My Beauty Uniform: Leah Goren

My Beauty Uniform: Leah Goren

Illustrator Leah Goren has garnered a cult following for her cool illustrations (think: cat prints and naked ladies) and her work has appeared everywhere from book covers to ceramics to The New York Times. Here, she talks about the world’s easiest eyeliner and the secret she was nervous to share…

My Beauty Uniform: Leah Goren

What’s your daily skincare routine?
I wash my face every morning with Dove bar soap. After I cleanse, I use Glossier Priming Moisturizer. It’s almost more about the packaging than the product — the moisturizer is good, but the design is great. The whole Glossier set looks neat on your shelf. At night, I take my makeup off with The Face Shop Bright Cleansing Oil. You rub it all over your face, then rinse it off with water. It was introduced to me by a Korean friend — apparently it’s everywhere in Korea, but is harder to find here. It takes everything right off and moisturizes at the same time.


How about on your body?
On my body, if I’m in a hurry, I’ll use the cult favorite Kiehl’s Crème de Corps whipped body butter, which is thick and great for winter. It smells like milk and honey — sweet but not overpowering. If I have more time to get ready, I’ll use a body oil instead of lotion. It feels light and silky, but needs to sink into your skin for a few minutes before you get dressed. My favorite is a coconut oil blend by Cocooil, or if I want something floral scented, I’ll use this Rosebud Multi-Use Oil.

My Beauty Uniform: Leah Goren

Have there been any important women in your life who taught you about beauty?
Everything I know about beauty I learned from my best friend Desene in fifth grade in San Diego. She had a young, cool mom and was also taller and more developed than the other kids at age 11, so she had an air of authority about these things. She taught me how to pluck my eyebrows into a thin, straight line, curl my eyelashes, and wear white iridescent eye shadow — basically everything I needed to know at that point in my life.

My Beauty Uniform: Leah Goren

Do you have any other beauty inspirations?
I love Nicole Richie! I’m five feet tall, and I love that she’s tiny like me, but still loud-mouthed, hilarious and a savvy business woman. I don’t think we’re very alike beauty-wise, but I read that she uses my favorite Kiehl’s lotion and tons of coconut oil. So, we’d probably be best friends.

My Beauty Uniform: Leah Goren

I’m also five feet tall. Do you ever find it challenging to be small?
Finding clothing can be difficult. Most clothes are designed for taller people. Sleeves and pants are always way too long. I’m a size five shoe, which is also limiting. I do like shopping at Aritzia. They use nice materials, like wool, and carry lots of sizes, including XXS. Recently I’ve also been getting really into jeans and finding vintage pairs on eBay or Etsy, sometimes for $5 a pair. I’ve always had a hard time finding non-stretchy denim that fits me, and my favorite right now are Levi’s 550s in boys’ sizes.

My Beauty Uniform: Leah Goren

And it can be hard to look young at work.
I’m 27 years old, but people have told me I look much younger. Sometimes I worry about not being taken seriously. For work, I do most things via email, so when people reach out, everything is fine. But sometimes I get nervous when I meet new people. I had to do an event in December, and I was in a room full of publicists and strangers, wondering “What do they think of me?”

My Beauty Uniform: Leah Goren

What’s your everyday makeup routine?
I love The Face Shop BB cream, for good even coverage on most days. But when I’m on the go or want less coverage, I’ll use Glossier’s Perfecting Skin Tint, which goes on in a very thin layer. It’s good for summer or when I’m at the beach and don’t want a lot on my skin. I top it off with a dusting of bareMinerals powder. Then I lightly fill in my eyebrows with Anastasia Beverly Hills powder, which is known as the best, and finish it all off with mascara. Any drugstore mascara is fine with me. Lately I’ve been using L’Oreal Miss Manga because I think the name is funny.

