Hollister Hovey is an interior stylist and product designer known for her singular antique-meets-modern aesthetic (a cross between Hemingway and The Royal Tenenbaums). Here, she shares her beauty tips and tricks, including her complicated feelings on choosing a scent and a miraculous cleanser that turns you into “a real-life Benjamin Button”…
What’s your daily skincare routine?
I’ve become obsessed with the Bionova line. The marketing lingo is heavy on major science — nanotechnology, bioactivity — and you choose your products based on your sex, age and hormone levels. Their Bioactive Cleanser is nearly miraculous. You see the difference after one wash. It’s a gel, and I’ll let it sit on my face while I brush my teeth, then splash it off. It seems totally impossible, but you can really have a Benjamin Button moment with this stuff.
Do you do anything special to moisturize?
My skin has always been very dry, even when I was in high school. I tried so many things, including putting pure coconut oil on my face, and it was never enough. Now I use Bionova’s Anti-Stress Care Cream. The person at Barney’s sold me on their whole line, actually, and I’m a total sucker. But it really does work!
What’s one physical trait that you especially like?
I’ve always been proud of my teeth. I’m obsessive with whitening toothpaste, but I swap brands every time I need a new tube. I feel like my mouth acclimates to the mintiness, and I translate this to a loss of cleaning power. I should probably just have a stable of travel size tubes that I rotate constantly to keep up the thrill of the mint. I’ve found Crest 3D White is pretty good. And I always love Marvis because the tubes are so pretty.
I’ve also used Crest Whitestrips, which are so much better than they used to be. The early versions would slide all over your mouth and you would kind of eat the bleach and feel like a rabid dog with foam in your mouth. Now they stick to your teeth really well and you can walk around in them and not even notice they’re there.
What makeup do you wear?
My daily routine takes two minutes: I put a swoosh of MAC black gel liner on each eye and gobs of black drugstore mascara. If I’m going out, I’ll add more eyeliner and a few dabs of concealer. Then lipstick. I always wear lipstick — my closest college friends told me they’d never seen me without lipstick and I’ve tried to keep that up through most of adulthood.
What are your favorite lipstick colors?
I love a great orange-red and a matte or satin neutral, depending on my mood or what I’m doing that day. For neutrals, favorites are Faux (a pinky nude) and Self Aware, a yellowier nude that looks nice when I wear bronzer. For orangey-reds, I like MAC Lady Danger and NARS Heat Wave.
Do you have any amazing drugstore finds?
I love the e.l.f. line, which is sold at Target and drugstores. It’s wonderful if you want to have fun with colors. The matte lip color in tea rose is one of the best neutrals I’ve ever tried — and it’s only three dollars!
What’s your getting-dressed philosophy?
I used to wear so many different crazy things, but these days, I only wear black basics. Getting dressed is so much simpler when all your pieces match. I like COS and Uniqlo for clothes. I’m obsessed with my micropuffer jacket, which has big zip pockets for keys, phone and wallet. It’s so liberating to go hands-free and not feel laden down with stuff. I turn to J. Crew for shoes. I wear a size 12, and it’s constant rejection and pain, trying to jam your feet into shoes that are too small. So thank you, Jenna Lyons, for making shoes that fit me.
This is me being a goof with my ex-boyfriend in the Valley of Fires in New Mexico. I’d bought the indigo cloth earlier in the day at a flea market and wrapped myself in it every way I could imagine. I made the poor guy endure attempts of me with it as a head wrap, as a shawl and as a scarf while I practically drew blood from jagged rocks and cactuses.
Your nails are lovely. What’s your secret?
I get a simple gel manicure every couple weeks and have recently veered toward the translucent/neutral/bride colors. They seem to go on thinner than other colors and beautifully elongate the hands. I go to Primp and Polish, the chain that seems to be taking over Brooklyn, because it really is just miles beyond other nail salons. They have so many colors to choose from and the technicians are great.
This photo was taken near the ocean in San Francisco… where it was VERY VERY WINDY and very very cold!
How do you style and care for your hair?
I use Davines Love shampoo and conditioner, because I love the scent and potency. I’ll also use Lavett & Chin Original Sea/Salt Texturing Mist. My only other styling tools are a towel and the wind. I’ll laugh and say, “It looks French!” but my sister Porter (who’s more of a blow dryer) says it looks like a mess.
Do you do any DIY treatments?
Soaking my hair in dry, warm olive oil is a horrifically messy process with lovely results. It’s disgusting looking while it’s on, but I’ll put my hair into a bun and leave it in for 15 minutes or so, and afterward it feels so much healthier. I’ve also started making my own salt scrubs, using Epsom salt, pink Himalayan salt, black lava sea salt, coconut oil, lemon essential oil and blood orange rind. I made up the recipe myself and will just whip it up whenever I need it, because it’s so easy to throw together. I’ve also started giving it as gifts.
Speaking of which, you and your sister Porter live and work together.
We spend a lot of time together. We also share products, which is probably gross. But it’s been a whole life of sharing things. I am generally more of the makeup buyer. She’s better about always having eyeliner on, where I’m a little lazier. But we use all of the same brands, and that can be strange. We wind up looking more alike because we have the same paint on our faces!
