Experts Explain How Your Mom Affected Your Attitude About Beauty

Moms generally have a powerful influence on their children, so it makes sense that they play a role in how daughters come to view beauty and makeup. 

Sometimes the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but sometimes it rolls all the way down the hill.

Take for example, the Kardashian sisters. Kris Jenner, the family’s matriarch, ascribes to a highly glamorous beauty philosophy. And all five of her daughters ― Kourtney, Kim, Khloe, Kylie and Kendall ― do the same. Several of the sisters even have an eponymous beauty enterprise built to sell a highly glamorous ideal of beauty. Which, one could argue, originated by Kris’s example.

But other daughters swing in another direction: Their beauty philosophy is the polar opposite of their mother’s look.

This Mother’s Day, we wanted to get to the bottom of why that might be.  

Each generation adopts certain beauty ideals

“Styles change,” Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and author of You’re The Only One I Can Tell: Inside The Language Of Women’s Friendships told HuffPost. “So what would have been the accepted and expected style in one generation is going to be different in the next generation.” 

For example, the beauty philosophy of the 1930s and 1940s expected women to be more dolled up. Film stars like Ava Gardner, Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe exhibited a very classic, Old Hollywood glamour. But then the Baby Boomer generation came, and a stripped-down beauty routine gained popularity.

“It was a back-to-the-land look with minimal makeup,” Christiane Northrup, author of Goddesses Never Agetold HuffPost. “Because every generation kind of rebels against what they see as the restrictions of their parents’ generation.” 

So today, when a daughter adopts a different beauty philosophy than her mother, it could be as simple as embracing what’s popular among her generation. 

Women communicate with makeup, but methods differ

SuEllen Hamkins, psychiatrist and co-founder of the Mother-Daughter Project, told HuffPost that the idea of “to each her own” is very important when it comes to beauty. The manner in which daughters wear their makeup is tied to the larger psychological step of creating one’s own identity.

We see this all the time: Applying makeup makes some women feel empowered. But so does wearing no make up at all.

I don’t want to cover up anymore,” singer Alicia Keys wrote in a powerful essay in Lenny about her decision to go makeup free. “Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.”

I shot Alicia Keys for Fault! #aliciakeys #legend #faultmagazine #zoltantombor

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While most women won’t write an essay claiming or defending their stance on beauty, every woman will grapple with how to approach it. 

“It’s the face you’re presenting to the world,” Hamkins said. “I think different women have to come to different strategies about how to negotiate this complex task, and mothers and daughters could have different strategies.” 

And sometimes that can cause friction 

Plenty of mothers remark on their daughter’s appearance, especially if the daughter embraces a beauty philosophy different from her own. 

Tannen poses an interesting question in her research about mothers, daughters and appearance: How often do you look at another woman and think, “She would look better if her hair were longer, shorter, curlier, straighter, pulled back, pushed forward? If her dresses were longer, shorter? If she were wearing flats, more makeup, less make up, different make up?”

It’s therefore not surprising that mothers and daughters react the same way to each other.

“The difference is that we say it,” Tannen said. “From the point of view of the mother, you want everything to go as well as possible for [your daughter], so you feel that it’s your job to tell her.” The task for daughters then, is to try to hear the care in her mother’s remark, rather than criticism. 

But surprisingly, sometimes a different beauty philosophy can mean a better relationship

So you and your mom have different ideas about what “ready” means before you head to a concert, huh? That’s totally fine.

“Mothers and daughters who can really respect their personal choices, who can also be really different, can actually connect really closely,” Hamkins said. In fact, becoming your unique self ― mascara wand, lipstick, blush, or none at all ― actually takes place in the context of supportive relationships, Hamkins explained.

So, the more a mother allows her daughter to do her thing with makeup, and vice versa, the closer this pair may actually become. 

“Healthy relationships have connection and also autonomy,” Hamkins said. “All of our best relationships have both qualities.” 

Now that’s a truth that needs no cover-up.  

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