A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

45 Beauty Tips From Grandmas You’d Be a Fool Not to Follow

Here's the old-school beauty advice these top experts learned from their grandmothers—and still swear by today.

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Old-school Botox: Keep a straight face

“My grandmother was always telling me ‘Never cringe!,’ saying it was the quickest way to age a girl. This was basically the best ‘Botox’ before Botox existed. Anytime she noticed me making a face, she’d remind me and eventually I became so aware of my facial movements that it became second nature to make sure I wasn’t unconsciously giving myself wrinkles.” —Amal Elbahnasawy, foundress of ARTISANskin

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Scent on the rocks

“Growing up, I’d always see my grandmother’s perfume in the fridge, and she told me it kept the fragrance longer and felt refreshing on the skin. She was right. I love keeping mine cool, especially during the summer and fall months. And yes, it does make the fragrance smell sweeter, longer!” —Hilary Kennedy, style expert for Eye Opener TV. Try these other tricks that make perfume last longer.

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Skip the contouring

“My grandmother was May-Louise Flodin, the Miss World for Sweden in 1953 and one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. So when she gave beauty advice, I’d listen! She used to tell me to only put concealer inside the eye crease rather than spreading it all across under the eye, like most people do. It’s basically the opposite of the current contouring trend but try it because it looks amazing. She also was a fan of blue liner on blue eyes, green liner on green eyes, and brown liner on brown eyes rather than harsh black.” —Samantha Khoury from AMAIÒ Swim. Learn 10 more tricks for applying concealer flawlessly.

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Honey takes the sting out of scars

“My grandmother always put honey on our wounds to help them heal faster and reduce the appearance of scars. As a kid, I was a major tomboy, played rough, and got a lot of scars and I’m pretty sure I’d still have some nasty ones today if I didn’t put honey on them. Now there is even research to back up what she said, and honey is even used on surgical scars today.” —Erin Stair, MD, MPH, founder of bloomingwellness.com and creator of ZENBands 

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Parasols never go out of style

“My grandmother had the most beautiful porcelain white skin. Her whole life she always covered up wearing sunscreen, hats, long sleeves and pants, and would even walk around with an umbrella to protect her skin from the sun. At the time, I thought she was crazy. I couldn’t believe that she walked around with an umbrella when it was sunny outside! I thought that being tan looked great. Now I know how smart she was to do this. Even when she was in her 50s and 60s no one could ever guess her age and everyone was always telling her how young she looked.” —Stefanie Parks, founder of DermWarehouse

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iStock/Peter Hermus

Double-duty makeup

“One trick my grandmother taught me was that you can use your lipstick to not only give a little color to the lip, but also a little glow to the cheek or a hint of shine on the eyelid.” —Sunnie Brook Jones, Celebrity Stylist for Head & Shoulders

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Wear your vegetables

“As young as girl my grandmother encouraged me to rub fruit and vegetable peels on my skin. For example, rather than discarding the peels left over from mangoes, avocados, and apples, she showed me how to massage the inner peels on my face and hands, explaining that her mother taught her the very same thing when she was a little girl. It turns out they are wonderful natural moisturizers and provides the skin nutrient-rich benefits. Whenever I finish eating an avocado, you can catch me with my looking like The Incredible Hulk!” —Jennifer Isaac, MODE cofounder. Try these other 9 recipes for effective homemade face masks.

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Wash your makeup off every night. Yes, you.

“Grandma always told me that no matter the events of the day, always end it with a clean face so that I could wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day. It helps your skin breathe and heal while you sleep.” —Amal Elbahnasawy

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Nature’s conditioner: Scalp oil

“The old saying is true: My Grandma always used to brush her hair 100 strokes before bedtime to stimulate the natural oils of the scalp and move them down the rest of the hair shaft. This is nature’s conditioner! It also stimulates blood flow and exfoliates the scalp.” —James Corbett, director of color for Clairol. Make sure you know these other 38 secrets hair stylists won’t tell you.

