"I’m Alessandra Steinherr and my day job is the Beauty Director of Glamour magazine in the UK, and I do a little bit of Instagramming on the side. [Laughs] My path was a funny one, since it was definitely not an obvious one. You know, I didn’t grow up in London, or New York, or Paris, or Milan–which are the big cities when it comes to magazines. As a kid, my grandmother used to do haute couture...back then, women didn't have Zara, they had a couturier instead. My grandmother would have all these Italian and Paris Vogues, so I would spend summers sitting among all the seamstresses, looking at all these magazines. But I was never drawn to the clothes—I was always drawn to the faces, the makeup, the hair. I guess being a curvy girl, I couldn’t really identify with the outfits. Beauty was so much more accessible, it was so much more democratic… Everyone can wear a lipstick. So I went to university, and I studied Economics and Mathematics–nothing to do with [beauty]. I got my Bachelor's degree, and I thought, 'That’s it, I want to work for a magazine.' My dad was like, 'That’s a hobby.' And I said, 'It’s my passion, I want to do it.' So he said, 'If that’s what you want to do, do what you want.'
The internet has changed everything for the beauty industry–literally turned it all on its head. For a long time, when women–and men as well, but predominantly women–wanted beauty information, they went to magazines, or advertisements. And now, it’s opened it up so much. For me, I’ve embraced Instagram–it’s given me a second lease on life. I’m a huge communicator, so I love nothing more than having that direct contact with my readers. I love the transparency, I love that we have to be more accountable. I love that you have to know what you’re talking about. It's also opened up the industry to more visions and interpretations of beauty. I myself am very classic, but I love the girls who wear tons of makeup, I like girls who wear no makeup–I like when the boys wear it as well. My assistant at Glamour is a boy. The only thing that concerns me is that as much good advice can be proliferated, bad advice can be too. That’s why I do what I do, because hopefully there can be more of a voice of reason, or of measure.
I’m really into the idea of fewer ingredients, so I love brands like NIOD and Bakel. They’re both brands with minimal ingredients that are clearly listed. It’s not even about being about all-natural—but I’m not anti-natural either. Essential oils can be irritating, but we have to get heavy metals out of our formulas, too. Myself, I use a lot of classic brands. Like, I swear by Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair. It’s a product I started using in my 20s and now I still haven’t had any work done on my face. I don’t like to talk about my age because when I do my Instagram Lives, it pops up all the time… “How old are you?” It’s rude! Ageism is the next frontier, I really think that. The truth is that women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s do look better than ever and feel better than ever. So what difference does it make? Why do you need to know how old I am? Does it make you judge me differently?
Because I like wearing makeup, double cleansing is paramount. You have to remove your makeup first, and then actually cleanse your skin. But I don’t like cleansing oils because they also put a film on my eyes and that drives me nuts. I was a really early adopter of micellar water for that reason. I’ll use the La Mer one or the Garnier one, which is a great affordable option. Then I will use a separate eye makeup remover, because I do wear strong eye makeup. The Sarah Chapman Lash Boosting Eye Cleanse is great, and the Simple Dual Effect Eye Makeup Remover is one that you have to shake and mix. It’s really good.
After I take off my makeup, I’ll do a foaming face wash. Toleriane by La Roche-Posay is my version of a Cetaphil. I also like this Organic Pharmacy Rose Facial Cleansing Gel because I have really dehydrated skin, and this does not dry it out or tighten it. And my absolute favorite is the Jurlique Rosewater Balancing Facial Mist, which I spray on constantly. Over makeup, under makeup–it’s a bit like the Glossier one. I like the Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser, and the Stretch Concealer. I always say to Emily, 'Can I have more Stretch Concealer?'
I don’t use toner—I use Collosol. You can only buy this at French pharmacies. In the mornings, I'll soak a cotton pad and put this over my face. It is the secret to my skin, because it makes it so soft. It brings my face to life. I’ve never talked about it because I’ve never wanted to share it, but I do think this is a wonder product. People always ask me, 'What are you buying in the French pharmacies?' I’m always saying, 'You can get everything everywhere now, but this is the one thing.'
After my Collosol, a hundred percent, it’ll be serum time. During the day it’ll be the Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Acid, or the Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum–they’re very similar. And I’m totally insane about hyaluronic acid, I have a million. I have the Skinceuticals H.A. Intensifier. I like it, but I have dry skin. If you have oily skin, you might not like it. I also love the NIOD Multi Molecular Hyaluronic Acid Complex that has 18 different-sized molecules of hyaluronic acid so it’s really good. Or I use the Jordan Samuel Hydrate Facial Serum. He's from Seattle, an ex-ballet dancer. He makes this oil–and I usually don’t like oils, but his is the only one I like. It’s called Étoile, and I love it.
