"Close your eyes," Laura Dern said on a recent morning in New York, leaning over to spray my face with the "nutrient mist" that she'd just declared she's "obsessed with." It was just a few days before the season 2 finale of Big Little Lies, and Dern, the image of calm, couldn't have seemed less Renata-like. The sole exception was her skin, which was glowing just as much, if not more, as when she's on-screen acting out absurdly memeable moments like Renata insisting that she will not not be rich."
As it turns out, that's all thanks to the aforementioned mist, along with a few other products by the sustainable luxury skincare brand True Botanicals, which Dern couldn't have been more thrilled to share that she's partnered with. Here, she shares which ones she uses pre-date, plus what she thinks of Renata's Botox and Gucci fanny pack, in her beauty notes.
When you wake up in the morning, what's the first thing you do, beauty-wise?
I'm a meditator, which isn't beauty related, but it's certainly a wellness regime. I do TM [Transcendental Meditation] so I do 20 minutes, but I'm not going to lie—and my friends who are very vigilant will be ashamed of me for saying this—but I've learned that as a single parent, if I don't end up with 20 minutes, and just end up with a little bit of time, it's better for me to get some of it in, being a vigilante about my practice. I try to get a little exercise in, too, but it's rarely in the morning anymore. Now it's in the middle of the day, if I'm not filming—I just try to get a workout in, or some yoga or something. So really, it's a meditation practice and then this [True Botanicals] skincare regime. It's very simple, which I love; I love that the brand itself isn't trying to sell you 25 things. In the morning, it's a cleanser and the face oil, and that's it. I think makeup works better that way, too.
How did you end up partnering with True Botanicals?
I was nominated, or I was going to the Oscars or something, and I put their stress oil in my bag and posted, like, "This is what everyone has to bring to an awards show—forget anything else" on social media. They saw it, and sent me some oils. And I ended up bringing them to makeup when I was working on a film, and one of the producers saw them when she came to talk to me about the workday and was like, "Oh my god, that's my sister's company." So it was all of these amazing coincidences based on me loving the product, instead of like, "Hey, will you tell people you like this?" It speaks so authentically to it. Now it's been a year and a half, and people have been more complimentary than they've ever been about my skin. As a woman who really tries to be very natural, and as I'm aging and trying to allow the process to occur, it really means a lot that it's not only a clean, sustainable product for me, for animals and the planet but that it just works better and is a better product.
Have you been able to use them when you're working, like when you're getting your makeup done for Big Little Lies?
Getting back to coincidences, when we started filming, my makeup artist there was also using the face oil. And you know, it's an interesting thing to talk about at the same time as Big Little Lies. We keep talking about the authenticity of something that is truly clean, and the misnomer, or the lie, in skincare and beauty care has been, "Oh, it may be good for you, but if it doesn't have chemicals, it doesn't work as well." I found these products not knowing that they were sustainable; I found it because it was put on my face, and everybody went, "Oh my god, you look so much prettier." I saw that it worked better on the surface, and then I saw my skin change in a matter of a week. It's beautiful to share a story that is so authentic, when we've been trained to lie. We're selling skincare and anti-wrinkle creams with 17-year-old models, and what is that saying to my 14-year-old daughter?
Is there anything you use when you're getting ready to play Renata that you wouldn't use in real life?
Oh god, yeah. Attitude. I probably don't meditate as much those days. I have my spray-on 'tude, and that's pretty much it. [Laughs.] You know, I like working with scents as an actor, so I definitely am aware of putting on characters. I like a sort of overbearing feel of the armor of that character. But for Renata to have so much... well, just so much, I like that we made the choice for her makeup to be really clean and fresh. There's something about her that's very, like, "I'm an amazing mother, and I don't know why the other mothers don't like me, and I'm very natural in my $8,000 outfit and my giant home." I think that's a funny character trait. She's not Cruella-ing it up, but like, "I'm really organic, and I do yoga with my trainer for two and a half hours every morning"—and yet she's so aggro.
The scene where she's trying to hide in court that her medical bills were because of Botox is really emblematic of that.
