Once upon a time there were four sisters, all beautiful. Their mother did her best to teach them to look after their skins and applied cream after their baths because otherwise, she said, they would end up with skin like turtles. Two of the sisters were born 18 months apart and, as children, were always close but often fought like alley cats. One of these was my aunt, the other my mother.
My aunt (pictured, at 21) clearly took her mother’s advice to heart. She had no children so she was able to spend time and money on her skin. She even took a course with a world-wide make-up and beauty company and learned how to clean and cream, massage and paint so that she would remain beautiful. By the time she was fifty her skin was beginning to wrinkle. She spent an hour or more at both ends of the day working on her face, arms and hands. She believed in the magical properties of creams and lotions and would have bought a stratospherically expensive, all natural and organic, tiny tub of caterpillar poo if anyone had thought to market it as a beauty aid.
In her eighties my aunt was still beautiful because she had style, taste, great bone structure and the confidence of a woman who had been admired all her life. The skin – not so good. “No, no, I look like a lizard!” she’d say ruefully if someone pointed a camera at her in too strong a light. At the very end of her life I saw her without any makeup at all for several weeks. The skin had softened to a gentle bloom and, old though she was, to my mind she was more beautiful that way.
My mother couldn’t be bothered with all that. A smudge of lipstick and a judicious pruning of wayward eyebrows was about all she did. She spent her life in different countries all over the world, busily on show beside her husband, and died at 92 with scarcely a line on her smooth and still beautiful face. It's all a mystery to me, but I'm with Mum on this. I'm a loofah and soapless soap person myself.