo has at some point wondered, Mom, why didn’t you teach me these beauty lessons sooner?
So for everyone who’s suffered through a beauty blunder—that could have easily been stopped by the woman who raised you—here at Byrdie HQ, we’ve rounded up the top beauty rules we had to learn on our own.
“I’ve always pretty much idolized my mom—especially when it comes to her beauty aesthetic. (At 70, she literally has glowier skin me. It kills me. But only a little.) Growing up, I would sit outside her bathroom (literally, I would park my kiddie stool right outside the door) and watch as she’d situate her hair in rollers, apply her eye shadow, and swipe on a really great lip color. Then at night, the process would kind of repeat itself in reverse—I would watch her use her collection of bottles, tubes, and tubs to take off the day immediately after getting home. I was fascinated by makeup and skincare products, and so those were the products I would pick up and experiment with. However, I would never touch my hair, and avoided any kind of styling tool like it was cough syrup. (This aversion might also stem from 13 straight years of dance-required bun forms and immovable hair spray, but that’s a conversation for another day.)
“Even though my mom has and always will style her hair daily (and if it looks anything short of perfect she gets a bit grumpy—sorry mom, just telling it like it is), I’ve never picked up the habit. And as a result, I’m horrible at doing my own hair. Horrible. A blow-dryer and flat iron are about all I can manage and most of the time I rely on my neighborhood Drybar or just a good ole ponytail holder to suffice instead. I credit my mom with so many wonderful beauty lessons (e.g., being able to go bare-faced on the weekends 100% comfortably, always wearing sunscreen, going for a bold lip, etc.), but I also (from a still very kind and loving place in my heart) credit her with my absolute suckiness at styling.” — Erin Jahns, assistant editor
What beauty lessons do you wish your mom had taught you? Send us a DM over at @byrdiebeauty.
“I was a bit of a rebellious kid beauty-wise. My mom wouldn’t let me wear makeup in middle school, so I walked up the street to a CVS, bought my own mascara, came home, put it on, and asked her if she noticed anything different. After studying my face for a while, she asked if I was wearing mascara. ‘See!’ I said. ‘It’s subtle. I should be able to wear it.’ And from then on, I slowly graduated to eye shadow and blush. Little devil I was.
“Most ‘adult’ beauty things were always against my mother’s will: shaving my legs, dyeing my hair, tweezing my brows. I can’t exactly blame her for doing me a disservice by not teaching me the right way to do these things because I was always a step ahead of her—I was never late to the party; I just always showed up uninvited, so to speak. However, when it came to less experimental beauty aspects, like basic skincare, I wish she had instilled the importance of moisturizer much earlier on. I had acne-prone skin and used a million different acne treatments to try to make it go away, but it only made my case worse. I think that if she had taught me the importance of being kind to my skin and keeping it hydrated, my skin would have gotten better naturally. A good face cream was never a conversation between us, and I didn’t start using one until college. Now, I can’t even think about not hydrating my face—it gives me the heebie-jeebies.” — Lindsey Metrus, managing editor
“I just confronted my mom last weekend about why she ever let me touch my brows—at all. (My dad always told me that I have great brows and I should leave them be.) She had the very valid response that I was 13 years old and begging for the tweezers, so she probably wouldn’t have been able to stop me either way. Fair!
“Other than that, I wish I had known a bit more about skincare from a younger age. I didn’t establish a regimen until my early twenties—before that, I was armed with makeup removal wipes and the occasional moisturizer. If I had known that proper skincare would have made me feel that much more confident (and that it would make my makeup look so much better!), I would have started way earlier. My mom always had an array of formulas lying around, but she never had a dedicated routine and didn’t pass on any advice. Nowadays, I’m obsessed with skincare enough for the both of us: Whenever I go home to visit my parents, I’m always armed with a ton of products for my mom along with detailed instructions.” — Victoria Hoff, wellness editor
“My mom taught me a lot of beauty things, from the importance of exfoliating to the transformative power of lipstick. The one thing she didn’t teach me that I wish she had was the transformative power of having eyebrows. I have no eyebrows, and I lived the first 21 years of my life blissfully unaware of this fact. But the minute I started penciling in, I saw what a difference they made. Suddenly, my face looked complete, and the angles on my face were more pronounced where I wanted them to be and softer where I didn’t. It may sound overdramatic, but drawing in my eyebrows changed my life. Mom, I love you, but I would have loved a heads up—or better yet, a lesson—that eyebrows are just as important as eyeliner, lipstick, and skincare.” — Faith Xue, editorial director
“Growing up, my mom was such a stunning representation of what it looks like when true beauty, strength, and grace collide. She’s a woman who has set the standard for my sister and me of what it means to be beautiful—on the inside and out. As a child, my early beauty memories were watching my mom put on her makeup, switch up her sassy short haircuts when she wanted a change, and spritz on a perfume from her prestige collection. I’d always sneak into her room and put on her all-time favorite fragrance, Angel by Thierry Mugler ($80), when I wanted to smell as good as her. Beauty products were everywhere in my home, I didn’t have a choice but to love them.
“However, I didn’t wear as much sunscreen as I should have as a child. My mom would lather me in sunscreen during beach vacations when we’d be spending a lot of time in the direct sunlight, but I wish she would’ve every single day. There’s a misconception that people of color do not need to wear sunscreen because of the melanin in our skin, but that isn’t true. We need just as much sun protection as everyone else because UV rays can damage people of all skin tones. Now, I wear sunscreen every day and encourage every brown person I know to do the same.” — Maya Allen, assistant editor
“I understand that my mom was way too busy pursuing her badass career to care about this kind of stuff, but I always wished she’d taught me how to braid. I grew up having zero knowledge of how to French-braid or Dutch-braid or any of the cool styles my friends’ moms seemed to know how to do. I mean, my mother was also becoming a world-class research scientist or whatever, but, like, braids are pretty. And learning how to do them as an adult is harder than I’d like it to be.” — Amanda Montell, features editor
“I wish I could say I wish my mother warned me about my eyebrows, shimmery bronzer, and overwhelming black eyeliner—but, she did, and I didn’t listen. I also ignored her when she told me to appreciate my natural curls and went ahead and straightened them anyway. I do wish, however, that she better instilled the importance of sun protection. I never used to wear sunscreen (in fact, I mostly just wore baby oil) and only recently started applying it daily to keep my skin healthy. Now I feel like it’s my turn to warn her about damaging UV rays.” — Hallie Gould, senior editor