My Beauty Uniform: Leah Goren

Do you have any tricks for days when you want more oomph?
On most days, I’m just going to work at the studio and like two people will see me, so I don’t spend much time on my makeup. But if I’m going anywhere else, I’ll wear a cat eye. A lot of my friends have been sporting cat eyes, and they showed me how to do it. I just use an eyeliner with a marker point, and start with the skinny part, then make the line grow wider as it extends outward. I’ve tried a lot of liquid liners, and my favorite is the Stylo Eyeliner by NARS. The pen makes it a lot easier.

My Beauty Uniform: Leah Goren

What do you do to unwind?
I started reading as a ritual this year. For the last few years, I hadn’t been reading books or cooking or making the time to do enriching things because I was really focused on work. So this year, I decided to make the time to do more things that feel good. Right now I’m reading The Prince of Tides, which I got for Christmas. My friend said no one’s read it since the 90s, but I like it. I also do almost everything in bed when I’m at home. I live with a roommate and our apartment has limited options for where I can do things — there is a couch, the table or my bed. I’ll usually burn a candle while I’m hanging out in bed; right now I’m making my way through a rose-scented one from Diptyque.

My Beauty Uniform: Leah Goren

When do you feel most beautiful?
I grew up in San Diego, and I still feel the best when I’m at the beach. Last summer, I spent every single day I possibly could at Rockaway or Fort Tilden. If I could be tan and almost naked every day, I’d be really happy.

My Beauty Uniform: Leah Goren

How do you usually style your hair?
I never know what to do with my hair! I usually either blow dry or air dry and leave it down. Otherwise, my recent favorite style is a bun with a scrunchie around it. It happened by accident when a friend gave me three black scrunchies as a random gift when she got back from a trip to London. I realized that a bun with a scrunchie was an easy hairstyle, and since it’s black, you can’t see it.

My Beauty Uniform: Leah Goren

What about when it comes to hair care products?
Since middle school, I’ve had psoriasis, a condition where your skin develops scaly, dry patches. I have small patches on my elbows and legs, but it’s mostly concentrated on my scalp. It can get itchy and annoying, so I’m forced to use a prescription shampoo or Kiehl’s Scalp Purifying Shampoo. For conditioner, I’ll use Kiehl’s Hair Conditioner and Grooming Aid 133, but I like to use it as leave-in conditioner. I’ll put a tiny bit on when I’m getting out of the shower, and it makes the bottle lasts forever.

What is your signature scent?
I’m overwhelmed by fragrances with dramatic names or gaudy bottles, but Diptyque’s Eau Rose is the opposite. It smells like pure roses. It’s simple but beautiful.

My Beauty Uniform: Leah Goren

What types of projects do you get most excited about?
I get excited about all of my projects right when they come out, and then eventually they feel dated and I get excited about the next thing. I did a couple book covers recently — Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore and Modern Lovers by Emma Straub. That’s been exciting because book covers are new for me, and I really like how they turned out.

Do you have any advice for people looking to break into a creative career?
I’ve worked really, really hard — I’ve been working constantly because I love what I do. Even before people were willing to hire me, I was doing what I loved just for me. If you’re not sure if you’re meant to do something or not, try putting everything into it. You’ll realize pretty quickly if it’s right. Also, making connections is a really important part of breaking into a career path. I loved school, and tried to take the classes of young teachers who were in the scene and working. They ended up being people who continue to help me out.

My Beauty Uniform: Leah Goren

You recently shared the story of your recovery from anorexia. How did it feel to share a secret with such a big audience?
Jessica Walsh hired me to do the illustrations for the site Let’s Talk About Mental Illness. She said she was going public with her struggle with anorexia and I was like, “Me, too.” So she asked if I would be willing to write something. It was scary, because I have a lot of good friends who didn’t know about this part of my life. I went to rehab ten years ago, and it sometimes seems like it didn’t really happen, but of course it did. It made me nervous, but everyone has been so nice about it. It felt good getting it out there. There were a bunch of comments from people saying that had gone through similar experiences. I think everyone has their own thing, their own struggle. I’m still aware every day that this is a huge part of me and who I am. But I also feel proud. Through everything that has happened, I learned so much. I wouldn’t be the person I am now without having gone through that.

