Airplane Survival

My Beauty Uniform: Anne McClain

Anne Serrano-McClain is the founder of MCMC, a Brooklyn-based fragrance company she runs with her sister. Here, she shares her beauty routine, including a life-changing hair product and the secret to gorgeous brows…

Do you wear makeup?
Yes, every day. For me, a little bit goes a long way, but I need that little bit! I wear Eucerin SPF30 sunscreen every day. One of my family friends growing up was a nurse and she always recommended Eucerin. In the summer, or if I’m traveling, I’ll use Kiehl’s Super Fluid UV Defense, which is an SPF50.

First, I apply my sunscreen and while it’s still the tiniest bit damp, I apply Benefit bronzer in Hoola. I’m fair, and the bronzer really makes me look alive and gives my face definition. My sister, who is my makeup guru, told me to apply bronzer just under the cheekbones, along my hairline in a C curve, plus a dot on my chin. I’ve been using the same bronzer for seven years now. I like the color, which is very subtle. I also hate makeup with any sparkles in it whatsoever, and this is the only one I’ve found that doesn’t have any. Even when products claim they have “shimmer” or are “luminizing,” it just means they have tinier sparkles! Then I apply eyeliner (either NARS black moon pencil for a smudgy line or Stila black liquid for a clean one) and finish off with two coats of mascara. My friend gave me Dior Crème de Rose lip balm for my birthday and I keep it in my bag and use throughout the day for a subtle, sheer pink lip. Working in the beauty industry, I try not to get too taken with packaging and instead focus on the product, but sometimes there are things that just make you feel good when you see them, and this is one of them.

You have amazing brows. What’s your trick?
I always, always pencil in my eyebrows with Anastasia’s Perfect Brow. I prefer a hard pencil to a powder, and I need that stiff brush on the end to blend. Every month or two, I also get my eyebrows threaded. It doesn’t seem to matter where I go, they always get it right: the shape, the arc, the little trim with mini scissors.

Do you have any favorite “splurge” items?
I just bought Lancome DÉFINICILS, which makes them look very long, sleek and natural. I’ve actually thought about lash extensions because a couple of friends do it and it looks so pretty, but I’m scared! I hear that as the extensions fall out, sometimes your lashes can too?! That’s a deal breaker for me. I need every lash I’ve got.

Are there any budget items you love?
I keep Heritage Store’s rosewater spray in my fridge and use it as a facial mist. It’s an all-natural rosewater and has the loveliest, loveliest smell. When you keep it in the fridge, it’s so refreshing to spritz. I’ve even got my husband and two-year-old son hooked! We call it his perfume.

What do you love most about your look?
My dad is Irish, and I have freckles. When I was a kid, I didn’t see them as a good thing. My mom, who is Korean, used to call them my “sun spots.” But as I got older, I realized it was something special to me. Now I try to let them shine instead of trying to cover them up.

What do you do to style and care for your hair?
I spent part of my childhood in Japan and am hooked on Japanese shampoo and conditioner. I currently use Shiseido’s Tsubaki Shining shampoo and conditioner. It leaves my hair so much silkier than U.S. brands. It feels totally different. My friend also recently introduced my to Batiste Dry shampoo, which is the best thing that’s EVER happened to my hair. I’ve tried powders that you sprinkle on, but I never got the hang of them. This one is an aerosol, and you lift your hair a little at the roots, spray it on, and it instantly looks like you just got a blow dry. You don’t have to do anything else. I love it.

What’s your nighttime routine?
After I get home from work and put our two-year-old to bed, nighttime is the only time I have a little peace and quiet. Sometimes that means watching Shark Tank and The Bachelor, and sometimes that means reading and lighting a candle or incense. In the evenings I take off my eye makeup with Neutrogena eye makeup remover, which is the only one I’ve tried that completely works. I put it on a cotton pad, which I buy in bulk. I can be a little lazy about other things, but I do make sure to at least remove my eye makeup.

