Michigan-based author Samantha Irby is one of my favorite writers. (Her brutally honest writing often makes me laugh ’til I cry.) Not only is she a best-selling author, but she also loves a good skincare routine. “I’m truly like a dog with a shiny object. If I’m scrolling through Instagram and I see someone’s flat lay with their beautiful products, I’m trying to buy everything, instantly.” Here, she shares her go-to skin cream, the guests she’d invite to her dream brunch, and the two products she and her wife steal from each other…
What was your idea of beauty growing up in Evanston, Illinois?
I grew up in the ’80s when the pinnacle of beauty was sun-kissed, blue-eyed blondes with big boobs. I thought, ‘If this is what you have to look like to be beautiful, I’ll never be beautiful.’ It took me a long time to figure out that there are different ways to be beautiful in the world. I latched on to actors and comedians like Jackée Harry and Whoopi Goldberg — I love women who are funny and confident and loud and not afraid to not be the standard. I also loved watching Queen Latifah and Kim Coles on Living Single — they were the type of people I wanted to be.
One of my favorite essays of yours is ‘A Case for Remaining Indoors.’ How do you feel about being indoors so much these days?
I think I’m the most equipped person for this kind of pandemic. I do not need to see the sun. The things I miss are going to the movies and running to the store without a 10-step disinfecting process. Other than that, I’ve filled my home with lots of books and Netflix on my iPad. I see people online who are like, ‘I haven’t been outside! I can’t handle it,’ and I cannot relate.
You’re making your first book of essays, Meaty, into a show with Abbi Jacobson. How did that come about?
Janeane Garofalo guest starred on Broad City, and as a thank you she gave Abbi and Ilana a copy of Meaty.
What a great gift!
It’s probably the coolest story I’ll ever get to tell. Abbi reached out to me and was like, ‘Hey! I wanna talk to you about some ideas!’ And I didn’t realize Abbi was a famous person, so it took me a while to email her back. She asked me if I’d ever thought about making Meaty into a show, and of course I hadn’t! I wasn’t thinking mine was the story people in Hollywood were desperate to see. So, we got together and worked out what the show would be about and then went to Hollywood and pitched it. It’s in development at Comedy Central, and we got picked up to pilot. We were supposed to shoot it this summer, but it’s on hold at the moment because of Coronavirus. We’re getting casting together and finding the TV version of myself.
What’s it like casting and writing for a version of yourself?
It’s stressful and I have a lot of imposter syndrome — I always think, ‘Who wants to see a show about someone like me?’ But the character is me at 25, not me now, so it’s kind of like writing an alternate version of myself, which makes it easier.
You worked as a receptionist for 14 years and started a blog at night, before you became an author. Your career path is really inspiring to me because it looks like the path a lot of creatives take, but not a lot of people talk about.
There are so many gatekeepers that look for people who did the same things they did, and think the only true path is to get an MFA here and then work at this certain place, and that’s just not true. It can be disheartening, especially if you have a media job, and that’s how all those things stay the same. Some people have the mentality of hoarding all the connections and resources if they find success, but you can’t write all the experiences, so why not help open the door for more people? If I can find my way and then wedge the door open for someone else, I truly don’t understand why you wouldn’t do that.
Now I’m going to ask you some lightning-round questions.
If you could have brunch with anyone from TV who would they be?
Bobby Axelrod from Billions because he’s insanely wealthy so he would pick up the tab and choose a nice place. Roman Roy from Succession because he would make it spicy and keep the jokes going — but only if comes with Gerri! I ship them so hard. I would be wingman-ing and making sure they shared a cab home at the end of it. And lastly, Kelly from Insecure.
She and Roman would be so wild together!
Can you imagine? It would be a dream come true! I feel like everyone would have their pants off within an hour.
If you could only save one of your skincare products in a fire, which one would it be and why?
I wish I could give a sexy answer for this but it would be my First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream. This cream soothes and gets your skin to a nice place. It’s also cheap — like $15 — and you can use it all over your body! The worst thing is when someone is like, ‘Let me tell you about my holy grail product…it’ll only set you back $400.’ Like, are you nuts?
You’ve said before that your skin looks amazing not because you drink enough water, but because of all the products you use! Walk us through your skincare routine.
In the morning, I use LUSH’s Coalface bar, and then my First Aid Beauty Cream. I’ll also put Riley CEO Glow oil on my cheeks because they get a little dry. For sunscreen, I’ll use Supergoop Glowstick. At night, I wash my face with the Elemis Cleansing balm and then I’ll follow it with Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream and then another layer of First Aid Beauty Cream and that’s it!
Do you and your wife share any products?
Let me tell you, that Drunk Elephant cream is hers and I just steal a little bit of it at a time. That is the number-one perk of being married to a lady — stealing a little bit of her fancy face cream when she doesn’t notice! I’ll be like, ‘I’m just gonna go to the bathroom for a second!’ and sneak a little off the top. Luckily the cream has no scent, so it doesn’t give me away. But she steals my perfumes.
What kind of perfume do you like?
Jo Malone London in Lime Basil & Mandarin — it’s my favorite favorite favorite. I have a weirdly sensitive nose and it doesn’t set off my allergies.
How did you figure out what was best for your skin?
Mostly I’ll just see a product and want to buy it and give it a try. I started using retinol because my friend Melissa posted about it and we’re about the same age. Her skin looked so good, so I decided to give it a shot. I watched Katie Jane Hughes on Instagram and she was using Elemis cleanser and her skin is beautiful and shiny so I thought, ‘I’m gonna get that, too!’ Life is short and I’m not gonna get a degree in chemistry to figure out what to put on my face.
What about makeup?
I became a convert to Estée Lauder Double Wear Powder Foundation in the shade Bronze 5w1. I use it just in the T-zone, because if I do too much I’ll have to touch it up, which I don’t want to do. Cream blushes are my number-one loves! I use Glossier Cloud Paint in Dawn. Orange blush on darker skin is the best! Any matte orange lipstick works on your cheeks as well — I’m a big fan of using lipstick on your cheeks as blush.
You often wear a signature red lip. What are your favorites?
Mac Ruby Woo is my jam. And Lisa Eldridge in Velvet Ribbon is my new favorite red. Otherwise, I just do a subtle lip balm look in Dior Glow in Rosewood.
Most of the time, you sport a shaved head. Are you continuing that through quarantine?
I have a barber here in Michigan and every time I cut my own hair he’s like, ‘No. Why did you do this?’ I’m trying to hold off cutting it these days, but it’s getting long. That first shave feels so great. Just talking about it makes me want to get the clippers!
What are you using right now to take care of it?
I use Cantu Moisturizing Curl Activating Cream on my hair while it’s wet, and it makes your hair shiny and smells really good. I have an itchy scalp, so I’ve been reading up more on dandruff care. I like LUSH Soak and Float shampoo and conditioner bars — they lather up really well. I also use medicated shampoos on my scalp, like Nizoral — it’s the best.
You’re always straightforward about who you are, and telling the truth. Did you always feel that way, or did that grow over time?
I know you’re supposed to reach a certain age where you stop caring about things, but I haven’t reached that yet. I actually do care what people think — I just try not to care about the opinions of people who don’t care about me. I want people to like me, and to make them laugh, but the thing I don’t care about anymore is hiding who I am and being afraid to tell my story.
(Photos courtesy of Samantha Irby/Instagram.)
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