Michelle Violy Harper, Brand Consultant


“My grandmother always said, and she reminded me when I got engaged, ‘Make sure when you get your apartment, it has two bathrooms. The man and the woman should never share the bathroom. You will not stay married a long time,’ and I was like, ‘Okay’. She was married to my grandfather my whole life, so I take her advice. I didn’t grow up with one sensibility of beauty, because I traveled so much and moved around. I grew up in New York, and in Colombia, and then in Switzerland, and in France, and in Italy, and in Spain. I traveled to Colombia to see my grandmother a lot. She’s hardcore glamorous; like, movie star beauty. She had this amazing walk-in closet room it was wigs—tons of wigs—because that was what you bought. Like, Adolfo hairpieces—that’s what I grew up playing with. I realize now as I’m talking to you, I already grew up instilled with a sense of playing and transformation.

I’ve always looked a little crazy. I’ve never been conventional because I don’t think I look conventional...I think that in life, you just work with what you have. I don’t think people realize how much you can do that with your hair and with makeup, if you’re not born looking like Gisele or whatever, and you’re not happy with your appearance, or if you want to transform. Or maybe you are happy, and you just want a change—hair and makeup—you can do a lot. I’ll be on the bus and I’ll look at people and I think, ‘If they just cut here, bleach a little here,’ I’m mentally making people over all the time. [Laughs] I see all these amazing possibilities.

There are certain people that are just the stars of my universe. I call them my co-conspirators and collaborators, because I can come up with crazy dreams and share them. Danilo is the only person allowed to cut my hair, really. He’s just the most magical, amazing human being. He’s on the whole Rooney Mara thing—he created her look for Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. And what I love about him is that he can give you an extreme look, and it’s going to be attractive, no matter what. You’re still going to look pretty; you’re not going to look like a big ugly cray-cray. I have a very specific vision of what I want to look like, and who I want to be in the world—but I am by no means a magic hair person. So it falls to being blessed by having talents around me who can really play—that we can play—and it’s the same thing with makeup. A really great friend named Andrea Helgadottir, she’s Björk’s makeup artist, and Tilda Swinton’s makeup artist—just to show you the range. Having her as a friend and Danilo with hair, I’m surrounded by incredible talent.

I’m a little bit crazy with skincare. At one point, I thought I would be a dermatologist. I really grill dermatologists, I read dermatology journals, reports, I look at the ingredients; I get very into clinicals. I don’t want to just put things on my face that don’t do anything. I believe that’s a huge waste of money and time. I look for active ingredients, unless it’s something like a Neroli jasmine mask that smells delicious and feels good. For the most part, I think that skin care should be really clinically active. I switch a lot, and I look for what’s happening, and what’s the next thing. One my routines that I switch up is my cleanser. If my face is a little dry, I love La Roche Posay’s Toleriane because it really cleans and purifies without drying you out, and without making you break out. I think La Roche Posay is a great company, it’s a great brand. They really do their scientific work—their clinicals, their lab work—they don’t release nonsense. There’s a lot of science behind it. Toleriane was recommended to me after I had a Fraxel treatment, because your skin is so so so sensitive. Fraxel is incredible. It’s for lines, wrinkles, discoloration, and building collagen. I’ve done two treatments so far. I remember after my first treatment, in the second or third month, I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I had just little lines around my eyes—they were gone. It’s like they had plumped up from the inside and disappeared. Same thing with the lines between my eyebrows—it’s like somebody plumped them from the inside, is the best way I could describe it—without having to inject stuff.

