My grandmother is 86 years old and has gorgeous skin. She’s in good health, and insists on brushing her long, thick hair every day by herself despite it being very hard on her arms and shoulders. She’s very unhappy with my self-care routine (of lack thereof, if you were to ask her), and I totally agree with her on that. My grandma’s amazing beauty secrets have worked wonders for her; why aren’t I following them?
When it comes to food, doctors and nutritionists today advise us to “eat what our grandmothers ate” while writing out prescriptions for our sundry lifestyle diseases. Why is that? Because our grandparents lived in a time when everyone ate organic, wholesome foods – by default. There was no junk food back then, no processed foods. Restaurants were few and far between and visiting one was an occasional indulgence if at all. Meals were straightforward, with no keto, paleo, or low-carb rules, and were enjoyed. All in all, their generation’s relationship with food was vastly healthier, and the food itself was healthy, wholesome and nutritious. So, yeah, it makes a lot of sense to consider reverting back to those habits in our modern quest for good health and wellness.
Hark Back to Simpler Times
Not to glorify a cliche about the past being “better”, but I wondered: wouldn’t this apply to our skin and hair care routines as well? Our grandmothers didn’t have to wrestle with choosing from hundreds of products in the store shelves. They didn’t use chemical-heavy products that made their hair accidentally fall out, or their skin break out unusually. They didn’t have to deal with carcinogens, micro plastics, industrial chemicals, and countless other damaging ingredients that we have to deal with today and that entire wellness industries have exploded around. They lived in that golden age before the consumerism madness kicked in, before advertising and marketing led to an explosion of 200 different hair cleaning products specifically for “light, fine, shoulder-length hair”, and before products came into the market to counter the side-effects of products that had come into the market five years prior. Dry shampoo to counter the excess oiliness caused by the chemical conditioner, anyone?
Anyways, while I’m sure there are numerous big-brand, commercial products that do exactly what they say and cause minimal harm to the environment, I’m not interested in them. My philosophy is to cut back on modern trappings and revert to simpler ways of doing things – old fashioned beauty secrets, if you will. Because they work. And, more importantly, because they don’t destroy our health and that of the environment. And they are as zero waste as possible.
Grandma’s Amazing Beauty Secrets
So, since my beautiful grandma isn’t going to blog about her 1950s housewife beauty routine, I thought I’d take a stab at it. With inputs from her and other grandmas! So here are some of my grandma’s amazing beauty secrets!
The 1950s morning routine was super simple. Wake up, splash water on your face, brush your teeth with toothpowder, and begin the day. A bath was preferred to a shower, and home-made shampoos with natural ingredients were preferred to commercial shampoos (there weren’t many commercial shampoos then). Coconut and olive oils were used as moisturizers, a healthy, balanced diet was followed naturally (because mass-produced, processed food hadn’t yet arrived in the world), sleep was sound and peaceful (stress? what stress?), and digital gadgets were a thing of the future that no one knew about.
It seems idyllic, and it probably was – especially compared to our smog-filled, proto-dystopian lives today. Our grandmothers sure had their share of stresses, but it was generally not overwhelming and incapacitating like it is today. Stress is a modern lifestyle disease, remember?
The popular 50s beauty routine was all about grooming and good habits. Fashion hadn’t yet spawned its many avatars (90s fashion, anyone?), and beauty companies were just beginning to get commercial, and spending a long time contouring your face was a long, long, long way into the future.
Old fashioned beauty secrets, then, aren’t really “secrets”, but more of a forgotten way of life that we ought to reintroduce into society. Our grandmas’ beauty products were simple, their beauty routines were simple, nutrition was simple, and the air was cleaner. While we can’t really do anything much about the air and the food for now, what we can do is borrow some of grandma’s skincare tips and emulate grandma’s beautiful hair routine in our own lives. Bonus? They’re eco-friendly as heck!
Here are some Quick Vintage Beauty Tips that Still Work
1. Want soft and smooth skin? Exfoliate with sugar or salt.
You can either mix some salt/sugar into your moisturizer, or rub it onto your skin separately. It acts as an abrasive layer that rubs out the dirt and grime on your skin. You could mix sugar into honey and rub it into your skin and leave it on as a face pack. See, vintage skincare routines involve items that are already within arm’s reach.
2. Want to whiten your teeth? Use baking soda.
Mix a bit of water with a pinch of baking soda and brush your teeth gently with this mixture. Twice a week should be enough to keep your pearly whites sparkling.
3. Want to soften your hair? Use oil to moisturize and condition before washing it off.
So, try massaging your scalp using oil before washing your hair. Let this oil sit for an hour or so, so your hair can soak in all the goodness. And finally, wash your hair with soap nuts or other natural concoctions. Organic shampoo bars are ideal as a clean and healthy hair cleanser. I use store-made natural, non-toxic products for my hair, but eventually I hope to make my own. But here’s the thing: no conditioner used after washing your hair! The oil massage is enough to condition your hair.
4. Want some basic make-up?
5. Want to reduce facial puffiness after a rough night?
Rub ice cubes over your face. This solution will never not work!
6. Long-term hair care?
Brush your hair every night so the scalp oils get distributed along your hair strands. Plus, your scalp will love the blood circulation. One hundred brush strokes every night? Maybe there is something to that, after all.
7. Special weekend treat for your skin?
Rub papaya onto your skin and let dry. Wash off after 20 minutes for a fresh feel. In fact, you can mash up any fruit and apply on your face as a pack. As my mom says, “If you can eat it, your skin can take it.”
8. Heading outdoors in the heat of summer?
Make sure your head is covered. Use an umbrella to hide from the sun if required. Wear breathable clothes and drink loads of water.
9. Want to avoid falling sick?
Keep your body cool in the summer, and wash your hair with cool water. This tip is interesting, since it’s neither a beauty tip or nor medical advice. But it sure works. Especially in peak summer heat, when you’re one step away from heatstroke and are always battling heat-induced acne, I can vouch for the importance of keeping your body cool. Infused water may be a relatively new trend in the beauty & wellness industry, but it’s been done since time immemorial. Don’t drink cold water; cool water is perfect. And try to bathe/shower with cool water.
10. Want to feel happy?
Sleep well, and make an effort to dress up – no matter where you’re going. My grandma always looks perfectly put together, not a hair out of place. I used to think this was too much, but now that I’m no longer a brooding teenager who wears only black, I can appreciate how much our outward appearance can affect our inner mood. So, smile! Dance! Enjoy life!
All of this seems pretty simple. Like how things ought to be. The tips boil down to, as my grandma tells me, a basic three-point system:
The tips for aging gracefully are also similar. As things get more stressful and uncertain, it’s always a good idea to go back to tried and tested methods for basic health and emotional upkeep. Not to sound too dramatic, but we’ll all soon be in situations where we may face shortage of energy, products, money or something else. This is a reminder to keep things simple, and to be grateful for what we have, and what we’ve experienced. This attitude is also important to grow the happiness that can enhance your life.
Note: The images used in this post are of super gorgeous grandmas, but the photographs are not mine, and none of them are my grandma. They’re all taken from Unsplash. Thank you to the respective photographers!
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