Catherine Walsh, Senior Vice President, Coty

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"This is going to sound crazy, but I’m one of those people who thinks that beauty is going to save the world. It’s very idealistic, but I always thought that, even as a kid. I’m from a tiny town in Pennsylvania that, to this day, does not have a traffic light. I had a couple of different ideas for my future: the first thing I did when I was old enough to work, maybe 16, was write a letter to Estée Lauder to see if they would hire me. I knew I wanted to be in beauty, but they rejected me at the time. Then, I went through a phase where I thought I wanted to do something in the art world—not be an artist, but be involved in the art world. Those dreams were shattered early on, because you need money to be able to live in New York and play the art game. I couldn’t do that. It's like being an assistant at Vogue. So I went back to school again, to learn architecture. Art and architecture are my personal passions. I wanted to build my own house. It didn’t become my career, but I still built my house in Colorado.

I’ve been in the beauty business for a long time. The social aspects of the beauty industry are as important as your day-to-day career, but I’m not on social media. I heard someone say, I think it was Phoebe Philo, that the biggest luxury in the world is to not be Googled—to be anonymous. I think social media is amazing for young people starting their career, and I’m not saying ‘Oh, I’m above it,’ it’s nothing that egomaniacal. I just don’t think it will improve my career at this point, and I like being a relatively private person.

I started in marketing, working with scientists every day to develop products, so I have really learned about what I love. For example, red lipstick, day and night, has been a signature of mine since I was in my early twenties. I even met my best friend through red lipstick! She walked in wearing wearing head-to-toe Yohji Yamamoto, and I was in head-to-toe Yohji Yamamoto, and, of course, we both had red lipstick on. So we were like, ‘OK, we’ll be friends’—BFFs forever. The thing is, red lipstick is so different on everyone. I like mine to be a balance between yellow-red and blue-red. I had the ideal shade made for me in the old Lancaster cosmetic line, and then we made the same color at Calvin Klein, so I could have it. Otherwise I like Rimmel’s Lasting Finish Matte by Kate in 111. I like thick, real lipstick, not sheer, and it always has to be matte—I don’t like anything shiny. For one, I think it looks better, but it also stays longer. I’ve never worn lip gloss. I use lip liner to set the lipstick, but I challenge you to find a red lip liner. It’s really hard. They’re either burgundy or they’re too pink. I have Stila Long Wear Lip Liner in Passionate and Burberry’s Lip-Shading Pencil in Brick Red Number 5. If I’m going out, I’ll wear matchy-matchy red nail polish. But for day-to-day, I prefer to keep my nails short, moisturized, and buffed.

For the rest of my face, I wear CK One 3-in-1 foundation, which is also a primer, and then I usually wear some kind of cream blush—never powders. I get hairs from my face threaded, but I pluck my own eyebrows. Then I fill them in with the tiniest bit of color using CK One’s Brow Pencil + Gel Duo in Wily Brunette. And you can’t live without Aquaphor, preferably when it comes in the tub.

I’m extremely passionate about skincare. No matter how much you put on top, it starts with taking care of your skin, and that starts with diet.  About seven years ago, I saw the movie Food, Inc. and it changed my life. I became a pescetarian, eating fresh fish all the time, lots of quinoa, lots of lettuce, lots of raw vegetables, tons of fruit, and everything organic. After the gym, I’ll eat egg whites and whole-wheat toast with nothing on it. I definitely do the no-carbs-after-two-PM thing, but I fly a lot, and on planes, that can be hard. You can’t be a saint about this stuff, but, the older I got and the more disciplined I became, I saw my skin get better, my sleep get better, and it even helped my workouts. I workout five days a week, at 5 am, and I go to bed at 9pm.

In terms of actual products, I wash my face with Cetaphil. There is no substitute. Then I use a serum, which is the first step to good skincare. I like Lancaster 365-Intense, which is more like an insurance program than something that will give you immediate results. It has DNA preair in it, which changes the structure of your skin over time. I use it every day. I also like Olie Biologique’s organic Argan oil for my hair and face—they feel more mature. And they’re great for at night, or when I’m in Colorado and my skin is extra dry.