So if you’re dry or sensitive, or you’ve had a peel, I would say Tolariene is a great solution. Especially for people who like stuff that foams—I’m not into the cleansing milks. If I want something that’s gentle, but that’s exfoliating, I use my sister-in-law Tata Harper’s cleanser. It’s like a balm with grains; it has some body to it, which I really like. I also really like In Fiore, my friend Julie’s line, from San Francisco. She’s great. She’s really an alchemist—the level of her study is so deep, it’s incredible. My favorite thing is Vis Clair, the eye cream—which I think is the best thing I’ve tried. Just looking at the ingredient list, and also just how it just soaks right in and tightens up, it really brightens and it really hydrates. I’m Scottish, so I get a lot of freckles, and you know, pigment, discoloration, unevenness, so Soleil Fleur is really great way to deal with hyperpigmentation, and discoloration. For me it’s about switching up the ingredients to deal with your issues. My issues are hyperpigmentation, I want anti-aging, I want luminosity, I want exfoliation so that I don’t get breakouts, pimples, and so that I can have a really hydrated, luminous, plump skin. I think you kind of need to attack from all different angles, or with different technologies and ingredients out there. When I feel like my skin needs more exfoliation, that’s when I use a more robust cleanser, like the NIA24 scrub. I’m a big believer in niacinamide for anti-aging and hyperpigmentation reasons. In Dr. Colbert’s line, there’s a lot of green tea, there’s a lot of alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, anti-oxidants, hyaluronic acid for moisture. The Intensified Facial Disks are great, it really feels like all your dead skin cells are gone. Your skin just feels really clean, exfoliated, but without it burning and stinging and irritating. I also really like this line Brad. This cream, a post laser, post-procedure anti-aging cream—it really makes a huge difference in the healing process. I’ve used La Roche Posay afterwards—but this is the best thing that I’ve tried. And the Ultra Peel has every kind of peeling agent—it’s like, when you don’t want to go to a dermatologist and have a peel done, you can achieve something similar at home with this. It’s expensive but a little bit goes a long way. I like to follow the Ultra Peel with the Sea Minerals Ferment. It calms everything down and replenishes and nourishes.

I do not leave the house without sunscreen, and I reapply throughout the day. Most people don’t know that medically, after four hours, sunscreen’s done. It breaks down over time. So after four hours, that sunscreen that you put on in the morning is not protecting you. If you’re going to be doing things like laser, you have no option but to be a slave to sunscreen. We already know that the thing that causes aging is the sun—so why spend hundreds of dollars on anti-aging creams and then not protect your face from the sun? It’s like people who eat ten slices of cake and drink a Diet Coke—I’m sorry, that just doesn’t make any sense. [Laughs] Like, just go for the regular Coke at that point. My favorite is EltaMD SPF 30. You know, I referenced it on a cosmetics database, because with sunscreens everyone is like, ‘They’re so toxic, they’re so toxic!’ and it rates a three, from one to ten—which I really like. I don’t tend to like the green sunscreens, they’re really oily and greasy and heavy, and that’s not an option. That’s another thing with my skincare—I like to go green, and then I have other things that are not all the way green—but I like to mix it, you know? Like my diet—you need to eat your kale, and you should also be able to have a cookie. Just be balanced about it.

I don’t have a hard time doing makeup. I mean, I can really go all out—from Geisha to whatever, in five minutes. I’m not a tinted moisturizer and gloss kind of girl. Let’s put it that way. I like things that I can really use for transformation. I have lots and lots and lots of makeup. I love color. I have these cabinets and jars because I like organizing everything by color. I have all my tools, separators, setting agents, glitter glues, sharpeners, waxes to line the outside of your lips so that your lipstick doesn’t bleed, then I have white and luminizers; I love mint with this plum kind of color—I have that combination there. These are my pinks, my oranges, my greens, my yellows, my golds, my lavenders, my blues, my blacks, my whites, my mascaras. This is all false lashes and then theatrical makeup palettes, purples, nudes, more lashes, more brushes. And that’s not really all of it, because then what comes next is what really people know me for—which is bold lips. I have my big jar of reds. I would say that red lipstick is kind of my signature thing—pale clean skin, big lashes, red lips—when I’m in a huge rush, that’s what I do quickly, but I play with makeup a lot. Today I’m blending Ruby Woo with Julie Hewett’s Coco Noir with MAC’s Nightmoth pencil—so what you have is this kind of like, brownish red, a really pure red, and a purple. Then I’ll top it off with Dior's Black-Tie Plum gloss. So it’s going to be this really shiny red lip. That’s why I felt like teal eyebrows need like a deep, deep blood lip. I use my makeup as artistry. Fashion designers design clothes, and I design looks. When I thought about the teal eyebrows, I wanted the lip to look like fresh blood.

