Beauty Uniform: Alex Williams

Beauty Uniform: Alex Williams

Today’s beauty uniform is near and dear to my heart: my husband Alex Williams! Here, just for fun, he shares his go-to fragrance, the best glasses for big heads, and the dating advice he’ll give our boys…

Beauty Uniform: Alex Williams

As a style writer for the New York Times, do you have a product that you cannot live without?
Sunscreen. I’ve worn it on my face every day for decades. Most natural sunscreens are total greasepaint, but a couple years ago, I tried the Josie Maran’s tinted moisturizer at work. It’s smooth and lightweight, and I have been using it ever since.

You do know you’re 100% wearing foundation, right?
I guess I mostly know that. I like that it gives me color! I just have to be careful not to go too far. An editor at work once said, ‘Wow, you got some sun.’ I need to learn to apply it better, like how you’re always telling me, ‘You have to blend it into your beard, you don’t want to see the line!’

Beauty Uniform: Alex Williams


Beauty Uniform: Alex Williams


What is the most drastic thing you’ve ever done with your overall look?
I actually never, ever thought I’d be a beard guy. Growing up, beard guys were Grizzly Adams, and I wanted to be James Dean. But ten years ago, over Christmas, I got a killer case of stomach flu. Obviously, I didn’t shave that week. You liked it and told me to keep it. Now a beard has become my look for more than a decade.
Beauty Uniform: Alex Williams

Let’s talk about fragrances.
The first fragrance I ever got into — like every other college guy I knew — was Ralph Lauren Polo. I still have a soft spot for it and think it smells amazing. I didn’t wear cologne for many years in my 20s and 30s, but when we started dating, you gave me Kiehl’s Musk, which was a good gateway scent. Now I have four or five on rotation — especially Bowmakers from D.S. & Durga. It’s inspired by old violin shops, and it has a woody, almost whiskey-ish undertone. I love this stuff.

Beauty Uniform: Alex Williams

Did you wear any special fragrances while dating?
Oh, I have the most embarrassing story, I’m cringing. During the early days of the internet, I stumbled across this special pheromone fragrance online. I was like, you know what, it’s twenty bucks, it’s worth rolling the dice. So, I wore it on a date, and the whole time, I was like, this smells kind of funky, like a cherry air freshener for your car. Needless to say, we did not end up together.

Beauty Uniform: Alex Williams

Live and learn! What hair products do you use?
My hair is naturally wild and woolly, so I use a unisex bedhead product that I really like. And I have a small grey patch on my beard, which I cover up with the Just For Men beard dye.

Any beauty mistakes you remember?
Years ago, I was visiting a guy friend in L.A., but I had forgotten to bring any hair stuff. I remembered that an ex-girlfriend said, ‘Oh, fashion models use sugar and water and it works just as well as hair gel.’ I found some powdered sugar in the kitchen and patted some on my head. My friend was like, you look like a churro.

Beauty Uniform: Alex Williams

Glasses are such a big part of your look. What frames do you go for?
Regular Warby Parker glasses are too small for my giant head, but I’ve figured out a hack: their sunglass frames are larger, and you can fit them with regular lenses. For sunglasses, I love the Moscot oversized aviators. I’m obsessed with the Vietnam war, so when I wear them, I always think of Robert Duvall in ‘Apocalypse Now.’

Any drugstore products you swear by?
Salt deodorant. It’s basically a little salt lick. They last forever; I bought my last one five years ago and it’s still going strong. I haven’t purchased regular deodorant for 15 years and haven’t missed it a bit.

Beauty Uniform: Alex Williams

Can you tell us about your nutty bedtime routine?
I’ve suffered from insomnia (technically, delayed sleep-phase disorder) since I was a child, and I’ve seen a million sleep doctors. I’ve come to rely on a whole bedside table full of things. A noise machine, for sure. The Tempur-Pedic sleep mask is a must. (The cheap thin ones are uncomfortable and don’t block all the light; plus, the elastic stretches out so you can only wear it a couple times.) My doctor also turned me on to a new herbal regimen, and it works for me: 5 mg melatonin, plus Best Rest Formula, plus some stuff called Cortisol Manager. It’s not the knockout blow you get with prescription meds, but it eases me into sleep.

