Tried-And-True Beauty Tricks We’ve Learned From Elders

It’s always interesting to me that my abuelas have never followed a beauty blog or watched a YouTube tutorial. Of course, it’s a generational thing. The Internet is my oracle. Theirs was word of mouth, tradition, and a lack of  access that pushed them to be resourceful. 

In a world packed with products, tips, tutorials, and influencers that claim to have the answer to eternal beauty, it’s key to understand that there were women who did it before us. Before there was Sephora, Ulta or even electricity to heat up the curling iron, how did the elders do it? Here, three women break down the unique tricks elders have shared with them. 

  1. The Saliva Cleanse

“I was told about using morning saliva to cleanse my face by an Indigenous elder (I wish I’d  gotten to know about her community because pan-Indigeneity is not her identity) at the yearly Fiesta de las Culturas Indígenas, Pueblos y Barrios Originarios de la Ciudad de México at the Zócalo in Mexico City. I struck up a conversation as I was buying a tooth brush and saw she also sold face brushes. She had a glow about her and her skin looked very cared for, so I asked her what she used to wash her face with the brush. She told me she used her morning saliva specifically because it contains the right bacteria that develops overnight to clean and nourish her skin in the morning. She spreads it across her face and brushes it with the corn husk brush and finishes off with cold water.

My skin has never glowed like this. I am so happy to have found a routine that works for me without having to break my wallet or harm the environment. 

I think it’s unique to challenge the notion that our cleanliness can’t involve being creative with our own body liquids. And doing this and challenging all of those notions is kind of a coming-back-to-yourself, to accept, normalize, and define your own relationship to what you put on your skin by decolonized definitions.” – Natalia Rodriguez, 26

  1. The Toilet Paper Curlers

“My grandma taught me a technique where she creates a blow-out like bounce with a bare toilet paper roll (or half of a paper towel roll) and duckbill clips. You tilt your head forward, wrap your hair around the roll (make sure you place it on the top of your head so you can sleep) and secure it with the clips. Sleep in it, and unroll it when you wake up. You will look like Kate Middleton!

I have tried it. It works best on hair that’s already been blow dried or that dries straight-ish. I think it’s unique because it feels so old-school. It’s like a vintage way to curl your hair without electricity or a curling iron. It makes me feel like I’m doing something that women have been doing for decades. Veronica López, 26

  1. The Vicks Eyelash Curling Technique

“The memory comes from when I was very little, I remember finding a metal Vicks lid in my mom’s makeup bag and when I asked her what she used it for she told me it was for her eyelashes. She then told me it’s what my Grandma and neither one of them could justify spending money on an eyelash curler when they had found something that created the same effect. 

I have never tried this myself but I remember wanting to when I was little. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a metal Vicks tin anywhere but in my mom’s makeup bag. I think this stuck in my mind because I found myself in awe of the matriarchs in my family. The way they finessed a way to curl their eyelashes out of something they had finished using felt innovative back when I couldn’t quite describe what innovative was. I found this tiny detail of their makeup routine when I was beginning to fall in love with makeup and wanting to try it on myself so I think it really set the tone for what I was willing to spend money on when it comes to my beauty routine.” – Julianna Perez, 31

Frances Solá-Santiago

Born in Puerto Rico, based in New York City. She is the editor-in-chief on Emperifollá. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, NPR, Glamour Magazine, Numéro, Refinery29, Remezcla, and Bustle.

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