'Because I play a doctor on TV, I don’t like the look of makeup—I think it looks ridiculous on screen. Not that doctors can’t wear makeup, but I just feel like it takes away from the acting and the character if I have makeup on. I just feel like I look like an actor playing dress-up, so I try to keep it as authentic as possible. It’s year 12 [of Grey's Anatomy], and it’s important to me to feel like I’m still doing a good job and that the show is really still believable. Of course, with digital cameras now, we have to wear makeup because it’s too sharp. But then the flip-side is, I think if it’s too sharp, then you see the makeup.
I’m conscious of the parabens and the sulfates in all the shampoos and everything. And I work with Jessica Capshaw, whose husband is the co-founder of The Honest Company, so we have a lot of discussions about organic products. I do love organic products, but I have to say that SK-II changed my life. I’ve had problem skin my whole entire life, and hilariously at 44 years old—I’m 45, going to be 46 next month—I finally found a product that literally changed my skin. I mean, there’s only so much I can do at 45. I’m going to age, it’s fine. I don’t have Botox, I don’t have fillers, I don’t have anything, so you know, I really have to eat well and exercise and do everything, because I don’t want to put stuff in my face. I have done Botox before, and I can see why you’d get addicted to it. So I thought, if I have to see my lines, it’ll force me more to take care of myself. And I used to always break out—I would get facials every month to clean out the blackheads that I'd get from having makeup put on me every day. And I just feel like I get less facials now. Jessica [Capshaw] and I had this conversation because she sent a thing to me and she said, ‘You know SK-II is full of parabens and all this stuff…’ But I guess because I make my living on camera, I’m vain? I think it’s important for me to look as good as I can look. I get paid to keep up my appearance, so I feel like I need to keep up my end of it.
I steam in the morning, so I’ll put SK-II LXP Ultimate Revival Essence on and I let that stuff sit on my face while I’m in the steam. Then when I come out, I kind of rinse it off with the regular SK-II Facial Treatment Cleanser with a sea sponge. After that, I put the SK-II Cellumination AuraBright Illuminating Essence on, followed by the SK-II Essential Power Moisturizing Cream. And at night, I use this SK-II Facial Treatment Cleansing Oil to take my makeup off in the trailer at work with cleansing pads before I come home.
I feel like I’ve always looked younger than I am, and now I’ve started seeing my skin change. Now I do this thing where I fill up a bowl of ice and alkaline water, and I take it to my bathroom, and I splash my face like 10 times, until my face feels frozen. I do it after [cleansing] and I just feel like it tightens everything. Didn’t the old movie stars used to do it? I got this idea that my face feels puffy and it’s sagging, so I thought, ‘Let me just freeze it!’ I’ve been reading and researching a lot about alkaline water, too, and its healing properties. They say if you have a cut and you stick your finger in alkaline water for like a day, it’ll heal faster. So I thought what if I just put alkaline water on my falling face, what’ll happen? Maybe it’ll pick it up?
For facials, I’ve been going to Lina at Thibiant in Beverly Hills. I always trust these women who I feel like have been doing facials their whole lives and know what they’re doing. My acupuncturist has these cold, metal galvanic wands that they rub into the face. You taste metal in your mouth and it’s totally freaky. The concept is that electricity delivers products into your dermis, which wouldn’t ordinarily be able to be penetrated without pharmaceutical-grade product and I kind of buy into that.
I never wear makeup. I get my makeup done at work, but when I’m not working I never wear makeup, unless I have to go out. If I go out, I’ll maybe do a pop of a lip, or I just do a smoky black eye and little Physicians Formula Mascara because it’s organic. If I’m going to do a lip it’s always Tom Ford. I love the Violet Fatale Lip Color. I don’t attempt blush or eyeshadow or any of that. I do an organic spray tan sometimes, too—they do it for me at work. And I get my lashes tinted by Luba at Ma Maíson de Beauté in Beverly Hills, which is a huge thing because that’s less prep time for me in the morning at work.
I use Pureology, which is a paraben-free line. I use the Hydrate Shampoo and Conditioner, because I color my hair. [My short hair] kind of happened the same way it always happens—we fried it and needed to cut it off. I went with really dark hair last season because the story was so dark, so I wanted my hair to represent what Meredith was going through. And then we got the pickup for season 12, and we had to go to New York to do press and we did that big ShondaLand shoot, so I wanted a different feel. Shonda said, ‘We’re going to make the show lighter and brighter, and we want to change the tone now—we were all in such a bad place last year and we all need a little lightness and fun,’ so I was like, ‘I’m going to lighten up my hair.’ Harry Josh took me back to blonde, but he had to really bleach it to get all that dark out. And then I went on vacation and I was in the sun a lot, so it got burnt. So when I came back to New York, I said, ‘Harry, we have to just cut this off!’ For someone who did so little before, I do even less now. I just have to be careful that it doesn’t look like a mom bob. I have to make sure it looks sexy and like ‘JBF’ hair...not like jumping into my minivan, taking my kids to soccer. At home, I just wash my hair and condition it, that’s it. I don’t really put anything in it. If I’m going to go out and run errands, I’ll just leave conditioner in it and slick it back.
I wake up at 5:30 every day, and I go down to the treadmill. I’ll have my alkaline water and my coffee, and I take my coffee right down to the treadmill and I get on. I have to get my blood circulating and sweat everyday. I feel like it’s so important for me to sweat. And I think just the blood flow to my face helps. I try to do anything I can. I’m fortunate enough to have a treadmill in the house, so I can go down there if I’m pressed for time. If I have the day off or a morning off, after I take my kids to school, my husband and I will hike. Sunday I did Rise Nation, which is so hard, right?
I also meditate 20 minutes a day, twice a day. Most of the time I meditate in my trailer during work, but if I actually have time, I wear these SK-II Signs Eye Masks while meditating.
I use all essential oils from Whole Foods. My friend Sam, who’s a very chic girl from Paris, gave me this little Hermès perfume bottle, and I put my essential oils in there with my alkaline water to make my own blend. It’s a constant mix because they do different things. I love grapefruit, geranium, neroli. Rose, geranium and sandalwood is like my go-to, and I just mix it myself. I also have a bunch of these [solid perfumes] from Frazer Parfum. The Coffee and Orange Blossom is my favorite. Cristina Radu is a fancy facialist who I don’t go to anymore, but I used to get it in her shop. And I’m completely obsessed with candles. I have so many candles all over the house, all different brands. Although Martyn Bullard’s candles are one of my favorites, and I love to give those for Christmas gifts because everybody loves them—all his scents are amazing.”
—as told to ITG
Ellen Pompeo photographed by Emily Knecht at her home in Los Angeles on October 9, 2015. Interview by Alexis Brunswick.
Michelle Monaghan shares the cheek tint that she likens to a pair of high-waisted jeans, Debi Mazar spills her four favorite brow products and Judy Greer tells you why you should mix your cleanser and your exfoliant in The Top Shelf.