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Alice Hart-Davis: Three generations of beauty

March 26th 2014 / Judy Johnson Google+ Judy Johnson

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We quizzed award-winning journalist and teen skincare founder Alice Hart-Davis about her mother, her two daughters and their different approaches to beauty...

As Mother’s Day approaches, we wondered what beauty secrets, rituals and even products transcend generations; what tricks we can learn from the older and wiser, and what trends we should adopt from the younger and cooler.

Who better to reveal her family beauty traits than Alice Hart-Davis? Founder of Good Things Skincare, award-winning journalist and expert in both teen skin and anti-ageing, Alice reveals the make-up rules she learned from her mother at a young age and the advice she’ll be passing on to her two daughters…

What is your first beauty memory of your mother? And what was your daughters’ first beauty memory of you?

The wonderful fragrance that she wore when going out for dinner, which I later realised was Patou’s Joy. She would creep into my bedroom to kiss me goodnight on her way out, smelling heavenly.

My daughters had to put up with me putting on make-up while they were in the bath and often spending more time on the former than the latter.

What are the main beauty differences between each generation of your family?

We are all fairly practical and low-maintenance on a day-to-day basis, but when getting smartened up, we tend to pick different areas to focus on. My mother would least like to go without blusher (or rouge, as she still prefers to call it) and lipstick; I depend on mascara and tinted moisturiser and my girls would choose eyeliner above everything else.

Do all three generations share a beauty secret or a favourite product?

Apart from Good Things products, you mean (we all use the Good Things Miracle Mattifier, £7.99)? We’re all quite partial to livening up a party outfit with a very bright lipstick.

What beauty trends do you believe transcend all three generations of your family?

The ones beloved of the Hollywood goddesses of yesteryear that still hold good today. A smooth complexion, a strong lip, a well-defined eye… and I’d add smooth, shiny hair, though my girls would think that over-done.

What was the most important piece of beauty advice your mother passed to you, that you in turn passed to your daughters?

That using blusher is a sure-fire way to stop people saying ‘Are you alright? You look a bit pale...’

What beauty views and tips do you think mothers could learn from teenagers?

That – if you keep an open mind – there are plenty of things you can learn from the way teens see beauty and use make-up. They’re really good at using accessories – maybe a hairband, or a scarf, or a flower – as part of a look. Molly is a dab hand with the liquid eyeliner and does a lovely short succinct line that stops dead just before the end of the eyelid (less obtrusive than a flick; I’m trying to copy her) and from Beth I’ve learned the power of wearing a bright lip with an otherwise bare face.

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If you were to buy your mother a beauty gift, what would it be? And what do your daughters give to you?

I’d give my mother a bottle of something lavish to go in the bath – from Aromatherapy Associates, or Elemis, or Clarins. My daughters don’t give me beauty stuff; they can see I have more than I need thanks to my job, but they and their brother might put their heads together and cook a meal for me as a treat.

Has there ever been a disagreement between you and your mother or children on a beauty issue?

I don’t think we’ve had any disagreements over beauty issues – though much to my vexation, I cannot persuade either my mother or my children to see the benefits of wearing sunscreen on a regular basis.

What have you learned about ageing gracefully from your mother, and is there anything you'd do differently as a result, or tell your daughters to do differently?

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a conversation about ageing, gracefully or otherwise, with my mother. She has always looked lovely; end of, and would see no reason to interfere with letting nature take its course. Thanks to my job, I see things rather differently and take a pro-active approach to ageing – I’m always trying new skin-resurfacing lasers or collagen-boosting radio-frequency treatments. But then, and I know this sounds bizarre coming from someone so enmeshed in the whole beauty business – I don’t really care that much how I look, so if any of my anti-ageing experiments go wrong and I end up having to age gracefully with a paper bag over my head, well, so be it. I think we (meaning my mum and my daughters too) all know that it’s who we are rather than how we look that really matters, however much modern society pressurises us to assume the exact opposite.

I try to impress on the girls that if I’d known at their age that more sunscreen early on equals fewer wrinkles in middle age, I would have worn it from the word go but they tend to ignore most things that I say because I’m just their mum and whatever I say tends to sound like nagging dressed up as concern. Actually, that’s probably unfair. Right now, Molly is travelling around south-east Asia and says she is the only backpacker in the world who has more toiletries than clothes in her rucksack because I encouraged her to take so many high-factor sunscreens…

How old were you when you began to use skincare and make-up products, and were your children around the same age when they started?

I had spotty skin as a teenager so I was using face wash and moisturiser earlier than most, though until I was sixteen, ‘make-up’ didn’t mean much more than those roll-on cherry lip glosses that were all the rage in the Seventies and a bit of blue eyeshadow. Molly, along with many of her contemporaries, got into heavy eyeshadow around the age of the 13, which I didn’t like at all, but her school allowed make-up (you know, self-expression and all that) so I was reduced to grumbling ineffectively. I’d say, ‘That’s quite a lot of make-up for a Monday morning,’ only to be told that she was trying out the smokey-eye look that we’d been working on for the teen beauty book we were writing together… so I didn’t really have a leg to stand on. Beth started experimenting with make-up around the same age, too, but thankfully with a much lighter hand.

Are there any health or nutrition tips that your mother shared with you for better skin, and any that you have passed down? Or any DIY beauty tricks to do at home?

It might seem quite simple but my mother always told me that, however unpleasant it is at the time, it is better to brush out long hair before bedtime. Otherwise, by the morning, it’s all in an even worse tangle.

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Alice’s new Good Things Manuka Honey Range launches in Boots on April 7th

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