How beauty has strengthened my bond with my mom
Beauty is a love language.
By Nicole Marie Valdez, Contributor
If there is one thing my mom and I share, aside from our genes and our strong, independent characters, it must be our love for beauty — and our frustrations with our beauty woes.
I don't look like my mom; I have the defined facial features of a Filipina with Indian blood, while my mom has delicate Asian features. She has a lighter skin tone than me, while I have brown (morena) skin. Still, we share the same oily, acne prone skin texture and unruly, wavy hair. Some would say I'm a carbon copy of my father or my grandmother. Some would say,
“When you smile, that's when you look like your mother.”
Growing up, I would silently watch my mother get ready for work.
Working in the hospitality industry in Dubai, she had to put extra care into her appearance every morning. So, it was magic seeing her transform from being my mother, to someone prepared to hustle.
She would apply red lipstick and used a heavy duty foundation to hide her acne scars, one of her biggest insecurities. She would add a thick layer of kohl eyeliner, making her eyes pop (“It’s because I have small eyes,” she used to say to me). Then, she would go on to wrestle with her wavy hair by ironing it every morning.
My mother doesn't always have the perceived confidence she carries. There were moments when I would watch her crumble in the kitchen, crying or praying. It was almost soul-crushing to look at her. During those turbulent times, we would hold onto each other for support.
Seeing her rise every morning, put on makeup, and look every inch of the career-oriented woman she is, also gave me strength.
Beauty became an important form of care for us.
I admire my mother’s resilience and kindness. Unbeknownst to her, what makes her beautiful isn’t the cosmetics she blends onto her face every morning. When my dad left us, she became insecure. She didn't know that she was beautiful inside out, regardless of the circumstances. Even so,
It must have been therapeutic for her to focus all of her energy on herself and me.
At the grocery store, we would check out the newly released beauty products and test makeup shades for fun. At home, I would embrace her when days were rough and waves of pain would hit us like a tsunami.
My mother would always worry when I had an acne breakout during my teen years, since it would leave scars on my face. She would quickly go to the nearest pharmacy and ask for acne cream to treat it. She would scour the internet for the best home remedies, like applying turmeric paste to your skin to make it glow.
photo credit: Nicole Marie Valdez
Our nightly beauty routine became our version of a bedtime story.
It consisted of her rubbing olive oil on my damp skin. She’d then massage coconut or almond oil into my long, black hair. I’d then apply brightening cream all over my face before going to bed.
There were times when the routine felt dull and repetitive. There were times that I’d feel the weight of expectation on my shoulders of having to be the golden child. I realized that sticking to this beauty routine was our way of bonding. Her way of showing her love was by making me feel beautiful and empowered, telling me that my strong features and larger-than-life courage are beautiful.
Beauty is a love language; it is a way of showing empathy, solidifying bonds, and celebrating change.
Beauty is skin deep, and it is also a form of self-love.
— But it took me years to realize this duality.
When COVID-19 hit world-wide, I used work as a form of distraction. As a breadwinner, I was anxious to keep my family afloat. And as a writer by profession, it was easy to fall into the trap of opening up my laptop to work, right after waking up. You can imagine that I didn’t bother doing any sort of skincare or beauty routine in my day-to-day life.
This habit was ruining my chance of practicing self-love.
Nor was I listening to my body’s needs. Externally, I noticed things like acne surfacing on my face and my hair falling out. Internally, I was experiencing complications from burnout/stress and previous chronic illnesses.
When 2021 came, I started focusing on my health and self-care. At first, it was a chore to get into the rhythm of skincare. But the more I did it, the more I started to love beauty and self-care again. Slowly but surely, I eased into a simple beauty routine: cleansing, moisturizing, and applying sunscreen.
My mother and I still do our beauty routines together every night before I go to sleep. Sometimes, we would go out shopping and check other beauty items that we could use for our individual needs. She's into anti-aging products, while I’m into acne-prone ones. I realized it had been too long since I dressed up for work or put on my makeup for an event, due to the pandemic.
Whenever I’m attending Zoom meetings or working, I put on makeup to harness my confidence and practice self-love.
I can still remember the day that lockdown was announced in my region.
I was in the grocery store stocking up on supplies, and I saw a lady with a cart full of papaya soaps and other skincare products and ingredients. I was baffled when I saw this; everyone around us was panic buying essential supplies. I thought to myself: Maybe she’s a beauty entrepreneur or just really into skincare?
Later on, it hit me:
Beauty can also be a coping mechanism when times get rough.
It’s a form of care; the same way we prioritize eating healthy and having an active lifestyle in the middle of an ongoing health crisis. The same thing my mother did when faced with a life crisis a few years ago: she turned to beauty. There's nothing wrong with appreciating beauty or adding more beauty to our lives when everything around us seems dark and destructive.
About — Nicole Marie Valdez is a seasoned writer and editor. She is dedicated to being salt and light to the earth through her words. Nicole loves to read 18th-century books, write poetry and talk about history. In addition, she is an advocate for mental health and animal welfare. When she's not working, she's rewatching Pride and Prejudice and busy being a fur mom.
Cover photo sourced from: Nicole Marie Valdez, @thegirlwhowrites08