“It’s funny because my apartment feels pretty gender-neutral—I have two sons, they’re eleven and thirteen, and they’re real boys—but when you go into my dressing room, in the bathroom, it’s completely girly. It’s the one area that I have that’s very me, and it’s very feminine... I’ve always been fairly classic, fairly traditional. Everyone always asks, ‘Did you ever rebel? Did you dye your hair blue? Did you wear black nail polish?’ I mean, of course, there have been episodes when you wear weird-colored lipstick… But generally, I think I was pretty much the way I am now. I stick with what I know, makeup-wise. Just because something is on trend doesn’t mean you have to embrace it. You can look at it and admire it, but that doesn’t mean you have to wear black nail polish or red lipstick. If you feel comfortable in what you’re wearing, you’ll look your best, and I think that’s a really important idea. Sometimes, whether it’s fashion or beauty, things are on-trend and they look beautiful on the runway, but when I apply them to myself it doesn’t look the way it should.
Beauty was always a part of my life. I always joke that I’ve been in the beauty business for 42 years, because my earliest memories are of my grandmother [Estée] putting makeup on, or spraying perfume, or mixing foundation with cream. I always wanted to be a part of the family business—I always loved it. I remember seeing piles of magazines with red tags in them, marking all the Estée Lauder ads. I didn’t know anything different because everywhere, all over her house, would be red-tagged magazines, so I just assumed they came that way. The first time I saw a magazine without tags I was like, ‘Why does it look like that?’ [Laughs] The beauty industry was always a part of my life, and I think it’s something that I just innately love because if you don’t love it, you can’t do it.
I remember the first makeup product I used was this opalescent lip gloss—it was white with pink pearl in it—and we were all trying it on at school. That’s what made me realize how incredible Estée was; I knew her as a grandmother, but I never knew her as a professional. My friends all knew about Estée, but at the time, we were so young, and no one was really into makeup. Then when we all started getting into makeup, I would bring makeup to school and share it with my friends. They’d love to come over and play because we had testers of all the products…I was popular. [Laughs] But she always focused more on skincare with me; she had this wonderful quote—and I think it’s more relevant than ever—that ‘You only have one face—Take care of it.’ I think anti-aging serums are so important. I love Advanced Night Repair, the Re-Nutriv Serum, the Re-Creation Serum—they’re amazing. I start my day, every day, putting one of those on, and I end my day by putting one of those on. I think it’s a really important part of your beauty routine, especially as you get a little bit older.
I started wearing foundation when I was in college. I had been working at Prescriptives, and I got a custom-blend Prescriptives foundation, and I loved it. Foundation is a funny product… I think it is a little bit of a shield. I mean, I see a difference in my skin when I wear a foundation and when I don’t. I put it everywhere—I always like a sheer foundation, usually Clinique Even Better, but I do put it everywhere. I just use my fingers; I don’t use a foundation brush or anything. I learned a lot from watching my grandmother put makeup on. She did everything with her fingers—she would put on teal eye shadow and it would be perfect. She could put lipstick on without even looking in the mirror. And as I got older and started doing shoots and started working within the industry, I’d work with makeup artists, either at a shoot, or someone would be doing my makeup, and I’d learn different tips. I learned about thinning out the foundation—applying it sheer and then building it, versus applying a thick layer of foundation—and lining your lip, blending the lip liner in, and then applying a lipstick or a lip gloss, as opposed to just putting a line on. Little things. I also always wear a dark, dark brown eyeliner, as opposed to black or a color, just because it looks better with my coloring. I think Mary Greenwell taught me that. She did my makeup when I got married. That was the first time I wore more dramatic makeup and Mary showed me how to do it—she’s a great teacher.
People were always saying to me, ‘What’s in your makeup bag? What’s in your makeup bag?’ So I had this idea of creating an edited capsule collection of products based on that concept—the idea of ‘what’s in my makeup bag.’ For fall, we launched my line, Aerin, with seven essential products that I cannot live without. The first collection is all about weekend/weekday, which is not necessarily based on fashion trends—it’s more lifestyle. You wear more dramatic makeup during the week when you’re at work and you’re running around, and on the weekend, you still want to wear makeup, but look a bit more natural. My makeup routine changes seasonally, too. In the summertime, I wear much lighter colors, and a bit more gold-ish eye shadow at night. When you’re sun-kissed, it’s nice to wear either a pop of color on your lip, like a coral or a pink or a beautiful beige. I think when your skin color changes, it’s nice to change the makeup coloring as well. In the winter, when you’re a little bit paler, wear a different shade. Bronzer, to me, is the best product because, say you get off a night flight and you feel completely burnt out and you haven’t slept, you just put a little bit of bronzer on and you look refreshed. I definitely like a dewy finish; it looks more natural, more youthful. And I do love Lubriderm body lotion. I love Johnson’s Baby Lotion—it always reminds me of my kids when I use it. I love Jo Malone for fragrance, bath oils, for products like that—the Red Roses and Vintage Gardenia scents especially. I tend to stray from Estée Lauder brands when it comes to candles or soap—you know that company who makes the big soaps with floral-patterned packaging? Claus Porto, love those, and I love the Musc candle from Diptyque; it’s delicious.
I only take baths, but I wash my hair in the shower. I take baths at night—they’re not that long, like, eight minutes, six minutes—I run the water hot, add a little oil. I love all those Klorane shampoos. But I change shampoos a lot because it makes me feel cleaner. I think your hair gets used to it. It’s awful, but I actually shop for a shampoo based on the packaging—how it looks. I don’t mind wet hair in the summer, but I think when people wear wet hair in the city and go to work, I don’t understand that. Trust me, I leave my house all the time with wet hair in the summertime, like to go for a run, come in and take a shower, wet hair, shorts, tank top, bathing suit—like, that’s kind of my summer look. Maybe it’s the uptown side of me, the very professional side to me, how I present myself at the office, and wet hair is not part of it.
I would say that I’m definitely ‘uptown.’ I think uptown is a bit more polished, a bit more formal. I have a downtown/uptown quality, though. I mean, I wear jeans all the time, my hair is not so pulled together to the point of being, you know, unapproachable, but I think that I’m uptown in the sense that I’m a bit more polished. I love understated elegance. But then, I think Kate Moss has amazing style. I mean, she really does. We were away a couple years ago in Turks and Caicos and she was in the villa next to us and I always looked forward to seeing what she was wearing that night to dinner, like cut-off jean shorts, a man’s vest, no shirt, and ballet slippers—and it was like, perfect. It’s not my style, I mean I do wear cut-off jean shorts and ballet slippers, but I never quite look like that.”
—as told to ITG
Aerin Lauder photographed by Emily Weiss in New York on August 9th, 2012.