My skin is extremely dry in general, so I moisturize with a lot of products. I use two Lancaster creams that are only available in Europe—Fill and Perfect, which is for toning, and Differently, which is an anti-aging product for women over 50. If I use one of them by itself, it’s not moisturizing enough. And the best eye cream is Bobbi Brown’s Extra Eye Balm, because it stays moist. I like that look. If I put it on at night, I still have a sheen in the morning.

And, as much as I love facials—I get them every month at Kimara Ahnert in New York—my best skincare secret is Fresh Sugar Face Polish. I have given this to so many people. It’s an incredible product, and smells so good that you want to eat it. The beauty of this scrub is that it has really big granules and an oil base. You put it on moist skin, massage it in, and you really feel like you’re improving circulation and purifying your skin. Then you leave it on like a mask and just wash it off. I always do it after flights, and people are like, ‘You do not look like you just got off a plane.’ Actually, the first time I met Steven Meisel on a shoot, he was on his computer and I walked over and said, ‘Hi, my name is Catherine and I’m the client.' And he took his glasses off and said, ‘You have no pores. I’ve never seen anything like it!’ I had just done the Fresh scrub that morning, so I sent him a bunch of them. It is a killer, Steven-Meisel-approved product.

I’m extremely low-maintenance with my hair. It’s either long or short. I started going grey at 26, but I wasn’t confident enough to let that happen yet. When I was 37, I moved to France and I thought, ‘I’m anonymous here. I can do this.’ And I let it go gray, cold-turkey. My hair was long at the time, like down to the middle of my back. The top was gray, but the bottom was still really dark, so I wore it pulled off of my face, either back in a chignon or a braid. It wasn’t cool. And the French can be pretty direct. I remember one guy in my office said, ‘Are you sick? Are you ok?’ He thought for sure that was the only way I would let my hair go gray. But, you know, it was OK. It scared me, because it’s like losing your youth, but it’s totally psychological. Once it grayed all the way down, I had it cut. I called my stylist and she said, ‘Come at night, I’ll get a bottle of wine—you’ll need alcohol.’ I can’t remember who said this—I think it was Jennifer Lopez or someone on her team—but after I went gray, I walked into a meeting and somebody there said, ‘Oh my God, I feel like I should sit up in my chair a little bit taller. You look really serious, and I should pay attention to you!’ I thought that was great. I’ve kept it short since that cut, not for lack of trying to grow it out. I was inspired by Kristen McMenamy’s long silver hair, but, oof, it was brutal. I couldn’t do it. One day, I’ll just pull it back into a long braid like Georgia O’Keeffe. I think that’s so chic. But, until then, at least my hair doesn’t involve much care.

My secret is that, after I wash and towel-dry my hair—I never blow-dry it—I put in Nivea Creme. It doesn’t work on all hair types, but mine is very thick, and it adds a nice sheen and separated texture. I don’t like when gray hair looks dry. So, after I get out of the shower, I use the cream all over my body, than I take as much in my hands as if I was just going to moisturize my hands, rub it between my palms, and I use it to shape my hair. It doesn’t feel like anything is in your hair—it’s not stiff like other styling products. And then I use it to shape my eyebrows. I should become a shareholder for Nivea.

I usually wear fragrance in my hair, too. My favorites right now are the two new Balenciaga women’s scents that I’m testing. But my other favorite fragrance is actually for men. It’s an oud fragrance for the Middle East; I think ouds will be around for a while. Trends in fragrances last a really long time, it’s not like fashion. Do you remember all of those fragrances in the ‘80s—Giorgio Beverly Hills and Obsession—that announced you before you walked in the room? Then, starting with Miyake, everything had to smell like a glass of water. After that, CK One was the first unisex, and that was more of a citrus moment. And now we’re back to men wanting to smell like men, and women wanting to smell like women, distinctively. When we do a lot of market research and we ask what people are interested in, unisex scents are not a big thing anymore.

Something you should know about wearing scents is that they hold better when applied to moist skin, and you’re not supposed to rub them into your skin. What you’re doing is crushing the architecture of the scent—there’s a top, middle, and base, and those parts reveal themselves at different times. You can also mix scents, and that’s all personal preference. Sarah Jessica Parker is a prime example of that. She came up with Lovely because she was wearing a mixture of an oil and a spray scent. She created her own thing from it.

