"I started out as a photographer. I did a shoot with Oxfam where we went to Peru and trekked through the mountains, where I talked to and photographed the indigenous people there who are affected by climate change. When I had the opportunity to do some modeling, I thought it could be a great way to do some traveling and take my photos, and I figured I could learn a few tricks from the photographers. My mom also thought it could be a cool experience to travel and explore. I decided to give it two weeks. If nothing came up by that time, I was going to go back to Copenhagen and concentrate on studying.
Those first two weeks went really well because I ran into Peter Lindbergh and Karl Lagerfeld. They kickstarted my career in a big way. Honestly, I don’t know what people saw in me at the time, but Karl had told me that I reminded him of Coco Chanel. Meanwhile, I was a chubby-cheeked teenager with a bad perm. And I didn’t care at all if anyone knew anything about me—at the time, I was very separated from what I did. I would get into the creative mindset on shoot days, but by the time the stories came out three or four months after, by then I’d have already forgotten. Sometimes I think I should’ve been more ambitious, with specific goals to work toward [in modeling], but then I don’t think I’m like that. My goals are more about maintaining a certain amount of calm and peace and enjoying the little things.
I was always really impressed by the beauty teams on set. You’d sit down in front of the mirror and then two hours later it was something new—they would turn your face into a work of art. We had layers of eyelashes, glitter…the hair would be very glamorous. There was a lot going on. I was mesmerized by it. Then the incredible clothes would come out. There was so much beautiful clothing. I picked up a few tricks stuck from that time, like using an Eight Hour Cream on your eyelids for shine. And lipstick—I always want to do lipstick. It’s one of my favorite singular beauty products. It just changes everything.
I used to hardly do anything for my skin, but then I started getting more and more excited about my products in my early 30s. I’m working with a South African skin product brand that is fucking amazing. It’s called Nimue—it’s insane. They don’t sell in America right now, but I’m doing a three-month trial with them. I love their Exfoliating Enzyme, so I will use that with the Joanna Vargas Vitamin C Face Wash, which is really good. Then, Angela Caglia’s Dream Exfoliant Mask and Detox Serum are so beautiful. Evanhealy’s French Rose Clay Mask is so good, too. I also use their Nourishing Eye Balm. Then, there is SPF, which I only started using later in life. Back then we would put oil on and would just sit out, it was crazy. Now I’m using Nimue Sun-C because not only does it protect you, but it feels incredible.
I’ve been pushing myself to go to facials more because it really makes a difference. So I go to Joanna Vargas, who is wonderful. I really look forward to our sessions because we can talk forever, but the actual treatment is also amazing. I sent a few girlfriends there from Denmark, and they came out feeling super invigorated and fresh-looking. Maybe once a year, I’ll go to Christine Chin for full extractions of whatever is in there.
People on Instagram ask a lot where I do my hair, but I usually just have the people I work with do it. It’s either Harry Josh or Owen Gould, and usually I’ll just have them trim my bangs. More often than not I go down to my little salon down the road. Sometimes they put the color in my hair, and I walk home and wash it out.
My hair is very good for the [modeling] business as it’s easy to work with and has a dry texture. But in real life all of that doesn’t work. To keep it healthy, I’ve been using pure coconut oil as a mask, and I will leave it in for hours or all day if I’m working from home. Then I might spray in some leave-in conditioner or a little hair serum. I love Oribe, Serge Normant, and Sam McKnight’s new line. The Serge Normant Meta Sheer Dry Oil Finishing Spray is great.
On a daily basis, for makeup, I wear foundation and concealer. I have a really good Armani foundation, and a concealer from Nars that I like—I have quite a bit of Nars. The Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation I just put on with a Beautyblender. Then I’ll do the Charlotte Tilbury Bronze and Glow or the Marc Jacobs Glow Stick to highlight my collarbones, legs, shoulder, and arms. Again, I have to have lipstick. I love Chanel lipsticks. Especially the push pen in Les Fascinantes, or Marc Jacobs in Understudy—it’s the only light lipstick I like.
I typically use a little bit of blush, like this one from Kjaer Weis. It’s so precious, you take better care of it. The packaging is beautiful, and then you can just buy the refills. I think that’s how all beauty companies should be because otherwise you throw out so much. But I love blush. Whether it’s a lipstick or an actual blush or a lip tint, you can bring just that and you’re good. If I’m going out, I like to add a little smudgy eyeliner or a red lip. I like the Marc Jacobs Highliners for a smudgy eye, mostly because you don't need to keep sharpening them. I always love when you come home from a party and you start taking your makeup off and it looks great when it’s all mushed around, so I’ll use a brush to smudge it out. Then I’ll use the RMS Eye Polish in anything taupe or golden and that’s it.
I was going to show you my perfume because my friend and I have this company called Strange Love. Our creative director made these necklaces so that girls could carry their fragrances around their necks. I just love the image of memories and how fragrance triggers that. Since I was in my early teens I was into antique perfume bottles and that’s kind of where this idea came from—having this thing hanging around your neck with a photo of your loved one. We base all our scents on pure oud. It’s absolutely hypnotic, you don’t go anywhere wearing this without people saying something. I love Narciso Rodriguez scents and Cacharel, or Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Bean.
I box to work out, and I’ve been doing it for 12 years, three times a week. If I’m traveling I might run or swim and go to some yoga classes. I always thought [exercise] was annoying, but now I really dig it. [Laughs]"
—as told to ITG
Helena Christensen photographed by Tom Newton in her home in New York on October 31, 2017.