Exactly—it's this sort of veiled concept of what it is to be beautiful, and women carrying their shame. Renata says she's so natural, but when [the judge] is like, "What is this bill for?," she just keeps lying. I do like that amongst these massive lies—the big lies—there are the little lies that we tell ourselves. My story is also very much about the little lies: "I'm so natural and I would never touch myself because I love my age... but actually, I'm going to the doctor for Botox every few weeks." Or "We're rich and have no problems; my husband's happy and we have a great sex life." Renata's story is one of creating a protected presentation to be liked. And I hope you get enough from my lines that, at least as I understood it, Renata probably came from poverty. She came from something she really had to hide from, and create a new story. I like that that's starting to leak out.
As for you, personally, what are some more of your favorite go-to beauty products?
Oh my god, the body oil and the body mask are also amazing. I just want to say: it's very pre-date. You put the mask on and leave it on for 10 minutes, and then take a shower or take a bath and put the oil or the lotion on. I'm just saying—that mask is insane! Especially in the summer, when you've been in the sun or feel dehydrated.
What's your go-to beauty look for a date, or just a night out?
I love the look of a clean, dewy face and a lip color, and maybe a mascara. I think that's always really pretty and kind of always been my way. I use this face oil and a little bit of La Prairie cream blush, and then a little lip pencil and lipstick by Kosas, which is as natural of lipstick company that you can find. Because we eat lipstick so much, I go between Kosas and Marc Jacobs lip pencils, which I've fallen in love with. I keep it clean, though for work, I love creating a character with makeup, for sure.
What about with clothes? Renata has also worn some truly amazing looks this season. Do you have a favorite?
It was somewhat curated by my brilliant costume designer, but to give credit where credit is due, the pièce de résistance was from my associate stylist—my son—when we were trying to come up with what I would be wearing when the FBI shows up. I don't know if you get to take it in enough, but at my fitting, my son told me and my costume designer, "You guys, you have to get her in those crazy bejeweled Gucci sneaks." It was so hilarious to me that Renata would actually go jogging in those—plus her Gucci sweatpants and fanny pack and puffer vest. [Laughs.]
So I really like that one, and then this black and white gown I wore that they didn't end up using, but there's a moment when the nanny's leaving when you see a piece of me. It's a beautiful gown, and one of the last ones that the genius himself, Raf Simons, made at Calvin Klein. I love paying homage to him, because I love him so much. I'm such a fan of his, and he's been such an amazing inspiration to my son. The first show that he walked was for Raf here, in New York, and Raf let him shadow him and intern with him a bit because he wants to be a designer. And now he just walked Raf's show in Paris, which I went to with my daughter. He and Raf just have a great connection.
What's your nightly bedtime beauty routine?
In the evening, I'm loving mixing the oil and the serum with this vitamin C powder that I just started using. The elasticity, or whatever the terminology is for the strength of your skin—I feel like it's shifting! Like, literally, the DNA of my skin is changing. My makeup artist, was saying that to me the other day—that the quality of my skin seems like it's better, too.
What's one beauty item you recommend everyone buy?
Well, as you can tell, I'm now obsessed with this spray. It's addictive. I have it in my bag; my son has it in his backpack. One of my best friends, who's an actor—male—is obsessed; I gave him one, and now he just sprays his face all day long. I love that the products are very unisex.
At the opposite end of the beauty spectrum, before you discovered natural products, is there a beauty trend or product that now you can't believe you used or were a part of?
I mean, I never want to trash things, but I've never looked into the research, from when I was 14, of what is in Noxzema; I just remember being told that it's all you need. All the products of that era—Noxzema, Wella Balsam, Enjoli, "Calgon, Take Me Away!"...
Those names even sound so different from product names today.
Yeah, it was a different time for "empowered women." And the ad campaigns! "Bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, never let you forget who's the man, because I'm a woman. Enjoli." I mean, that is like the greatest ad ever. It was supposed to be a big, "feminist" moment—and now, of course, it's something I'd like to repeat on SNL.