Beauty Uniform: Alex Williams

What did the men in your family teach you about beauty?
My dad washed his hair with bar soap (the cheap pink bars that came in plastic bags of six) and was so averse to any products, even sunscreen, that he had a permanent V-shaped sunburn on his chest from wearing T-shirts while doing yard work on the weekends. He was basically the exact age as Don Draper, and he had all the same mid-century male suspicions about anything related to “beauty.” My older brother was the same. He lived in the Mojave Desert, where the sun is so intense that it would literally crack the upholstery of a car, but still, he never wore sunscreen. We’re talking old-school dudes here.

Alex Williams

Did they give you dating advice?
Not a shred. My dad married the first woman he dated. Girls naturally loved my brother but he had no game. All my high school friends were clueless. So, I went out in the dating world and made every conceivable mistake. You really do need an older friend or dad or brother to take you aside and tell you the ropes.

Beauty Uniform: Alex Williams

So, will you give our boys dating advice?
For sure. I’ll tell them: it’s important to have game, but not play games. Rules like ‘wait three days to call’ are utter horseshit. If someone likes you, they like you; if they don’t, they don’t. There’s not much you can do to “trick” someone. Also, just be nice. When I was young, I thought girls always went for bad boys and rockstars; I shot myself in the foot trying to be the angry young rebel. But in the end, every girl who ever liked me liked me because I was nice.

Beauty Uniform: Alex Williams

What non-beauty rituals make you feel good?
I bike to work most days — during the non-freezing months. Going through midtown Manhattan isn’t that relaxing, but overall it feels so good. Sometimes I’ll bike across the Brooklyn Bridge late at night, when it feels as if you have the world to yourself. You’re gliding over the bridge, every landmark in NYC is lit up on either side of you, and it feels like you’re flying.

Beauty Uniform: Alex Williams

How about fashion?
Years ago, I interviewed Owen Wilson in Texas. I remember him saying, ‘You know how people get on Prozac and all this stuff? Well, it is impossible to be depressed in a cowboy hat.’

Thank you so much, Alex! We love you!

P.S. More beauty uniforms, and would you date older?

(Wedding photo by Max Wanger.)

  1. This was great! I loved every bit, especially the sugar-water-hair part. My boyfriend has certain gel he uses and doesn’t go anywhere without.

  2. This was so sweet!

    And that black and white photo of you guys where Alex is holding Toby and you’re looking off into the distance leaning against him and holding him is just the most endearing photo ever! <3

  3. Amy W says...

    ” You know you’re 100% wearing foundation, right?”
    “You look like a churro”
    Ha!! This was so great :) He seems like the best.

  4. This was awesome! Thank you Alex and Joanna :)

  5. Loved your interview! Thanks so much for your input Alex! It’s so great to hear from a guy’s point of view how the world works.

  6. j says...

    Male alert! I might be the only one poking around these parts, from time to time, to see what the gals are up to, but it’s spectacularly welcome to get a view of the site’s signature talking points——style, parenting, internet ephemera——from a guy’s perspective. I’m for sure splurging on that violin-parfum.

    • I’m probably biased because I love this site but I think people of all genders could appreciate many of the topics posted.

  7. Hey! We see a Marpac Dohm link – #HerestoSleep! Thanks for shout out.

  8. Ana says...

    This was awesome. I am going to try that sunscreen!

  9. sabrina says...

    Bravo Dude – and congrats Joanna- love this

  10. Margot says...

    That was terrific! Love Alex’s style and the advice he would give your sweet boys!

  11. Sarah H says...

    I like his casual button down shirts! Where does he get those?

  12. LB says...

    If he can bike to work in New York temps while using salt stick deodorant, he must have almost no BO to him! Or they have showers at the Times.

  13. Sara says...

    Alex rockin’ that cowboy hat!

