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.