While the beauty world looks almost unrecognizable from what it was three decades ago—or even a few years ago thanks to the rise of social media—there is one constant: Bobbi Brown. In fact, it’s largely thanks to the makeup artist, whose eponymous line had a meteoric rise in the ‘90s before becoming a status symbol for women and girls alike throughout the aughts, that the cosmetics industry has become as culturally dominant as it is. The idea of using quality makeup rather than drugstore go-tos? That’s Brown. The no-makeup makeup trend that’s become increasingly dominant? Brown again. The merging of health and wellness with beauty and, specifically, the idea that what we put into our bodies is as important as what we put onto it? Even Brown has led that movement. While she bowed out of her self-titled line in 2017 after selling the now-billion dollar company to Estée Lauder, Brown has remained at the forefront of the industry, now focused on a health and wellness extension of beauty called EVOLUTION_18, which consists of probiotics and protein powders, among other things.
The pivot is part of a larger movement that’s been happening in Brown’s own life, as she’s pared down her own makeup use and, now, her high heel collection in favor of more comfort-centric sneakers by GREATS—a symbolic decision, as she explains. “I think the biggest trend of 2019 is to be comfortable in your skin,” as Brown explains over the phone, in between discussing why she chose to sell most of her high heels in favor of sneakers and donate 100 percent of the proceeds to Girls Inc., which helps young women thrive professionally. “Wearing sneakers allows you to walk places that you normally wouldn’t and try to find your natural beauty.” Outside of wearing sneakers, Brown is also rejecting many of the superfluous beauty trends that fill Instagram’s explore page. Here, Brown’s take on many of those things, as well as why thin lips are better, and that time she taught Meghan Markle to do her makeup in the back of a moving car.
What led to the decision to give up heels in 2019? Well, I’m not going cold turkey, I’ll be honest. There are still events that I will have to pull out a high pair of shoes for, whether its red carpet or black tie—I don’t have a choice because I’m five feet tall. So I went through my closet and really decided to save a small handful of my higher shoes and give the majority of them away. That said, sneakers are my go-to shoe. I don’t even think of it. I did my last book tour 100% in sneakers. I was seated on a couch, no one knew I was five feet tall, and it was perfect.
What do you think of the beauty industry’s evolution in the wake of social media? I think it’s fascinating. The things that I did to grow Bobbi Brown from launch until I left when it was turned into a billion dollar brand, it’s a different world now. I was really fortunate that I became the beauty editor of the Today show as a young entrepreneur. For 14 years, I was able to go on TV and talk to women in an editorial way and that really worked. The rules are completely different now. I find it interesting. As a serial entrepreneur, I love to watch these founders create these digital brands.
Do you think it was harder to make it in the industry, pre-social media? I would go—in my high heels—in a car from magazine to magazine with the seasonal looks and talk to the editors. It was one at a time and then you’d get a story and it would reach people. Now all you have to do is put an Instagram out and Tweet and Facebook. I also find what’s happening in the beauty industry now fascinating because there’s different movements. There’s the Kardashian movement, the Huda [Kattan] beauty movement, and then there’s the clean, no-makeup movement. I find them all fascinating and I am most excited about the clean, no-makeup movement.
What do you think about the pivot to organic beauty and the merging of health and wellness in beauty? I am a really big fan of it. I left Bobbi Brown in October of 2017 and the first thing I did is promote my ninth book, “Beauty From the Inside Out,” which was disruptive at the time because I was trying to teach people how fruits and vegetables and wellness is actually the cornerstone of beauty and all of a sudden things exploded. I now have a line of products called EVOLUTION_18, which are beauty and lifestyle-inspired, so I’ve carried on doing it and it’s what I believe in. I notice a huge difference when I put the right foods in my body and the right hydration; I look so much better. I don’t need to pile on the makeup or go to a dermatologist. When I look in the mirror, and I don’t look good, I say, “Okay what are you doing? Have you been going out too much? Have you been drinking too much? Have you been nibbling things you shouldn’t be?” I really do believe that how you look and how you feel is one thing; it’s not separate.