Have you read anything good recently?
I just finished Marie Kondo’s tidying book. It’s life changing. I did exactly what she said — I looked all over my house and gathered up every single piece of clothing, then evaluated everything piece by piece. I actually got rid of 70 percent of my clothing. I purged my beauty products as well. I had been keeping a lot of samples, thinking “I’ll use these when I travel,” but then I never would.

Do you have a stance on bath vs. shower?
These days I take a lot of baths with my two-year-old son, Kairo. It’s a sweet ritual after he’s at daycare all day. We use just two products—the regular Johnson & Johnson baby soap and Weleda calendula cream. At my baby shower, my friends planned these fun games and I won a big jug of Johnson’s baby shampoo, and ever since then I associate that smell with him. It’s such a classic baby smell. Right now, he’s obsessed with trucks. Trucks are everything. We have a set of Alex bath trucks which he loves. He won’t even get in the tub unless the trucks are already there.

Do you have a “game-changing” beauty product?
A couple of years ago my sister introduced me to NARS eyeshadow base. I don’t actually wear eyeshadow, but throughout the day my mascara would always smudge and leave stray marks and black smudges. Now I put a tiny dot of this on my eyelids and problem solved.

You and your husband are so cute. What’s your story?
Our fifth wedding anniversary is this June. We met at a costume party. The theme was BladeRunner 2030. He was dressed as an escaped convict and I was a geisha from the future. He asked me out to dinner and we started seeing each other every single day. A few months later, I left for perfume school in France. He came to visit and proposed. I was super surprised but really happy.

Does he have any favorite products of his own?
My husband is quite a dude-ly dude, but he does wear fragrance every single day. He likes Dude No. 1 and MAINE. He also keeps Baxter of California facial scrub in the shower and I’m obsessed with it. It smells and feels like ground almonds and I use it two or three times a week to get that extra layer off. My skin feels incredibly smooth after.

You’re around fragrance all the time. But when you’re not at work, do you have a signature scent?
Lately I’ve been switching between two in my own line. LOVE has notes of Japanese yuzu, a big magnolia flower, and then some smoky, dry woods in the base. The combo is feminine — but not overly so — and very natural. I’ve been longing for warmer weather and just started wearing MAUI again, which has ginger and star anise on top, frangipani and green bamboo.

How do you go about creating a new scent?
I think of a perfume as a blur — it doesn’t work when you can identify each of the ingredients clearly. It’s more like a hazy memory, where you can recall a feeling, the atmosphere. I’ll try to make a scent that can take me back to certain moments and places. For example, NOBLE is based on four months I spent living in Nepal: the scent of night jasmine in the air, with the burning incense from Tibetan Buddhist temples, and the damp nature. Other fragrances I’ve made are based on people. HUNTER is loosely based on an old friend. He took me snowshoeing in Vermont and read Thoreau. He built a maple sugar cabin and tapped trees. I wanted to create a campfire scent in ode to him. I used organic Bourbon vanilla, tobacco absolute and balsam fir, the sweet, sticky resin from inside a coniferous tree.

Do any scents remind you of childhood?
Growing up, I cycled through the cheesy scents everyone was into — CK One, GAP Dream — but the scent that I liked most was lilac. My mom is big on gardening and grows lilacs in our backyard and they have the nicest, nicest smell. That smell makes me more nostalgic than any perfume. It transports me to childhood summers.

Do you have beauty pet peeves or products you find intimidating?
I’m in my 30s and I’m still scared of lipstick! I think it looks great on other people but I’m always afraid that my lips will get chapped and I’ll have that horrible flaky lipstick look. It’s irrational, I know.

What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
When I made the jump to working for myself, I realized how much I’m capable of. Now when I come to work, every day I give 150 percent. It’s not because I feel like I have to work so hard, but more because I love it so much. It’s so fulfilling to really see the fruits of your labor. Most of the time, it doesn’t even feel like work.

