Grandma Knows (Skin Care) Best

GrandmotherSkinCare_slide01Photo: Courtesy of Kelly Kasouf, Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
My Italian grandmother could not cook. A good two inches of oil always rested atop her marinara, and if you looked closely, the lobster was doing the backstroke in her typical Sunday sauce.
But, what she lacked in the kitchen, she made up for in beauty knowledge. Eons before Small Business Saturday, she was a beautician and salon owner in the ‘50s and ‘60s. She was barely five feet tall, but she commanded a presence without ever raising her voice and taught the entire Florio clan the true meaning of a successful business.
She was one of the funniest women I knew. Recently, I found a letter she sent to me detailing how she cleaned her face in order to not look like “an old bag.” Until the day she died, there was nary a wrinkle on her Romanesque face. Her name was Sophie Florio, and she washed her face every morning and night for 13 MINUTES! I can’t possibly understand how she could spend this much time taking care of her skin twice a day, run a business, and raise three boys. I mean, 13 minutes?! No blog surfing in the privacy of her bathroom — just mini facials twice a day in silence, purely focusing on her skin?
If my grandmother saw what I purchased for my skin-care routine, she would indeed roll her eyes and snicker to herself, as the most expensive item in her skin-care regimen was Pond's Cold Cream. I, on the other hand — being constantly lured into buying the latest and greatest skin crazes, methods, potions, and lotions — decided to tackle Nanny Sophie’s skin-care routine for one week and see if there was a difference in my skin or perhaps in my outlook on life.
This beauty lesson was written to me the month I graduated college in 2003. Her sage advice was my graduation gift, and it is priceless. Sophie notes that “in two weeks, I will see a change. In 50 years, my skin will still be beautiful. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not.” We’ll see about that…
imagePhotos: Via, Clinique; Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Day One
My skin is tight and sore as soon as I step out of the shower. In my usual regimen, I grab my Fresh 'Crème Ancienne Infusion' Treatment Toner and splash it on my face without using a cotton ball. Then, I dab on a bit of Shiseido White Lucent Intensive Spot Targeting Serum on some freckles and douse myself in Marula Pure Marula Facial Oil. I love the smell of the tonic and the oil mixing. Maybe it’s the design of the bottles, but I feel like it’s the homeopathic option for taking care of my skin. Namaste, face!
Sophie’s first step in her skin-care practice is “Never use soap on your face and neck.” Oops. Probably the reason my skin feels tight from the shower. Sorry, Cetaphil, but you are sitting this one out. As instructed, I clean my face and neck with Pond's Cold Cream and massage for four to five minutes. I then am instructed to gently remove with soft tissues or a soft washcloth. Then, I’m told to shower and allow the steam and the warm water to soak into my face and neck. Back in the tub I go.
Now that that’s taken care of, on to the next step: Apply a generous amount of Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion, but do not rub in. Let it dry naturally for three to four minutes. If you are in a hurry, get dressed during this time, but don’t rub in the moisturizer, says Nanny Sophie.
Here I am, waiting for this yellowish lotion to soak into my face, and the clock is a-tickin’. My kids are banging at the door, and I am trying not to get any yellow goo on my clothes. This is impossible, so I sit back down and wait for the remaining two minutes. I feel like Mrs. Doubtfire with the whipped cream on her face.
Wait, where’s her anti-aging treatment? This is when I usually reach for my Sadick Dermatology Group Anti-Aging Treatment Pads. I guess my anti-aging regimen will also have to take a knee for this week.
Makeup time: Apparently, I need to find a “cosmetician” to match my skin for a “translucent foundation.” Sophie suggests Clinique Superbalanced Makeup. Allow your makeup to dry for at least two minutes. Ah, more waiting...I may go insane.
Then, apply “very little” blended powder with a powder puff and wear whatever makeup I wish to use. I quickly swipe on my Bobbi Brown eyeshadow in blonde, curl my lashes, and apply Dior Iconic Overcurl Mascara, add a bit of NARS bronzer in Laguna, and Armani Rouge D'Armani Lipstick in 101 to finish it off. Total time for cleansing and makeup application: 15 minutes.
Now, it’s time to get dressed, make my kids their lunch for school, dress them, and head out. I think I may need to reconfigure my morning schedule to allow for so much beauty “me” time.
My new nighttime routine is a little less time-consuming: Remove makeup with cold cream and soft tissues. Massage your face for four minutes, then gently wash with plenty of water. Pat dry, apply moisturizer, allow it to dry, and go right to sleep. This should be the final thing you do before bed.
I don’t remember the last time I washed my face before bed. And, if I do, it’s with a cleansing wipe, and even with this poor attempt at cleaning my skin, I still look like a train wreck in the morning with my mascara smeared on my pillow and cheeks. A terrible habit I must break.
GrandmotherSkinCare_slide03Photo: Courtesy of Kelly Kasouf, Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
One Week Later
It was difficult in the beginning to schedule out so much time for myself in the morning, but eventually I was able to properly clean my face the way Sophie was teaching me. Washing my face at night definitely made my skin less tight in the morning, as I had a decent amount of moisturizer on before bed. Plus, this made it easier to wash my face in the morning with it already somewhat clean. My skin feels softer, and the tone seems a bit more uniform.
But, ultimately, following Sophie’s steps made me connect with her again — not as grandmother to grandchild, but as woman to woman. I now truly understand why her process was 13 minutes long — because she was hiding from her kids. Let’s be honest: It was her quiet place to meditate and gear herself up for the day.
I enjoyed every minute I spent with her, thinking about her, as I washed my face with Pond's. Even the smell of the cream brings me back to her soft skin. I think I will stick with this routine.
She gave me the amazing gift of passing down her beauty advice but, thankfully, not her Sunday gravy recipe.

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