May 30, 2023

mom holding baby on beach

My mom has taught me many things, but we never really connected when it came to beauty. I have childhood memories of my mom’s bathroom counter—the amber-colored Shiseido Honey Cake soap beside her sink, the curlers she’d use in her long black hair, and the pared-back and precise collection of makeup including a straightforward eyeshadow palette, a couple of shades of lipstick, and a sensible blush.

On my last trip back home, I decided to go through my mom’s old albums. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen the photos, but it was the first time I appreciated her laid-back approach to beauty. Long hip-length black hair, minimal makeup, and a naturally sun-kissed glow (she grew up in Hawaii) was her signature look.

As I studied each page, I asked her to spill some of her biggest beauty rules. What I predicted to be tips on channeling a natural makeup look or styling hair in an unfussy way, turned out to be holistic advice not just for beauty, but for life. Here are six tried-and-true (and timeless) takeaways I’ve learned from my number one beauty icon.

woman with long hair wearing leis

Eat seaweed for healthy hair

A Japanese beauty secret passed down to my mom from her mother (and generations before) is that a diet rich in seaweed keeps your hair healthy. The Japanese believe that seaweed, a vegan source of collagen, helps to keep your hair black and shiny. Some seaweed also boasts zinc as well as vitamins A and C, which are known to aid in stimulating hair growth and production.

woman sitting with lake in background

Wake up with the sunrise

My mom has always been an early riser, so I was not surprised when she included waking up with the sunrise on her list of beauty commandments. Waking up early to get a head start on the day, and going to sleep at a reasonable hour, has been a habit she’s stuck with for as long as I can remember. Even in retirement, she’s up by 6 a.m. and constantly filling her time with something productive.

Mist regularly

My mom was born in Hawaii but has been living in Seattle since her 20s. She says living in or near the 47th parallel North (which includes Washington State as well as Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota, as well as parts of European countries like France, Switzerland, and Italy) is an ideal climate for the skin. For those not living in these regions, she insists that it’s important to mist regularly to protect your skin barrier and restore your skin’s hydration.

woman sitting with mountain in background

Spend more time outdoors

My mom moved to the Pacific Northwest after law school, and even to this day frequently makes trips to the Mount Rainier National Park and the San Juan Islands. She believes that spending time outside is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health. She recommends making time for regular weekend trips when time allows. Even opting to walk instead of drive can be a way to spend a little more time outdoors.

Avoid fast food and alcohol

While not a health nut by any means, my mom steers clear of junk food and doesn’t drink alcohol. Jennifer Lopez has credited giving up alcohol for her ageless beauty, so I realize my mom may be onto something (though I don’t personally plan on giving up alcohol anytime soon).

woman in graduation cap and gown

Remember that beauty comes from within

It may be a cliché, but it’s probably the most sound piece of beauty advice anyone could give or get: What’s on the inside matters more than any outer beauty. She has always prioritized making time to enrich her mind through interests like theater, travel, and talks held by those in a variety of industries. While not explicitly a beauty commandment, I agree that a holistic approach to cultivating a healthy and dynamic life is where true beauty really lies.