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Get comfy

“I learned from my grandma that it’s better to wear what makes you feel good rather than what you think others will like. I take this to heart and wear comfortable clothes that make me feel good over fancy, uncomfortable or trendy clothes. I find this makes me more comfortable in situations and ultimately interact better with others.” —Stacy Caprio of Colorful Eyes

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A smile is the best accessory

“When my grandmother told me that my smile was my best accessory I always assumed this was just her way of saying she liked my smile, it wasn’t until years later that I realized what she really meant. All of the makeup and beauty products in the world can never compare to the power of an optimistic smile. It instantly changes any introduction, conversation, or dilemma.” —Amal Elbahnasawy

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Don’t be afraid to DIY

“My grandmother was always very natural, making her own beauty products by using what was available to her. She would dry out flowers for perfume and make moisturizing hair masks from vinegar and milk. I like to use products with similar, fresh ingredients without mineral oils, silicones, and parabens. My grandmother never used those chemicals and she had the most gorgeous hair.” —Rebekah Forecast, celebrity stylist for Hair Food

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Red lipstick forever

“According to my grandma, red lipstick is never a bad choice, no matter the occasion or the outfit. It will perk up any look, make you feel better and more alive. If you’re having a bad day, throw on some red lipstick and get out of the house. Chances are things will start to look up for you.” —Stefanie Parks

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Don’t sleep on your face

“My grandmother always told me to sleep on my back. Compression of the face when sleeping on your side or stomach causes distortion. Repeated distortion over time can cause sleep wrinkles and stretch the skin. It’s much easier to establish sleep habits when younger than trying to change ingrained sleep patterns later. In the absence of medical problems, back sleeping is ideal. If you can’t stay on your back through the night, try my grandmother’s trick: a silk or satin pillow case. It makes your face ‘slippery’ against the pillow.” —Goesel Anson, MD, a board certified plastic surgeon, skin care expert and creator of JuveRest. Learn 10 things dermatologists do to wake up with younger-looking skin.

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Get dressed every day

“No matter what she was doing, where she was going, or who she was meeting, my grandmother always took the time to put herself together properly. She always looked great and she always took care of herself. I try to do the same, I’ve learned it’s best to be prepared for anything!” —Stefanie Parks

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Give yourself a healthy glow

“My great-grandmother gave the best beauty advice. She told me that just before meeting a date I should pinch my cheeks to look like I’m wearing rouge. There’s no cheaper alternative to blush than pinching your face softly and the best part is you can always guarantee the shade will match your skin tone perfectly.” —Colin Tracy, owner of Chelsea’s Boutique. Use these 27 tricks to get glowing skin without makeup or expensive products.

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Everyone loves the smell of cookies

“Can’t afford perfume? No problem! My great-grandmother told me to go to the spice cabinet, grab a bottle of vanilla and rub a little bit on both sides of your neck. Who doesn’t love the scent of vanilla? It smells like cookies!” —Colin Tracy

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Healthy nails are the best manicure

“Being a nurse, my grandmother couldn’t wear brightly colored polish at work so she avoided putting anything with harsh chemicals on her nails. Because of this, she always had the most beautiful, natural-looking nails throughout her life. She also kept a nail brush around her house to scrub her nails before painting them.” —Elle, celebrity nail tech. Avoid these 12 everyday habits that ruin your hair and nails.

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Get your beauty rest

“My grandma is Japanese and one of the most beautiful women I know. She told me the most important thing she’s learned is the importance of a good night’s sleep. It helps renew and rejuvenate your skin.” —Fumi Ozaki, licensed esthetician in Redondo Beach, California

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Hot oil hair treatments

“My Indian grandmother Rekha had the most beautiful long, black hair. She taught me to mix 2 tbsp each of amla, coconut, and castor oils and heat it lightly on the stove. Massage the warm oil into the scalp. After letting it sit for 30 minutes, shampoo and condition as normal. It was a great bonding experience with her.” —Sarika Batra, founder of Lavish Life

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Vaseline is your best friend

“My grandmother used to use Vaseline on just about everything. It’s simple, cheap and works great for dry skin, chapped lips, and cracked heels. To this day, I use it on my dry, itchy skin, especially this time of year as fall and winter tend to make my skin drier.” —Hillary Kline, freelance makeup artist and beauty blogger. Here are 12 more things dermatologists do in the winter, and you should too.

