"For attractive lips, speak words of kindness. For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry. For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day."
- Audrey Hepburn, when asked to share her beauty tips.
When Grace was a baby, we used to love to play a little game: I
would hold her up next to me as we gazed into a mirror. I made funny
faces at her, which sent her into spasms of giggles. As I watched her
sweet face in the looking glass, I soaked up her purity and bliss. But
what did not make me smile was how I looked next to her.
At six months, with her dewy baby skin, wisps of new hair and
shining eyes, Grace was the very essence of youth. I, in contrast,
looked like her grandmother - at least I thought that I did.
Sure, the tributaries of wrinkles and the sprays of grey hair were
hard won - I had founded and built two successful skincare companies,
after all. But staring at my daughter's flawless little face -
untouched by heartbreak, anxiety, or decades of ultra-violet rays -
and then glancing at my own weather-worn visage made me feel as though
Having a baby takes its toll on any woman, even one who's 21. I
had given birth to Grace, my first and only and a God-sent surprise,
when I was 40. And I'm here to tell you, having a baby in your fourth
decade of life sends your aging process into hyper-drive, as if every
nutrient has been sucked out of your very core (because in a sense it
During my professional career, I have helped to create products
with the best minds in science and medicine that are highly effective
in the battle against lost collagen, uneven pigmentation and fine
lines. I have been called a "skin-novator" and a visionary for my
ability to create products and messages that make women look, smell
and feel good, inside and out. At the same time, my company's core
message was that real beauty comes from within. That, as the Persian
poet Kahlil Gibran put it, "Beauty is not in the face; Beauty is a
light in the heart." All this was something I believed and continue to believe.
And yet, here I was surrendering to my saggy jawline, my
sleep-deprived eyes, and the age spots that spread across my cheeks as
if Jackson Pollack had whipped a loaded paintbrush my way. What
happened to the loveliness I saw in the mirror throughout my 20's and
30's? I shook my head at the middle-aged lady I now saw staring back
But when I really took a deep breath and stepped outside my
anxieties, I noticed something. As we played the cheek-to-cheek, nose
kisses Mirror Game, Grace didn't cringe when she saw my face next to
hers. Grace smiled, Grace laughed. And when she could finally speak,
Grace called out, "More!" and "Again!"
And then a funny thing happened: Grace kissed my reflection in the
mirror. I realized my little girl didn't see or care about my
youth. My baby girl loved me for all the lullabies I sang by her
bedside, for the kisses I plastered all over her cheeks, for our daily
walks through the trees. My baby loved me inside and out.
And I was so ecstatic to be a mother that people couldn't help but
notice. My friends would tell me, "You look so happy," and they were
paying me a much bigger compliment than if they'd said, " I love your
hair" or "What nice lipstick." They were seeing me, not my props. They
were feeling the energy of a mother in love, with authentic newfound
joy, peace and gratitude.
Maybe even more importantly, I did not want my daughter one day to
lose her natural-born instincts that everyone is beautiful and that
loveliness comes from somewhere within - the glow of the beautiful
But how could I best reinforce those values to my daughter as she
grew older and the mean girls arrived on the playground? How would I,
the creator of two successful cosmetics companies, teach my little one
that beauty was more than skin deep? I asked a few wise expert friends
how they would model the essence of beauty for their children. Here
are their thoughts, mixed with a few of my own ideas:
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THINGS: My family and I decided to share daily
"The Most Beautiful Things" we witnessed during the day. At dinner,
when we talked about our day, we consciously pointed out all the
magnificent things -- from rainbows to shady green trees to blue jays
- as well as all the acts of joy and kindness we noticed - a child
holding open a door for an old man, a waiter drawing an intricate
picture on a restaurant chalkboard, a woman delivering a basket of
homegrown oranges to a homeless woman. This ritual became as important
as our prayer of thanks before dinner.
MODEL BEAUTY: My family and I treat everyone with respect and
kindness, from the gardener who mows our lawn to the toothless man
asking for a handout, to each other, even when we're really angry. "A
child has to see his parents' values in actions," says family
therapist Dr. Irene Goldenberg. "If you act falsely or disrespectfully
to people or you base your attitude towards somebody on their status
or wealth, your child will pick up on that and eventually reproduce
that behavior. By showing kindness to everyone, and seeing everyone's
inner value, you set the standard."
USE WORDS TO COMMUNICATE YOUR VALUES: I've realized that children
need experiences framed for them verbally - I sure know Grace does. If
a child ever questions why you like someone who's physically
unappealing, or not from your economic class or social standing,
explain to her in plain language what your values are,
says Dr. Goldenberg. "Make clear that you appreciate Mrs. So and So
because she's a good friend, she's responsible, she's caring. Help
your child develop a sense of whether people have deep qualities or
SEE THE BEAUTY IN ALL THINGS GREAT AND SMALL:
When you're outside with your children, help them connect to all
the insects and animals that you encounter - not just the cute ones,
like puppies and horses, but also the ones that sometimes make us
adults squirm. Turn over stones and look for bugs; explain how their
hard work helps keep the soil for our flowers and fruit trees healthy.
Point out the intricate detail in a spider's web. Note a bee's lovely
stripes and explain that its work flying from flower to flower brings
us honey and keeps the flowers blooming. Focus on the positive aspects
of things, their usefulness, their place in this world.
"Appreciating the beauty in insects or worms, creatures that might
repulse us, helps children develop love and respect for all living
beings," says Susan Usha Dermond, author of Calm and Compassionate
Children. They next time they encounter a homeless woman they might
notice her kind eyes, instead of her ragged clothes.
DO SOMETHING SMALL FOR YOURSELF EVERYDAY.
I've learned to carve out time for myself. Time to exercise, clean
up my eyebrows, indulge in a home facial, pull together a nice outfit
- whatever makes me feel good. At night my daughter and I hold hands
and count our many blessings and pray for the world to be healed with
My daughter, not my cosmetics, helped me recapture my timeless and
ageless beauty. She brought the beauty back to my life - inside and
Cristina Carlino is a mother, songwriter, author, a social
entrepreneur and the founder and creator of philosophy, one of the most beloved brands in the
cosmetic industry. Her new book, The Changing Room: A Mother's
Journal of Gratitude to Her Little Girl, is available on amazon.com.