My Beauty Uniform: Leah Goren

Do you have any rituals that help you feel great?
I was not an athletic person growing up, but over the last five years or so, exercise has become an important part of my life. My second summer in New York, I had nothing to do one afternoon, and my best friend was going to a yoga class a few blocks away. I remember being so scared, because I didn’t know anything and had never been to a fitness class before. But I think just showing up for the first time is a good lesson for other things in life you might be scared to do. When you get there, you see that everyone is immersed in their own routine and no one is watching you. That yoga class was a gateway activity to more intense workouts, and now I regularly take circuit training classes at Sync Studio and Pilates reformer classes at Brooklyn Bodyburn. Doing the same thing at the same time every week keeps me sane. I also like doing something that’s hard and doesn’t get easier. The Pilates classes have made me truly strong.

My Beauty Uniform: Leah Goren

Thank you so much, Leah!

P.S. More lovely women share their beauty uniforms

(Photos courtesy of Leah Goren. Portraits by Arden Wray. Interview by Caroline Donofrio.)

  1. Ross Harbeck says...

    Love the whimsical and clean look of all the pieces! And I might add that I may have picked up the Modern Lovers book simply for its cover. Turns out, it’s a pretty good book as well! :)

  2. Catcrow says...

    Love this! Especially the picture in front of Pannikin- basically a staple of my childhood and beyond.

  3. Aww, this was great. I love Leah’s work like crazy and now I love Leah too! Thanks especially for mentioning the psoriasis thing, I’ve struggled with that too. That is one thing that i really appreciate about this series – it’s about beauty but its from this warm place where women share openly about the “imperfections” here and there that tend to be airbrushed out, literally and figuratively. These things stick with me and it really manages to be a very affirming celebration of real lovely human women, whereas it could have been something kind of superficial. So nice.

  4. Meg says...

    Love this – great advice and words of wisdom for all women alike. Thank you!

  5. Hannah says...

    Will you guys just stop?!
    Because I’m just going to have to write the same ol’ thing, month, after month, after month:
    I love her,
    I love her,
    I love her, too.

  6. I love her!! Her hair especially and carefree attitude. I would have never guessed that she was short – she looks tall!

  7. Coralie says...

    I remember posting a comment a few months ago asking for more diverse Beauty Uniform profiles – and here it is! It feels so good and refreshing to hear from a young lady that is my age, thank you for that! :D

  8. J Hope says...

    Yes please on a post for the five footers out here who wear a size five shoe. The struggle is real.

  9. Nicole Brant says...

    I’ve had psoriasis on my scalp for years. It used to cause me so much grief, as well as embarrassment. Once I saw a new stylist who made such a scene about it, (“Hey Della! Come look at this girl’s scalp!”) that I ran out crying. What really helped me is an OTC shampoo called Dermarest. Also, taking fish oil. Fish oil is amazing for health!

    • God that sounds so terrible—I’m always scared to get my hair done with my scalp as it is! Thanks for the rec too, I’m going to try the shampoo!

  10. Am also 5 feet tall and very tiny and a mother of one. Most people don’t take me seriously and it is sometimes really difficult to convince people that am almost 30. But it’s an added advantage since I will grow old slower!

  11. I almost didn’t click on this (because I’ve been online f-o-r-e-v-e-r this morning lol) but I am so glad I did! What a cutie! Like everyone else, these are by far my favorite posts. I love the diversity you find within them also. Sometimes I don’t relate at all, but I think the message is always along the same lines – being you is beautiful. Thank you for these! Needed it today.

    xxx Morgan

  12. Sarah says...

    But where are the sunglasses from!? I recognize them but can’t place them…

    • KAYLA says...

      They are Karen Walker! I once spent a good deal of time stalking Leah’s instagram to find the brand!

    • Nicole Brant says...

      Ha! I love them, too! Thanks, Kayla!

