"I moved to New York in 2009, right when the financial crisis was happening. I was actually heavily been considering a job in finance because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and other people were doing it. But obviously it was hard to get a job, so it turned into a chance for me to think, what do I actually want to be doing? I thought about fashion, and in Googling around, I found out that a lot of the brands were represented by the same companies. So that’s how I first discovered the concept of agencies. So I started sending out resumes and got an internship at BPCM. I worked there for almost four years, helping them build up the beauty department, which is how I got really into beauty in general.
When it was time to make my next move, I actually made a list of things I didn't want in a job. I knew I didn't want corporate, and I thought I'd try working in the men's category because I had liked so many of the men's editors I'd met. Also I think the idea of selling products to men is much more challenging than to women, because men are so habitual, and it’s hard to make them change what they’ve already been doing. That's when I was introduced to Jeff Raider, who had just started Harry’s. Pretty soon after that, we started to work together on the vision of actually building the brand from the ground up. As a category it doesn’t sound super interesting—I essentially sell razors for a living—[laughs] but the idea of actually disrupting a category is what drew me to it. Razors didn't even look nice before, especially in today's world of Instagramming everything. So we get to rethink something guys use every day—that's what's fun.
Day to day, I don’t wake up super early. It’s more about how much work you get done in a day. I’m just not a morning person, I’m always late. My mom says I was born a week later than I was supposed to. [Laughs] But it only takes me 30 minutes to get ready in the morning if I don’t have to shower. It's probably because I’m high-maintenance on skincare, but low-maintenance on makeup—and a lot of my skincare happens at night. I’m less loyal to brands, but I always have to have two cleansers, a toner or essence, a cream. I’m Korean, and I’d say all my beauty habits are from my mom. She follows all the rules—and she has incredible skin. She goes from her face all the way down to her décolletage. And, I don’t know if it's an urban myth, but she’d say stuff like, every night you don’t wash off your makeup, your skin ages by a week or something. Now I’m very diligent about having good skincare.
At night, I use a makeup wipe—the Simple ones—to take my makeup off. I get the ones that have no oil in them, and they’re actually really effective at getting mascara off. And then I’ll use a foaming cleanser. The one I’m using right now is by Mizon—it’s a rice-based cleanser. I like that it has a few exfoliating beads, but it’s so smooth I don’t feel like it’s irritating. You have to massage it in for a while. If my skin is feeling dry, I’ll use a Kiehl’s oil-based cleanser on top. So that’s a triple cleanse. I think my skin can take a little bit of cleaning out—New York’s pollution sticks to you.
Then I use a treatment essence from Missha on a cotton pad. I like essences and toners, because they balance out the pH of your skin after you wash out your face. You know that feeling after you cleanse and it feels immediately dry before you layer on stuff? This helps. I also use a serum—this Laneige Water Bank Essence that I’m almost out of. And I’ll also use this the Sulwahasoo Emulsion—it’s not as thick as a cream, but it’s like a light lotion. Then I let that dry, and I’ll put on a cream. I’m using the Laneige Water Bank right now. In the wintertime, I definitely have to change it up. Sometimes I’ll even use balms, like this Bobbi Brown Extra Balm. It’s really good.
Once or twice a week, instead of all of that, I’ll do a sheet mask, which I keep in my fridge. My favorite one is the Feverlet Secret Source Ginkgo Mask that my mom sent me. You put it on for 15 minutes and then pat the rest of the juice into your skin when you're done. When you wake up, your skin is really glossy.
My routine isn't as complicated in the morning, but I do think some skincare helps with smoother makeup application. In the morning, after I moisturize, I use this Pixi by Petra Correction Concentrate—it’s used in place of a concealer. It’s kind of like the RMS Un-Cover up. I’ll dab that a little bit under my eyes, just kind of pressing it. Now that it’s summer I don’t need undereye concealer, but in the winter, I like Clé de Peau—they make the best one.
Then I take the Haloscope in Topaz, and I put it in the C around my cheek and browbone, and then on my lid and inner corner.
I’m a fan of cream blush, and I just dab this on the apples of my cheeks. I’m using the Chanel blush in 22. The mascara I swear by is Diorshow Overcurl–I like the shape of the brush. My hair is straight, so I have to curl my eyelashes, and this holds it. For that, I use the MAC eyelash curler. I used to use the Shu Uemera one and then I lost it.
Depending on the day, I’ll put eyeliner on the outer tip of my eye—just like a little cat eye with the Charlotte Tilbury Rock n’ Kohl. I like the texture of it because it’s nice and creamy, but it doesn’t smudge too much. And my eyebrows, I fill in. I use the Sisley Phyto-Sourcils Perfect Eyebrow Pencil. I’m running low on that, so I bought the Kevyn Aucoin. It’s just like a twist-up pencil.
For lipstick, I prefer the Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencils. The satin ones, for me, smudge more, and I know there’s a whole routine you can have, but I’m just too lazy for that. My lip routine is like, chapstick, and then, like dab lipstick all over. But in terms of formula, I’ve been really amazed by the Tom Ford Lips & Boys in Dominic. This was what I wore through the holiday season, it’s like a subtle red. And then for a nude, I like Bobbi Brown in Pink Nude 20.
And that’s it! Oh, I also love this, the Chanel Hydrabeauty Essence Mist. I used to use an Evian spray as just like a midday refresher, and this one is definitely a splurge, but it smells really nice and it’s really refreshing.
My natural hair is black but I like to add some warmth, so I get it colored at Cutler with a woman named Indigo. She’s been doing my hair since I’ve been dyeing it brown. It’s single processed—they might add a few drops of bleach, but it’s not severe. I get it done once every three months.
The texture is actually straight, so what I typically do is shower at night, blow dry it, and have it up in a clip to sleep so by the time I wake up, it’s slightly wavy. The best product for that is the Oribe Matte Waves Texture Lotion—I've gone through two of them already. I put this in when my hair’s still damp, and in the morning I use it to add texture. I know people get their hair waved, my sister did that once. It gives you a perfect wave, but this works, too.
I wash it once every three to four days. The first day is nice and clean and textured, but the second day is nice and gritty and textured. And then on the third day I use dry shampoo. And the funniest is when people are like, 'I love your hair today!' and you’re like, oh that’s because it’s clean today, or it’s actually because it’s dirty—glad you like it!
Obviously, I shave with the Harry’s razor. I keep one in every travel bag I have, and in my shower. I don’t have to shave very often, but I do love the smell of the products. I love our foaming shave gels, but it’s actually really thick, and the smell is really great. It has notes of eucalyptus and aloe.
For nails, I have Jin Soon polishes that I like. I usually go to Primp and Polish. They have multiple locations in Williamsburg that are really reliable with a lot of chairs. But, obviously when my polish chips, I can’t look at it, so I’ll just do it myself. I love Essie Clambake in the summer, and in the winter I use a dark red.
Even though I work in beauty, beauty isn’t that relaxing to me. It’s not what I do for pleasure. Even putting on a face mask—I honestly do it because I feel like I have to, never because I want to. I don’t really go to spas, either. I just want to get it done really fast and get out of there. Scents are relaxing to me, though. I love the Diptyque candles in Figuier and and Baies, and then in the winter I’ll add in Amber, something a little more musky or smoky. I also work out. I go to Pure Barre or to Physique57, based on if I’m in Manhattan or not. I used to always do Pilates, too. I hate frantic workouts, like SoulCycle. I went once with friends and I fell off my bike. [Laughs]"
—as told to ITG
Jenni Lee photographed by Tom Newton in New York on June 1, 2017.