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How I Realised Our Childhood Beauty Lessons Will Never Leave Us

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Main image – Tatjanazlatkovic/Stocksy

Welcome to Blasts From My Beauty Past, our monthly column written by journalist, and Live That Glow Beauty Editor, Philippa PearneFor the last 17 years, Philippa has written about her own beauty wins, fails and everything in between. In her monthly column, she looks back on the trends, brands and moments that have shaped who we are as beauty fans.

As a mum of two young children, the mornings in my household can be pretty frantic. Whilst the years of having a baby and a toddler in the house signalled leisurely mornings of not getting dressed until 9am, my children are now at school. So, it’s dressed, fed, vaguely clean and out of the door by 8:20. My shouty voice at 8:19 does, I’m sure, grate on the neighbours. 

There is always one moment that tips me over the edge though. Shoes and coats are on, bags are in hand, keys are firmly clutched, door is opening, and I realise I’ve forgotten to do my daughter’s hair. *$@*&%!

For most people, this might seem like a quick task. But my daughter inherited my frizzy, curly, completely out of control mane. So, just like my mum had to with me, I have to gently convince my daughter to sit down, brush out her many, many tangles and try to find any hint of a parting so that I can style it. This takes patience on both parts. And preferably not when we should have been out of the door 30 seconds ago. 

My go-to style in this scenario – you know, the one where I slam the keys back on the table, mutter a swear word and am then reminded of my nine-year-old son’s excellent hearing – is a plait. A good old-fashioned plait. 

Why? Because you can get away with them being messy of course and I can quickly gather her hair back (tangles and all, poor child), hastily create some form of ‘chic’ braid and tie it with the nearest elastic. 


Philippa with her daughter. Image – Courtesy of writer


I could do this with my eyes closed. Forget messy buns, chignons and ponytails. The plait is my signature style, probably because it’s the first one I learnt. 

I was around 8 or 9, sitting in between my mum and dad in their bed one Saturday morning, playing with my doll.

She was called Rosie and had long, yellow hair made of wool. My mum asked me if I wanted to put two plaits in her hair “like I do with yours”, she said, and I dubiously agreed. I thought there was no way I could create such a complicated looking style, but I was willing to give it a go.

My mum then went on to show me how to part Rosie’s hair down the middle and into two sections, then split each section into three before overlapping each third. As she demonstrated a plait on Rosie, I realised how easy it was and once I’d had a few tries, I was officially a plait pro. 

I didn’t have any younger siblings and my older sisters wouldn’t let me near them at the best of times. So all I could do was practise on Rosie or myself. And let’s face it, plaiting your own hair puts a real strain on the arms. 

So now that I have my own daughter, I feel beautifully nostalgic whenever I plait her hair. The honest truth is that I think of that exact moment in bed with my parents, of Rosie, and the feel of her wool hair every single time I plait my daughter’s. 

I liken braiding her hair to smelling a familiar scent that transports you straight back to a specific memory. It’s like I’m on autopilot whenever I start overlapping the sections. 

But it’s not clinical, it really means something. Because how can memories of my childhood, my family home and my youthful parents not?  

And in those fraught moments before taking my children to school, I’m gifted a hint of calm. It’s only for a few seconds, and I’m sure my kids would say I am anything but calm. However, experiencing such a simple, yet beautiful memory in amongst the wild tornado of getting everyone to school on time is the sweetest juxtaposition.

This is just one of many beauty skills I learnt growing up, but almost all of them have been transferred to adulthood in one way or another. For example, my mother pointing out the cardinal sin of not blending your foundation past your jawline so that it doesn’t create the dreaded ‘line’. It is now instinctively built in me to avoid ‘the line’ at all costs when applying any base. “Blend, blend, blend”.

And not forgetting the skill of using direct heat at the roots when blow-drying your hair to create more volume, and drying up and down each section with a round brush to create a long-lasting blow-dry. This was one of the first things I learnt from my childhood hairdresser, and I am still, to this day, nagged about it by my adulthood one. 

I confess, this is one beauty skill I haven’t achieved – yet. (Hairdressers have magic hands, don’t they?). But with every single hair wash comes the ever-hopeful determination to succeed. And no doubt I will preach the same advice to my daughter when the time comes.

There were also a few things that put me off in later life too. For example, my sister telling me my bushy eyebrows looked like hairy slugs. Delightful. Cue: going rogue with a pair of tweezers as a teenager and later spending my entire thirties and forties having to draw my eyebrows back on. 

It’s funny to think that without us even noticing, the beauty skills we know today may have actually been engrained in us much earlier than we think. There are the ones we remember learning as a child. But there are probably hundreds of others that don’t particularly stand out, that have also made an impact. 

When the time is right, I will relish any opportunity to teach my daughter whatever she needs in order to learn about beauty. But one thing’s for sure. She won’t be given access to a single pair of tweezers.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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