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Grow your own beauty products

“My Chinese grandmother had lots of great beauty advice I still use to this day, most of it centered on simple products she made from plants in our backyard. She froze green tea into ice cubes for an ice facial, it makes my skin so supple and firm. She’d also break an aloe leaf in half and massage the juice into my scalp and then rinse it out to give my hair a beautiful gloss. Lastly, she’d bathe in milk and honey—she said it gave her silky smooth skin.” —Daisy Jing, entrepreneur and founder of the multimillion-dollar company, Banish

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Check your medications

“I learned from my grandmother, Baptista Albertini, that many skin problems like dryness, sun sensitivity, and hyperpigmentation are side effects of medications we take. Birth control pills, for example, regularly cause dark pigmentation like a mustache or ‘mother’s mask’ blotches. She also taught me the best way to treat these skin problems, with her beloved olive oil. Because she is Italian any dry spot or skin irritation was treated with a healthy dose of olive oil. I now use this same simple trick with my own four granddaughters!” —Valerie Albertini, beauty and skin care expert 

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Use this tropical fruit in the winter

“Coconut oil makes an amazing moisturizer, especially in dry winter months. My grandmother had notoriously soft skin, and she swore by coconut oil as the best (and most natural) way to get smooth, younger looking skin. It totally solved my ‘snakeskin’ problem during the wintertime.” —Hilary Kennedy. Don’t miss these other 10 solutions for winter skin problems.

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Classic and practical nails

“My grandmother always filed her nails to an almond shape, which naturally elongated her hands and helped prevent breakage, as opposed to square-shaped nails that typically snag on things, causing them to chip or split more easily. The almond shape is definitely back in trend right now and will help you maintain a long nail length without losing any strength.” —Elle, celebrity nail tech. These are 10 tips can help make your manicure last a week or longer.

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Dress for success

“My grandmother always told me to always dress for success as you only have once chance to make a good first impression. It’s important to make time for grooming. And no outfit was complete without lipstick. A little color on the face makes a difference and it gives you a sense of boldness.” —Lynette Snyder, owner and esthetician at Wax Pot Studio

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iStock/Djura Topalov

Shampoo as a signature scent

“When I was growing up, every summer I would go to my grandparents ranch. My Grandmother always used the classic Herbal Essences shampoo. I vividly remembered seeing the yellow bottle in the shower and the amazing smell from it every time I hugged her. Living in a rural environment, you are more resourceful and simple things to most—like drugstore shampoo—become pleasurable luxuries like perfume. To this day whenever I smell that shampoo it’s like getting a hug from my grandma.” —Charles Baker Strahan, Herbal Essences celebrity stylist. Learn how to fix common mistakes you make when washing your hair.

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Get fishy

“My grandmother always insisted I eat steamed fish regularly. She claimed that it would make my skin beautiful and soft and with all the research coming out about the health benefits of omega-3 nutrients these days, she was clearly onto something.” —Mariana Leung, author of Ms. FABulous

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iStock/Alexandr Dubovitskiy

Protect colored hair with vinegar

“After shampooing and conditioning, my Grandma would do a final rinse with apple cider vinegar and distilled water. This actually closes the hair cuticle which gives shine, reduces frizz and helps makes hair color last longer—something I swear by and tell all my clients to do today!” —James Corbett. Avoid these 9 hair color mistakes that ruin your hair.

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Get your own kit

“Something my grandmother taught me, and that I’ve passed on to my own three granddaughters is the importance of using good makeup tools and having your own set. Make sure to wash your make-up brushes regularly and never use someone else’s brushes as that could lead to a nasty infection.” —Rhonda Allison, founder of Rhonda Allison Cosmeceuticals

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Don’t forget your feet

“I used to love trying on my grandma’s shoes but she taught me that while it’s fine to play dress up sometimes, you shouldn’t wear other people’s shoes. Athlete’s foot and other skin infections can be transferred by direct contact. She also taught me the importance of moisturizing your feet. You’re putting lotion on your face already so don’t forget to give some love to your feet.” —Patricia Nicholas, MD, president-elect of the New York State of Podiatric Medical Association

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Hair needs to be moisturized too

“When I was growing up no one could never correctly guess my grandmother’s age, she looked so young. Her top tip for being a timeless beauty? Keep your hair properly moisturized. You would be surprised how much older dull and dry hair can make you look. She swore by Dark and Lovely as it has been around for generations and because it has coconut oil, the best hair moisturizer.” —Stephanie McLemore, style squad leader

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Eat your vegetables

“My grandmother always said beautiful skin comes from the inside out and she was always reminding me to eat my veggies. Not only will you get gorgeous hair, skin and nails but you’ll be healthier inside too.” —Angela Irish, licensed esthetician and co-founder of OZNaturals Skincare. Load up on these foods that help you fight wrinkles.

