Seven women have shared their beauty rituals, and today I’d love to share what I’ve learned over the years, including a secret to (faking) clear skin, my favorite lipstick and the one beauty treatment I’ll never do…
Do you wear makeup?
I’m one of those people who needs to wear makeup. I’m super pale, and when I wake up, my face can look blotchy and washed out. I don’t go for a “made-up” look—like a smoky eye or gold shimmer—but my goal is to look awake and healthy. After 35 years of experimenting, I think I’ve finally figured out how to do it, more or less!
What is your daily beauty routine?
Basically, one evening, my friend Abbey came over and looked utterly luminous—really gorgeous and glowing. She explained that she had gotten new makeup, so I asked her to write everything down, and the next day I went to Sephora and tried it all. And the results were MIRACULOUS. I put on Tarte Amazonian Clay Foundation with SPF 15 (natural sunscreen, not harsh chemicals) in Ivory. At first I worried that it looked like a thick layer of makeup, but after a few seconds it absorbed and lightened up, and left my skin looking very clear and dewy. Then I put on Tarte Amazonian Clay Matte Bronzer in Park Ave Princess. Some bronzers look muddy or glittery, but this just made my skin look healthy and warm. I felt really pretty, and it’s now my everyday beauty routine. (Thank you, Abbey!)
If I want rosy cheeks, I sometimes add blush, and my favorite blush right now is NARS Gaiety, which is a lovely pink that looks like you just stepped in from the cold. For my eyes, I dab Laura Mercier Eye Basics in Linen on my eyelids and under my eyes. It covers dark circles and oily eyelids and makes everything one color. Your eyes look bigger and more awake. Laura Mercier has this whole concept of “the flawless face,” and her products really do help you get that. Seriously, do a before-and-after with this stuff; you’ll get hooked.
Then I finish up with mascara—I like Smashbox Full Exposure Mascara—and a neutral lipstick, like NARS Niagara (a pale pink) or Korres Butter Lipstick in Coral (a coral).
Do you have any beauty “splurges”?
I try to embrace my so-pale-it’s-almost-blue skin, but sometimes I feel self conscious in a bathing suit or shorts. My legs just look so pale and you can see every pore and freckle and vein. Attractive, right? This past summer, my friend mentioned that she gets spray tans before vacations, and I ended up trying it out. I went to Brazil Bronze in Soho and it was $40 and lasted more than a week. You go into a little room and put on disposable underwear, and a woman comes in and sprays your whole body while you stand in funny positions, like a bodybuilder. I chose the “healthy glow,” the lightest shade you can get, since a dark tan would look obviously fake on me. As I walked out of the salon, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror, and my skin looked so healthy and good. It was definitely worth it, and I plan to do it again next summer!
Do you wear anything special on dates?
Lipstick! When I was pregnant, I started wearing lipstick every day. Even when I was tired and frumpy, applying lipstick instantly made me feel pretty. It makes your eyes look brighter and your teeth look whiter. My go-to is a bright pinky red by Kate Spade called Fanciful Merlot (pictured above). For bright red, I love Mac Ruby Woo. For sexy dark red, I love NARS Majella. For plum, I love Revlon Plum Velour. For pink, I love NARS Niagara.
What do you do to style and care for your hair?
A good hair dryer, a round brush and this serum. Those three things help give you silky, low-maintenance hair. I also go to my friend Reagan for haircuts, and she is fun to talk to and gives you the kind of cut that will grow out nicely, instead of looking scraggly.
What do you like about your look, whether or not it’s something “classically” beautiful?
Growing up, I noticed that when my favorite aunt Lulu made a joke, her whole face crinkled into a beautiful smile. She was gorgeous and young-looking, but she also had these beautiful laugh lines. So, as a twelve-year-old, I would stand in front of the mirror and crinkle my face up, trying to get my own! Well, now I definitely have them, for better or worse, and every time I think, oh, man, why do I have so many under-eye wrinkles, my entire cheek is a wrinkle, etc., I think of Lulu and how much I have adored her smiling face my entire life and it actually makes me proud of them.
What products do you pack when you travel?
Cucumber wipes. They smell good and fresh, and they remove makeup and dirt without drying out your face. They’re a nice pick-me-up on hotels and planes, and I use them every night at home before bed, as well. And I’ll bring lipstick and some bronzer on the plane, and I pop them into a little Fog Linen pouch.
Do you have a game-changing beauty product?
In my twenties, I went to a dermatologist and she turned off the light and held up an ultraviolet light, where you see all the sun damage on your face. It was terrifying. I had many more freckles than were visible on my face, and I had black patches under my left eye and on my upper lip—where, she explained, I must have repeatedly missed putting on sunscreen. Now I wear sunscreen every day, and I’ve been searching for a natural sunscreen that doesn’t look white and thick on your face. (I liked Josie Maran’s sunscreen two years ago but then they redid the formula and now it kind of peels and flakes on your skin.) Finally this summer I discovered Kate Somerville Daily Deflector SPF 50+. It’s natural, lightweight and blends in smoothly. I also try to wear hats and sunglasses and walk on the shady side of the street.
Do you have a stance on bath vs. shower?
I’ve taken like three baths as an adult. But I love hot showers, especially on the rare times I’m alone in the house, have peace and quiet and can just stand there for a second. When the kids are home, Toby will always bust into the bathroom and say, “Be done, Mama! Be done!” and I’ll tell him that if he can count to 20, I’ll get out of the shower, so I end up racing to put on conditioner and finish shaving while he counts. Not that relaxing!
