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Unusual beauty productsiStock / BBC Three

Beauty tips that our mums swore by - rated by experts

Eggs as conditioner and ghee as moisturiser…

Tobi Oredein

It's Mother's Day - a time to celebrate the many roles that mums play throughout our lives. Part-time chefs, full-time therapists, financial advisers – general, all-round, constantly available, no-nonsense support systems.

And before the internet became an essential part of our everyday existence, it wasn’t YouTubers passing on need-to-know beauty tips – it was our mums. In case you needed another reason to be thankful for mums, in an oral tradition as old as the bedtime story, they have been teaching us the tricks to shinier hair and more moisturised skin for millennia.

My own mum’s were often ingenious - like the time I ran out of blusher and she advised me to use lipstick instead. Layers of red gloss on my lips and a light touch of red gloss on my cheeks and I was good to go.

But while the intentions are always good, the actual tips can sometimes be a little… iffy.

Here we’ve compiled some weird and wonderful mum tips (and got experts to wade-in on whether you should try them at home…)

Ghee and FlouriStock / BBC Three

“Ghee as moisturiser and chickpea flour as exfoliator…”

Savs Tan, 28

“Beauty tips are like verbal family heirlooms in my household. My grandmother passed them on to my mum and my mum has passed them on to my sisters and me.

“My mum is Indian, so in my grandmother’s house, there would always be ghee, a clarified butter that many Indian people use in cooking dishes like dhal. Up until about the age of 12, if you had dry lips or dry skin, my mum and her family members would put ghee on you - and there was nothing you could do about it. As soon as you stood still an aunty would grab you and smear you in the thick, greasy unguent. As I got into my teens, I put a stop to it – I could just buy a lip balm or moisturiser from the pharmacy. But while my mum's method wasn't so great for dry skin, in hindsight, I’m not sure I’ve come across a lip balm that’s quite as soothing to chapped lips as a smear of ghee.

“The other piece of beauty advice that my grandmother lived by was using chickpea flour to make an exfoliator. She always had the smoothest legs and arms, even when she was in her 80s, and she swore it was because of this home beauty remedy.

“I’ve tried it myself before. I fill up half a mug with chickpea flour and add four tablespoons of water to make a thick paste. I rub it in vigorously and immediately wash it off with water, then follow up with a moisturiser. My grandmother passed away recently and I’ve taken up this ritual as it really reminds me of her.”

The expert: Florence Adepoju, cosmetic scientist and lipstick-brand founder

“Savs is better sticking to store-bought moisturisers. Ghee butter will probably block your pores because it has a high saturated fat content - so it’s a no from me to that beauty tip.

"The chickpea flour could work as a physical exfoliator, although honestly, I would still be wary of this beauty hack, as it hasn’t been formulated to be used on your skin and could cause damage to those with sensitive skin.”

Egg conditioneriStock / BBC Three

“Eggs to make hair softer…”

Nomusa Okorie, 19

“Growing up, my two sisters and I would kick up a fuss if we ran out of shampoo and conditioner.

"It was just really important to us that our hair was healthy because we drew a sense of pride and identity from it. One day, to stop us moaning when we’d run out of conditioner, my mum suggested we use eggs instead.

“At first, my sisters and I were suspicious. It seemed like a pretty weird suggestion. However, in high school, other black girls said that their mums had also told them to do the same thing – use egg as a conditioner. So when I was about 13, I decided to give it a go. My mother cracked an egg into a bowl and then she poured it onto my hair, gently massaging it into my scalp and then washing it off with cold water. Amazingly, it worked. It left my hair soft and easy to comb.

“As she washed my hair, she told me that when she lived in Zimbabwe they would always use eggs as a hair treatment, and her grandmother would always wash and treat her hair, just as she was washing and treating mine now.

“I used to use eggs as conditioner quite often for a few years, as my hair was relaxed (chemically straightened). However, now that my hair is in its natural afro texture, it is harder to wash the egg out, so I rarely do it. I do love how soft it makes my hair feel, so it is a beauty hack I'll be passing on to my kids.”

The expert: Tolu Agoro, Hair Artist

“So this comes from the fact that your hair’s core is made of protein. When our diet includes a balanced amount of protein we are fuelling our body with the ability to feed and strengthen the hair’s cortex. This results in less breakage and splitting.

