"Growing up, I always wanted to be one of the women I saw in magazines. They were living the lives I wanted to live—they spoke to me. I just felt a pull to fashion, the escape of it and the idea that you could put on something and be different. I grew up in the inner city of Toronto, but I moved to London when I was 18 to go to the London College of Fashion. I studied Merchandising and Marketing, which was totally random... I just picked it off the list because it looked cool. I don't even know if I knew what merchandising was, but I knew I had to work in fashion.
My parents, even though we didn't have much, had always instilled in me that I could be whatever I wanted to be, and I really believe that. So I got off the plane in London—it was the first time I'd ever been on a plane before—with $700 bucks and no friends or family in England. But I'm a very driven woman, I don't like to fail. [Laughs] And I remember reading that book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, and it said you have to imagine, 'What's the worst that could happen?' You play out the scenario, 'What would I do?' And then you go for it. I worked in the music industry for some time with songwriters, because I knew that writing was my thing. I was also, for a very short time, a backup dancer for the Backstreet Boys. Kevin said that my hair was very nice. [Laughs]
I moved back to Toronto when I was 31. I felt like a chapter had finished, and I just knew I wanted to write. And I'd always loved beauty and makeup—my favorite thing about going out is getting ready to go out. Again, I'm all about transformation. It seemed to me that Toronto had a bit of a gap in good beauty writing, so it was more of a strategic decision. I got a job as a beauty editor for three years at More magazine, and then I moved to Elle Canada and was their Beauty Director. I became Editor-in-Chief last November. And I love living here in Toronto. It's a very cosmopolitan city, and I think Drake has done a lot to help the branding. [Laughs] Thank 6 God!
As an editor, I'm lucky to get to try a lot of things on the market—from products to treatments. But hands-down the most expensive part of my routine would be facials. You know, before I got married, I got a facial every week for a month—one was La Prairie at the Plaza in New York, one was Biologique Recherche, and one was Dermalogica. I can't remember the fourth, I know. For me, the benefit of a facial is a good cleaning. And the massage element is huge, for blood flow, circulation, decreasing puffiness. It's almost like a reset. Caudalie at the Shangri-La Toronto is an editor's favorite. I try to go once every two months.
My trifecta of skincare beliefs involve protecting the barrier function of your skin, massage, and exfoliation. I love this Stratia Liquid Gold Serum—I'm big on serums because my skin is oily. I'm losing my mind over this Bioeffect EGF serum at night, and then I use Skinceuticals CE Ferulic during the day. I met the guy who created it—he really blew my mind with all these studies about UV light, and about how with sunscreens, there's a certain point where the UV defense will tap out. That's why you need antioxidants. If you're worried about sun damage, which we all should be, you have to have vitamin C combined with your UV protection. And I hate sunscreen, but they're a necessary evil. I use Biologique's physical block.
The only physical exfoliant that I use is Dermalogica's Daily Superfoliant. It has charcoal in it—you only need a little bit. I do that in the morning if I feel like my skin looks really dull, because it gives an immediate result, whereas with chemical exfoliants you have to wait for your skin to go through its 28-day cycle to see results. I do have this Neostrata Skin Renewal Peel Solution I like. With AHAs and BHAs, the product has to have a certain pH. All the beauty editors and I got addicted to Neostrata when we figured out it had a good pH—I'll use one for a while and move around, but I always come back to this one.
Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream is my makeup primer. I love the texture. It's thick enough that you don't feel tight, but your products don't fall off of your face, because it's not too slick. It's so luxurious to use, although I wish it wasn't in a jar.
I wear a version of this makeup every day—and I'm never leaving the house without a bare-minumum face. I use the MAC BB Cream Prep and Prime Beauty Balm because it has SPF, and I've been using Bobbi Brown's wand concealer. I like the liquid ones that have a doe foot applicator. If I feel like I need more setting, I'll use a powder of some kind like Sephora's, just on the T-zone.
Lately I've been living with the Charlotte Tilbury Dolce Vita Palette. It's my go-to. I also use the Tom Ford shadow pots, and I'll apply them with an eyeshadow brush from Rodial. I like shadows, usually something bronzy or smoky. The Laura Mercier and Bobbi Brown Shadow sticks are really good—those tend to be easier to smudge out. I don't have a lot of eyebrow happening, so I always use a brow product. Right now I'm in love with Tom Ford Fiber Brow Gel. The shade Espresso is perfect for me, and it makes them look a little thicker, too.
I think Clarins makes some of the best mascaras. I have two favorites—the Be Long one is better for day, and this new Supra Volume one is great for night. I don't care about length, I just really want volume. You do a little lash, some eyeliner on the upper waterline, and you look done. Right now it's Urban Decay Waterline, but I'm not super loyal to any particular eyeliner. Maybelline has a great liquid liner, and I love the creaminess of the Marc Jacobs Highliner, too.
Marc makes a great peachy-pink lipstick in Understudy. MAC Impassioned is the brightest I go—that was my wedding color. But I usually forget to wear lipstick. And if I do, it doesn't matter, because most of my lipsticks are the exact same shade. One of my favorite nudes is Bite Beauty Meringue, and if I'm picking it up, I use Charlotte Tilbury Sexy Sienna. That's a more coral pink. Then blush—I'm addicted to cheap blush, and I've been using Gosh Copenhagen for both blush and bronzer. My highlighter is Hourglass' Ambient Lighting Palette. I will go to my grave clutching that in my hand. It's the best.
Fragrances are the things I really fell in love with as a beauty editor. I edited my regular rotation down to 12 for you. [Laughs] Some of these I've had for years, like Bond No. 9 Chinatown. I have this perfume oil called Child, which is a pure white floral. I heard Tommy from Mötley Crue and Usher both wore it. It's made by some hippie woman in LA.
I layer Chloé Eau de Fleur Capucine with the original Balenciaga. If I had to pick a signature scent, I'd say it's Tom Ford Black Orchid—that was my wedding fragrance. I love Chanel Jersey and Sycomore, and Elizabeth and James Bourbon is good, too. And Dzing from L'Artisan Parfumeur. I just adore fragrance.
My favorite curly hair products are these four—Kérastase Curl Fever, Kérastase Oléo Hair Oil, Evo Liquid Rollers Curl Balm, and Marc Anthony Hydrating Coconut Oil Curl Cream. But I also think with curly hair you have to cocktail. There’s never going to be a product that does it all. Sometimes you need cream to stretch the curl, sometimes you need a light gel for volume. With different types of black hair, everyone’s got to do what works for them. I’m at the point where I really like these balmy lotions and creams.
I'm a fan of co-washes because they don’t strip, and I find my hair is a bit softer and more manageable. But if I do it all the time, my scalp gets too heavy, so what I’ll do is co-wash for a bit, and then I’ll strip it. So I’ll use this Kevin Murphy Restore and then I’ll do the Redken Curvacious, no foam. Even if I’m doing a co-wash, I’ll still use a conditioner. I often treat hair masks as conditioners, which is a curly hair thing, but Vernon François' Curl Conditioner is a revelation. My whole life has been about heavy, occlusive conditioners. This is a spray—it’s super light, and it’s a conditioner! It’s crazy. After I get out of the shower, I use a serum or oil to lock in the curl.
For my cut, I usually go to Justin German at Bang. Recently, however, I started getting my hair cut by Kristjan Hayden at Civello on Yonge–he gave me these curly bangs, and he cuts it dry. If you have curly hair and they don’t cut it dry, leave immediately. That's a bad sign."
—as told to ITG
Vanessa Craft photographed by Tom Newton at her home in Toronto on June 9, 2017.