Every day I do something different, but the one constant is the Giorgio Armani Designer Shaping Cream Foundation—I love it. I like a lot of coverage. Just on its own is very rich, so I’ll sometimes thin it out with a moisturizer, or I’ll use Luminous Silk, which is a lot lighter. I feel like Armani is really good; they have my color down pat. And the two things I can’t live without are my Chanel Blanc Essentiel powder—it gives the most luminescent, light-as-air, pale satin finish with the perfect level of optics, and my small hundred-year-old wooden container of powdered incense called Zu-Koh, for rubbing into the skin, from the oldest incense blender in Kyoto. I always sweep the powder on my face and do a quick shake of Zu-Koh on the nape of the neck before I leave the house.

My hair is the easiest thing, because really—with a really good shampoo and conditioner and a box of bobby pins and some hair spray, I can do whatever I want. It’s more about the hairpieces, you know? So you saw me doing my hair—it was in a little ponytail, and then I knotted it and then I put some bobby pins in, do a little touch-up, with a razor, then I’m going to show you the last trick of my hair…this is my secret weapon: ‘Moco de Gorila,’ Snott Gorilla Gel. It’s made for kids, because you know how kids love mohawks? It’s made in Mexico. I was with Danilo when he discovered it, and we started playing with it. It’s the most intense gel that I’ve ever used in my life…like, I even have to add a little bit of water. But it shampoos right out, surprisingly. The way it smells is toxic, but it wears off really quickly. Even Danilo’s turned Rooney Mara onto this. Have you seen her with this slicked-down hair lately? This is the secret. And he gave me these little baby Japanese razors—which are amazing—and taught me how to shave my hairline. This is very dangerous, by the way. Danilo has been like, ‘Okay, calm down—taking it back a little too much,’ and then, ‘Okay, girl. Drop the razor.’ He had given me a pair of baby clippers too, and then he took them away. He was like, ‘You’re not allowed to have those anymore.’ [Laughs]

I use a lot of bobby pins, zillions and zillions and zillions. When I do the wigs and hairpieces—sometimes it’ll take me thirty minutes to get all the pins out—and it’ll just be a mountain of them next to my bed. There’s one hairpiece Danilo did for me, from my performance in the window at Bergdorf For Fashion’s Night Out that doesn’t take any time. You just literally pop it on. With my own hair shaved on the sides, it’s like hair-cessories. That’s also why I keep it so short, because I know people who have long hair and then they have shoots and they put on wigs, but like, wrapping that all into into wig caps, all that nonsense, is a nightmare. When you have no hair, you can have any hair. People are like, ‘Oh, why don’t you grow out your hair?’ and I’m like, ‘You know what? I can have any hair that I want,’ any day, any moment—and that’s what’s really fun. I think people don’t get how easy it is to play. Like, I think of makeup as just fun paint. I’m just painting my face. The way I would do a drawing, the way I would do anything.”

—as told to ITG

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Anonymous

    LOVE the serious approach to skincare v. the anything-goes approach to makeup! Very cool. And great to see a really unique makeup look here. The eyebrows are amazing!

    The jar storage for makeup, though - the colours look great all grouped together like that, but my god, I'm getting cold sweats just thinking about reaching the colours at the bottom. Makes me feel claustrophobic... I'm a weirdo, OK.

    • Anu

      oh I am with you. If I had those jars, it would drive me nuts too.
      Great for decorating the shelves though!

  • http://springyamind.wordpress.com/ Dee

    wow!! Even though she has used make-up on her face..her arms and other parts look like a continuation of her face !!

  • Lalala1719

    I absolutely love her philosophy about men and women always having separate bathrooms. Genius! The way her cosmetics are squeezed into those jars would drive me insane though... if you want one thing you have to empty the entire jar! But man oh man, her collection is incredible.

  • annabel

    i love this woman!

  • http://www.xoxotrishelle.blogspot.com/ trishelle
  • noelle

    She is absolutely INTO THE GLOSS, isn't she? Her presentation of products is gorgeous.

  • Lena

    WOW WOW Wow! Probably my favorite yet. Which is the specific Brad product she mentions for healing? There are several and I can't tell which one it is. Thank you!

  • mlle p

    What a cool girl and I love her look(s)! It would be so fun just to hang around with her for a day and talk beauty products.

  • AIS

    The cosmetic database she is referring to is http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ . It rates skincare products, make-up and sunscreen between 1 and 10, 10 being the most toxic. Then it breaks down a list of why it may be bad, and which ingredients are the most harmful to certain health issues. I recommend you all check it out then donate to them for all their hard work into researching the zillions of products we use.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kellylynnwaters kelly waters

    I would die to spend the day with her! Incredible woman.

