I’ve received so much advice in my lifetime…advice on beauty, health, relationships, career, and other random topics under the sun. Some of these I heeded carefully, some I forgot about and realized later, and some I never got around to do. As the years pass though, more and more ‘aha’ moments crop up that remind you of why ‘older’ people really are wiser (at least sometimes). And by then you can only laugh, shake your head and say ‘no wonder’. There are some lessons you really need acquire through experience, and there are some mishaps that you can avoid just by listening to and acting on the advice well-meaning people offer. Here’s an assortment of valuable beauty and life lessons I would want to do over if I could. I hope these help you too!
- Don’t shave– My mom told me this when I was a high school freshman. She said never, never shave because the hair that grows back becomes thick and course and you could nick yourself. If you must remove hair (anywhere on your body), get waxed or laser it all off. Of course, that got me curious and I immediately took a razor and shaved my legs way before I needed to. Of course, she was right. It was many years before I was able to correct that mistake. So if you can help it, do not keep razors at home and just book regular waxing appointments. Better yet, save up for laser hair removal. The difference and convenience is amazing.
- Don’t prick a pimple– I was one of those awkward, gangly teenagers with hyperactive oil glands and acne. I call it the Dark Ages of my life, but anyway I digress. The dermatologist told me never to prick a pimple, because it will enlarge your pores and cause scarring. Again, I took the advice lightly and popped those bothersome zits from time to time. Yes, I did have to battle some dark scars but was relieved by the fact that none of them turned into deep ‘potholes’. When you pass the age of 25 however, your skin is no longer as elastic, and you’ll notice larger pores and deep crevices even if the acne has gone away. And so you spend another bundle on pore minimizing serums, fraxel treatments, spot lighteners and laser therapy just to correct the damage from years back. So the next time you have a pimple, simply medicate it, cover with concealer, or if you can’t stand to wait it out, have it drained by your dermatologist. You won’t regret it.
- Get a professional to shape your brows– There was a term we used to joke about in elementary and middle school back in the 90’s. It was ‘Kilay 2000’, which meant over plucked eyebrows resulting in a very freaky, thin curved line above the eyes. Needless to say, this look was not flattering. Your eyebrows frame your face and can dramatically change your appearance, so it’s important to get this right. Have a professional shape your eyebrows, and only pluck to maintain. And don’t allow them to use a razor, insist on threading instead. Also, if you must pluck your eyebrows, always make sure you have sufficient light! Imagine the disaster if you overdo it on one side!
- Buy quality– Stop wasting your money. I cannot count the many facepalm-worthy moments of weakness resulting in catastrophic purchases I have made in my lifetime. For instance, anything that is ‘leatherette’ that starts peeling after a while for the whole world to see, anything too trendy or tacky, anything fake (except fur), and anything made with cheap fabrics and prints is a total waste of your hard earned cash. My dad used to tell me, never mind if you rarely get to buy new things, as long as what you buy are quality items that will last. A good leather bag in a neutral color. Comfortable, high quality shoes with proper arch support. A premium watch. A tailored suit. Real jewelry. Perfect jeans. All of these have lifetime wearability potential and are worth spending on. Take the total amount of what you paid and divide it by the number of times you wear the item—that should give you an idea of what you are looking for.
- Live an active, healthy lifestyle- Back in my teens and early 20s, weight was never an issue for me. I could gorge on fastfood, soda, chips, rice, an entire tub of ice cream, lie around all day, and not gain a single pound. I could waltz into any store in town and fit in size Small. Then my officemate said, better start changing your diet and make exercise a habit, because after the age of 25 or 30, you will have a much harder time. Did I listen? Of course not. Now, the mere smell of food causes weight gain, the thought of exercise is like toiling a salt mine, and the last time I was able to fit into a size Small was around 3 years ago. Start early, girls. I mean it.