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iStock/Nicolas McComber

Wear your sunscreen

“My grandmother passed away when I was very young, but she did leave me with one big tip: Always wear sunscreen. Tanning was very popular with previous generations, and it’s only since then that dermatologists and researchers have begun to understand the consequences. I have fair skin and it runs in my family, so sunscreen is a must. My daily beauty routine includes a moisturizer that contains a little sunscreen, and it’s kept my fair skin softer and looking young. I’ll always appreciate the advice my grandmother gave me.” —Kylen Moran, fashion and beauty blogger. Watch out for these 12 mistakes you just bought the wrong sunscreen.

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Hydrate early and well

“Drink a glass of still water the moment you wake up. According to my grandma this will nourish the organs and help cleanse any toxins. I do this and I think that no matter how many technologies are out there to maintain beauty, sometimes less is more.” —Fumi Ozaki

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Bright colors are happy colors

“My grandmother was never a fan of all the black clothing worn in fashion social circles. She believed that wearing bright, happy colors outside would bring out the bright, happy feelings and beauty from inside. And I have to say that it works. When I wear my favorite colors, I feel instantly brighter and more beautiful.” —Mariana Leung

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Don’t over wash your face

“My grandma had flawless skin. She taught me that when cleaning your face, use warm water and gentle cleansers. Scrubbing too hard or using water that is too hot can strip the oil your skin needs to be healthy and resilient. Being overzealous in your skincare regimen can even make skin conditions like acne worse.” —Ryan Phillips, founder of BioClarity. Learn 13 more ways you’re washing your face wrong.

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Castor oil isn’t just for colds

“My grandmother used to put castor oil in her hair and she told me to do the same. At that time, she didn’t know exactly why or how the oil worked in her hair, but saw that it made her locks thicker and smoother. Today, we know castor oil contains many vitamins and proteins, including vitamin D, which are great for hair health and sheen. I put a vitamin D serum on my hair daily.” —Celeste Hilling, CEO and co-founder of Skin Authority

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Time-saving trick

“I remember watching my grandmother using one product—a lipstick, an eyeshadow, or a blush—to tint her lips, cheeks, and eyes, all while gently blending. I was amazed as I had never seen anyone use lipstick this way before. My grandmother’s clever three-in-one DIY beauty trick has stuck with me as I do the very same especially when I’m pressed for time.” —Cristina Samuels, MODE Cofounder.

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Less is more with makeup

“My grandmother always frowned on the trend for dark over-lined eyes. As a teen, both my mom and grandmother tried to steer me to more of natural makeup look and as I look back at old photos, I wish that I had taken their advice. But as a young know-it-all and apparently not-so-talented teenage makeup user, I will forever have pictures to remind me to listen to my elders. As a 30-something, I have finally learned the concept of day verse nighttime appropriate makeup looks and tend towards a natural effortless look that I think suites me better.” —Erica Parker, celebrity esthetician at Michael Todd Beauty. These 19 “no-makeup” makeup tricks make you look naturally beautiful.

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Gloves are a girl’s best friend

“My grandma was a true southern woman, in body and spirit. One of her favorite tips she passed on to me was to take care of your hands, as they show your true age. She always put cream on at night and would put white cotton gloves on them. She was 90 years old and truly had no wrinkles.” —HollyBeth Anderson of HollyBeth Organics. Find out which parts of your body show your age first—and how to keep them looking young.

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Put some color in your cheeks

“Johnette, my grandmother, taught me that adding a bit of color to your cheeks can revitalize your whole look. This has saved me many times when I’m out on a long shoot and haven’t had time to do full-touch ups on my makeup.” —Hilary Kennedy

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Ignore the old diet advice and eat fattening foods

“My grandma ate everything and had uniquely flawless skin, even when she passed away in her nineties. I think her diet was a huge part of that. When I started to diet as a kid by not eating any fat, she scolded me that my skin, nails, and hair would suffer. Granted, you want to eat the good kind of fats, and try to stay away from processed. You’ll age faster if you start cutting major food groups out of your diet.” —Erin Stair

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All natural moisturizer

“My Japanese grandma swore by camellia oil for moisture and hydration. She’d apply it twice a day on her face and hair. Plus she liked the smell of it.” —Fumi Ozaki. Check out these other 12 beauty tips everyone should know by age 40.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen is a health, lifestyle and fitness expert and teacher. She covers all things wellness for Reader’s Digest and The Healthy. With dual masters degrees in information technology and education, she has been a journalist for 17 years and is the author of The Great Fitness Experiment. She lives in Denver with her husband, five kids and three pets.