Conversations at Home: Ancestral Advice
Stuck at home for an indeterminate amount of time? Perhaps we can choose to see social distancing as something more than just forced separation; maybe we can also see it as an invitation to reconnect—if only virtually for some—with loved ones who would be further out of reach given our otherwise busy and quarantine-less lifestyles.
That’s why we’re encouraging you to gather your nan and your pop, your mom and your old man around the dinner table (or on the line) for some conversations at home about all the self-care and beauty tips, tricks, hacks, secrets, and potions you learned from them growing up. For some inspo, we chatted with five folks who gave us an inside look at the self-maintenance magic they inherited from their family members who have helped to keep them smooth, moisturized, and free of toxic energy (Sag boys, Nana’s lookin’ at you).
People nowadays unabashedly get whole-body scrub downs at Korean bath houses, but I distinctly remember a time when you didn’t tell people about it. (Semi-public nudity freaks some people out, what can I say.) But the thing is, you can also practice this intense exfoliation at home, too—I know this because my mom would aggressively slough me raw when I was younger. Here’s how you do it: Get yourself an exfoliating mitt (the Korean ones look like these little slip pockets, but I much prefer the big Turkish glove). Soak your body in hot water to get your skin real soft. Dab a little bar soap onto the mitt. Scrub your entire body with it. Don’t be afraid to use pressure. See the skin come off in little clumps. It’s time-consuming, but it’s also a very satisfying experience. Once you’ve scaled most of the body (the backside is hard), give yourself a thorough rinse, dry off, and slap some baby oil or moisturizer on. Enjoy that smooth dolphin skin and stroke yourself often while you can — dead skin comes back quickly. For best results, my mom recommends you do this at least once a month.
My Aunt, who has always been the mother I never had, taught me to use cold cream as a makeup remover! She learned from her mom, who used it as a moisturizing cleanser. It really saved me from gross skin during my emo phase and remains the only thing I will use to take off thick black eyeliner and eyeshadow.
I’m always surprised by how much my nana’s advice has found its way into my daily routines. She’s the one who taught me to burn sage to cleanse my space, reminding me to open the windows to let negative spirits out. She taught me to put my intentions into the universe and manifest the things I want by writing them down, which has worked tremendously in the past few years and helped me achieve goals in career, travel, and life (if you don’t do this already, I swear, it’s highly effective!). She’s also the one who taught me to avoid Sagittarius men—a self-care tip I’ve failed to heed a few too many times, but probably should have! As woo-woo as it all sounds, what seems like odd wisdom to others has made a major difference in my life and kept us joined at the hip as the hippies of our family.
Though the women in my family have a multitude of other life skills, they’ve never been much help when it comes to beauty expertise—hence my learning to braid hair in first grade from my friend’s older sister on the school bus. The only beauty advice my mom has ever given me came in middle school, when she told me not to let anyone touch my eyebrows, which apparently have nice natural arches. To this day the most I’ve ever done to them is apply some Boy Brow. But there is one thing that my grandma (who grew up with very little time for or interest in vanity and only uses products that are 100% natural) has always sworn by, and that’s emu oil. I have tremendously difficult skin (think dry, combination, acne-prone, rosacea, maybe a little eczema here and there, you get the gist, life is hard, wah) and she’s been trying to get me to use some of the stuff for YEARS. At 81, she’s really active and swims in a chlorinated pool every single day, and says the oil keeps her skin evenly moisturized. Well, after all this time, I finally took her up on it during a moment of particular weakness, and I have to say, the woman’s right. It’s surprisingly un-greasy and after two weeks of using it morning and night, my face feels more evenly toned than ever before.
Tomás , 24
Typically, beauty secrets are passed down from generation to generation but in my case they were actually passed up! My mother used to only cleanse her face using micellar water and a physical exfoliator that contained microbeads, tragic. So, last Christmas, my siblings and I gifted her a brand new skin care routine. Even after all of this time she still follows the regimen that we gave her every day and even has little notes to help her remember the proper order to use each product in. Pretty heartwarming if you ask me 🙂