My Grandma’s Lessons in Luxury Beauty

My friends claim that I give the most expensive product recommendations. Need a moisturizer? Try La Mer’s Crème de la Mer Moisturizer. It’s $355. Searching for a serum? Add Epara’s Hydrating Serum to cart — and withdraw $250 from your bank account. That’s just for skincare. My pricey taste spans all beauty categories. While friends might view it as an outrageous frivolity, my insistence on luxury products goes beyond spending money or wanting name brands on for my top shelfies: It’s a way to show self-respect for my skin, beauty, and body. 

For all of this, I blame my grandmother. A woman who stood 5’11″ without heels, had deep-set eyes, high cheekbones, and the most radiant chocolate skin. Her personality was just as dominant as her presence. She introduced me to the luxuries of high-end beauty. During my weekly visits to her home for “Grandma Tish time,” I’d watch in awe as she’d dust Estée Lauder cosmetics and spritz Donna Karan Cashmere mist fragrance, even if she had zero plans for the day. Sometimes, if I was lucky, she’d allow me to play with her product collection. She’d sit me atop her vanity, hand me her perfume, and sometimes even a little Arden lipstick. 

The author’s grandparents

“Beauty is an investment, honey,” she’d utter. While I was far too young to comprehend what an “investment” meant, her words stuck with me. Even before I became a beauty editor, I retained her lessons on the importance of splurging on beauty products. Upon getting my first job at 15, I saved up for Clinique’s latest perfume.

At the age of 16, she even let me do her makeup. “Don’t make me look crazy, now!” she told me, insisting that she didn’t want her eyebrows too dark or her blush too heavy. Her go-to look has always been a sheer wash of foundation, a lightly-filled brow, and warm lip. Her oldest beauty secrets, which she divulged to me after I complained about dark circles, included rubbing ice cubes under the eyes to soothe puffiness. She espoused sleeping on a silk pillowcase long before it was popular. 

“Now this is high-quality makeup you’re using right?” she’d demand, ensuring that the formulas that I use only contained well-blended ingredients that wouldn’t harm her near-flawless complexion. As women of color, she’d always been adamant that our skin and bodies only experience the best products, especially given that we’re more predisposed to skin sensitivities like hyperpigmentation. 

She’s sick now, ill from a stroke that happened 10 years ago. While she’s unable to verbalize how she may feel about beauty now, I still feel her commanding presence as I sift through the digital aisles of Net-A-Porter, Sephora, and SpaceNK. Before buying any products, I always scour the internet, researching the ingredients as she instructed to ensure that the money I’m spending is well worth it.

To this day, I’d rather spend hundreds on the latest fragrance or hair treatment before I buy a new pair of shoes. There’s something about having my hair, skin, and body feel wonderful that’s integral to my confidence. It evokes the same change in my posture (I stand a little taller) and smile (I beam a little brighter) that I’d watch my Grandma Tish develop as she’d apply her makeup in her boudoir. I know that she’d be proud of my beauty practices these days, and for me, that’s worth more than any amount of luxury products that money could buy.

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