Fall Cover Exclusive: Kristen Bell Saves the World

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Fall Cover Exclusive: Kristen Bell Saves the World featured image
This article first appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

Kristen Bell has been living in a bit of a self-described “COVID bubble” over the past six-plus months.

There has been some fun (“my daughters are literally changing their hair color weekly”), and some bad (husband Dax Shepard was in a motorcycle accident that resulted in a couple of broken ribs right before the photo shoot for this issue), a birthday (she hit the big 4-0 in July), and some reflection: “If I don’t work, other people don’t get their paychecks,” she solemnly admits.

Through it all, Bell says, there’s been some adapting, coupled with “involuntary” creativity. “I have not hated staying at home. I’ve found that I can function better with a smaller life, and not having as many things to do,” she explains. “I’m still busy, but there’s a lot more creativity happening because we’ve been forced into a corner. Now, we’re making forward-facing choices to try and enjoy it.”

NewBeauty: How is this “new normal” treating you?
Kristen Bell: Well, first, let me recognize my privilege in all of this because that’s necessary. Of course, this entire experience has come with heightened stresses and anxieties. We’ve had to spend 24 hours a day together for six months, so we’re going to get on each other’s nerves, and that’s normal. My husband and I discovered something from it all: As a family, it’s important to be reminded of how to be patient and how to give each other a little bit of grace.

That part of, “Oh, two weeks! Let’s do a push-up challenge!” is certainly over. I am lucky in that my children seem to be introverts and they are really happy being at home. We’ve gotten over the hump of frustration and now we’re trying to have some fun. My daughters have been changing their hair color weekly. Today, they were so excited to go red; during one of their 15-minute school breaks, we washed their hair, towel-dried it, put the hair color in, went back to school for a half hour, had another 15-minute break, rinsed it out, and they finished their day with red hair. The brand is called Maria Nila—there’s pink, lavender, dark violet, cherry red, and it all washes out in a week. My girls love it.

NB: You’ve been very open talking about your own anxiety. How is it with the current situation?
KB: COVID or no COVID, I have to work out every day—even if it’s taking a couple of laps around the block—or I’ll implode. I think I’ve hacked what self- care means for me: It’s not a weekly manicure, it’s spending a little time every day doing something that only I care about. I was knitting a sweater during quarantine, and it was so intimate. I loved retreating to my bedroom to learn the next stitch. Not a single person in my life cared whether or not I finished the sweater, but I did. I feel the same way about doing puzzles. I’ll start one and keep it going for weeks, and just sit down for 20 minutes at a time and do it, and it’s only for me. There are no mistakes and I’m the only person who cares about it. That’s what makes me feel better right now.

NB: You turned 40 recently. Did it faze you?
KB: I suppose I have had some talks of, “Is this supposed to mean something?” It honestly doesn’t. I feel more in charge of my life and happier than I’ve ever felt, and that’s because of wisdom, and how I’ve evolved as a person. Did I have an easier time getting in shape and a better bathing-suit body in my 20s? Sure, but if I weigh all that against the wisdom I have now that I’m 40, there’s no comparison. I’m loving it and I’m wearing it like a badge of honor.

NB: Beauty seems to be a big part of your life. Has it always been?
KB: It is, but in a very playful way. Makeup and skin-care products are really fun, and beauty has always been something that interests me, but not from a place of “I have to.” It’s more, “Isn’t it fun that we can paint our bodies?” That’s the message I’ve used to explain makeup to my kids, because there is a big difference in how I look when I wear it and when I don’t—and there are more days of the year where I don’t wear it at all. I’ve accepted the shape of my face, the way it looks, the lack of eyebrows, the can’t-see-them eyelashes, all of it—it’s just the way I am. And I am totally fine with that.

But, I certainly don’t want my children to shy away from makeup because someone says, “Oh, you shouldn’t wear makeup. Don’t cover yourself up.” It’s almost like an art project because there’s so muchout there. It’s fun to paint your face like a canvas. When my youngest daughter was in preschool, the teachers would take markers and draw these intense tattoo sleeves on her arms. Even now, she has markers up and down her legs and arms almost all the time. She just loves to paint her body, and maybe one day she’ll paint her face, or maybe she won’t. Who knows? Either way is OK.

NB: What about you…any favorites?
KB: Yes! I have sensitive skin, so I’m a big fan of things that don’t make my skin angry. I love LED masks—the red, the white, the blue. There’s no downtime. If I do something to my skin that requires downtime, my skin gets angry and I don’t see the results. I like oxygen facials and I get the Clear + Brilliant laser twice a year. Doing those treatments really keeps my skin tight and in shape. There’s a wonderful woman in LA named Roberta who runs this salon called Effacé. I adore her! She taught me about hyaluronic acid and it’s an ingredient that’s been wonderful for my skin. I recently started using oils as well. Obviously, wearing sunscreen and staying out of the sun when I can is key, too. Do you want to hear about makeup products I like or just the skin care?

