Despite its vast topography, Los Angeles is a small town. If you live here long enough, you’ll eventually know—or at least see—everyone, especially if you work in a creative field. As Angelenos, we’re so desensitized that we probably won’t look twice at a two-time Oscar winner jogging down San Vicente or picking up groceries at Erewhon. But for supermodel Carolyn Murphy—who, over the course of her stellar career, has long been considered one of fashion’s greatest beauties—a reputation for being authentic, humble, and hardworking has long preceded her, even in a town like L.A.
For over twenty years, Murphy has worked alongside Estée Lauder as the cosmetics label’s global brand ambassador; this month, the brand has launched a new reformulation of their Revitalizing Supreme+ Collection with a campaign starring Murphy. The line consists of several anti-aging skincare products that focus on three concerns—lifting, firming, and hydrating—for three key areas of the face—the cheeks, nasolabial folds, and jawline. Two standout hero ingredients, hydrating moringa plant extract and the powerful collagen booster hibiscus morning bloom extract give skin an unmistakable radiance. After some Los Angeles-centric small talk about mutual friends and the Malibu restaurants we both love (Lucky’s steak house), Murphy and I discussed the new Lauder potions, as well as the lifestyle and wellness habits she’s implemented both in her long-standing career and her own life.
What is your earliest memory of Estée Lauder?
My relationship with Lauder goes back to my childhood. My grandmother always had a bottle of White Linen, and I grew up seeing the Lauder campaigns with Paulina Porizkova. I wanted to be that woman, I wanted their Beautiful perfume, and eventually, I needed the Double Wear makeup, the Advanced Night Repair serum, the beautiful gold lipsticks. It was all so aspirational. I never in my life thought I would be a spokesperson for them; I was at this point where I had just given birth, I was overweight, I was breastfeeding, and my agent called and said, “Estée Lauder is interested in you.” I did the testing out here in L.A. A few months later, my agent called and said, “Are you sitting down?” I was driving to a pediatric appointment and I pulled over. I was worried, and he said, “Guess what? You got Estée Lauder.” I was also 28 years old at the time; by industry standards, that would normally be around the end of my career. Little did I know it was the beginning.
Even over Zoom, I can tell your skin looks luminous. What are your skincare principles?
I’ve learned lots of things along the way. I have always been into having totally clean skin before I got to bed. I am all about moisture, moisture, moisture, and hydration. I even sleep with a humidifier by my bed so it’s working on my skin through the night. There is nothing worse on skin than going to bed feeling like you have dry skin.
I am a huge proponent of less is more. I cleanse with ANR balm—especially in L.A., my skin tends to be very dry and this cleanser is protective and moisturizing. I then use the micro essence water, which puts the nutrients back into my skin. Using my hands, I pat it on my face and press it into my skin. I then use the advanced Night Repair and cream, obviously, now with the Revitalizing Supreme. I love the moringa in the Revitalizing Supreme. I have been using it day and night. If I need more hydration for my skin, then I also add a layer of the Re-Nutriv Ultimate Lifting Cream.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning, beauty-wise?
In the mornings, I don’t wash my face—I just splash with cold water, then use serum, cream, and the Perfectionist sunblock. I don’t have perfect skin and I’m in my late forties, so I am starting to notice all the sun damage because I’m always outside hiking and surfing. Previously, I wasn’t using it all the time; now, it is part of my routine every morning. I use Perfectionist because it’s mineral based and a physical compound. There’s zinc oxide, but there is no white shadow. I really swear by it.
I surf a little, and one hour gets me freckles left and right on my face. What the hell do you put on your skin when you’re surfing? Do you wear a hat when you are out on the water?
I just started wearing a hat surfing. I was laughing about this with my boyfriend on the beach the other day because he chose to stay 20 yards away from me. He was like, “I am not going to sit with her, because she’s got this big hat with this string on.” I used to make fun of my friends who would wear them, but now, I wear the hat. I’m even going to start wearing a rash guard.
Do you do face masks?
I do. I love the ANR mask and even though I look like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre killer, I love it [laughs]. This morning, because my allergies were so bad, I used the Lauder Stress Relief Eye Masks. Those have been around forever, and they help with depuffing.