Do you have any other non-beauty rituals that make you feel your best?
Jewelry is kind of like my version of tattoos. Each piece I wear means something to me, and I don’t take them off. Over the past couple years I switched to wearing only gold jewelry. At all times, I wear my rings from Erie Basin and Mociun, a turquoise necklace given to me by my best friend, and 14k arrow studs from Odette NY.

Last but certainly not least: Do you have an overall beauty philosophy?
There are so many trends and so many things to be influenced by: friends, blogs, Pinterest, celebrities. I remind myself that not every look will work on me, and I don’t have to stretch to make it so. You look best when you try to enhance the qualities you do have.

Thank you so much, Anne! (And now I’m off to order Batiste :)

P.S. 13 women share their beauty uniforms, and a trick for getting dressed.

(Photos via Anne Serrano-McClain, New York Magazine, Terrific Magazine, Flavorwire, Lianna Tarantin and Aubrey Road. Interview by Caroline Donofrio)

  1. What a lovely post, I really enjoyed reading it.

    I have heard a lot of people talking about the Marie Kondo book, this post finally made me order it!

  2. Definitely second the Batiste recommendation! I have very fine hair so it looks flat and greasy easily. Batiste means I can go an extra day between washes, and it is a life saver when you really just don’t have time to wash your hair.

    I’m blonde so I use the regular stuff, but it can leave a white-ish residue, so if you have dark hair get the one made for brunettes :)

    You can buy it cheaply from Boots or Superdrug in the UK. Last time I was there I stocked up!

  3. It’s fun to read about other people’s beauty routines and recommendations here! I’m looking for a new sunscreen and now might just try the Eucerin one!

  4. Anne and her sister Katie are two of the loveliest people I know, inside and out. And they make magic with their fragrances. Thanks for sharing, can I nominate Katie too? I want to know her beauty secrets!

  5. Very nice beauty uniform. She is gorgeous in her simplicity; I like her job and her baby too!
    And I am going to try the decluttering experience. Will let you know.

  6. Beautiful!! I’d love to know where her tank and cardigan in the last shot are from!!

  7. She’s stunning. And I use Batiste too so I must be doing SOMETHING right. Now how to get her lips…

  8. Thanks for sharing! She’s a beaut for sure. I Think this might be my favorite one so far :)

  9. Her and her sister are GORGEOUS! Wow! Love her freckles and glad she embraces them! Great brows too!

  10. she’s so lovely! Everyone on these beauty posts seems like we could be friends! I do have a question about perfume school! I wanna go…

  11. This remains my favorite series :)

    She’s such a beauty! And what an interesting job she has!

  12. Jo says...

    Also, thanks for revealing Anne’s approximate(!) age.

    It always helps to know which products work great for a specific age demographic :o) since, for me anyway, turning 38 soon is really no joke and all the beauty favorites from my 20’s (Fresh comes to mind) no longer work as well these days… Ho hum.

    Thank you again!

  13. Jo says...

    Anne is so gorgeous with or without makeup! (Well, the weeny bit that she does put on… ;-)

    And she has such great style. So beautiful.

    I’ve “heard” of MCMC Fragrances around the web but never knew I could actually order straight from the site/thought I had to locate a stockist. (Duh.)

    (I, too, can’t live without my rosewater spray. It’s so wonderful to spray on after my morning routine, it “sets” all the products I put on — an Origins moisturizer, Vanicream sunscreen, bit of Mineral Fusion tinted moisturizer (the best natural makeup brand out there ;-), a Benefit blush, RMS Beauty Living Luminizer — and it does smell quite fabulous! Thanks again for sharing all the goodies you use, Anne!)

    I really adore this “Beauty Uniform” series, Joanna! Thank you!

  14. Anne’s gorgeous– love those freckles and her sense of style.

  15. Best series ever. And I love, love, love the bit about how she comes up with ideas for scents.

  16. I love these posts and the amazing women you profile! Must try that Dior lip balm! :)

  17. She’s so pretty! I’ve used a million different dry shampoos and Bastiste is definitely the best one…and it doesn’t hurt that it is less than $10! can’t live without it!

