My 86-Year-Old Grandma Shared Her Beauty Secrets With Me—Here Are the Takeaways

I’m fortunate to have many inspiring women in my life, but I’ve always had a special connection with my grandma Rosalie (aka Mema). As a child, I remember being in awe of her style and unapologetic glamor—IRL and in pictures taken way before my time—from her perfectly blown-out hair to her red lips and long lashes. People always tell her she looked like Elizabeth Taylor, and they aren't wrong. Mema is still  the epitome of class and what I aspire to be, and not just because of how damn good she looks at 86 (that’s only part of it!), but because she’s shown me what it means to work hard; that it’s never too late to start over; and that dressing up and putting on a little makeup, just because, never hurts.

Mema immersed herself in the fashion world and started working in the New York Garment District when she was only 17. Being around so much color and beauty made her love for style—from the clothes and the makeup to the hair—really take off. She was able to express herself through these things and found that the more she dressed up, the more confident she felt, which helped her find a place in fashion at such a young age. She excelled in almost every facet of the industry, starting at a men's and boys' clothing manufacturer before transitioning to a women’s sportswear company, where she assisted one of the fashion designers and managed showroom sales. Eventually, she met my grandpa, got married, and started a family. Even though she stopped working at 24, when she became pregnant with my mom, and went on to have three more kids, she didn’t let her responsibilities as a mother keep her from her love of fashion and personal upkeep. Fifteen years later, she put all of her previous experience to use and returned to the workforce to start her own accessories and jewelry business. And she didn’t stop there: She went on to work at an iconic department store for another 20 years before retiring at the ripe age of 75.

Mema’s lifetime of experience with fashion and beauty—as a young woman, employee, mother, and business owner—has given her a particularly keen insight into what it means to be beautiful. Which made this story the perfect excuse to get her to tell me her best-kept beauty secrets, but now I’m obligated to share everything with you, too. (Sorry Mema, your secrets aren’t safe with me.)

If, after reading this article, you're thinking it makes sense to up your beauty game, well, you're absolutely right—and that's exactly what Ulta Beauty is here for. Keep scrolling for Mema's tips, and then treat yourself to some makeup and skin products, because we all deserve some extra joy this holiday season.

Never Forget to Wash Your Face

The secret to looking youthful is really simple: No matter how tired you are, always wash your face. Period. And start doing so when you’re young. Even if you don’t wear makeup, it’s so important to wash the day away, but never with regular soap, which can strip the moisture out of your skin. Use a facial cleanser or oil formulated with gentle ingredients that will get the job done. Mema believes that one of the easiest ways to age yourself is to not cleanse your skin daily. (And she's not wrong.)

Invest in Good Skincare, Particularly Creams

Remember: When Mema was growing up there wasn't a lot of product variety or shops like Ulta Beauty that made it easy to discover the latest and greatest in skincare. She used to use simple drugstore creams, which did the job, but when she was older and exposed to more innovative products, she realized what a difference they made—even prestige makeup! Can you really put a price on preserving your skin?

Carve Out Time to Pamper Yourself

Mema may have had four kids to take care of, but she said she always made time to pamper herself at the end of each day. Back in the day, that meant taking a beauty bath, aka soaking in the bathtub with oils, but now it means indulging in a face mask (especially before events, pre-COVID-19) to get her skin looking and feeling its best. At the end of the day, it’s the little rituals that have the biggest impact.

Find a Signature Look, and Stick to It

The '60s and '70s were for experimenting, but when Mema found her signature look, she pretty much stuck with some variation of it: perfectly blown-out and styled dark hair, smooth and youthful skin, red lipstick, brow pencil, and mascara. It’s simple and classic and her go-to daily look for a reason—it works. Pre-pandemic, when her social calendar was full of events, she’d do a heavier take on her daytime look, maybe adding some eyeliner or a darker red lip. In Mema's eyes, an event isn’t the time to experiment with something new, especially when pictures are involved. There’s a time and a place for everything.

With That Being Said, Don’t Be Afraid to Try Something New

For the 30 years that I’ve been alive, Mema has had one signature look and one signature look only. Until recently. I guess all it took was a global pandemic for her to switch things up by letting her hair go white. Before the pandemic, Mema went to see her hairstylist every week for a blowout and color touch-up, but when salons closed, she knew it would be too much upkeep to do on her own, and it was time to embrace her natural color. Even though she’s still on the fence about the change, it’s been an exciting ride. If nothing else, it's a reminder that beauty is meant to be fun and experimental, especially when it's not permanent.

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