What I Wish I Knew Then: Mothers Reveal Their Skin Care Mistakes

naomi fenlin eighties

In the ’60s, it was cool to smoke cigarettes like there was no tomorrow. In the ’70s and ’80s people baked themselves in the sun like Christmas hams. Why? Because when you?re young, you think nothing can hurt you, and you don?t know any better. ?

Now that we?re older and wiser — and can appreciate the errors of our ways — as we look back on our careless skin care missteps, it becomes clear how important it is to make sure the next generation does not repeat the same mistakes.

In celebration of Mother’s Day, we asked all the moms (and Becky and Raelle) at About Face what skin care advice they would pass along to their daughters.

Below, their responses. (And below that, the responses of non-About Face related moms. Great advice, all around.)?

Our Mom-In-Chief, Naomi Fenlin, shares her most important skin care tips.

This upcoming weekend, aside from being Mother?s Day, is my 40th high-school reunion. Yikes! Although I suppose that makes me kind of old, I sure don?t want to look old. Over the years, and as a result of some pretty big mistakes on my part, I?ve learned a few things about what makes us look old, and what makes us look young. I had a poignant refresher course last month in Palm Beach when I met an 80-year old women with absolutely beautiful skin. After commenting on how gorgeous her skin was, she told me that her mother never let her get exposed to the direct sun as a child, and when she grew up she continued to protect herself and always uses SPF and wears a hat. Her skin put the younger women she was with to shame.

Unfortunately, I baked myself in the sun for decades. I tanned easily, and I LOVED seeing how dark I could get each summer. I didn?t start protecting myself from the damaging effects of the sun until embarrassingly recently, and I wish as a young girl that I had known how important it is to protect yourself from the harmful, damaging, impact of the sun’s rays. Now I am paying the price with lines, wrinkles, photodamage, and suspicious things frequently removed and biopsied. That picture at the top? That’s me, soaking up the rays, while my children play on the beach fully protected. (See below to view my current beach-garb.)

I want my children and grand-children to KNOW how bad the sun really is for them. Sun damage is cumulative over a lifetime and the majority of it has already occurred by adulthood.

Also, if you want pretty, healthy skin: don’t smoke. Cigarettes increase the rate at which the skin deteriorates and ages dramatically.

In addition to sun protection and avoiding cigarettes, I also want my off-spring to hydrate adequately, eat well, and get more sleep. The healthier they are on the inside, the better they’ll look and feel on the outside.


Becky Fenlin, Naomi?s daughter and business partner.

When I was little, going to the beach was a tedious process. Once we were in our bathing-suits, my mom would line us up, and systematically apply sunscreen to our scalps (eighties-child bangs and pig-tails left a middle-part ripe for sunburns), ears, faces, shoulders, etc., working her way down until all of our stick-like bodies were fully protected from the sun, factory-line style. It took forever, smelled terrible, and left us feeling slimy and greasy, with little thighs then sticking to the car seat. As annoying as this process was though, we never got burned. (My mother meanwhile would be lounging in her bikini, with NO sunscreen on, trying to get as tan as possible, but that?s another story.)

Mom kept us safe while she was in charge, but then during my college years the idea of sun damage and skin cancer being a real threat seemed too obscure to worry about. Melanoma? Me?! You know that dumb invincibility you feel when you?re young? I KNEW I?d be fine tanning every other day, plus, I (thought I) looked soooo much cuter with a tan.?

Now that I?m in my mid-thirties, and have worked in skin care for years and seen EVERY kind of skin imaginable (in addition to having dealt with my own skin cancer scares), I feel like an idiot for willingly exposing myself to copious amounts of UVA/UVB rays.

IF I could control the skin destiny of a child, I would copy my mother in her ardent protection of our skin while we were young, but I would also do a better job of impressing upon them HOW IMPORTANT SUN PROTECTION IS, EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Aside from sun screen, hats, and protective clothing? I would teach my daughters that BOTOX AND FILLER ARE NOT BAD. When used appropriately, injections can make a person look infinitely better, while still natural. The media has done a great job at vilifying cosmetic work, but in the end ? if there is a treatment available that will make you feel better about yourself, safely, there is no reason to not pursue it!

Also — and this is the hardest because I guess I could be saying the same thing to myself right now, since we only get older — but when you?re young, try to enjoy it. It seems like just an instant between feeling forever young, and then, all of a sudden, there are wrinkles and brown spots and cellulite. (What?!?! How did this get on MY body?!) Too soon everything feels like an uphill battle against the inevitable. When you?re young and perfect, do your best to savor it.

(Below, see how happy Naomi is with part of her brood?)

Naomi fenlin philly

Sarah Sidiqi has two young daughters, after working 10+ years in the world of dermatology and cosmetic enhancements; she is a skin care sage.

My journey into the world of skincare began with my mother. When I was younger and going through that awkward child-to-teenager transition, my mother bought me a face-wash that would start me on my future path into skin care. I can remember the exact smell of it, the way the bottle felt in my hands, and how tightly I would squeeze my eyes to keep the foam from stinging. The face-wash was like magic. In my mind at the time, THIS little green bottle was the key to keeping my skin clear, and helping me to be pretty. For a product to wield so much power over how a person felt about themselves was stunning to me, and I?ve been captivated by that world ever since.