  13. Michelle says...

    As a full time working mom with a range of interests, your blog appeals to me on many levels. But, I LOVE the beauty uniforms – it is by far my favorite series!

  14. Liz says...

    LOVE her!!!! Please interview more uber-creatives: artists, painters, writers, etc.!

  15. Foree says...

    Yeah nice shout out to sync studio the greatest spot in Brooklyn to get strong and have fun!

  16. Emily says...

    What kind of journal is Leah using for her watercolors?!?! I love it.

    • it’s the binderboard sketchbook by Kunst & Papier :)

  17. Anne says...

    Caroline, I need to know: Where is her beautiful flower dress from? She looks stunning in it!


    x Anne

  18. I just bought one of her planters (that cute little elephant guy) and didn’t realize it until clicking the “ceramics” link above- what a fun read this morning, thank you!

  19. Sophia says...

    I love Beauty Uniform posts! What a great way to learn about new products! Just ordered The Face Shop Bright Cleansing Oil.

  20. kim says...

    Wow – way to go leah! She’s beautiful inside and out and truly brave to go public with the mental turmoil that comes with an eating disorder. One of my favorite personal portraits you’ve done Cup of Joe!

  21. Maria says...

    What an lovely,gifted woman… Her Art is beautiful and inspiring . And I can totally relate to buying things because of the fancy name or the beautiful packaging…

  22. So cool to read about you! And there’s the Pannikin- the. Best. (Pannikin is my beauty uniform…;)

  23. She is lovely! Also, I love the ambience of her home and studio space, with all of the plants and decorative floral touches. So inviting and pretty.

  24. Jenn says...

    I adore Leah’s work! I bought her naked ladies silk shirt last year and it was my summer staple. I loved getting to know someone whose work I admire and learning her story of recovering from an eating disorder that I can really relate to.

    Awesome interview, Caroline!

  25. Lauren says...

    YES x A MILLION. I’m 27, 5 feet tall, and have teeny tiny feet (usually 4.5). I also work in government, which means every day while getting ready for work, I curse my dress pants and shoes and envy women like Leah who have the freedom to wear these beautiful, fun, COMFORTABLE clothes. One day! Anyway, I also really enjoy this beauty uniform series. It’s honest and relatable but feels a little frivolous, which is nice on occasion. :)

    • Tory says...

      Hi Lauren! Have you checked out MM.LaFleur? Super comfortable, chic workwear that comes in a Bento Box!

  26. I’ve really enjoyed this. So easy and straight to the point and I’ve really been enjoying Leah’s work :)

  27. Another awesome beauty uniform – just love love love this series!

  28. What a charming interview she was! I liked: “Lately I’ve been using L’Oreal Miss Manga because I think the name is funny.”

    I’ve seen her work allll over the internet, it’s nice to know the gal behind them now!

  29. Jenny says...

    I absolutely love the beauty uniform series- screamed with excitement when I saw a new one :)

    Love your blog in general too, such a down to earth, breath of fresh air in the middle of all the stylised, uniform, shallow blogs that seem to al show the same content. You inspire me as well as the people you chose to feature It is so nice to know that there are such talented, gorgeous individuals out there. !!!!Don’t ever stop!!!

  30. Elizabeth says...

    I read The Prince of Tides about 2 years ago and loved it! Pat Conroy is such a good writer–his storytelling is so vivid and captivating for the reader. Two others I loved are South of Broad and The Lords of Discipline. Happy reading!

    • Meg says...

      If you haven’t read Beach Music yet, I highly recommend. One of my favorites!

  31. lilly says...

    Love love love Leah Goren! Great interview, thank you!

  32. Becca says...

    I love The Prince of Tides!
    It’s so good!
    Pat Conroy is an excellent story teller!

  33. Andrea says...

    Just reading: “I have psoriasis” on a Beauty Uniform makes me want to cry. I’ve had psoriasis since I was 5 & it has always been something to hide and never speak of, its such a debilitating thing in many ways, especially in middle school & high school. So to read that statement in relation to a beautiful, powerful, talented woman who loves being in a bathing suit on a beach completely exposed in so powerful to me. Love this series for so many reasons, big, small, for vain reasons & reasons that make me feel so connected to these women.

