Photographer Alpha Smoot has the most enviable style — minimal but never boring. Every time we see her, she’s sporting a shirt or haircut that we immediately want to steal. So we were thrilled when she agreed to share her beauty uniform. Here are her secrets to laid-back tomboy style, along with the very best shampoo, foundation and mascara (she knows, because she’s tried them all)…
Have you always worn makeup?
Growing up in Utah, I was actually really anti-makeup. I was the youngest in my family and really loved being a kid. I developed a Peter Pan thing where I didn’t want to grow up, and makeup always seemed grown-up to me. I was also afraid to become one of those girls who wears too much makeup. When I moved to New York in my twenties, I saw there were plenty of people who looked professional and had a certain amount of put-together-ness but didn’t look too “made up.” I wanted to have that, too, so I slowly started to wear makeup.
Now that you’re into makeup, what products do you use every day?
When I decided to “pursue” makeup, I went to Sephora and tried everything. I wanted to find the best products and avoid mistakes like that tell-tale foundation line under my chin. For my face, the best thing I found was Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 20. I love how it evens everything out, but still looks like my skin, not like makeup. Next, I use the NARS Blush/Bronzer Duo in Orgasm and Laguna. When I first started using it, I would do proper shaping and shading, applying the bronzer in the shape of a three along both sides of my face. Now it’s been reduced to putting the Laguna near the sides of my eyes near my hairline, then putting Orgasm on the apples of my cheeks. I tried a bunch of mascaras, too, and the best one I found is Diorshow Lash-Extension Effect. It gives you nice long, separated lashes. Finally, I dust Make Up For Ever HD Finish Microfinish Powder all over my face, because I hate being shiny. I love this stuff! It lasts all day.
What’s your favorite date in NYC?
Zack surprised me with tickets to see The Millionaires’ Magician at the Waldorf Astoria hotel (pictured above). The magician, Steve Cohen, performs there every weekend. It’s weird and funny and pretty mind-blowing; you get to witness magic close up. There’s a dress code, and it’s fun to get fancy for a night.
Do you have any tricks for getting dressed up?
Every so often, when I’m feeling saucy, I’ll do wingtip eyeliner, using this Yves Saint Laurent pen. It has a nice fine tip, and it’s easy to use. I have deep-set eyes, so I line from the middle of the lid to the outside, so it doesn’t look too dark. When I’m doing it up, I’ll also break out this nude eye primer. You put it on with the little brush and smush it around with your finger, and it works as a good neutralizer. The color I like is called “wheat,” because it’s so taupe-y and neutral. Sometimes I’m like, I’ve turned into my mom!
What about lips?
Although the rest of my routine stays the same, I do try different lipsticks. I really love the Yves Saint Laurent Glossy Stain! My friend got it for me as a gift, and now I’m hooked. I never thought I would go back to gloss — I have too many memories of sticky things from high school — but this one I love. It has a stain quality, so it wears longer, and it also has a nice sheen to it. It’s a little pricey for me, but man it’s good stuff. And Lucas’ Papaw Ointment is my beloved balm. It’s the only thing that saves my lips when they’re dry.
Your Halloween costumes are consistently amazing. What’s your strategy?
I’ve always loved Halloween. I like transformative costumes, like Vogue’s creative director Grace Coddington or Tricia from Orange is the New Black. They were all about the hair. Once, I was the main character from Black Swan and I hand-stitched feathers onto my costume. There’s always that moment on Halloween morning where you’re like, “Am I really going to do this? Am I really going out in public in this outfit?” But in New York, you get instant feedback where people will point and say, “You’re so-and-so!” which is always fun. I brainstorm my costume all year. Last year, my husband Zack and I dressed up like Annie Hall, which was a throwback. We were originally going to do Furiosa and Mad Max and I was going to shave my head!
No you weren’t.
Yes, I was.
Your hair would have taken so long to grow back!
I know, but it would have been worth it.
What do you use to care for your hair?
My husband and I have tried all the shampoos — everything from drugstore brands to fancy things like Aesop and Oribe — and our favorite is this one from SACHAJUAN. It has a great scent that’s fresh like rosemary but not crazy in-your-face. It helps with texture and shine and also reduces dandruff. It’s just the best.
Are you loyal to your hairstylist?
