Dame Helen Mirren is one of those Hollywood icons you could talk to for hours. She’s down-to-earth and unapologetically candid in the most genuine way possible, and she’s a total beauty pro. As the face of L’Oréal Paris’s Age Perfect Makeup collection—an ambassador role she’s held since 2015, which she now shares with the formidable Viola Davis—the 74-year-old actress is helping to transform beauty messaging as we know it. I recently sat down with the star in Los Angeles to talk about the brand’s latest launches, developed for women 50+ (the 36-shade range of foundation is pretty impressive), her beauty ideals and more.
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NewBeauty: Are there any beauty products you’ve used for more than 10 years?
Helen Mirren: Elnett—Elnett is the go-to. It’s not necessarily that I’m using it personally, but every hairdresser that has ever had my hair go through their hands has used it. The smell of it has been with me for I think my whole life. I always say to hairdressers, “Elnett, really?” And they all say, “Yes, it’s the best.” Of all of the amazing products that have come out since it launched, I don’t know how long ago, it has been the consistent one. And of course good old Nivea for dry skin.
NB: What are your personal beauty strengths and weaknesses?
HM: I’m really good at all of it actually. I know I sound really boasty, but I am. I cut my own hair very often. I just can’t be bothered to sit in a salon. That’s partly why I never dyed my hair. I just couldn’t be bothered. If I’m doing a gig like this [interviews with beauty editors on behalf of L’Oréal Paris, along with a panel], I’ll tell my stylist to just give it a little trim, although I didn’t today. I love makeup, too, and I’m very good at putting it on. Sometimes I overdo it and have to take it all off and then redo it, but I love the painting of it. However, I’m still constantly looking for the ideal lip liner, and I know it’s out there waiting for me somewhere. And the ideal mascara…those two areas are always very difficult for me.
NB: Are you helping L’Oréal with that?
HM: I try to. I have to say the Age Perfect Mascara they have now is fabulous. The only thing is that, with all mascaras, I think there is too much mascara on the brush. I find that I end up taking most of it off with a tissue. The formula that’s in the tube is great, but it’s the way of applying it.
Image Courtesy of L’Oréal Paris
NB: What are the differences between beauty ideals in London and here?
HM: I think young British women have always represented the street world of beauty and fashion, and are quite punk after all—everything that punk gave us came from the streets of London. And that continues to be the case—you know, the Boy George world and ’80s approach to makeup—so London is always pretty ahead of the game. British women in general like to experiment, but I don’t think they care as much about the day-to-day care. They don’t take it all too seriously. When I came to America, I was quite amazed at the level of commitment to beauty—it’s also this way in France and Italy, where nails are clean and filed, scarves are perfectly placed, makeup is beautifully applied. Whereas in England, it’s like there’s a cool girl with really cool makeup, and then there’s a girl who really hasn’t bothered that morning. But incidentally, I love that, and I am of that sort. I can put it on, but I don’t think I take as much care as I probably should.
NB: If you could invent any beauty product or treatment, what would it be?
HM: I think I’d invent some fabulous product for the hands. When you’re young, you don’t have that issue, but when you’re my age, you do. I’d like a topical product that not just softens, but plumps. A cream or something that could give the plumping effect of a filler. I really enjoy experimenting with new beauty products all the time. I love the technology and science of beauty products, and it’s just gone so far ahead. I wish young girls could see what I had to deal with when I was your age. It’s such an unbelievable transformation.
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NB: You’ve said in the past that you have a “No Retouching” policy. What does that mean to you?
HM: Well, let’s say “minimal.” Sometimes things go wrong in a photo shoot, like a hair is out of place or something, and do you have to have a little retouch, but I just think not going beyond that is really important. And I know because when I was in my 40s, the whole advertising world and world of beauty products…well I have an issue with the word “beauty.”
NB: What is your issue with that word?
HM: Well, most of us are not beautiful. We want to look as good as we can, but we know we’re never going to look beautiful in that way. It’s aspiring to something that 80 percent of us will never really reach. But we are what we are. We’re pretty, or we’re powerful, or we’re interesting, or we’re strong, and so on. There are so many other ways of being. Beauty is only a small part of it. And the world of making yourself look as good as you can—look funny, look funky, look surprising, look weird—all of those wonderful things, should be and luckily is, available to all of us. But I just think the word beauty is a little off. The other day I was trying to think of a new word, and I thought, swagger. Find your swagger. Not “find your beauty,” but “find your swagger.” Something that’s just individual to you.
HM: But anyway, you asked about the retouching thing…You know it was enraging as a 40-year-old to be looking at an advertisement for a face cream and the person promoting it was 15! They weren’t even 21! They were 15 or 16 years old. I’m not an idiot. I know I’m not gonna look like that if I put your cream on. I thought, why are you treating me like an idiot? But if I see a real face, obviously unretouched, and it’s got everything that it’s got, but it still looks great, then I’ll buy it.
Image Courtesy of L’Oréal Paris
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