Is it ever challenging spending so much time together?
We’ve always been close and rarely ever fought (even as kids). We know each other’s rhythms, we like the same foods and we have totally overlapping tastes. It’s been so nice to have our loft as a home base. Boyfriends (and lots of time at their respective apartments) have come and gone, but it’s nice to have this place to come back to. We’ve been here 11 years, so it really feels like home, which is a rare experience for many New York renters.
At home in the Williamsburg loft.
How do you inspire one another when it comes to your apartment staging business, Hovey Design?
Of the two of us, Porter is much more outgoing with strangers and a natural flirt who can work a room like nobody’s business. I come alive around friends and clients I know well and adore. So, having her out, running around, being kind, smart and helpful is vital for bringing in new clients. I revel in doing great work. When we’re actually installing the furniture in these spaces, we work seamlessly on the aesthetics and the set up. You really need both personalities for this business to work and so far it’s been just so much fun!
Are there any home goods you’re particularly into these days?
I just bought a Ghost Rose candle from Catbird, which smells amazing. I used to be into firewood-type candles, but this is a little more feminine.
Let’s talk about scents. You seem really into them.
I know a woman is supposed to have a single signature scent in order to send men reeling with nostalgic sexual yearnings for years after a single encounter on a train, but I ignore that rule wholeheartedly. I rotate a fragrance collection that rivals the first floor of Saks. I like to smell differently from day to night, from season to season. I feel naked if I go out without putting a scent on. It’s so nice when you can get a whiff of yourself and feel happy.
For my birthday last year, my aunt gave me Oud Immortel. It’s not something I would have bought if I had just whiffed it in the store, but the way it smells on is so good that I became transfixed with it. This year for my birthday, she got me Bal D’Afrique, which is citrusy and fresh and smells so good. It also comes in a hair perfume, which is the best product ever. It’s light, and you’ll smell it throughout the day. For years, I’ve loved Encens Chembur. It’s my absolute favorite for daytime, but a polarizing choice for sure. It’s supposed to evoke “incense from a Hindu temple,” but my handsome, tasteful neighbor compared it to “wet leaves and mold.” I ignored him.
Have you ever stopped someone on the street to ask what fragrance they were wearing?
No, but I’ve been trying to find a true apricot scent. I’ve smelled it on like two people in my life and have so regretted not stopping them and asking them what they were wearing! I’ve tried all of the florals and fruit fragrances and have never been able to find it.
You’ve talked in the past about how your late mom was a major influence on your aesthetic. I’m curious to know what she taught you about beauty?
Our mom was always adamant about Porter and I owning our tallness. I was 5’9” by the time I was in fifth grade. I was literally a head taller than everyone else; I never knew what it was like being small. My mom encouraged me to never shrink away from that. I think it impacted a lot of how I am as a person. She always advocated wearing some makeup, but was absolutely maniacal about self-confidence and good posture, which she said will always do more than the finest lotions or lipsticks.
Were there any other influential “beauty figures” in your life?
Our mom was mad for Gloria Steinem — that great mix of confidence, pride, personal style and natural beauty. Following Gloria’s example, she encouraged us to stand up for ourselves, not give a damn about keeping up with the Joneses and embrace oversized eyewear. (My glasses recently won out in the war of bangs vs. glasses.) Given how wonderful Gloria looks now – in her ’80s – Mom was so, so right.
Tell us about your Queen Elizabeth costume from this past Halloween.
I love Hendrik Kerstens’s portraits where a pale gal throws on a garbage bag and looks just like a Dutch masterwork. On the morning of Halloween — after a week of a totally empty brain — I figured I should try something similar and make myself into Queen Elizabeth. So, I folded up wax paper and tied it around my neck. For makeup, I put about half a stick of concealer on my eyebrows and hairline and covered my face with white eye shadow and then rubbed lipstick into my cheeks and lips. I pinned my hair into curls and added pearls and J.Crew earrings. I threw a gold skirt onto my shoulders. Porter took my photo with her iPhone in front of my black bedroom wall, which makes everything look like a piece of art.
In the New Mexico White Sands — that’s sand, not snow! It’s the most mind-blowingly beautiful place on the planet. They sell sleds at the gift shop. You have to wax them and end up going down the dunes like a snail, but it’s still so much fun.
When’s one time in your life when you felt really beautiful?
Any time I use a wide-barrel curling iron and my hair goes all Lana Turner-y. It would only take about 10 minutes to have perfect hair every day, but then no one would notice when I’d put in “a lot” of effort!
Last but certainly not least: what is your overall beauty philosophy?
Stand up straight, smile and never try to compete with anyone but your current self.
Thank you so much, Hollister! We love you.
P.S. 23 more women share their beauty uniforms and a trick for getting dressed.
(Portraits by Nicki Sebastian for Cup of Jo. Additional photos courtesy of Hollister Hovey. Hollister and Porter at Home by Michael Weschler for The New York Times. Interview by Caroline Donofrio.)