Julia Landauer is one of the few female NASCAR drivers — and the first woman ever to win a championship in NASCAR’s Limited Late Model Series. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, she divides her time among the race track, a rigorous training schedule, and traveling the country speaking about female ambition. Here, she shares the secrets for how she keeps her skin in shape after spending hours in a 130-degree car…
You grew up in New York, which I imagine made you different from other drivers, since so much of racing culture is based in the American south.
Yes — I think that made me even more different than my gender did! I’ve tried to ignore all those labels: being a New York City race-car driver, being a Stanford-educated race-car driver, being female — all these things that could potentially work against me. I got lots of unsolicited advice — from people who had my best interest in mind — telling me to downplay all these things about me so I could fit in more. I tried for a while, but it diluted my personality. Finally, I decided to be open about who I am. I think as you get older, you naturally figure out that being true to yourself is the most important thing.
What’s your daily skincare routine?
I always wash my face first thing. I’ve been experimenting with cleansers, but right now I really like Garnier Skinactive Deep Pore Facial Scrub. After cleansing, I do a serum — I like the Glossier ones, and I love Super Pure, which is for balancing your complexion. I’ve found that rotating between all three (Super Pure, Glossier Super Glow and Super Bounce) does wonders. It makes my skin look really healthy, and my pores are never clogged.
How do you protect your skin from the sun when you’re out on the track all day?
The older I get, the more easily I burn, so I always wear a cap at the track, and I use a full-on zinc sunscreen. It’s water-resistant and dries without much residue — but still, I can’t put it (or anything else) above my eyes. You sweat so much in the car that anything on your skin immediately runs down your face. I can’t risk blurred vision. It gets to about 130 degrees in the car, and there’s no air conditioning! Racing is like sitting in a sauna for a few hours… while doing a workout.
Do you wear makeup, both on and off the track?
I try to maintain a similar appearance whether I’m on or off the track. When I’m at the racetrack, I don’t wear makeup — and in real life, I wear just a little makeup with my hair down. I feel most comfortable that way, and I also think it’s important to show young girls who might see me that it’s okay to be comfortable and proud of themselves, with or without makeup.
What products have earned a place in your minimalist look?
My skin doesn’t like liquid foundation, so I use bareMinerals powder foundation. I like Glossier Boy Brow, which works so much better than pencils. I put the MUA Nude Eyeshadow Palette on my eyes — and I just found a mascara I really like: Maybelline Lash Sensational, which fans out your lashes.
Do you ever amp it up for special events?
I do a lot of motivational speaking, and when I’m on stage, I use MAC Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation on my face, then add a little of my bareMinerals powder on top to break the shine. I’ll put MAC bronzer on my cheeks, then add MAC lipstick in Velvet Teddy. I’m very much about a matte lip right now.
Let’s talk about hair. How do you care for yours after you’ve been in a hot car in a big helmet?
My hair goes through a lot under that helmet, so I use a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner — both from the Pantene Daily Moisture Renewal line, which is nice and not too heavy. Then I put on Unite 7Seconds Detangler, which is a leave-in conditioning treatment that smoothes everything out. Occasionally I’ll use a sea salt spray to add some texture.
Tell us about the physical training you do.
When you’re driving in NASCAR, you’re muscling around 3,400 pounds of machine, in an incredibly hot space. We do this for hours on end, and it’s very physical. So I work with a trainer twice a week, who specializes in motor-sport development. We do a mix of strength, cardio and neurological training — things like hand-eye coordination, reaction time, etc. In racing, it’s all about visibility and using your peripheral vision. We also do a lot of neck training because that’s very important for preventing concussion. When I’m not training with him, I run — which I love, because I get a total runner’s high. I also get in the sauna as regularly as I can. It makes my body feel good, and I notice it’s also good for my skin.
How do you cleanse your skin at night, after such long days?
I use a bar of charcoal soap — any basic charcoal soap will do — to wash everything off my face. Then I use a toner, for a deeper clean — like Dickinson’s Witch Hazel Hydrating Toner, which has hyaluronic acid and vitamin E. I also use a very basic astringent on my back — Sea Breeze Sensitive Skin. Obviously, sweating in the suit is tough on my body skin, so I try to keep it as clean as possible.
You’ve often talked about the fact that race-car driving is a sport that doesn’t divide competitors by gender. Can you tell us more about that?
One thing I’ve always loved is that the car doesn’t know what gender you are. We’re just people maneuvering machines, and it’s a type of physical activity that isn’t based in brute strength. What I love about that is that when you win, you are hands-down the best. I don’t think women and girls are really encouraged to be winners — and aren’t taught it’s okay to WANT to win. Serena Williams has done an amazing job of countering that, and vocalizing that she’s proud of being a winner. Still, it’s considered ‘impolite’ to say you love winning. But I do!
What are your thoughts on female ambition and competitiveness (in sports and in general)?
I think we have one life to live. Do the things that make you proud of yourself. My best days are the ones where I’ve worked hard and pushed myself to accomplish something. It’s kind of an excitingly scary time, when the societal expectation for an entire gender is being challenged. More power to whoever wants to go out there and do cool things. And I think people who aren’t comfortable with that will just have to get used to it!
Thank you so much, Julia!