On Sundays, my daughter and I have this generational tradition that my mom and grandmother used to also do. Sundays are all about beautifying: deep conditioner, manicure, pedicure. And sometimes my daughter will make her own mask. She’ll whip up yogurt and honey for the face, and a few weeks ago we did avocado and oats.
What are some other beauty treatments you do with your daughter?
I have to say, beauty is often so much more than just products. I wish I would have learned earlier more about self-love and kindness. I have had to really cultivate that in my adult life. I was born into a different generation, and I was cultivating this school of thought as a young mother. I see my daughter, and she is so confident—because I really wanted to foster within her that principle of self-love, self-care, and being kind to yourself. It really does translate to being kind to others. I also think that things like drinking a gallon of water, eating a healthy diet, making sure you are taking antioxidants, supplements, vitamins A, C, D, and B Complex especially during today’s stressful moments, are also key.
You also take magnesium, right?
Yes, which is so important for sleep and cleaning things out, which is a big part of the anti-inflammatory principles. Beauty is all-encompassing; you also need laughter and exercise.
Do you get facials often?
I don’t actually get facials often, but when I do, I go to Terri Lawton. She’s more about facial cranial sacral work than she is about the actual facial itself. I also do love acupuncture facials, which target the face muscles.
Who does your hair color?
I was just saying that I need to get a water filter for my shower head because it’s turned this brassy color—but I go to Chris McMillan Salon, and KC Carhart does my color there. She’s young and fun—she surfs and she’s just a badass.
If you feel like you have metal deposits in your hair, you can get this detox rinse for your hair from R+Co. If you have brassiness, it’s probably from the water, for sure; in Malibu, in particular, we have less limestone in our water, unlike London or Paris where you will notice your hair comes out of the shower really nicely. The Southern California water supply really dries and frizzes out the hair.
Yes, so dry and frizzy—also because of the chlorine! And New York is also different because you’re getting all this fresh water from the watershed. It’s not traveling all the way from Colorado.
What is the weirdest beauty tip you’ve ever come across?
You know what’s funny? My daughter was raving about castor oil! It can be used on the scalp a few times a week, for the lash line, the eyebrows….because what happens around our age, with hormones changing, is I’m starting to see some thinning out of the eyebrows. I got a massive bottle; I will let you know how it goes.
Also, one of my first jobs in New York City was with this very flamboyant makeup artist. I had puffy eyes that day and he went into his kit and he pulls out a tube of Preparation H. I said, “What? That is disgusting! I see that in my parent’s medicine chest!” He just scooped it under my eyes, and it worked.
Is there anyone from the modeling world, perhaps a predecessor or even a current figure in fashion, who inspires you?
Christy Turlington is my all-time favorite. She is more than just a beautiful face. She’s got such integrity, grace, intellect, and she is an incredible mother. She became a wonderful mentor for me and we bonded over working in the fashion industry. Now, our two daughters are bonding over horseback riding. Not long after I signed with Estée and moved to L.A., she really instilled a lot of the health and wellness principles in me early, because I didn’t fit it with my peers in the ’90s. I was different because I was seeking out health and wellness from a very young age. Christy has taught me so much; I’ve even confided in her about the possibilities of what am I going to do next. I didn’t finish college, so she’s been a huge cheerleader for me to go back to school and I am mulling it over.
There’s also Aerin Lauder, who I have enjoyed a great friendship with over the years. We met at my first shoot. I just had my daughter, Dylan, and she just had her son, Jack. I was teetering in these slingback Manolo Blahniks and I had these tight jeans on. I was trying so hard to look cool and be cool and she was laughing with me right away. We were complaining that day about love handles and breastfeeding and then, of course, our love for our grandmothers. She has this incredible ease and comfort in her own skin that was so palpable.
As a supermodel during the ’90s, how did you stay out of trouble in a profession with such temptation?
I would be lying if I said I didn’t get in trouble—you just didn’t hear about it! Honestly, because I’m a complete nerd, it took too much effort to be cool, and that path wasn’t worth it to me. I learned pretty quickly that the passion which led me to the industry was, and still is, art. I really do believe deciding to be a nerd vs. being cool helped, because it was too difficult being cool in the ’90s. I wanted to have direct relationships with the artists I was working with, who I admired so much—whether it was Irving Penn, Marc Jacobs, Karl Lagerfeld or Miuccia Prada. And then there were also all of my dorky NYU friends, who I lived vicariously through.