  14. Such a fun read. My best friend and I laughed at how she’s been trying to get me to try Josie Maran sunscreen for years but that it was Alex’s review that finally convinced me. ;)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha love that, julie!

  15. Polly Hitchcock Sage says...

    I just laughed so hard about the powdered sugar. Thank you

  16. Rachel says...

    My boyfriend also has a big head and is in dire need of new glasses. Tell me more about this Warby Parker hack. Do you have them fit new lenses for the sunglasses? Or get a local optometrist to do so? I’m already browsing cool frames for him :)

  17. Briana says...

    I sympathize with the insomnia. I also use a sleep machine and tried a million bad sleep masks until finding this kickstarter one called the Manta Sleep Mask: Completely dark and adjustable for all head sizes. A weighted blanket (which are all over Amazon now) also helps a lot—not hot, just heavy, and provides a calming effect. Finally, I have a small marijuana gummy each night (I live in California). A billion times better than any prescription sleep drug—all of those lose effectiveness quickly, make you addicted, and lead to bad side effects/withdrawal symptoms.

    • Meg says...

      My husband has a bit of a love affair with his Manta sleep mask.

  18. Sanaa Murray says...

    Lucky boys to have a kind father who will teach them the importance of being so

  19. Amber says...

    So fun. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Marta says...

    This was lovely and funny and sweet…really enjoyed it! :)

  21. TS says...

    what a dreamboat. lovely post + what a sweet guy. Churro comment is 100% the best one. And a little gray in the beard isn’t a bad thing ;)

  22. Hey Alex, my husband and I use Josie Maran too! The secret is a large BeautyBlender set with hot water, you’ll never have “beard line” again and it feels really nice!

    • Also, I would love to share with y’all our natural unisex beauty routine!

      My husband and I use the same colognes (Jazz Club was a cup of jo rec and our first shared perfume!), sunscreen (foundation! haha), easy skincare, and cleansers. He’s always teaching his dad and brother what he learned about eye cream or active ingredients or K-beauty. His little brother is such a sheet mask devotee, and we even got his dad to try face oil!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i LOVE the beauty blender, too. going to tell alex to try! xoxo

  23. This interview with your husband is so sweet. I especially love the advice about wearing a cowboy hat.


  24. Kristin says...

    This was awesome, he reminds me of my husband, nice, funny and smart :)

  25. Dee says...

    This is so awesome!! Thank you Alex, you are adorable, foundation and all. I love how honest you are!! You two are the best!!!

  26. Ana says...

    Accident waiting to happen – trying to hold the tea I’m drinking inside my mouth while reading things like “You look like a churro”.

    • retro-roost says...

      One of the funniest things I’ve read in a looooong time.

  27. Alice says...

    I LOVE this, so much! I’m going to send it to my brothers, who are definitely Modern Men in terms of their grooming etc. They’d definitely be interested in the salt deodorant and both used to be Polo wearers too!
    In other news, that “post-beard” picture, of you two lying on a deck? It’s SO beautiful. It looks like you’re floating in the sky, from the reflection of the clouds on the water.
    You guys are honestly such a wonderful couple. Really hope I find my own version of Alex some day :)

  28. Kathryn says...

    So lovely. Thank you for sharing! More male perspectives on personal style/ beauty/ grooming could be really interesting.

    • retro-roost says...


  29. Camille says...

    I laughed so hard about the churro! He’s such a gem. This was hilarious and sweet. Love it.

  30. Jen says...

    1. “You look like a Churro”….more Alex Williams? Yes, please!
    2. He wears tinted moisturizer and isn’t afraid to say so = mind.blown.coolest.guy.ever.

    That’s all….xo!

  31. Carrie says...

    I just think you and Alex are the most adorable couple. That’s all. :)

  32. Maria says...

    I would love to see more men’s beauty uniforms. Not only does it have cool unisex tips, but also nice ideas for gifts for the men in our lives!

    • Elga says...

      Totally agree! And usually men and women go about beauty with such different perspectives that it’s always curious to see what’s in their minds. :)

    • retro-roost says...