    • Kelly Libby says...

      I very much enjoyed this post. :)

      I, also, struggled with psorias as a child and off and on in my adult years. The ONE true thing that helped it DISAPPEAR: Gluten free diet. It might work for you, too. It might not but maybe it’s worth a try. Perhaps, even a limited gluten intake could help.

      I hated my psoriasis and the brutal teasing from the fellow classmates/school kids when I was little. Even as a grown up woman, mostly….those bully’s voices still linger. I always had so much insecuritity about it. If this little tid bit of info can help another woman feel more secure in her skin, then i’m a happy gal.

  34. I love this interview. I first saw Leah’s work years ago and loved it very much. It is nice to get to know more about her.

  35. Heather Robertson says...

    I love her. She is precious and her art is awesome!

    I’d also love to know where her adorable black patent shoes are from. They are fabulous!

    • Damaris says...

      I also want to know where her black patent leather shoes are from! Do tell!

    • Helen says...

      Same here! Where are the lovely shoes from?

    • Maria says...

      Yes, I was crazy about them too!
      In the meanwhile I found them, they’re Aldo, called Gazoldo Black Patent Flat shoes.

  36. This was an awesome post to read. I loved her little eyeliner trick! It’s great when you read an article about someone and find so many similarities between yourself and the interviewee.


  37. Crystal says...

    I need to know where the flower dress is from!!!

  38. I thought the Modern Lovers book cover was gorgeous when I first saw it! How cool you illustrated it!!

  39. Maggie says...

    Beautiful! I live in Encinitas and recognize your picture in front of Pannikin – my favorite place in the world :) Thanks for sharing!!

    • I live in Encinitas, too! Definitely spotted Pannikin right away also :)

    • Sarah D. says...

      Woohoo to North County!!!

  40. SJ says...

    I definitely understand what she mentions about looking younger and feeling that you won’t be taken seriously! I teach at university and I was once asked while on a field trip with my students who the professor was!!
    I hate that feeling and I would like not to be intimidated by that.

    SJ –

  41. margesse says...

    I loved this post; I could identify more with Leah’s routine than almost anyone else who has ever been featured. I love to read about really intense and regimented and crazy beauty routines, and I always think, Today, I am going to go home, buy 58 new products, and become the new Marg! But in reality, it is a successful morning/night if I brush my teeth AND wash my face. If I remember my serum, I feel like a new woman. I love that she is like, Well, I use bar soap, and I either dry my hair or I don’t, and I like whatever drugstore mascara I happen upon. She seems so cool and down to earth and talented.

    • LOL true that.

  42. Ali says...

    I have psoriasis, too. It’s really embarrassing and I’ve tried so many different things on my scalp (Rx shampoo, hydrocortizone foams and gels), most of which lead to bleeding and don’t stop the psoriasis. I am really hoping that the Kiehl’s works!!!

    • Nicole Brant says...

      I feel for you. Mine is on my scalp as well. I had already posted this separately, but Dermarest shampoo and taking fish oil helped me a lot. I understand wanting to try anything and everything to help. Good luck!

    • The Kiehl’s doesn’t actually clear up my scalp, it just doesn’t irritate it further. Regular shampoos will dry me out so much! It’s also a nice daily option since I can’t really use prescription shampoo every day, and don’t want to be washing my hair with it. Another thing I’ve been liking recently is tea tree oil, though you really have to wash your hair thoroughly to get it out. Lush also has a nice scalp mask. Again I don’t think it really clears anything up, but it’s very moisturizing and helps with irritation. I’m definitely going to try the Dermarest now too. Best of luck!!

  43. Nidhi says...

    I love reading your beauty uniform interviews. They are such great reads, anytime of the day. Leah is same age as me and reading about her, and her work was inspiring. I loved the part where she shares her tricks for oomph. Thank you and keep doing more of these, more often :) Love from India!

