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10 ‘Mom-Told-Me’ Beauty Tips: Fact vs. Fiction

A dermatologist debunks some long-held beliefs

Mother and daughter doing makeup together
izusek/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Mom knew best. Or at least she sometimes did. How many snippets of maternal beauty wisdom still linger in your brain? Beauty advice, like good gossip, is hard to ignore or forget — especially when it comes from women you trust, whether that’s your mother, sister, aunt, best friend or a celebrity via Instagram or Facebook. How many of these grapevine tips are even true? I asked Doris Day, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City for medical insights, and added my own beauty editor two cents. Here are 10 of the most-common myths — and the real deal for all.

1. Over-plucked brows won’t grow back

(Clockwise from left) A woman touching up her brows; Maybelline Express Brow 2-in-1 Pencil and Powder Eyebrow Makeup ($8, target.com); e.l.f. Bite-Size Eyebrow Palette in Taupe ($4, target.com)
(Clockwise from left) A woman touching up her brows; Maybelline Express Brow 2-in-1 Pencil and Powder Eyebrow Makeup ($8, target.com); e.l.f. Bite-Size Eyebrow Palette in Taupe ($4, target.com)
Westend61/Getty Images; Target (2)

Well, sort of. By age 50, eyebrow regrowth is very slow and, in some cases, not possible. Those who got overzealous with the tweezer years ago may find their overthinned or tadpole-shaped brows and missing tails don’t respond to a hands-off approach or even brow-enhancing formulas and biotin supplements. But it’s not just tweezing; repeated waxing or threading also can do permanent damage. “According to my observation of patients for over 20 years, overdoing plucking can scar or at least stun the hair follicle at the root, which means the hair won’t grow back,” says Day. “Be aware that some underlying medical conditions such as thyroid disease or dysfunction can contribute to brow loss too. Sometimes Minoxidil can help regrowth if the follicle is still present and even works to restore brows thinned due to natural aging. Microblading — which I prefer to tattooing — can help mask brow loss, and when done well can look very natural.” My beauty editor advice? Microblading by a skilled technician can create realistic-looking brows that last one to three years with touchups. However, the cost (from $500 to $2,000), pain (yes, it hurts!) and maintenance (you do need touch-ups) of this procedure is a consideration, and those with sensitive skin should skip it in favor of good brow makeup.

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2. Always apply face cream up, not down

(Left to right) Mount Lai Gua Sha Facial Lifting Tool in Jade ($28, sephora.com); EcoTools Mini Rose Quartz Roller ($10, ulta.com); Tatcha The Dewy Skin Cream Hydrating & Plumping Moisturizer ($69, sephora.com)
(Left to right) Mount Lai Gua Sha Facial Lifting Tool in Jade ($28, sephora.com); EcoTools Mini Rose Quartz Roller ($10, ulta.com); Tatcha The Dewy Skin Cream Hydrating & Plumping Moisturizer ($69, sephora.com)
Sephora; Ulta Beauty; Sephora

The thought behind this nugget was massaging on lotions and potions in anything but an upward motion encouraged wrinkles and sag. “Direction doesn’t matter,” says Day. “The point is to gently pat products like serums, moisturizers and sunscreen on before massaging them in. I go in both directions — upward to soothe, downward to help lymphatic drainage and decrease puffiness since lymph nodes are under the chin and along the neck.” This is good to know, since jade rollers and gua shua stones are now beauty staples. The secret is to make the application of the product a soothing, relaxing daily experience. Don’t apply too much pressure and always apply a cream or serum first for slip. Keep your gua sha and roller in the fridge to amp up the refreshing benefits too.

3. Cutting hair makes it thicker

(Left to right) Sharon Stone, Katie Couric and Lucy Liu
(Left to right) Sharon Stone, Katie Couric and Lucy Liu
Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic; Steve Granitz/WireImage; Jim Spellman/Getty Images

Sorry Mom, but our hair is dead. It doesn’t know whether it’s a pixie, shag or shoulder-grazing, and the follicles at the scalp (where hair growth lives) sure don’t know either. Hair is always in one of three phases: growing, transitioning or resting. For some people the growth phase is longer, and for others fairly short. So, here’s the truth: It’s all about the haircut. Getting a blunt cut deletes splits and frayed ends so your hair looks and feels thicker. The number of hairs and diameter of each hair shaft don’t change at all. Hair-healthy foods like chicken, fish, whole grains, salmon, nuts, avocado and spinach help, as does switching to sulfate-free products and light styling spray and airy mousse.

