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Why 62-year-old, legendary makeup artist Bobbi Brown's beauty routine involves hardly any cosmetics

Brown explains that for years she felt "less than." But, “once I could be comfortable with who I am, I belonged everywhere.”
Bobbi Brown, entrepreneur, professional makeup artist and the founder and former CCO of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics.
Bobbi Brown, entrepreneur, professional makeup artist and the founder and former CCO of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics.Courtesy of Bobbi Brown.

After decades of massive career success in creating and applying makeup so women look like the best version of themselves, Brown decided to pare down her own cosmetics routine.

“When it comes to makeup, I realized that I look so much better…not with none because I don’t look good with none…but I wear just enough ,” Brown recently told Know Your Value.

Brown — who has applied makeup that enhances the natural beauty of famous faces like Scarlett Johansson, Meghan Markle and Katie Holmes — said the realization that she really didn’t need an extensive makeup routine was decades in the making. One of the major tipping points came after she decided to leave her namesake brand at the end of 2016. “I got into beauty from the inside out,” she said.

Other than moisturizers, Brown barely uses any cosmetics. She said she occasionally reaches for Color Wow to touch up her roots, and she uses lip gloss in multiple ways: on her lips, on her cheeks, and “the teeniest little bit on my eyelids if I just want to give a little bit of luminescent look,” she said. Otherwise, Brown is happier to be cosmetics-free.

Brown, 62, is simplifying in other areas of her life too.

In fact, when she went on a tour in 2016 to promote her ninth book, Beauty From the Inside Out, she did away with her usual entourage of PR people, assistants, hair people and drivers. This time, Brown said she “took it down 10 notches” and had just one person helping her. She went to Dry Bar for blowouts, did her makeup in the car and wore jeans and sneakers on set.

“I might have even gotten better press because I was more chill,” said Brown. “And I just realized that’s the person I am, rather than trying to fit into this role that I was expected to be. So that was very liberating for me.”

It’s never been unusual for Brown to do her makeup in the car—she mostly works out of her makeup kit while on the road, and often realizes that she’s missing things. “But that’s how a creative entrepreneur makeup artist comes up with new ideas,” she said. When she forgot her eye shadow, eyeliner and brushes once, for example, she realized that she could use a cotton swab to turn her mascara as an eyeliner, giving birth to her often-copied gel eyeliner. “To me, things are possible when you’re a little bit flexible,” she said.

Brown’s philosophy on maximum impact with minimal tools

In Brown’s middle school, Mary Quant’s lavender and baby blue mascaras and eye shadows were all the rage. In high school, she used to steal her mother’s Ultima bronzer. “I can still see it to this day,” she said. “I used to put it on my cheek and blend it in—not so I looked like I was wearing makeup but so I looked tan, and that made me feel prettier. And that’s when I realized it’s not even about how you look—it’s about how you think you look.”

As a young makeup artist, Brown gravitated toward bronzy, healthy looks, even though noteworthy makeup artists told her that she would never find work in the contoured, pale days of the ‘80s.

But one day, Brown recounted, “I just thought of this idea—this dumb idea—to make a lipstick that actually looked like lips, and it turned into a billion-dollar brand.” Though there was increasing pressure to introduce new products to her line, the concept at the outset was that women didn’t need a ton of makeup—they just need the right type.

Brown, who is now focused on her wellness line Evolution_18 and podcast called “Beyond the Beauty with Bobbi Brown," really strives to give women a sense of confidence and ease in everyday life. “I was a Montclair mom who got off the soccer field and ran into [Manhattan] for dinners and then somehow got invited to the White House,” Brown said of the early days of juggling her company and family life. After years of feeling “less than,” Brown realized: “I belonged everywhere. Once I could be comfortable with who I am, I belonged everywhere.”