  44. Beautiful Leah. XOXO

  45. J.D says...

    This is probably my favorite uniform post so far. Maybe because I’m also I’m my mid twenties. Maybe because it’s more about her spirit than about actual beauty products? She looks like such a gentle soul!
    PS: She’s totally a Charlotte Gainsbourg look-a-like :)

  46. nohatnogloves says...

    Brave. There are times when you think: anorexia, oh yeah….but then you read the stories and realise that no addictive behaviours just appear out of nowhere. Delighted that she has made herself a life that gives her joy.

  47. I love every Beauty Uniform post, and this one is no exception. They’re all so open and honest. Now, I have to know where Leah finds all her cute dresses!

  48. Angel says...

    I’m also 5′ and wear a size 5 1/2 shoe. I’m going to look into Levi’s 550 boys jeans.

  49. Oh I love Leah Goren’s work – and how beautiful she is!! Ever since I bought one of her mugs from Anthropologie I’ve been a bit obsessed with her cat illustrations (I featured a few on my blog a few weeks back) I too am drawn to beauty product packaging (then usually put it back with a hrumph because it’s got too many funny chemicals in!)

    Eleanor xxx

  50. Lovely art, great beauty products and a beautiful artist inside and out!

    Also, I am a huge Pat Conroy fan and loved “The Prince of Tides” even when it was really hard to stomach. Other favorites of mine by him are “Beach Music” and “South of Broad”. I’m from Charleston, SC and since Pat Conroy is from the area, he has a strong presence. His descriptions of the Lowcountry are so poetic and spot-on. I hope you enjoyed the book!

    • Meg says...

      Beach Music is my favorite! A depressingly great read.

  51. Rachel N. says...

    Such a beautiful free spirit! Love her art. Any chance we can find out where that lovely tulip dress in the last pic is from?!

    • lilly says...

      I think it’s from the collection she did with Anthropologie? Not that I stalked it or anything for sales…

  52. I’m absolutely smitten with this series of posts. It’s so interesting to read about what other women are doing and our varied perceptions of beauty and self care, which are so intertwined.

    I really admire Leah’s bravery in talking about her eating disorder. I’m glad she’s living a healthy recovery today and kicking some a** in the art world!

  53. it’s nice to see someone who’s as tiny as i am. it is really difficult to find clothes that fit me since i’m so short. i also go through the same struggle of looking really young. i worry that people won’t take me seriously too

    • Miriam says...

      I’m also 5′ & the clothes struggle is real! :) I love seeing other women my size & getting ideas from the way they dress. I know this isn’t a fashion blog but it mightn’t be a bad idea for an article?

      I always used to have the same problem of looking WAY younger than my age. Once when I was about 27 someone actually thought I was younger than my 17yr old sister! I used to find it so annoying but my ever wise Mum used to always say that some day I’d be glad I looked so young & now that I’m hitting my mid-30s, with more than a few laughter lines that day is here!

    • i would love that! i always could use some ideas for where to shop for petite sizes!

      hahah i’ll definitely keep that in mind and appreciate looking so young for the next few years :)

  54. Mandy says...

    I LOVE your Beauty Uniform articles. I find reading them very relaxing… everyone is… just. so. real.

  55. Love Leah Goren! I’ve been a fan of her art for a while now. So glad you interviewed her. :)

  56. She is obviously a wonderful woman and I like it so much that the important things were taught to her by her friend’s mother :)
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena

  57. Her art is so lovely and she is really beautiful. I have to say that I think it’s strange to choose products based on the bottles alone, though…

    • Jessica says...

      I admit it does sound silly, but I do the same thing. As a graphic designer I appreciate beautiful packaging, so when I see something pretty that is reasonably priced I’ll totally buy it! I think it doubles as design inspiration. :)

    • Lol yes another designer here- I don’t really do this but totally understand why she would :)

  58. Ahhh! Those plates!!!!