If I was ever to create my own, personal fragrance, I know what I would want it to smell like—a church. I grew up Catholic, so I’d want the cold of the marble, the dark wood, the fat of the wax of the candles—the whole thing. I’d want to smell gold and red and all those things."

—as told to ITG

Catherine Walsh photographed by Emily Weiss on June 21, 2013 in New York.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Noisy Rain

    Loved this! She's so inspiring! :O xx

  • Sofia

    What an elegant and nice lady! Loved the pictures too. V

  • Bella

    What a wonderful, inspirational woman! I love her style and humour. And finally, someone who doesn't say that she keeps it simple, but who actually does :D.
    I am growing out my hair from relaxed to naturally very curly, and I shall remember her growing-out bravery at the times when i want to take the straightening irons to the whole lot!

  • Aly

    She looks so fresh! Proof that you don't have to be young to look fresh and beautiful. She has a nice, interesting look that really works for her. Sounds like she takes care of herself from the inside out. I'm inspired.

  • Amber

    I am dying to know where Catherine's pullover is from. Jumper? Top? I'm Australian. You know what I mean.

    • Ellie

      It's Sphere One. They carry it at Poole Shop in Charlotte if you want one! Email them at pooleshop@aol.com.

  • Zoe

    What a gorgeous woman AND a real lady! Ma'am, if you want to smell like a church do try Jovoy Liturgie des Heures . And if you want to smell like a church decked out in red and gold then you need to try Majda Bekkali Mon Nom Est Rouge. Absolutely stunning, those two.
    And you're marvellous, that hair, that lipstick, that smile!
    Love this post, thank you

    • Gina Carpellotti

      @Zoe, thank you for the fragrance tips. I want to smell like a church, so these suggestions are on my sniff list.

  • n>c>t

    she. is. fabulous.

  • Sayaka

    favourite ITG post. She's just a beautiful inspiring woman inside and out! Thank you for sharing!

    beauty-trotter.com

  • Josef Šlaich

    Thank you for this topshelf! INSPIRING!!!

  • sophiasanchezia

    She is stunning

  • Victoria

    which NARS pencil is it?

  • Charlotte

    love this, she is actually low maintenance and has a great sense of humor! well done, ITG!

  • Alla

    Extremely beautiful woman and a wonderful TopShelf (sorry, ITG, but finally!)
    so much to learn out
    Def will try the Nivea Cream tip, I'm already feeling it must be something!

  • blushingincolor

    What an inspiration! Love these king of posts!
    Thank you for doing these.

    http://www.blushingincolor.com

  • http://fancylauren.blogspot.com/ Lauren Ashley

    Beauty can save the world - yes! I love that.

  • Shannah

    Love love her, what a beautiful and elegant woman. Thank you for introducing us to her, ITG!

  • Jane S.

    She's awesome! I've briefly considered letting my hair go grey -- what I'd save in time and money at the hairdresser -- but always chicken out. Maybe I need to move to France. Great post.

  • murt

    Great post! I've also had difficulty with finding a red lipliner that's actually really red - I like Annabelle's Cherry the best (cdn drugstore brand).

    Also I love how organized and minimal her makeup/skincare collection is!

  • Chantel

    Awesome article. Thanks for sharing!

  • vivien

    Amazing and inspiring, love it! I'm growing out my hair and using argan oil products too, mostly the pro naturals brand, it's very good.

  • marianne

    She's so beautiful! And so genuine!

  • Cay

    I love when you do real industry people!

    I've seen her speak, and she is one of the most intelligent, striking people I've ever seen in person.

  • bluesky557

    Wonderful Top Shelf. Beautiful woman with a great perspective on how to make what you've got work for you. I love that she's embracing this part of her life and not trying desperately to still be twenty-something. So refreshing.

  • Androbel

    Awesome! Red lipstick and red nail polish are my favorite. Great article.

    Xo,

    Belen

    http://www.androbelinsider.blogspot.com

  • Katherine Clow

    Very interesting article. I really like her advice about not rubbing in scents, that's very true! I'll have to try that facial scrub, she made it sound so intriguing. Great post!

    http://www.hotchildinchicity.blogspot.com

  • Sam Sam

    I LOVE HER SO MUCH!!! I want to be her when I'm that age! Thanks for this!