4. Crossing your legs causes varicose veins

(Left to right) Jobst Ultra Sheer Women’s Pantyhose 15-20 mmHg Closed Toe ($123, discountsurgical.com); Dermablend Leg and Body Makeup Foundation with SPF 25; Estée Lauder Double Wear Maximum Coverage Camouflage Makeup Foundation for Face and Body SPF 15; Sigvaris Essential 863C Select Comfort Knee High 30-40 mmHg ($68, discountsurgical.com)
(Left to right) Jobst Ultra Sheer Pantyhose ($123, discountsurgical.com); Dermablend Leg and Body Makeup Foundation; Estée Lauder Maximum Coverage Camouflage Makeup Foundation; Sigvaris Essential 863C Select Comfort Knee High ($68, discountsurgical.com)
Discount Surgical; Dermstore; Nordstrom; Discount Surgical

Well ... crossing your legs doesn’t cause those bulging blue veins, but it doesn’t help. “Genes are the driving force here, but crossing your legs when you sit can encourage and worsen them — so does standing for long periods of time,” says Day. “If you have a job that keeps you on your feet all day, compression stockings can help. Always speak to your doctor first before trying these, but in general 15–20 mmHg or 20–30 mmHg denier by medical-grade brands like Jobst and Sigvaris are helpful and look great too.” If you have discoloration, leg makeup is an option. Try a highly pigmented one like Estée Lauder Double Wear Maximum Coverage Camouflage Makeup Foundation for Face and Body SPF 15 ($48, nordstrom.com) or Dermablend Leg and Body Makeup Foundation with SPF 25 ($37, dermstore.com) for confidant coverage. Keeping your body at a healthy weight and avoiding smoking, sitting or standing for long periods (this causes blood pooling and increased pressure on veins) is also helpful. And skip the high heels!

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5. Always apply makeup in natural light

(Left to right) Easehold LED Vanity Tri-Fold Makeup Mirror in White ($33, amazon.com); Makeup Revolution x DC Mad Love Cream Blusher Quad ($12, target.com); deweisn Tri-Fold Lighted Makeup Mirror in Black ($20, amazon.com)
(Left to right) Easehold LED Vanity Tri-Fold Makeup Mirror in White ($33, amazon.com); Makeup Revolution x DC Mad Love Cream Blusher Quad ($12, target.com); deweisn Tri-Fold Lighted Makeup Mirror in Black ($20, amazon.com)
Amazon; Target; Amazon

This tip is often — but not always — true. For daytime wear it’s the best solution. At the very least, check your makeup near a window where dryness, caking, creasing, smears or a heavy-handed application will be visible and repairable. If you must apply makeup in the artificial light of a bathroom or bedroom, try switching the bulbs to those labeled daylight spectrum or natural light or use a lighted makeup mirror with setting options. The reason: Cool, dim or fluorescent overhead lighting removes color from your complexion, fooling you into overdoing foundation, bronzer or blush to compensate. A blush quad with neutral to rosy variations can help you adjust makeup for a variety of lighting situations without a makeup redo.

6. Makeup protects skin just like sunscreen

(Left to right) Aveeno Positively Radiant Sheer Daily Moisturizer SPF 30 ($16, target.com); Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 50 ($16, target.com); It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Nude Glow SPF 40 ($44, target.com); Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream with Sunscreen SPF 30 ($27, target.com)
(Left to right) Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer ($16, target.com); Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer ($16, target.com); It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Nude Glow ($44, target.com); Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream ($27, target.com)
Target (4)

False! Many women still believe this is true and skip the SPF or use a makeup with SPF and think it’s enough protection. “Any product that has an SPF number on the label does have sunscreen — even if it’s marketed as a moisturizer or foundation,” says Day. “The problem is most women don’t use enough of these products to get the efficacy of that SPF protection. The best strategy is to layer products labeled as sunscreens with makeup to get adequate protection.” I totally agree, so choose sunscreens and hybrid products and makeup designed for daily use (instead of a summer day at the beach) to make layering easier without the concern of disrupting makeup appearance or performance.

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7. Cold water shrinks your pores, adds shine to your hair

(Left to right) Smashbox The Original Photo Finish Smooth & Blur Primer; Benefit Cosmetics The POREfessional Hydrating Primer; It’s a 10 Blow Dry Miracle Glossing Leave-in; John Frieda Vibrant Shine 3-in-1 Spray
(Left to right) Smashbox The Original Photo Finish Smooth & Blur Primer; Benefit Cosmetics The POREfessional Hydrating Primer; It’s a 10 Blow Dry Miracle Glossing Leave-in; John Frieda Vibrant Shine 3-in-1 Spray
Target; Ulta Beauty (3)

