Jonathan Van Ness, Grooming Expert, Queer Eye


“I knew I wanted to do hair from a pretty young age. My mom always loved Aveda growing up—it really was the first organic line. I remember my mom took me to the Aveda store in the Saint Louis Galleria in like 7th grade, and I was like, ‘I’m obsessed with this.’ Hair school was always something I wanted to do. I would style my girlfriends’ hair a lot, but I was always messing up the ends and could never really smooth it out. When I finally decided to go, I remember the night before I started thinking, ‘What if you just think that you like doing hair, but you really hate it?’ Luckily I loved it right away though. After school, I worked in Arizona for four years before moving to LA and assisting at Sally Hershberger. The stylists and colorists there are really incredible. About five years ago, my really good friend Monique and I opened up a little mini salon [in LA] called Mojo. I like a quieter and controlled working atmosphere more than a big salon. My nervous system was ready to snap into pieces after working at big salons for a long time.

At the end of 2016, Netflix announced that it was rebooting [Queer Eye]. I loved the original show—Kyan was one of my first, major crushes. I was obsessed with him. When I heard the news I was like, ‘Oh my God, I really want to do that.’ I had a series of interviews and chemistry tests with an amazing group of diverse, beautiful gay men of all different shapes and sizes who all just wanted to do what they were passionate about on this show. During the process, I never thought I was going to get cast. In hindsight, I was clearly going to get it, but going through it I had such intense heartburn. I felt like a contestant on America’s Next Top Model who made it into the final two because I was like, ‘I really, really want this every moment it gets closer and I want it so bad but you look like a big gay Jesus, girl, you’re just not gonna get this job!’ Then I realized, ‘They really have you in the room so much, it really seems like you’re hanging in there.’ But then I would go back to, ‘No, girl, they’re probably just letting you tire yourself out because they think you’re cute…’ Even though, really, they were having me practice for the show. Looking back on it, I could’ve calmed down.

As far as how Queer Eye presented grooming in the original version, I really wanted to tear that down. Like, the idea of what a metrosexual is and that gay men shave and wax their chests, and that we know how to shave our faces better somehow… I wanted to get away from that whole idea. If you have body hair, let’s just embrace that gorgeous body hair. If you want to shave your gorgeous body hair, let’s try to prevent ingrowns by exfoliating first and keeping the surface area clean. I may impart some of my own opinions whilst getting there, because I love a hairy-chested man so I might try to convince you to do a trim instead of a full shave. But I really just want it to be an open conversation. It’s really in the eye of the beholder, and it’s so subjective. Like, in the Olympics—do I think Evgenia Medvedeva should have won? Yes! I do! But a lot of people think that Alina [Zagitova] should have won, and she did, and that’s great. They’re both lovely. That’s what I want to say about beauty—that I really just want to talk about figure skating instead. [Laughs] Beauty and grooming should be these gorgeous bursts of wind beneath your wings so you can figure out how to feel a little cuter and look in the mirror and get those endorphins and be like, ‘I feel good!’

The first thing I do in the morning is floss and brush. I like this DazzlePro toothbrush, and then I also love this Desert Essence floss—she’s really fat and thick. It’s not waxed either. I think the waxed ones don’t have enough grit to get stuff up out of your teeth. My grandpa, RIP, was a doctor, but he always used to have really bad gums, and he would be like, ‘Son, the whole point of floss is to remove the debris from between your teeth.’ When I first started flossing, I was just trying to touch my teeth with the floss—but really you’re trying to remove any debris that’s down there. So that’s really all I do in the morning, because then I go to the gym.

In the shower, I use this anti-microbial Exfoliband from Nurse Jamie—you put your face wash on it and then rub it all over your face. Germs won’t grow on it because it dries all the way out. I’ll use it with the Peter Thomas Roth Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel if my skin feels grimy or the Marula Foaming Cleansing Oil if I need something on the gentle side. I also have this Dr. Brandt Microdermabrasion and this Kate Somerville Gentle ExfoliKate. The Kate Somerville is gentle for psoriasis. The thing about exfoliators is that when you put it on and start scrubbing, you can literally take your fucking skin off. You know what I mean? You really don’t have to go hard—it’s just light, light touchies.