Yes. When I found Rubi Jones at Little Axe a couple years ago, it was like finding a soulmate. I swear, the heavens opened up and angels started singing! I used to cry after every haircut, because I felt so misunderstood. It was like stylists didn’t pay attention to what type of hair I have and just gave me whatever cut they wanted. Rubi, on the other hand, listens to whatever crazy idea I have, then helps me understand the reality of how it will work with my hair type. She knows that I like low maintenance hair and that I only want to get it cut once or twice a year, so she cuts it in a way that will grow out nicely.
We always want to buy whatever you’re wearing. How would you describe your style?
Comfy. I hate fussy clothes. My job as a photographer requires clothes that I can move around in, and I often need to lift heavy gear. I’m always attracted to things that seem basic or normal, but have an impeccable cut or interesting detail that you weren’t expecting. I especially love COS. I try to have a minimal closet and not buy many new things, but COS ruins that diet every time. They have such interesting cuts and angles, and almost everything comes in black, which is a huge perk for me!
Are you a devotee of any particular kind of exercise?
I like biking because it’s both transportation and a workout, but I’m not a hardcore biker. I go indoor rock climbing a couple times a week, usually at Brooklyn Boulders. I’m not great, by any means, but it keeps me coming back because it feels like a game. I hate running and I don’t ever want to do it, but rock climbing is like strategy and problem solving that’s also a great workout.
What’s your daily skincare routine?
I’ve used Cetaphil, morning and night, since I was a teenager. I have really sensitive skin, and that’s the first face wash I ever used. My dermatologist recommended it. Every now and then I’ve tried other brands, but they all caused me to be super dry or break out. Every morning, I moisturize with Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream. When I first moved to New York, my skin was reacting badly to the environment and humidity, and my friend was like, “THIS is the product.” It’s hydrating, but there’s no weird residue.
How do you like to relax at the end of a long day?
I like to light some of my favorite incense and close my eyes for a few minutes. I think a lot of people don’t like them because they can smell smokey or like something is on fire, but I’ve found one called Beckoning Spring that doesn’t smell like your typical incense at all. It’s pricey, but I love it. It’s so transportive.
What’s your bedtime routine?
I HATE bedtime routines. If I could do away with them completely, I would. By the time I get sleepy, I don’t want to go to the bathroom and put water on my face. It feels like there are 20 steps between getting tired and finally going to bed. If I’m watching a movie or reading, I won’t want to get up, so I won’t. I need to be more adult about it and start doing things earlier, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet!
Do you have a favorite scent?
I’m big on scents. I’ll usually choose one and wear it until it’s done. I’d been all about Byredo’s Rose Noir for the last couple years, but I just ran out and was keeping my nose open for a new scent. Then my husband gave me Le Long Fond perfume oil for Christmas, and I love it so much. I’ve already gotten used to it, so when I wear it I don’t notice it as much. But I wish I could smell it all the time!
Where do you stand on the issue of bath vs. shower?
I’m a die-hard bather. I grew up in a historic house in Provo, Utah, that was built by my great great grandfather in 1892. My parents made modern updates, but decided to keep the claw foot tub in favor of putting in a shower. I love baths so much that for my birthday, my husband rented a place upstate, just so I could take baths. It had a tub by a window (pictured above), and I took a bath in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening… I took five baths over the course of one weekend! I like to use simple epsom salts.
Do you have any style inspirations?
My husband, Zack, is an inspiration to me. He has like five shirts, but he knows exactly what works on him. He won’t buy something until he’s found the perfect thing, so he loves everything he owns. I wish I could be more like that!
What beauty secrets did you learn from your mom?
I used to make fun of my mom for never going out without “putting her face on.” But now that I wear makeup, I really respect her routine. She always has a really nice, neutral palette. Growing up, I thought it was boring and pointless. But now I share her philosophy of not looking like you’re wearing makeup necessarily, just enhancing your best traits. The one thing she impressed upon me was to do your best not to do irreversible things, because you might change your mind down the road.
Have you ever had any embarrassing beauty-experiments-gone-wrong?
In high school, it was trendy to get a body-wave perm. I wanted it to look loose and beachy, but of course I went to the stylist my mom had been going to for 20 years and I left with ramen-tight ringlets and a burn on my forehead from the perm solution.
Last but certainly not least, what’s your overall beauty philosophy?
My philosophy can be summed up as “fewer, better things.” (I think Cuyana stole this from me, ha!) My philosophy toward products and care in general is, if it’s good quality and will last me a while, I’m willing to spend a lot. If it’s something that needs to be done or replaced a lot, then I won’t spend much. A lot of people enjoy having choices, but I’ve found that if I have too much, I won’t use it. I would rather have just a few things that work.
Thank you so much, Alpha! We love you.