• Perspiration, wrote Victoria Principal in The Beauty Principal , "is a type of natural sunscreen—so when you play tennis in the sun, don't wipe off that sweat—instead, pat it down." She sensibly added that you shouldn't use your sweat as an excuse to forgo the sunblock. This one made Dr. Mercurio laugh out loud "It is absolutely not a type of natural sunscreen," she says, "and, in fact, probably enhances the absorption of the sun."

  • To combat sugar cravings, Elizabeth Taylor provided this recipe for Chocolate Fantasy in Elizabeth Takes Off : Combine 1 envelope dietetic chocolate pudding mix, 1/2 cup evaporated skim milk, and 1 1/4 cups black coffee. Cook until thickened. Add one egg yolk; cook for another minute. Serve. (My mother made this runny, chemical-scented concoction regularly, and my only "fantasy" was a desperate wish that I was eating something else.)

  • In The Joan Collins Beauty Book , one of five lifestyle guides that the industrious Dynasty star churned out, her disco-era tips included: Secure your wig with extra hairpins before "lovemaking," and don't do cocaine because it's bad for a girl's looks. She also shared an effective tanning formula from her youth: Mix 8 parts baby oil with 1 part iodine. Apply every hour. I grew up in New Jersey in the '80s, so of course I did this, cheerfully frying my skin like a rotisserie chicken. Dr. Mercurio ruefully admitted that she once did the same. "Dreadful for your skin," she says with a shudder. "Baby oil enhances the optical effect of the sun being able to penetrate. You get some short term benefits, but the long term ramifications are dramatic."

    Think those ideas sound crazy? Here's what the future of beauty looks like

    Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo? And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask by Jancee Dunn Jancee Dunn is the author of Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo? And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask (Villard)

As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.


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