As I witness my own daughters starting to go through their own skin changes, it is imperative to me that they understand how to have control over their skin. They do not have to hide behind acne, or loads of makeup. With the right skin care and treatments, they can feel confident and comfortable in their own skin ? no matter what puberty throws at them. First and foremost, I try to help educate my daughters on the importance of good ingredients. Fancy packaging, snazzy marketing, trendy spokes-people ? none of the smoke and mirrors provides any indication as to the efficacy of the actual product. You know what matters? The ingredient list on the back.

In addition to wanting my daughters to be educated and empowered consumers, I obviously cannot skip the importance of sunscreen. It?s the most important thing they can do for themselves to help keep their skin beautiful and safe for as long as possible. (A few months ago I was personally offended when we came back from a vacation and a neighbor comments that my girls looked tan. No they didn?t! Those girls were slathered head to toe in SPF-50, and ALWAYS had a hat on! I like to think that the neighbor was just trying to be kind, because most people would think that was a compliment after a vacation, but I take pride in keeping my kids? skin safe!) ?

Other quick tips for my daughters? skin? Stay away from super harsh, abrasive products, you do not need to tear up your skin in order for it to look nice. (Apricot scrubs, I?m looking at you?) Wash with warm water, rinse with cool water. (This is how my mom taught me to wash my face, and it turns out she was 100% right. Hot water inflames your pores and doesn?t allow them to get cleaned, and the cool water helps reduce the appearance of pore size.) Try to appreciate everything available to you, the world of skin care is so much better now than it used to be ? and by the time you NEED anti-aging products and treatments, it is hard to fathom what options will exist. You live in an amazing time, and technology and science grow and evolve in leaps and bounds every year. However, keep up with your sunscreen usage, and hopefully you won?t ever need the beauty-treatments-of-the-future.

In this picture below, me and the gang are all ready for the beach! (JK!)


Raelle Levicke is our resident aesthetician, and with a mother of her own who?s always worked in the world of beauty, she?s been home-grown on smart skin care.

When it comes to my mom, I have been fortunate in many ways. Not only does she have the biggest heart, and love me unconditionally, but she has also taught me a thing or two about skin and beauty along the way.

Two of the most useful tips that I appreciate NOW more than ever?

Eye-cream! Thanks to my mom, I?ve been diligently using eye-cream since I was a teenager. After seeing some of my peers whom are only just now learning about the importance of eye cream, and all I can say is — love you mom! ?

Sunscreen!! As much as I hated my mom chasing me down the beach to put the dreaded sunscreen on, I am thankful now that my skin is healthy and minimal sun damage.

I don?t want to toot my own horn, but this makes me feel amazing — and is a testament to my mother?s skin foresight — I?m in my thirties, and still get carded regularly.? <—– Thanks Mom!! 🙂

playboy mom philly

“Beware of the effects of the sun. I was one of those ’60’s and ’70’s teenagers who baked in the sun. The deeper the tan the happier I was and thought I looked great. Maybe I did, but it came at a big price. My advice: “Paying attention to the SPF in your skin care products and sunscreen may not seem important right now, but as you age, the payoff will be well worth the effort as your skin will be far less damaged with wrinkles and dark spots than your mother’s generation.” Francine Lane

“First and foremost …hydrate and MOISTURIZE inside and out.? Always drink plenty of good water, cleanse your face before going to bed, and don’t forget your neck and chest!? (Knees and elbows also get saggy with age, so don’t forget them, either.) ?Fresh air, fresh food, a good attitude and a grateful heart will show … on the outside, too.” Cindy Pagel

“I have two daughters who are now 24 and 30. Two most important words of advice about their skin care they always hear: Never ever go to bed without removing your makeup and cleaning your face. Second, never go outside without a quality sunscreen ? especially on your face, neck, and d?colletage.” Brenda Walden

“Begin to care for your?skin at a very early age. It’s never too early. That’s what I wish I would have known as a teenager. Also, what I didn’t know then was most products available in drug stores simply are not effective and contain potentially harmful ingredients. Do your homework: Know what you are applying to your skin.” Terri Sacco

“I have a couple pieces of skin care advice that I want to pass on to my daughter so that hopefully she will get better skin than mine. First is to start early with sun protection and to avoid UV rays as much as possible because the damage accumulates over time. I wish I’d known this in my teenage years. Second is not to rub the eye area ? another mistake I made in my childhood ? because it’s prone to wrinkles and fine lines. And lastly, I would advise her to get physically active and eat healthy ? because beauty starts from within and whatever you take in your body reflects from the inside so it’s better if she takes care of her health first, and she will get that healthy glow.”? Hazel Canlas

“Start gentle exfoliation in puberty when skin starts to get oily, but don’t overclean.?Try not to read fashion magazines ? they make young girls (and women) feel bad about themselves.” Sandy Borglum

“I don’t have any kids yet, but when I do, I will tell them that less makeup for every day is better. I’ll let her know that it’s important to take off her makeup at the end of the day, no matter how tired she is because it will decrease breakouts and leave her skin looking fresh. I would also tell her to use products with natural ingredients because it’s much better for her skin!” Erin Jeffery

“Pay attention to your neck!!! We’re all so concentrated on the face but the neck needs the same exfoliation, buffing and moisturizing love. Also, start “anti-aging” creams and facials early. Don’t wait until your 30s or 40s to start the process. Healthy skin care begins early ? and one needs to be educated about the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ products.” Jeanne Muchnick

“Never squeeze your pimples! It can cause permanent scarring. Instead, use a salicylic acid formula and keep your hands off your face. And get a good night’s sleep! While it’s not always possible to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, this is something to strive for. No makeup can compare to what you look like after a good night’s sleep.” Beth Marte