Like many women my age, I have the Oil Of Ulay advert of 1990 etched into my mind. For younger readers, this was an extremely cheesy television advert in which a mother introduces her daughter to the product she claims has kept her skin young, Oil Of Ulay. The two bloused women smooth the cream into their skin as the mother tells her that even young skin needs moisture. As Mother’s Day approaches I find myself thinking of this advert. Of the relationship between mothers and daughters and beauty rituals.
This advert is not like the sexy adverts we get today with intense lights, lots of white swirling silk and stunning models wearing little but their make-up - yes make-up in skincare adverts - and claiming that their choice of moisturiser gives them confidence. Interspersed with scenes of nature and scientific claims, of course.
There are a couple of notable exceptions. Boots adverts seem to understand the lifestyles of women far more and showcase a range of ages, races, skin types and body types in their adverts. Dove goes even further with their real beauty campaigns that started way before body positivity was even a hashtag (actually it may have predated hashtags).
What many skincare adverts do is showcase seemingly confident women sharing the secret of their beauty with you. They claim that they have found the product that represents them, unleashes their inner warrior, gives them confidence, celebrates their uniqueness, their ‘insert any claim here that links beauty with positive character traits.' See how it works?
Except, why do we listen to other women? I’m not pointing out that the models in the adverts are paid to say they use the products, or even that most of us don’t look like them. In fact, more recently we do because of increased representation and the rise in everyday models being used to promote more mainstream items. What I mean is why have we moved away from what the Oil Of Ulay adverts suggested over 20 years ago? That we learn how best to take care of our skin through our mothers. After all, doesn’t it make sense that given genetics, the beauty routines that have worked for our mothers might also work for us?
There’s nothing more normal than a girl who tries in as many ways as she can to be completely different to her mother. However, sometimes it is worth paying attention to genetics because, when it comes to the skin we’re in, we might not be as unique as we think we are.
Do We Inherit Our Skin Type From Our Mothers?
In the case of the nature versus nurture, the condition of our skin seems to be a result of both. Whilst diet, sun exposure and hygiene have a huge effect on the health of our skin, some factors are genetic. Including our skin type (dry, oily, combination) and how our skin ages.
And who do we inherit our skin from? Our mothers, of course. Through their mitochondrial DNA. However, it’s not just nature that determines the condition of the genes that get passed on. What we do in our younger years and how we treat our skin has a direct effect because our children do not inherit the genes we got, they inherit the ones we have. Including those that have changed due to sun exposure, diet and other lifestyle factors. As if there wasn’t enough pressure on mothers!
However, that’s not to say we pass on faults due to poor skin care. Mutated genes have been found to be a cause (there are many potential causes) of eczema, melanoma and even acne. So, whilst beauty adverts strongly suggest that all skin problems can be fixed with the right product and a good skincare routine, the truth is the health and appearance of our skin was influenced even from before our birth!
Still, if the generation before us has been dealing with the same skin type as ours, and noticing and managing how it reacts to other influences (such as sunlight and diet), then should we not be paying attention to how our mothers have learnt to take care of their skin?
Can We Learn How To Take Care Of Our Skin From Our Mothers?
Although we may inherit skin conditions, imperfections or imbalances from our ancestors this doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can do to calm irritations, manage breakouts and nurture our skin to best health. The difficulty is that no miracle cure or routine works for everyone as we’re all unique. Or are we? Wait, didn’t I just state that we are likely to inherit our mother’s skin? Ok, so sometimes we do end up with different skin types but generally, the skin of mothers and daughters do share the same or very similar properties.
This makes me wonder, why do we spend so long searching for the right product and experimenting with skincare routines when we have someone who has likely already done this before?
An informal survey by Yasou Skincare looked into how much mothers and daughters talk about their skincare routines. It found that older parents learn little from their mothers whereas newer generations appeared to be discussing skincare more. This makes sense, being that there are far more treatments and options on the market nowadays and it can be overwhelming. Aside from this though, it does make sense that the skincare most likely to work for you is not the one your friends use or the one that celebrity or Instagramer swears by, but the one your mother used.
Of course, that depends on whether she feels that her skincare routine was the best it could be for her skin type. Yet, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t work the other way around - with daughters recommending their favoured products to their mums, swapping beauty routines and trading tips.
Just like recipes, the wisdom of skincare can be passed down through the generations. And it should be too because the science backs up the theory that your skin has a lot in common.
Naturally, our skin changes as we age which means we may need to change approaches. However, as the old Oil Of Ulay advert points out, the basic ingredients across a brand’s range usually don’t differ all that much. So the basic formula of one brand may work for both a mother and daughter, even if the mother uses a version of the product adapted for an older woman.
Skincare Through The Generations
I come from a long line of women who knew how to care for their skin. My great, great grandmother was a herbalist and my mother was an aromatherapist. They passed on their skincare tips like they passed on family recipes. So it was no surprise when I took to the kitchen to make my own skincare which started as my personal little creation and turned into an all-natural vegan skincare brand.
However, I didn’t always view skincare the way I do now. Frustrated with ‘problem’ skin, I spent years reaching for every high chemical product solution and changing up my skincare routine to tackle flare-ups. Nothing worked. Until I remembered that I’d come from women for whom natural solutions had always worked best. Plus, this knowledge has been shared with me. In fact, all the ingredients used in my skincare range were ones I encountered as a child, in our kitchen cupboards and in our garden.
Olive & Joyce launched only a couple of years ago, yet in many ways, the brand started developing generations ago. In the skincare practices of my ancestors, in the knowledge of natural ingredients and the faith the women in my family have always placed in nature.
Learning about the shared genes that influence our skin health is something I’ve found out more and more about in the past few years but it’s also something I’ve always known, deep down. Because genetics is just one way in which our rituals become entwined. The more we share secrets and swap our skin stories, the better we can all learn to care for our skin. But particularly for mothers and daughters.
Skincare For Mother’s Day
Mother and daughter relationships are far from skin-deep. Yet, many of us do live, in many ways, in the same skin. So this Mother’s Day, if you are fortunate enough to be able to (and I recognise that we aren’t all and hope this isn’t triggering for anyone), talk to your mother or daughter about your skin. Share the struggles, the phases our skin has gone through and maybe even offer some of the wisdom you have learnt along the way. Or ask for their advice.
Some beauty bloggers even suggest swapping skincare routines with our mothers or daughters for a week or fortnight to see if their preferences might better suit your skin too. After all, it’s all made from the same basic ingredients so shouldn’t we at least consider giving it the same care?