Are you a fan of adaptogens? I am a really big fan. I wish they were chewable, because I don’t love taking capsules or pills. If you’re sluggish, they help. If you have high cortisol, they help.
What do you think of bone broth? I just stopped at Brodo. I swear by bone broth. It’s delicious. It’s easy to digest. It’s a great January trend because you can just sip it all day and it curbs your hunger. It’s funny because it’s a trend, because it’s really what our grandmothers made years ago.
Yeah, so much of what is coming back into style in health and wellness has been around for centuries. What do you think of DIY facials in your own home? I think it’s great. There’s many things you can do in your kitchen. My favorite thing is to grab olive oil and sea salt and make a really good scrub. I’ve never put an egg on my face or mayonnaise in my hair because it sounds a little yucky, but I do use things from my kitchen. One of my favorite things is a potato scrubber glove. I’ve never used it and now it lives in my shower and helps me exfoliate my legs and my feet.
That’s a great hack. What about CBD beauty products? I am certainly interested in that. I have been taking CBD at night which helps calm me down, so I really love it. I can only imagine that it will relax the lines on your face like it relaxes your body. I’m a fan but there’s a lot more to learn. Theramu has been shown to cure symptoms of MS and different autoimmune issues and happens to be one I can get locally here.
What are your thoughts on HEV radiation, the new SPF-like protection against the light rays of our devices? Probably not on my radar. I don’t worry about every little thing.
How do you feel about facial cupping? I’ve done body cupping; I’ve never done facial cupping. I don’t really know what it is and I can only imagine how bruised you look. I think I’ll skip that one.
Gua sha and crystal rollers? Everybody swears by them. I have never seen anything, personally, that makes a difference. I roll, I roll; nothing happens. I’m a big fan of cryotherapy when you get into the freezing chamber. They also have handheld devices that help with the collagen on your skin—that I’ve noticed a difference from.
Lip fillers? I am completely, 100 percent against. I can tell the second someone comes up to me if they’ve had their lips adjusted. I see no benefit. I see women that do just a little bit to the top—it looks weird to me. So what if you have thin lips?
What about charcoal products? I always travel with a bottle of charcoal capsules because if you ever get an upset stomach, or eat something bad, it helps to pull the impurities out of your system, so I’m a fan of it. The only other charcoal I’ve used is masks—and those are nice—and I love Hello Charcoal Toothpaste.
Do you like sheet masks? I’m not a sheet mask lover. I didn’t really notice much after I’ve used them. I’ve tried thousands from Korea and all sorts. I have my little beauty ritual, which is I put apricot oil on my skin after I wash and exfoliate it and I’m good to go.
That’s so simple. What do you think about the super elaborate skincare routines people share on social media? I am far too busy and I’ve tried everything on the market and there’s no miracles in anything. There’s nothing that’s going to get rid of a line and there’s nothing that takes away spots. There’s laser and I’m a huge fan of laser because that does take away spots and evens out your skin. I get something called Pico, which you can get done and walk out to dinner and no one knows you had anything done. It gets rid of your dark spots, which is so nice. I’m a pretty basic person when it comes to how I take my makeup off and how I wash my face. Truthfully, I don’t wear as much makeup as I used to.
Last question: you once did a beauty tutorial with Meghan Markle in the back of a moving car in her pre-duchess days. How did that come together? It was when I was with the brand to demonstrate how regular people do their makeup in the back of a car and I was giving her a lesson on how to do it. It was really fun and she is a doll. We traded phone numbers and texted for a long time and I didn’t hear from her. She was telling me about this new boyfriend she had who lived in the UK and I did not even ask who he was [laughs]. She’s awesome. I love her. I’m so excited about everything that has happened in her life; it’s well-deserved.