During the day I’ll also add Skinceuticals AOX Eye Gel—I think creams can make my eyes really puffy. Before makeup, gels can give you a caffeine effect, even if it doesn’t have caffeine. Then on top, I wear SPF. If I’m going to wear foundation, the SPF of choice is the Tom Ford Face Protect SPF 50. It makes your skin looks so dewy and glowy. And when I don’t wear foundation, I'll wear Heliocare SPF 50 Gel Color Cream in Light. It’s fantastic, it creates really dewy skin. And that’s me, done for the day with my skincare.
At night, I’ll use the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair—come hell or leather. Then I mix things up with all of my repairing products. I like the Bakel Lactobionic Anti-Aging Serum for Face amd Eye Area, Skinceuticals Resveratrol B E, and I do love my La Mer. A lot of people think it’s too strong, but for me, it works. But my absolute secret is the Gazelli Triple Youth White Oil Ultra Nourishing Savior Mask. After that, you wake up the dewiest and really well-rested looking. This is the one product I use on the plane, too.
Once a week I do my Sunday facial—I’ve done it since I was a teenager. That’s the only time I peel. I’ll use the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel, or I’m obsessed with the Zelens PHA+ Bio-Peel. They’re both gentle. If your skin has any itchiness to it during a peel, then that’s not a positive sign. I don’t care that people say that your skin has to go terrible for you to look better–I don’t believe in that. Skin purging is total BS in my book.
After a peel, I mask. I love so many. The Sisley Black Rose Cream Mask, the Biologique Recherche VIP, the Charlotte Tilbury Goddess Skin Clay Mask... I’m also really obsessed with the Dermalogica Multi-Vitamin Power Recovery Mask–when I feel stressed and tired, this is genius. Before an event, the Charlotte Tilbury Instant Magic Facial Dry Sheet Mask is perfect. When I first put it on, I was like, what the fuck is this? It feels like you have tights on your face, and it also looks like an axe murderer. But when you take this off, it'll soften the skin. Makeup goes on really well afterward. It stops pilling, too.
I’m a huge believer in skincare, obviously, but you need to understand what it can and can’t do. I think we sometimes expect miracles, and I think that’s something we need to work on. It’s skincare–it’s not laser, it’s not Botox. This all helps with the quality of the skin. And for me, looking happy and youthful is not about not having one or two wrinkles, it’s about having that glow in your face. That’s something that products can help with. I just think that you have to also keep your expectations in check.
It’s so funny that for our faces, we’re so willing to do anything, but for the body, we just can’t be bothered. That’s really stupid, because your face is going to age differently from your body. There’s so much more area on the body, why don’t you just moisturize every day? I like the crazy expensive Sisley Restorative Fluid Body Cream, which is fabulous. It’s like a salve. I also like the Kiehl’s Crème de Corps. From the drugstore, I like the Mixa Cica Repair Balm. It comes from France, and I’ve used it forever. It’s super rich, but not sticky.
When I turned 30, I stopped going in the sun. I had a lot of sun damage from when I was younger because I didn’t know any better. So now I’m a vampire, but I identify as olive. [Laughs] I’m a big self-tanner. For the face, I like the Sisley Self-Tanning Hydrating Facial Skincare. For the body I like Vita Liberata Phenomenal Mousse in Medium. That’s the best one I’ve tried. It just makes me feel really confident.
One thing I'm good about is that I exfoliate everyday. I use a physical scrub, like Ameliorate Smoothing Body Exfoliant. It’s got lactic acid in it, too, so it’s great for people who have bumps. You put it on dry skin before you go in the shower, then scrub it off. But the women I know who body brush every day have the most amazing skin. And it literally takes three minutes. It’s not that hard to do, because we know all the cellulite body creams are total bullshit. Body brushing actually works, because it stimulates blood flow, gets the body moving–that’s the one thing that I’m like, 'Come on Alex. Get your ass in gear and body brush.' But I still don’t do it enough.
I have a lot of perfumes. What’s funny is that I don’t actually wear that many of them. I just love smelling them. In winter, Coromandel by Chanel is my number one. Right now, in the summer, I like Jo Malone’s Basil and Neroli. And Prada’s Un Chant D’Amour–it’s a very light one, so good. Santal 33 by Le Labo is a classic. I resisted wearing it because everyone wears it. The problem is, when you do wear it, it’s the one time everyone goes, what are you wearing? I don’t want to wear what everyone else is wearing–I’m snobby like that. But the compliments make me wear it. My actual favorite is Iridium by Tom Daxon. It’s a bit like Molecule, but better. It wears beautifully.