  • http://twitter.com/Citygirlinred anita rivas

    Oh my God, I love In Fiore, and Dr. Colbert's Facial Discs, the best! Love the jpgs! Question, what brand is the pink cream with the black jar on the topshelf?

    P.s you look amazing in your swimsuit!

    • Erin

      Looks like Evan Healy's French Rose Clay! I've tried the Green Tea Clay, which is amazing, but I've switched to red clays for sensitive skin. Hope this helps.
      Now Foods also do amazing green and red clays at really good price points!

      • http://twitter.com/Citygirlinred anita rivas

        Thank you Erin! I'm looking into it now : )

  • http://tiffanysquared.com/ TiffanySquared

    There is nothing I like more than the diversity of these profiles. Michelle is divine. I can't stop looking at her face and she is so colorful in the way she speaks.


  • http://thesparkle.net/ erin

    i always look for bottles i recognize... nothing! love seeing new beauty items. x


  • NeenaJ

    EPIC. I could read this about 50 more times, and probably will.

  • frances

    I'm married and I am starting to think your grandmother is right!!! lol


  • Karin10

    brilliant, love her beauty philosophy

  • Cari

    what a fascinating read. at first i saw those eye brows and i thought "OH HELL NO!" but after reading and seeing her fun approach to make up, they actually grew on me. i think there are very few individuals who can pull these looks off though. her features are fairly delicate and she is a bit waif like, which lend themselves to these playful looks.

    i also appreciate her approach to skin care. maybe you could do a post covering different cosmetic procedures? Peels, lasers, etc...

  • Jo

    Oh! I spy a tin of Soapwalla's deodorant cream! <3

  • Gina

    "big ugly cray-cray" and "wrapping that shit into wig caps" cracked me up!
    I would love to get a makeover from this woman.

  • Ivana

    To which Toleraine is she referring? There are a few cleansers under the Toleraine sub-category, but the one linked is more a make-up remover? Still, would love to try it!

  • Heather

    Hi Emily,

    I'm wondering if you might've accidentally linked to the wrong La Roche cleanser? She says she likes ones that foam...and the Dermo-Cleanser says it's non-foaming. But I see there's another one from the Toleriane line, also for sensitive skin, that does foam: http://www.laroche-posay.us/_us/_en/consumer/catalog/ByType/Sensitive/toleriane-purifying-foaming-cream.htm. And it looks like the one pictured in her cabinet. Thanks, I'm obsessed with your blog.

  • http://www.MrAJBx3.com MrAJBx3

    those eyebrows are gorgeous!! <3 i love how organised everything is! <3

  • lilla

    are her eyebrows really green? I like these kind of new things :)


  • Lisa

    Grandmothers give best advice. Separate bathrooms is golden! I love her style and serious approach to skincare.

  • Audrey

    Really loved her perspective on makeup and skincare. I wish she had a beauty blog and I would love to read any of her additional thoughts on Into The Gloss. Great read!

  • Dee

    Best Top Shelf so far! I appreciate Michelle's ideas about beauty, makeup, and skin care (especially skin care).

    I checked out her tumblr and Emily, your photographs of her do more justice to her beauty than anything there. Not that they aren't interesting, but your images are are simply beautiful.

  • Serdane-elie

    She is original as woman. I couldn't imagine that she could know a lot of products as she says there ! Passioned.


  • marisa

    I've definitely seen her around nyc and just stopped dead in my tracks and stared thinking how cool this person was!! Definitely an ITG fave!

    I just found this video of her on youtube and she just seems like the nicest person http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNsDozzoRO8

  • Maura McCormick

    Great Looks! Great site! Take a look at my beauty/art page:

  • Julie InFiore

    I love Michelle. She is pure beauty inside and out!

  • Sarahsophieflicker

    Oh my beautiful friend! This makes me desperate to organize and get serious! Wonderful post on a wonderful girl! X SSF

  • Pachigallo

    I love it, you have no idea how much it will help me. A 51 (in 4 days) year old that loves to look good but doesn´t have the passion you do! I will keep this list printed on my make up desk and start ordering right now. I have only usedTata Harper´s cream for 3 years now and I look 45... withyour collagen building and line minimizing creams I will soon look 40!