  18. This is my favorite beauty uniform post yet. So accessible and simple. That’s my cup of tea!

  19. What a natural beauty! I love her note about not being romanced by packaging.

    Great series.

  20. I loved that interview. It was so interesting to read! I like her approach to beauty – she’s so natural and fresh-looking, that before I got to the end I was convinced she was in her mid-20s. I must check out Batiste, too, as I’ve already heard about it from several people and they all swear by it!

    Have a great day


  21. I always feel weird bragging about my kid, but it’s a fact — she’s half-Asian and half-Caucasian, and already by the age of 3, it’s a really striking, gorgeous combo.

    Anne basically looks like what I assume my kid will grow up to look like — every picture here takes my breath away partly because of Anne’s inner and outer beauty, but also because it’s like a glimpse into the future…

  22. i absolutely love this series! thanks for keeping them going :)

  23. Ummm…I’m still into gap dream! :-/

    She has a great, low-key natural look. It helps to have such a pretty face!

  24. I love all of these posts. I second earlier commenters saying these posts are are fun since you can relate to them. Each person is so beautiful and so different. Keep them coming!

  25. This was wonderful! she is very confident and realistically natural

  26. The beauty uniform posts are my absolute favorite. So much so that sometimes I catch myself thinking about what my answers would be to some of these questions ;) I absolutely adore her freckles, and she doesn’t even need makeup.

  27. This is my favorite of these posts as well. Enjoyed it!

  28. My favorite so far. She’s simple and so lovely.

  29. What a lovely interview. She reminds me of Jessica Biel–and she has a gorgeous sense of style and obviously knows what works for her (beauty wise and style wise). Love the NARS base tip (I just tried UrbanDecay’s and was blown away by the difference :). I so look forward to these beauty uniforms!!!

  30. I’ve actually been following her company for a few years now, watching it grow and expand. It’s always been a secret dream of mine to be a perfumer. I think it’s great how she went to perfumery school in Grasse and is making her dream come true. She is lovely, this was a nice interview :)

  31. Okay, super random question but can you tell me the name of her husband? If he used to live in San Francisco, I know him from a long time ago!

  32. I love her! so natural and beautiful, my favorite of this series for sure also great tips!

  33. Gorgeous and inspiring! It makes me happy to know that the woman behind my favorite perfume is so lovely and down to earth :)

    I love the Beauty Uniform posts in general. Our particular rituals and the philosophies they reflect are so intimate and relatable. Love it!

  34. This is one of my favorites! I love learning tidbits like eyeshadow base to prevent smearing. I stopped wearing mascara because that always happened with my Asian eyes, but now I might be able to use it again. Thanks, Anne!

  35. Anne is beautiful! and I totally agree with her Less is more! Just enhance. When people overdo it they end up looking like clowns or like they’re at a masquerade.

  36. I learn something from every single one of these posts in this series :) Thank you for them! You have wise, beautiful friends, and I appreciate that they share both superficial and internal beauty tips. Now to find somewhere to get my eyebrows threaded in central Pennsylvania…

  37. This is my favorite beauty uniform ever! She is so lovely. I love that she uses a lot of affordable beauty products too. Her perfumes sound fantastic, I will have to try them someday.

  38. geez anne, what a pretty woman! she’s scared of lipstick, and i’m scared of the threading! being beautiful is scary! lol. thanks for sharing . . .

  39. I adore the “Beauty Uniform” series. Learning what makes people tick and finding out about their little rituals is so inspiring. Thank you for putting together such awesome pieces and featuring uniquely beautiful women. Being true to yourself helps one glow from within. Cheers to the true meaning of beautiful.

  40. Love this interview and am fascinated with the creation and development of perfumes. loved it.

  41. K says...

    She’s gorgeous.

  42. Love this beauty uniform! Great style, great post :)

  43. What a gorgeous girl and I luv what she does

  44. This may be my most favorite of these posts. Such simple, down to earth style and I love her business philosophy too! <3

  45. Great interview! She’s a natural beauty and doesn’t really need make up. Lucky girl! :)