Sorry Mom, but you’re only partially right. First, large pores at 50-plus are partly genetic and partly due to cumulative sun damage. Pores cannot close from a cold-water splash. “Retinol and sunscreen can improve skin quality and texture with consistent use,” says Day. “Add a makeup primer to minimize pores and create a smoother surface.” I’ll add a tip to that triple strategy: Be sure to choose a primer with hydrating and smoothing benefits like Benefit Cosmetics The POREfessional Hydrating Primer ($32, ulta.com) or Smashbox The Original Photo Finish Smooth & Blur Primer ($16, target.com). Hair is another story. A steamy shower feels great but can dehydrate mature hair that’s already dry, damaged or processed and leave it frizzy. Try a warm-water shampoo instead, followed by a cool rinse after conditioner. The colder water works here to remove excess product without stripping away the moisturizing benefits and smooths down the outer cuticle, so hair appears shinier. Try a pre-blow-dry mist — such as It’s a 10 Blow Dry Miracle Glossing Leave-in ($26, ulta.com) or John Frieda Vibrant Shine 3-in-1 Spray ($10, ulta.com) — to lock it in.

8. Eyebrows should always match your hair

(Left to right) Angela Bassett, Lisa Kudrow and Molly Ringwald
(Left to right) Angela Bassett, Lisa Kudrow and Molly Ringwald
Bruce Glikas/WireImage; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic; Amy Sussman/Getty Images

This is not really true at 50-plus for several reasons. By this age hair color is either faded, chemically assisted, multicolored (thanks to highlights), gray or graying, and brows often are in transition too. The goal is not a match, but rather to keep brow color and hair color complementing one another. Mature eyes do benefit from brow definition, but the trick is to fill, extend and create brows that look authentic in shape and color even when fully enhanced with pencil, powder or tinted gel wand. Almost everyone can use a cool taupe or blond brow shade from gray to blond to highlighted brunettes, while deeper brunettes can use a cool medium brown or gray-brown brow makeup for a less harsh effect than dark brown or black. Note that natural redheads never have red brows, so if your hair is a copper hue stick with the softest brown.

9. Female hair loss is from the maternal grandfather

(Left to right) Slip Silk Large Scrunchie Set in Black Motif ($31, anthropologie.com); hers Hair Regrowth Foam Treatment 5% Minoxidil ($26, target.com); Pattern Wide Tooth Comb ($15, ulta.com)
(Left to right) Slip Silk Large Scrunchie Set in Black Motif ($31, anthropologie.com); hers Hair Regrowth Foam Treatment 5% Minoxidil ($26, target.com); Pattern Wide Tooth Comb ($15, ulta.com)
Anthropologie; Target; Ulta Beauty

False again. Thinning hair makes many mature women start taking a closer look at their family’s tresses, but hair loss can be caused by a variety of issues. “Androgenetic alopecia can be inherited from either side or both sides of the family, and it can even skip generations,” says Day. “Stress from death of a loved one, divorce, hormonal changes or even the physical tension of years of tight braids or ponytails can also lead to hair loss. Topical Minoxidil is FDA approved at the 5 percent dose, and other treatments from lasers to supplements to hair transplants can also be of help. See your dermatologist for evaluation and guidance.” And I’ll add: How’s your diet and hair routine? Eggs, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, Greek yogurt, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocados, berries, nuts (especially walnuts) and seeds like chia and flax are all on the healthier hair A-list. Skip tight elastic bands and those mythical 100 strokes of the brush a day and add a wide-tooth detangling comb and more gentle hair accessories like silk scrunchies to your regimen along with a looser, pulled-back look.

10. Sleeping in your makeup is bad for your skin

(Left to right) Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water Makeup Remover; L’Oréal Paris Clean Artiste Waterproof and Long Wearing Eye Makeup Remover; CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser for Normal to Dry Skin
(Left to right) Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water Makeup Remover; L’Oréal Paris Clean Artiste Waterproof and Long Wearing Eye Makeup Remover; CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser for Normal to Dry Skin
Target (3)

Totally true! Moms always drilled this one into teen daughters the minute they were old enough for mascara and blush. You can’t cut corners and wait till morning. What they didn’t say is that you need two cleansers at 50-plus: a makeup remover balm or micellar water to really lift off waterproof eye makeup and sunscreen residue, and a skin-boosting face wash to clean your skin without stripping it and prep it for topical creams and serums. Look for hydrating but thorough removers like Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water Makeup Remover ($13, target.com) or L’Oréal Paris Clean Artiste Waterproof and Long Wearing Eye Makeup Remover ($6, target.com), and moisturizing cleansers with do-good ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides such as the CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser for Normal to Dry Skin ($13, target.com). Save the tempting speed and convenience of facial wipes as an occasional fix or for travel, and be sure to keep all makeup brushes and sponges clean (use the same products as above on these) since bacteria can thrive on those left grungy from repeated use and transfer to your skin.