  • Tai

    Well, this is my new favorite Top Shelf. Love. It.

  • Rebecca

    Would love to know where her sweater is from also! Beautiful woman and great style.

  • Ellie

    It's by Sphere One-they sell it at Poole Shop in Charlotte, NC. Email them at pooleshop@aol.com

  • Xara Thompson

    Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing this lovely woman's intelligent, real and inspiring personality! Xx

  • Makeup to Go!

    Great post! Informative & inspiring. :-)

  • renaphuah

    the best Top Shelf ever!

  • Rachel LC

    flawless. no other words.

  • ITGNick

    Hey there. Catherine goes to Younghee in Tribeca (for hair) and her trainer is Mark Campbell.
    Nick

  • http://thehorticult.com/ The Horticult

    "Then, starting with Miyake, everything had to smell like a glass of water."
    ^^^ one of the funniest quotes to ever appear on ITG. Hilarious and true. (Surprising about unisex scents declining, though?) Catherine's personality really jumps off the screen. Thank you for this stellar profile!

  • lucinda veen

    I love this Top Shelf! The churchiest perfume I can think of is Avignon, from the Comme des Garcons incense series. It was actually inspired by medieval churches. (And it's Morrissey's favorite perfume, which I find hilarious for some reason.)

  • Lana

    THOSE SHOES!

  • Ilona

    Inspirational, real, mature and fun. Loved the article I could so relate.

  • guerligirl

    She's really lovely. It's a shame however how a company like Coty can ignore and downgrade some of their classic scents like L'Aimant and L'Origan.

  • birdienumnums

    Off the chain. She's amazing.

  • mary beth

    i have crazy drawer envy

  • emmie

    Thank you for this,
    please, interview stylist Melanie Ward next :)

  • Gina Carpellotti

    As a 47-year old woman with short hair (who also happens to be from PA), it's so wonderful to see an "older" woman with the confidence to sport short, sassy, gray hair! I love it. I also like that her routine is simple, but a mix of luxe and drugstore products.

  • Aly

    Wonderful and inspiring. I'm a blonde in my mid-30s, about 80 percent gray/white (platinum). Within the past few months I've begun to reconcile with this reality, and I plan to "let go" at a certain age -- really, whenever the heck I feel like it! On that note, I'm getting more confident with red lip color. I think a bold pop of color on the lips is the perfect complement to silver and white hair.

  • omarcamel_2000

    Wow. I'm now a huge fan of Catherine Walsh!

  • http://www.kpfusion.com/ Kimmie

    she is a doll, and I love how organized her products are. definitely will try the nivea cream. I currently use 100% butter the same way. Also, gotta get the Kate Moss for Rimmel lipstick. I have some of her other colors and the formula is fantatic!

  • antonia

    How wonderful to see a woman of a "certain age" with grey/white hair who is gorgeous, serious, and smart.

  • Claire

    Ms. Walsh is regal beauty. That desk is perfection.

  • Kristin Kellum

    Great to see a chic older woman. More please. Please I must know where I can get those amazing shoes!

  • Jessica

    messe de minuit by etro smells like a cathedral - albeit a cold one.

  • Marta

    It was like reading a sort of diary <3

  • Stefania

    Good morning, I would like to suggest to Mrs Walsh lip liner n° 82 of Diego Dalla Palma...the right red!

  • naim

    Thanks for the tips!
    They were really helpful!

    "argan olie"

PRODUCTS MENTIONED

Lancaster
365 Cellular Elixir Intense Youth Renewal Serum
Rimmel Lasting Finish
Rimmel Lasting Finish Lipstick By Kate, 111
Burberry Beauty
Burberry Lip Definer Pencil
Stila
Stila – Long Wear Lip Liner (Passionate – Red)
Aquaphor
Aquaphor Healing Ointment
Olie Biologique
Olie Biologique 100% Organic Argan Oil
Calvin Klein-Ck One
CK One’s Brow Pencil + Gel Duo in Wily Brunette
Cetaphil
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
Bobbi Brown
Bobbi Brown Extra Eye Balm
Fresh
Fresh Sugar Face Polish
Nivea
Nivea Creme
Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker
Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker Eau de Parfum Spray
Perfume.com
L'Eau d'Issey by Issey Miyake – Eau de Toilette Spray for Women
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