‘Here’s The Best Beauty Advice I’ve Ever Received From My Latina Elders’ – Women’s Health

When I was younger, I would sit down on the floor in between my mom’s legs to watch TV as she did my hair. Mostly in different styles of chunky braids and pigtails that she would come up with, each tied with a bolita at the end—that’s what we called the scrunchies with the huge beads at the tips.

Wash days were my fave. My mom would massage my scalp with this homemade concoction, which I wasn’t a huge fan of because I. hated. the. smell. I was really there for the massage. She would take a raw egg, avocado, mayonnaise, and olive oil, and mix it together to create a conditioning mask for my hair. She swore by it, even putting it in the microwave for five to 10 seconds to heat it up, you know to really get its properties “working.”

As the years went by, I got older and started doing my own hair, and making enough money to buy my own store-bought products, so eventually I just abandoned the DIY treatment altogether, and even forgot about it until a decade or so later.

Then in 2020, I saw Cardi B post a video of herself making a similar hair treatment to the one my mom used to make for me years ago, for her own hair—except this one included a bunch of extra ingredients, like bananas, honey, and argan oil.

After watching the video, I thought to myself, “Okay, so it wasn’t just my mom? This hair mask must be a Caribbean or Dominican thing.” And then I got to thinking deeper. Latinas are a treasure chest of beauty secrets, some that have been passed down for generations. I can totally picture my grandma in her house back in the DR making the same hair mask for my mom and tias when they were in grade school.

I know I’m not the only one who’s had this experience. There are women who treat their hair roots with castor oil, apply oatmeal water to their face (another one from my mom), swear by Ponds’ products, and so on, all because another woman taught them how to do it, and that it worked.

That’s why I asked Latinas from all walks of life to share the best beauty advice they’ve ever received. Make sure to take notes.

“The women in my family are big on looking their best at all times. It all started with mi abuela, who in her 98 years always took pride in having beautiful, healthy skin. Her secret? Rice water! Living in the Dominican Republic, she would cook rice every single day, and store the water after washing the rice. She would then wash her face every morning and night with that same rice water to remove toxins, protect her skin from the sun, and prevent wrinkles. While she’s no longer with us, I still keep that rice water tip with me. I’m entering my late 30s, so you know rice is never missing in my pantry.”


“As the youngest of seven girls, beauty has always been a central part of my mom’s life. She learned all of her tips and tricks from her sisters, and says growing up in her house was a little like living in a beauty salon. They tried it all, and all that knowledge got passed down to me especially when it came to my skin.

My mom was a single parent, so she didn’t have time for a lot of extra steps in the morning. She worked two, sometimes three jobs, to make sure my brother and I were taken care of to the best of her ability. That meant she skipped foundation and complicated eye-makeup before work in favor of brows and lashes, which enhanced her best features, quickly!

At the end of a long day, she opted to use her skincare routine as her self-care routine. She would always say, ‘When you have skin like this, why would you want to cover it up?’ And she’s right! At 61, my mom has luminous, gorgeous, and glowing skin that rivals that of a woman half her age.

So, since I was really young, she’s always taught me to take care of my skin. For her that means using simple, clean products, having limited time in the sun, and taking a ‘less is more’ approach. While she loves makeup, skincare was always her focus, and it’s something I’ve learned to prioritize in my daily beauty routine.”


Fiana Garza Tulip, Hispanic American

“When I was younger, maybe 3 or 4 years old, I couldn’t wait for my mom to get home. She was my best friend and I looked up to her. I remember her coming home some days with loads of pink Mary Kay boxes and being so full of energy. She’d show me what part of the face each color palette in every box went on— eyelids, cheeks, lips.

One time, I found her makeup drawers and hopped on her vanity to put everything on my face like she did. But when I looked in the mirror I started crying because I genuinely looked like a clown. My mom thought it was hilarious. Me—not so much.

But as I grew older, and started developing my own beauty routine, I realized I always had those pink bottles and palettes of Mary Kay lotions and products in my drawers and makeup bags. It was like she would slip them in there without my knowing, or (more likely) I would take them from her without her knowing.

One lesson she taught me that will stick with me forever is to moisturize my face with a night emollient/lotion, and it needs to be specifically for nighttime. This was the trick to maintaining a youthful glow as I got older. It clearly worked for her. So, she would supply me with tubs of Mary Kay’s Extra Emollient Night Cream. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have one in my skincare kit.

Whenever I used it, it felt so thick and hot on my skin that I couldn’t really sleep because I’d be so paranoid about staining my pillows with it since it’s a pinkish-orange color. But, my mom said to use it, so I opted for a number of sleepless nights for the sake of youth.

Unfortunately, my mom passed from COVID last year on the 4th of July. In her honor, something I can guarantee that I will always have in my cabinet is that Mary Kay night cream. The smell reminds me of those days when our relationship was sweet. I may not use it every night (since I’ve learned that sleep is pretty important), but whenever I need a little mama boost, I’ll slather it all over my face like she taught me to.”


    Sonia Hendrix, Puerto Rican, German, and American

    “My namesake and grandmother, Zonia Lida Heredia Hendrix, is a World War II hero and former veteran. She was one of the first 200 women in American history to join the army through the Women’s Army Corp that was created during WWII, after coming to America alone from Puerto Rico as a teenager. Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away on Mother’s Day in 1987, a year after I was born, but her legacy still lives within me.

