Alison Roman is a food force. She is the author of the beloved cookbook Dining In and a brand new New York Times columnist. She is also the creator of the Salted Butter Chocolate Chunk Shortbread cookies that took Instagram by storm. Here, Alison shares her secrets, in and out of the kitchen…
Let’s talk about lipstick. You’re always wearing awesome reds. What are a few favorites?
Yes, I own a thousand lipsticks and barely anything else. My mom always wore lipstick growing up and it’s something I started doing. Even on your worst day, if you put a nice lipstick on, you feel a thousand times better. For daytime, I have a few melon-y, peachy and magenta shades. I love the Glossier tints, and the Fresh balms, because they have both SPF and color. At night, though, I’m shellacking on a red lip that will not come off. The colors change with the season, but the ones I re-buy are Stila liquid lipstick in Beso and Sephora cream lip stain in Really Red. I do too much talking and eating and they stay put.
Do you have a holy grail product?
Honestly, Boy Brow changed my life. It’s so subtle but so good. Enhancing your eyebrows does so much for a person’s face, at least for mine. It’s become as important to me as mascara. Boy Brow shapes and darkens your brows in the best way.
Do you wear any other makeup?
I’ll use a BB cream and a highlighter stick, from either Glossier or NARS. Then I’ll use the Boy Brow and some Diorshow mascara, and that’s it. I’m so lazy. I’m almost 32, and I recently bought a concealer for the first time in my life. I don’t get enough sleep or drink enough water, and nothing will make me look like I do, but I’ll use the concealer when I’m taking photos.
What’s your daily skincare routine?
I’m really bad at rituals. The one thing I’ve done with any regularity is to wear sunscreen every morning. I use SuperGoop Unseen Sunscreen, which is almost matte when you put it on. It doesn’t feel greasy at all, is nice to my skin and even minimizes my pores.
What is your nighttime routine?
I wash my face — well, not always. I keep makeup removal wipes on hand, for the times I’ll come home drunk, and am like, ‘I’m not going to wash my face, but I want to take off my makeup.’ I also use them when traveling. But when I am washing my face, I take off my mascara with Neutrogena’s oil free remover, and then I use Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser. You only need a little bit, it isn’t drying, and my face feels really clean and dewy afterward.
Have you discovered any products while traveling?
My friend recently asked me to pick up some Redermic R retinol cream from a European pharmacy. I bought some for myself, and it really improved my skin’s tone and texture. I put it on at night before whatever random moisturizer I’m using.
What do you do to style and care for your hair?
I went blond five years ago, and started to cut it short two years ago. When you color your hair, a longer length can be hard because it doesn’t age well. I’m committed to growing it out right now, though. I don’t have a shampoo I like; I’m always on the hunt for affordable shampoo and conditioner. But I can say the Christophe Robin purple hair mask, for blond hair, is AMAZING. I take free samples at the salon whenever I get my hair done, because it smells incredible and makes your hair look so nice. I haven’t actually bought it yet, because it’s a million dollars, but I really should.
Let’s talk about the success of ‘the cookies.’ Did you ever think that would be your cookbook’s break-out recipe?
It was a complete surprise to me. I didn’t even think there would be one recipe that would go that way. I try to make everything I put in books excellent, but you never know what’s going to hit with people and I feel really grateful that one recipe did.
What are your must-have kitchen tools?
I’m very basic: I have my fish spatula, my cutting board and my knives. I don’t play favorites. But there are certain ingredients that I love — California olive oil, Jacobsen flaky salt, anchovies, lemons, lots of pepper and harissa.
Have there been any moments in your life — even unexpected ones — where you’ve felt particularly beautiful?
Recently, I’ve become more comfortable having photos taken without makeup, or even just leaving the house without it. It took me 32 years to get here. I’m striving for a level of authenticity, and it’s not practical to be done up all the time. If I’ve actually been cooking and working, I want people to see that. I’m not casually cooking in a beautiful dress, and it’s okay if people know that!
Did you have a first beauty memory?
Definitely cherry Chapstick. I would lose my sh*t if I lost mine. As a kid, I loved going to the grocery store with my mom, and every time I’d pick one up and she’d be like, ‘You have 50.’ And I’d be like, ‘But I need THIS one.’ I guess my obsession with red lipstick has been life long.
Any regrettable looks or experiments throughout the years?
Oh, multiple. My driver’s license photo from when I was 22 was a-ma-zing. Nobody would guess I was this person. I had crooked bangs, and the rest of my hair was a shaggy chin length situation, and I was dying it red. That was only 10 years ago, but it feels like a lifetime ago. Sometimes I’ll wonder now, how am I going to look back on this moment in time? Will I be like, ‘Oh my god, I only wore high-waisted pants, why was I doing that?!’
Do you have any career advice?
To be honest, I struggle all the time. I don’t have any secrets other than working really hard and doing way too much when I probably shouldn’t. My best piece of advice is don’t be afraid to not nail it all the time. I’ve done many things that weren’t successful or that I wish I hadn’t done. I still have anxieties about everything I put out there. I think, ‘Is it boring? Is it stupid?’ But if you’re afraid to do something bad, you’re never going to do something new. In any creative field, you’re inundated with content and what other people have done, and the challenge is to do something no one has seen before. So you can’t be afraid to do that.
Last but not least, what is your beauty philosophy?
Less is more, but also do what makes you feel good. The problem with beauty advice in general is that people seem to say ‘this is the one thing everyone needs,’ but everything is so dependent on you — your skin, where you live, your body, your preferences… People will be like ‘get this specific facial’ or ‘massage your face with a jade roller.’ I used to feel bad if I didn’t do those things, like that was what it meant to be an adult woman. But whatever makes you feel good is all that matters.
Thank you so much, Alison!
Update: Due to a server outage, Cup of Jo was down from 8 p.m. on Wednesday to 3 p.m. on Thursday, so we’re republishing this post now. We also lost most of yesterday’s comments on all posts, sadly, so please feel free to comment again, if you’d like! Thank you so much, as always. xoxo