Do you have a signature scent?
I used to always be on an overarching hunt for a signature scent, but then friend Gemma said that life is too short for a signature scent and that she wants to smell like as many beautiful things as she can. I loved that! So now I experiment with different scents. I wore Ralph Lauren Romance in college and my early twenties, so I still like wearing that when I want to feel young! J.Crew has two new perfumes based on the “Exhibition by 31 Women,” the first all-female modern art show in the U.S., curated by Peggy Guggenheim in 1943, and I like No. 57, which aims to evoke the warmth of the party (aged whiskey, cinnamon bark, labdanum and vanilla). As I’ve mentioned, I like men’s scents, too. My husband wears Musgo Real Claus Porto After Shave or Polo Blue and I can’t get enough. I’ll borrow his sweaters to smell like him, or I’ll splash on a little Kiehl’s Musk — but only a little because it’s a much stronger scent than I’m used to!
Do you have any funny little tips you swear by?
A silk pillowcase feels good (and cold!) and also helps you not get wrinkles while you sleep.
Was there a special person in your life (say, a friend or grandmother) who taught you about beauty?
Randomly, you know who taught me a lot? Did you ever see that show How to Look Good Naked with Carson Kressley? It was the worst title, but it was actually a really interesting show. Women who felt bad about their bodies would meet with Carson for a couple days and they’d get makeovers. But the compelling part was that he would stand with them in front of a mirror, and they’d explain to him all the things they hated about their bodies—their round bellies, their saggy breasts, whatever it was. Often they would cry. But then Carson would start pointing out all the beautiful things—their pretty shoulders, their creamy skin, their strong calves…and it was incredible how quickly they would turn around and realize how beautiful they were. By the end of the show, they would do a nude photo shoot, and they would be showing off (in a good way)! It was an amazing exercise in how you can learn to treat yourself nicely and appreciate your strengths. It should be required watching for every woman.
When are times in your life that you’ve felt beautiful?
Honestly, I always feel beautiful around my children. If you wake up with bad breath and frizzy hair and dark circles, they don’t see that. They see your essence. It’s almost as if they literally can’t see how you physically look. They just see your laugh, your eyes lighting up, your playfulness, your warmth. I always feel like this beautiful creature around them because they just run to me and hug me and climb on me. I love those little rugrats!
Does Alex have a favorite look of yours? And does he ever weigh in on any other products or styles?
He would never admit if he didn’t like something, haha, it’s annoying! Once I spent a whole summer wearing those matchstick shorts and YEARS later he admitted that maybe, um, shrug, they’re more “girl pretty” than “guy pretty.” So now I try to force opinions out of him. He sometimes complains that red lipstick isn’t kissable, but he’s otherwise very agreeable.
What nail polish do you wear?
I started getting pedicures after having children, because it was a little “me time.” About once a month, Alex will put the boys to bed while I’ll sneak out to the nail salon and get a pedicure. I’ll bring whatever book I’m reading and it feels so, so, so indulgent and wonderful. Sometimes I’ll get a 10-minute chair massage, too! For summer, my go-to is Essie Fiji, which is a pale pink that looks clean and fresh, and for winter, I experiment a bit more with colors like bright red, navy or mauve. As for manicures, I don’t get them because I bite my fingernails like a five-year-old. It’s so embarrassing! I ordered this stuff from Amazon, but haven’t tried it yet.
Do you have any regrettable beauty trends you tried?
Tanning beds. Oh my goodness, what was I thinking? I used to go to them in college. It’s so, so dangerous and bad for you and makes you wrinkly at a young age. Young girls, listen to me: DO NOT DO IT!!! Go buy a bronzer—like Tarte or NARS—and save your beautiful creamy skin!
Do you have any beauty pet peeves? Or is there any product or treatment you’ll never use?
This is probably TMI, but I will never shave or wax my bikini line. I feel really passionate about that. Obviously it’s totally fine if other women want to, and I’m all for doing what makes you feel good and sexy, but I don’t want to and never will.
Some amazing women have told us how they talk to their daughters about beauty. But I’m curious to know—what would you like Toby and Anton to learn?
When we were growing up, we spent lots of time with people of all ages. Every summer, as I’ve mentioned a bunch, we’d go to my grandparents’ house in Cornwall, England, and spend a month hanging out with all kinds of people, young and old. You quickly realize that some of your all-time favorite people in the world are wrinkly old women or men like my grandfather, and that beauty can be fun and frivolous, but at the end of the day, you love who you love. Once you get to know people, you forget about outward appearances and see them like a child would—their essence. My mom sometimes says the mantra, “I am not my body,” and I think that’s a lovely and true sentiment.
Last but certainly not least: Do you have an overall beauty philosophy?
I try my best to lighten up about things that I’m not crazy about, and try to focus on the good things. (Easier said than done!) As I’ve mentioned before, when you look in the mirror, pretend you’re a friend instead of yourself, because suddenly a switch is flipped. You stop criticizing yourself for all the dumb little things, like overplucked eyebrows or a slight birthmark—I mean WHO CARES? It’s pretty remarkable to realize how much we nitpick ourselves when the rest of the world just sees a nice smiling person and leaves it at that.
Thank you so much!
P.S. Seven other women share their beauty uniforms, and 15 hair tutorials.
(Portrait photos by Julia Robbs for Cup of Jo; rest of the photos from the past few years. Photo of Toby and me on the bike by Laura Ratliff. Interview by Caroline Donofrio.)