    She believed that strength in the face of adversity is real beauty. She instilled in my Dad, who in turn instilled in me, to always keep my head up and to believe in myself. So when it comes to my beauty routine, I definitely lean toward the natural look. I don’t feel like I need a lot of makeup. That attitude comes from how I was raised. I love letting my natural olive-toned skin shine by adding my go-to’s: blush, eyeliner, and a natural sparkly eyeshadow. That’s the most I’ll do. That said, if I have an event, I go for glam—lashes, lipstick that pops, contouring, the whole she-bang.”

    Catherine Villaquiran, Ecuadorian

    “As soon as I began showing any signs of puberty, I remember my grandmother telling me …’aye Niña te tienes que poner crema en esa cara y especialmente en el cuello por que te vas a ver como un pavo antes de los 40!’ (Translation: Aw girl, you need to put cream on that face, and especially on your neck, or you’re going to look like a turkey before 40.)

    She would then not only show me how to properly apply cream on my neck, but how to massage my cream using the upper side of my hand beginning from the bottom of my neck toward my chin. And of course, not to use quick movements because ‘no quieres que las arrugas lleguen antes de su tiempo.’ (Translation: You don’t want wrinkles to arrive before they’re supposed to.)

    Honestly, my Señora’s constant repetition and vivid description of having my neck dangling before 40 definitely put a comic fear within me before my 21st birthday. Thanks to my Señora I have made a conscience effort to apply my facial cream to my neck daily and often say a little prayer asking not to have “un cuello de pavo.”


    Monica Rivera, Puerto Rican and Cuban

    “This is ‘Bela,’ the best way I could pronounce “abuela” as a kid. Bela was Puerto Rican and Cuban with a great sense of style. Monday through Friday she’d ride the train from the Bronx to lower Manhattan to her job at the phone company. She wore dresses, high heels, costume jewelry, and her signature red lipstick—always.

    On the weekends, she swapped the dresses for something more casual and wrapped her hair in a stylish headscarf. But she always capped off her outfits with red lipstick.

    We spent a lot of time together in the kitchen, me watching her cook and her giving me valuable life advice. One thing I never forgot was to always carry red lipstick. She advised me that no matter what I was wearing or the situation, it would instantly make me look good and people would notice me. She wasn’t lying. Decades later, I still follow this beauty tip. To me, Bela was the epitome of style and grace.”


    “My grandmother’s name is Alba. She was born in 1939, and she is a strong woman of faith. She came from Ecuador about 30 years ago and I have been so blessed to be raised by both her and my mom my whole life.

    If I or anyone that knows her could describe my grandmother in a couple of words, it would definitely be elegant and timeless. She is a woman that exudes love and it shows. My grandmother believes that you feel how you look, so why not look your best to feel your best.

    That means taking care of your body and skin. She always stressed eating clean and making moisturizer your best friend, making sure to apply it everyday without a doubt over your face and neck to remain youthful. My grandma also always serves me up green smoothies and herbal tees that help me to feel and look my best. One smoothie she makes often involves blending watercress, kale, spinach, strawberry, ginger, honey, water, and lemon together for a tasty treat. My grandma’s definitely a treasure.”


    “Juana, my mom, is your typical Mexican mother—very strict, but with a huge heart and love for her family. She had me and my brothers by the age of 20 and moved to a country alone with my dad, so there was no one to give her any advice about beauty or how to take care of herself. It wasn’t until she started to deal with some skin issues that she started to focus on skincare.

    In her 30s, she began to see skin issues like fine lines, wrinkles, and a lack of firmness in her skin. She also dealt with super oily skin, and mistakenly thought that it was best to not use hydrating products. In reality, her skin was begging for hydration. So after dealing with those issues, she realized she didn’t want me going through the same thing. I was still young and had time to learn from her mistakes—unlike her who didn’t have anyone to give her advice when she was younger.

    My mom’s biggest beauty tip to me was that prevention is key. That means taking care of yourself from within and prioritizing your skin because she learned that the hard way. So when I was in high school, and she knew I wasn’t working, and couldn’t afford buying my own skincare products, she would buy them for me. It’s something that to this day we still share together. If there’s a holy grail product we fall in love with we buy an extra to gift to one another.”



    “My mom’s relationship with beauty and, more specifically, with lipstick was so profound and impactful to me that I created a brand, Valdé Beauty, in homage. For my mom, wearing lipstick was armor. While she loved to make herself up, wigs and all, lipstick was the ritual that she used to lift herself up consistently. I rarely saw her without it.

    When my mom began suffering from severe dementia, she stopped recognizing me. But every time I took out lipstick to apply to her, she would perk up and pucker up to get ready for application. She would look in the mirror, not realizing she was seeing herself in the reflection, and would kiss the mirror because she saw a beautiful woman. This profound memory that she never forgot how lipstick made her feel is what actually led me to create a lipstick brand focused on the experience of wearing lipstick and what it means to people. Wearing lipstick helped her feel beautiful, and for her it had always been an act of defiance and drawing strength, since it was a symbol of living life on your own terms.

    There’s a specific quote I will never forget from her that came up during a challenging moment for me. She said, ‘Margarita, no te hundas en un vaso de agua. Ten fe, secate las lágrimas, ponte tu labial y levantate.’ (Translation: Margarita, don’t drown in a glass of water. Have faith, dry your tears, put on some lipstick, and pick yourself up).”

    Jasmine Gomez
    Associate Lifestyle editor Jasmine Gomez is the associate lifestyle editor at Women’s Health and covers health, fitness, sex, culture and cool products.

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