  33. Hannah says...

    I truly laughed out loud about looking like a churro.

    Also, yes to being kind! Girls dig that.

  34. MT says...

    He looks like a bearded George Strait in the last photo! Not a bad thing ;)

  35. june2 says...

    Loved his perspective, thanks for sharing, Alex!

  36. Nicole says...

    Loooooved this.

  37. Well done Alex, and Jo!! One of the best Beauty Uniforms to date. Although I think that with each new one I read : )

  38. OMG, love that you brought a man’s beauty uniform into the mix and Alex, va va voom! I’m sure he’s tried meditation for his insomnia, but if not, it sure helped me. I took prescription sleeping pills for a decade after over a decade of crappy sleeps. Then, I discovered the “Headspace” app and started meditating daily and at night used the sleeping meditation. It really helped calm my racing brain. Finally, I was able to sleep through the night. I’ve been off the pills for 2 years now. It sounds like he’s got it figured out, but thought I would add my 2¢. :)

  39. Carrington says...

    Love this. My husband could totally do a beauty uniform – he’s got a specific system of products he swears by!
    Also – totally unrelated – but my young son and I are traveling to Brooklyn in a short time basically to eat everything and I hope I see your happy faces out and about :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i hope so, too!

  40. Lulu says...

    Awww! I just love this! Alex is an interesting and funny person to learn about. No wonder y’all make such a wonderful couple. It’s fun to get to “know” you both!

  41. Jennifer says...

    I love this so much! Alex– you and I are affliction twins and take a similar protocol! Cortisol Manager is the bomb.

  42. Anna says...

    Loved this!!

  43. Laura says...

    So good! Alex is exactly as I imagined. And the tinted moisturizer part is hilarious. (PS – tinted moisturizer is the best and I’m glad it’s now a thing and no longer impossible to find!)

  44. DEAD over “you look like a churro”

  45. I nearly fell off the Brooklyn Bridge a few years ago when Alex cycled past me; I whacked my husband and shouted “it’s Joanna’s husband Alex”. He rolled his eyes… “oh! Your blog friends!”

    • This is so funny!!

    • Rainbow says...

      HA! Amazing!

    • Avalanche Lake says...

      I saw Alex on the subway platform in Brooklyn a couple of times when I lived in NY… each time I had the same reaction: celebrity!! But then I’d go over what I’d say to him in my head–“I love your wife’s blog!” And it never felt quite right. ;)

  46. I love that Alex wears tinted moisturizer (for the SPF, of course), and is cool enough to share the tip!

  47. Liz says...

    I love your inclusion of your family in your posts like this one and Toby’s week of outfits! You weave them into your work so seamlessly, and I love the different perspectives they bring. Thanks for the smiles!

  48. Caitlin Gaffer says...

    You guys are so cute! After I read this post, I ran to my husband and gave him a big kiss!

    • Joanna Goddard says...


  49. Loved this post and Alex’s transparency. What an amazing example he must be to your boys.

    And, I rarely say this about cowboy hats, but he really looks good in one!

  50. t says...

    This was my favorite beauty uniform! Alex seems like a great guy.

  51. This reminds me of a conversation I had with my husband a couple days after we finished watching the new season of “Queer Eye” on Netflix, and some things that my female friends have said after watching the show – cishetero men seem to have a hard time accepting the idea that they should take care of themselves. Not just by working out or having good hygiene, but being curious about different products and routines that make them feel good in their bodies. The men who are willing to do these things often seem more confident and comfortable with themselves, and besides being good for them, women find this attractive! I hope more men like Alex and my husband become more comfortable with talking to their male peers about this, and that men can deconstruct the myth that “self-care” and “beauty-routines” are strictly feminine. (Or you, know, that femininity is something they can’t embrace, but that’s a whole other can of worms for another post. ;) )

    • ellie says...

      100% agree! my boyfriend bought pomade after watching queer eye and i think is very much into the idea of having a routine of self-care.

  52. Carol says...

    “You know you’re 100% wearing foundation, right?” Hahaha!! Cracked me up.