“However, the protein molecules in eggs are too large to fit into our hair shaft to bond and repair the damaged strands, so I don’t agree with eggs as a treatment. I say stick with moisturising conditioners as they can contain smaller compound protein which works better for the hair.”

Lemon and HoneyiStock / BBC Three

"Lemon juice to bleach body hair..."

Serena Kutchinsky, 39

"I’ve got dark curly hair on my head, my arms and, well, pretty much everywhere that humans have hair. My mum was always weirdly concerned about the hair on my arms, even going as far as to suggest to my 14-year-old self that I get them waxed. 'No way', was my immediate answer, but still she persisted trying to find a ‘solution’ to my ‘problem’. If I’m being kind, I think she was maybe worried that my ‘arm rug’ might get me bullied, otherwise, being blonde herself, she just had a real thing about hairy arms.

"That summer, I started obsessing over my arm hair, staring at it in the mirror from all angles. I convinced myself that my hairiness was why the boy across the street fancied my best friend instead of me.

"One day, my mum found me weeping behind the curtain in my bedroom. I had stolen her razor and attempted to shave my arms but had got spooked. Now I had a big bald spot on one arm. In a bid to cover it up, she suggested using lemon juice to lighten the rest of my arm hair - a natural, non-scary way of bleaching your body fuzz. We squeezed the juice of two lemons into a bowl, mixed it with some honey and spread it over my arms. I then lay in the sunshine for 20 minutes trying to keep wasps from landing on me.

"I now swear by this magic mix and do it at a few times every summer. It lightens your hair in a natural, sun-kissed way. I’ve even used it on my head a few times - aside from smelling like kitchen spray it gave me a lovely set of subtle highlights. Winning.

"Obviously, I haven’t shaved my arms since."

 The expert: Lucy Partington, beauty editor at STYLIST magazine

"Lemon juice is often used as a way to naturally lighten hair on people’s heads without using bleach. However, it can be quite drying and when applied directly onto skin it can make it sensitive to sunlight. So, I’m not quite convinced it’s a good idea to slather skin in a honey and lemon mix and then sit out in blazing sunshine, really - you'll risk some pretty hardcore sunburn. There are plenty of other hair removal options now, if that’s the route you want to take. Personally, I think you should try and embrace your inner 14-year-old self and not care what other people think."

Vinegar bottleiStock / BBC Three

"Vinegar to make hair shiny..."

Alexandra Jones, 30

"Super-shiny, poker-straight hair was a very big thing when I was growing up in the mid-00s. #hairgoals included Avril Lavigne, Girls Aloud-era Cheryl, and Britney Spears. 

"I was a chubby teen from Rotherham who harboured a deep desire to be reborn into the body of one of these lithe popstrels. I couldn’t sing, dance or walk in high heels, but (I reasoned) I could make my hair really straight and really shiny.

"Or so I thought. Whatever I tried - glosses, deep conditioners, sprays, whatever my mum would say yes to when we were shopping - my naturally mousy hair stayed dull and fluffy.

"She finally got sick of my moaning and told me about a home remedy for shiny hair that my nana had passed on to her when she was growing up in Romania. Dilute some vinegar into a bowl of warm water and the rinse your hair in it once a week after you’ve washed it. That, she assured me, would leave my hair shinier than any shop-bought treatment.

"I did it. We only had malt vinegar at home -- the chip shop kind -- so I reasoned that would do. I dumped some into a bowl of warm water then dipped my head in and swilled it around. No, it didn’t make me smell like a chip shop, in fact there was no perceptible odour, but it did leave it slightly shinier. I did it once a week for a month, and my hair did seem to get more lustrous. But I soon stopped after the kids at school took the Mick out of me for rinsing my hair in vinegar. Perhaps it’s time I try again, now that I’m more emotionally robust."

The expert: Daniel Farrelly-McSweeney, hairdresser

"A vinegar solution does have clarifying properties because it’s acidic, meaning it will help to remove any product residue that has built up on the hair over time. Which indeed makes it shinier. Also, again because it’s acidic, it’ll smooth out the hair shaft, thus boosting lustre. However, vinegar is likely to be quite drying (anything ‘clarifying’ is). Diluting it with water will help, but I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone whose hair is bleached or naturally very dry. Also, if you have a sensitive or broken scalp, this is likely to aggravate it, so best to not even try."

Originally published 20 September 2018.