  • Cator Sparks

    She better not let Lady Bunny see that bathroom or hear about those wigs- Harper may have a knock on her door she wasn't expecting! Congrats darling!

  • Nikig


  • nona

    Question for Michelle - how do you reapply your sunscreen midday? Do you reapply lotion right over your morning makeup, touch up with a different (e.g. powder) product, or completely wash & redo your face from scratch? Hoping for practical tips for those of us office rats who don't have the time/privacy to completely repeat the morning routine...

    • http://twitter.com/MichelleVioly Michelle Harper

      Hi Nona - Contact me via twitter @michellevioly and I'll give you some great tips - I have a few approaches. And by the way this is a great and very practical question that I'm happy to help with.

      • Thextra

        Please share! This is something I've been wondering myself.

        A terrific post full of awesome advice - skincare and beauty can be daunting. many many thanks xx

    • Mharper

      For reapplying sunscreeen I recommend 2 things - apply a dime sized amount of a dry sunscreen to your fingertips - like Anthelios Sport or Neturogena dry touch - although I use the one mentioned above and it works just fine ... rub onto clean palms and gently tap onto face - using just 2 taps - the fewer the better. You don't want to rub or overtap moving the makeup around. Clean hands are key. Then if you like set with a sunscreen powder like those made by Colorescience or Peter Thomas Roth - I like translucent and recommend that. If the liquid portion of this freaks you out - just go for the powder above - but really make sure you get full coverage with the powder or it will do nothing to protect you from the sun. HOPE THIS HELPS! sorry it took me so long. It's been busy!

  • http://twitter.com/MichelleVioly Michelle Harper

    For Emily - I love ITG - every entry is priceless! You're a true beauty goddess. Xx

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Madi-Bjorgvinsson/1588987212 Madi Bjorgvinsson

    Michelle, you are speaking with the voice of thousands of us around the world: "My issues are hyperpigmentation, I want anti-aging, I want luminosity, I want exfoliation so that I don’t get breakouts, pimples, and so that I can have a really hydrated, luminous, plump skin." Your insight is brilliant and your advice comes from experience. Your skin is glowing! I hope we get to hear from you on a regular basis, with such fun yet serious, practical (and real!) advice. Time to explore and shop now - I will be clicking on every single product link above. Please come back soon!!!

  • ruth


    waxes to line the outside of your lips to keep your lipstick from bleeding? where would i get this? heart this post.

  • http://monkeyshines-monkeyshines.blogspot.com/ monkeyshines

    fun hair style!


  • http://www.littleredbook-thatshaute.blogspot.com/ Little Red Book

    I love her style, and her fair skin. Glad to know about the Chanel powder.


  • Randycurls

    I love Michelle's balanced approach to skincare. She really knows her stuff. She is always doing her research and trying new things. I also love how playful and experimental she is with her look. SO inspiring!

  • pretty things

    she is still young and beautiful - why all of the obsession with laser, acids and peels? Her sister in law has the total opposite philosophy. How strange that they work together??

  • Mrs Singh

    What a beautiful and interesting woman. I love her face! And - it is almost scary, but my cosmetics are pretty much the same as hers - InFiori next to Brad stuff next LaRoche Posay Toleriane AND Tata Harper. I'm feeling kinda proud of myself. She is like a cool girl in high school, you just want to have her stuff! :D

  • Anonymous

    look at those BLUE eyebrows! haha

  • http://twitter.com/NewYorkVintage New York Vintage

    Epic, Genius, Beyond...Love @MichelleVoily Knows Beauty BEST!

  • Fabiola Pina

    Separate bathrooms, investigating active ingredients, Snott Gorilla gel...I'M TAKING NOTES!

  • Joannawnyc

    WOW. I am in love. Adore the skincare seriousness with the playfulness about makeup and hair. So refreshing!

  • Laura C

    I have been obsessed with Rooney Mara's greased down, sharp hair at all the premiers lately and was wondering what she was using! Amazing.


La Roche-Posay
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Riche
Tata Harper
Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser
NIA24 Physical Cleansing Scrub
BRAD Biophotonic Skin Care
Ultra Elastin
BRAD Biophotonic Skin Care
BRAD Sea Minerals Purify
EltaMD UV Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30
MAC Lipstick
Julie Hewett Noir Lipstick
MAC Lip Pencil Nightmoth
Squizz Moco De Gorila Snott Hair Gel