When I get out of the shower, I do my serums—I’ll put them on with this vibrating wand. I love this Pearlessence Radiance Perfecting Serum during the day. At night, this Midnight Shift Overnight Face Oil is everything. Then there’s this gorgeous eye cream from Algenist—I love all their stuff. Their sunscreen—I love her and I love how she feels on my skin—but then it’s like, why spend $30 on sunscreen when you can get an $8 one from Neutrogena? But they make masks and stuff that I would shell out for every time. Need it, have to have it. This oil that they make—the Repairing Oil—is everything, and it does the most and is worth every penny.

I’m all about prevention—mostly zits and psoriasis. I’m plagued with psoriasis, but I’m on a really good run right now—it’s been a minute, knock on wood. I’ll knock on it twice. It’s all about calming, and keeping it clear. My skin is sensitive, so I try not to do crazy aggressive things to it. But I also got to a point in my 30s where my skin could take masks and not causes breakouts. In my 20s, I had too many hormones going on and when I would do a moisture mask it would be like zit city. I haven’t done Botox or fillers or anything yet, but I do see differences in my skin from using topical stuff now. I like vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid, and BHAs—things that are kind of acid-y and just zhush your skin up. This Blue Tansy Resurfacing Mask by Herbivore is also really, really good. And I like the Goop Instant Facial—it’s really, really nice. She’s tingly—I try to do it until the tingle is done, because then I feel like she’s done. My skin’s a little pink afterwards, but it doesn’t take long for it to go away. It really makes a difference. I love this Pâte Au Ginseng from Erborian, too. And this Herbivore face mist—do you want some? It’s kind of gorg.

I put my body lotion on in the shower when I’m still wet. I live for Cerave—she’s made for people with eczema. This has hyaluronic acid and promotes healing and moisture, and has a gorgeous humectant quality. I just like a fragrance-free, medical-ass lotion for my body. I also have a Byredo Crème Pour Le Corps, which I don’t use—it’s just for decoration—but I use all of their fragrance. But sometimes I use this Marianella Body Oil, and it does not hurt my psoriasis at all. I use it interchangeably with my Cerave just depending on what’s going on. And I love Nails by Mei, honey—she killed it with this nail art.

Love my Shu Uemura Wonder Worker, love my Elnett Hairspray, love my Oribe Flash Spray Wax stuff. My hair is really, really curly so I do a keratin treatment twice a year, just to keep the frizz at bay. I use a lot of cleansing conditioners, like Hairstory New Wash or Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil Shampoo, instead of traditional shampoos. I like a foam mousse in my hair for a blow dry, just for body and texture and a little bit of shine. It’s kind of like putting pantyhose on your hair. And I love the Dyson—she’s in my little basket over there. It’s really light, so it doesn’t hurt your shoulder, and it gets your hair dried faster than anything.

I usually use a beard balm for my moustache—I have this Shea Moisture Beard Balm that I'm using right now. The moustache is new—she’s just my summer moment. There’s something about having a ‘stache with my heels obsession that just feels right—it makes my soul feel happy, so I’m going for it.

When my skin is uneven from traveling I’ll do a color-correcting primer—I love the Algenist Drops. It just neutralizes you. You’ll see your freckles and stuff, but if you have a little redness, it just evens you out and gives you a little of a filter but doesn’t look like makeup. I don’t really even understand it, but I love it. I’m really just a grooming makeup artist—like, if someone wanted a full-on contour I’d be like, ‘Someone, get over here I don’t know what I’m doing and I need help!’ But I know how to do grooming makeup on men and women just to give us a clean, natural, pretty face. On my own skin, I use CoverFX because it doesn’t mess with my skin at all. If you’re a makeup artist and you’re new to something, I love Bobbi Brown, because you can see it all in the palette. When things are in tubes, I don’t really know what it looks like—like, I think I know what it’s going look like, and then I put it on them and am like, ‘Fuck.’ I’m just like, ‘Oh, let me just makeup wipe this!’ And they’re like, ‘Is something wrong?’ And I’m like, ‘Nope! It’s great!’ [Laughs]”

—as told to ITG

Jonathan Van Ness photographed by Tom Newton in New York on June 28, 2018.