My hair right now is a mix of my natural hair and extensions. The biggest investment is color, which Christophe Robin does. He’s been looking after me for years. When he colors your hair, it doesn’t feel like it’s been colored. He’s the first one who did balayage on me before balayage was a thing. So I love his products, and my favorite is the Brume Rose Instant Volumizing Mist. I usually airdry my hair with that and a bit of Redken No Blow Dry Cream through the ends. The trick is to tuck the front behind the ears, put the rest into a low bun, and you let the rest cool out. The only other styling product I use really is dry shampoo. The Sam McKnight Lazy Girl Dry Shampoo is literally my jam. It’s beautiful, smells amazing—just like Sam's garden.
Makeup for me is like all about the revealing and enhancing skin. I’ve never found the perfect product for that, so I mix things together. The key is Le Maquillage Professionnel Mixer. It feels like nothing, but when I mix a few drops with Burberry Fresh Glow in the palm of my hand, and it makes for the perfect baby skin canvas. After that, I use Nars Sheer Glow in Barcelona. When I need serious coverage, I go for the Hourglass Vanish Foundation Stick. Normally I don’t like powder, but I’ll use By Terry's when I need it because it has hyaluronic acid. It’s really an unpowder-powder. For concealer, the Lancer Studio Light Flawless Under Eye Corrector in Peach is great. I also use the Beauty Pie Super Luminous Concealer, it’s fantastic. Also the By Terry concealers are wonderful. I’ve got the Touche Voloutée, and the Densiliss. They get rid of everything. To set concealer, I use the Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder on top. It’s like nothing, but still sets the makeup.
Then, I'll always do a bit of sculpting on my face. I like the Urban Decay Shape Shifter palette or Benefit Hoola Lite under my jawline and under my chin. For blusher, I’ll always use the same, First Love by Charlotte Tilbury. And then, bronzer. I use bronzer all the time. If you want to sum up my look, it’s bronze. I’m obsessed with the new Sun Wash Bronzers by Nars. I like Seaside in the winter and Laguna in the summer. Literally, they feel so weightless on the face. Hung Vanngo, the makeup artist, also turned me onto Gold Dust by Tom Ford years ago, and that’s a a proper bronzer, if you really want something glamorous. And for glow, I like the Laura Mercier Candle Perfecting Powder. I’m not good with highlighter–I think it makes me look shiny—but this adds a nice glow.
For eyes, I always use a brown pencil. I’ve got Costa Riche by MAC on today. I always smudge it with a little brush and pull it out. Every day, I use Groundwork by MAC in the crease. And then, for eyeshadows, I’ll use anything brown. I like the new Ombre Première by Chanel, also love the Urban Decay Beware. As far as palettes go, I’m obsessed with Honeymoon by Tom Ford–it’s a beautiful palette. It’s shimmer, it’s high glamour. It’s got your bronzes, your browns, a bit of red. And then there’s a Chanel one, the Candeur Et Experience–it’s all matte. They’re both really great basics. I just got into reds and terracottas so the new Urban Decay Naked Heat is perfect for me. My favorite mascara is Superhero by It Cosmetics. I like big brushes, that gets me lots of volume. For my brows, I don’t use anything besides Rapid Brow Eyebrow Enhancing Serum, which holds them in place. I get them threaded, but I go as little as possible because I like them to look quite bushy. I go to a place called Blink Brow Bar, but I always try to be not too perfect. I can look quite doll-like in my face, so I have to be careful not to look too cute-sy.
For lips I have too many products, honestly. I love Pillow Talk by Charlotte Tilbury, and Boy by Chanel was my first love. I like the YSL Rouge Volupte Shine 44, the Dior Addict Lipstick Care and Dare Mellow Beige, and obviously I’ve made my own colors with MAC. I literally mixed it myself one time when I was at their lab—I never thought it was going to be sold. I just wanted a lipstick that looks like the ideal color of my lips. It has to have a bit of pink, a hint of lilac. And then I wanted something that was sheer, that I could put on without a mirror. So anyway, I did it completely by myself, got like 10 of them–and actually called it My Lips. Then a while later, MAC came to me and was like, we want to do a collaboration with 10 influencers. I was thinking, that’s nice but I’m not an influencer, I’m a journalist. But they said, 'You’re going to do this because you were one of the first to come up with the idea.' It was quite mind-blowing given that I’m not J.Lo or Rihanna. So I’m really proud of that."
—as told to ITG
Alessandra Steinherr photographed by Tom Newton in London on June 19, 2017.