- Don’t overprocess your hair. I used to have long, thick, straight, jet black hair that did not need any maintenance except the regular shampoo and conditioner. But through the years I wanted highlights, and then I wanted waves, and then I wanted a reddish sheen, and then I wanted it super straight, and so on ad infinitum. So I’ve colored, cellophaned, relaxed, rebonded, and done whatever else to my hair, and now I’m paying the price for it—dryness and split ends, brittle strands, stressed out scalp. Remember to be kind to your tresses. If you must process it, make sure you are able to maintain it with deep conditioning treatments. And do not color and perm or color and straighten in succession! Avoid using a blowdryer and hair straightener every day, and take vitamins and keratin supplements for healthy hair.
- Don’t bite your nails. This is a bad habit my mother and I share. Whenever I’m tense, preoccupied, staring into space, or idle, I end up picking on my nails. And because I never tried to, I was never able to stop. Sometimes the only time I realize I’m doing it again is when a colleague or friend screams and begs me to stop because it looks so painful. So yes, exert effort to get rid of any nervous ticks—in this case, dip your fingers in something bitter, and get a manicure every week so you’ll remember to stop.
- Dress your best anywhere and everywhere. Ok, so I love clothes and I like dressing up for occasions or going out with friends. But there are days where all you really want to do is lounge around in old baggy jogging pants, unkempt hair, a tank top, and stay in bed. Unfortunately it was one of those days, I had to run a quick errand and was rushing back home when I bumped into my former crush-slash-MU-we-used-to-sort-of-date-situation. He was all smiley and chatty and it was too late for me to run and hide. Oh, how I wished for the ground to swallow me whole that very moment. So lesson learned, even when you’re just buying water at a convenience store or taking a 5am flight, you might run into an ex, a potential new love, a boss, a former nemesis, whatever. Just make the effort to look your best, no matter where you go.
- Work hard, save money and invest early. I am so happy one of my first jobs was with a global bank. I was 21 years old and giddy about having a salary to buy clothes and makeup and shoes and gadgets with. Then my boss told me, you should save your money and invest in financial instruments as early as you can. Buy insurance, look into equity and balanced funds, convert a bit to foreign exchange, see if you can afford to pay for property in installments…all in your early 20s, when you don’t have bills or loans or children to worry about. In time, you’ll have completed your insurance premium payments, your investments in funds will be worth double, real estate investments will have grown in value, and by the time you want to travel or get married or take your MBA, you will have saved enough.
- You can’t hurry love. Yes, you can fall head over heels in high school and be part of the 1% of people who actually end up together. Or the 99% that break up and move on and eventually, after what seems like 40 years in the desert, find the right person to spend the rest of your life with. So while you will meet a lot of special people in your life, guard your heart and try to save the best parts of yourself for someone who truly deserves it. And don’t ever let your life and happiness revolve around just one person. Cultivate yourself first—work hard, do well, be successful, travel, read, learn, grow, pursue your passions, push yourself to do more. Do all of this and take your sweet time, because when you do get married and have children, you will have to put other people’s needs first, and you might never get around to doing everything you dreamed of. It all sounds so cliché but it’s true…if you want to find Mr. Right, then work on being Ms. Right first. And even if you never find that ‘other half’, that’s ok…you are whole enough and happy enough and content enough on your own.
- Choose who to trust. Not everyone who appears to be your friend has your best intentions at heart. There are those who deceive, take advantage, keep secrets and tell lies. There are those who are jealous and only want to be your friend for as long as they feel superior to you. There are those who, no matter how nice you are or how successful and accomplished you become, will always find something negative to say. You could be a Ph.D, lawyer or whatever, and they will say ‘oh but she’s fat’. You could be hot and popular, and they will say ‘oh but she’s single’. You could be happily married, and they will say ‘oh but she has no job/ money of her own’. Therefore since you cannot please everybody, stop caring so much about what other people say, and simply be happy with your own decisions. And be careful who you trust and spend your time with, because birds of a feather…
- Wear sunscreen. Let me wrap up this list with the line from the commencement speech that became so popular in the late 90s, penned by Mary Schmich. Please Google and read the whole thing. But yes, don’t forget to wear sunscreen, moisturize, and put on eye cream. Because when you hit your 40s, you will look like you are in your late 20s, while your contemporaries will turn into prunes.
Here’s to living life with no regrets!