NB: We want to know everything!
KB: Well, to start with skin care: I love the Active Serum by iS Clinical. It’s really nice to use on bare skin as the first step. It’s like old-school Sea Breeze. Then, I apply something with hyaluronic acid, and because I have really dry skin, I’ll use either an oil or some Crème de la Mer. Now that I’m in my 40s, my skin is loving the cold-cream type of thing. BB and CC creams are great when I have to wear makeup—they give good coverage but still let you see my skin underneath; IT Cosmetics has one that I love, love, love. It has a little bit of shimmer and it’s great for looking glowy. I love By Terry concealer—I’ve used that for years. What else? I use Charlotte Tilbury mascara and Tata Harper cream blush. There’s one shade called Very Popular that I always have on me. I’ll apply it to my lips, cheeks, eyelids, and I’m done.

My skin is very sensitive though, which stinks. I hear everyone talking about these hard-hitting products and here I am, at 40, saying, “I legitimately cannot.” There are times I actually have had reactions to products—I don’t care what kind of new skin comes up underneath, it’s not worth the amount of stress of having my skin being blotchy, red and pimply. But I did recently find an oily-gel cleanser by Instytutum that says it has retinol; it’s called the Transforming Melting Cleanser. I just fell in love with it and I’m shocked it works for me because it’s strong! And, of course, I live and die—and you can capitalize this please—I live and die for my Clarisonic…

NB: They announced they’re going out of business, unfortunately…
KB: You just broke my heart. They’re going out of business? For awhile, I was going to New York for work a lot and I used to forget to pack it all the time. So I would get to New York and immediately realize, “I forgot my Clarisonic! Quick, I need to run down the street and grab a Clarisonic because my skin is going to be so angry in a few days!” I am going to go buy them all right now.

NB: You have a long list of what you can and cannot use…any beauty regrets?
KB: No regrets, but I certainly learned a lesson when I went very, very bright blond, and my hair came off in chunks. When everyone was going bright and light blond, I wanted to join the club, but that was a mistake. I quickly realized, “Oh, I can’t push it this far.” It’s best if I’m a middle-of-the-road blond.

NB: What about anything wellness-related?
KB: I’d love to tell you I’ve been meditating. It would be great if I could say, “Yes, twice a day.” I need to be meditating and I should be meditating. Right now, my meditation is getting on a treadmill and putting an audiobook on. Sometimes, I just can’t gather myself enough to do a “real workout.” I don’t have the brain capacity to remember what muscles to use. I keep telling myself, “Get your heart rate up. That’s all you need. You need those endorphins.” I get on Audible, download every book I want, and then I either jog slowly because I’m terrible at cardio,or I’ll go on an incline of 10 at 3.5. If I can get 15 or 20 minutes of that in a day, I’m golden. I don’t have the energy for much more right now.

NB: But you did launch a new line, Happy Dance, during all of this.
KB: Yes! Where do I start? I was given a Lord Jones product by Jenny Cho, my hairstylist, a couple of years ago. I’ve experienced a lot of people giving me a lot of products over the years, but Jenny is really good about clean and plant-based ingredients and she exposed me to CBD. I was pretty skeptical at first, but after using it, I was blown away. When I used Lord Jones CBD topicals, they helped me remain centered in the midst of chaos. First, I was like, “Maybe this CBD thing doesn’t work.” Two weeks later, I realized I felt lighter. I always thought about creating something, I just didn’t know how to do it. But I fell in love with the people behind Lord Jones, the products they make, the integrity they have, and how much they believe in CBD.

The goal in launching Happy Dance was to bring those Lord Jones–level products to a wider consumerbase. One of my focuses when we started Hello Bello [the baby-care line Bell cofounded] was to give everyone access to premium products. My family and friends who live in Michigan sometimes have to choose between their baby and their budget, and that’s not fair. The same came into play with Happy Dance: I wanted to leverage my ability and the quality of Lord Jones’ products to bring CBD to everyone and redefine the way everyone approaches self-care. I don’t think self-care should be an event—it shouldn’t be a fancy vacation or something you schedule two weeks from now or a one-time thing. It should be an everyday pick-me-up that helps you get through the day.

NB: How do you decide which projects are worth pairing yourself with?
KB: I’m very grateful and lucky that I have a platform to promote the things I want to promote, because my goal in life is to promote happiness and reduce suffering. When you start a company from the ground up, you can really get your fingers in all the pots. One of the early commitments we were all aligned with was: “How are we giving back to the community? We’re starting a for-profit business, but what are we doing to give back? Let’s talk deeply and sincerely about who we’re serving, why we’re doing it and the communities we’re going to help.” The reality is, I don’t need another job. I don’t need another paycheck. And I only want to do things I actually care about.

For Happy Dance, we have partnered with an organization called A New Way Of Life Re-Entry Project, which offers very hands on services and support to formerly incarcerated women adjusting back into society who want to change their life. It was started by an incredibly impressive woman named Susan Burton. Ms. Burton had been incarcerated six times before she decided, “Never again—not for me, and I will also make it my mission to help other women.” She is selfless and smart and we made a pledge to give the organization 1-percent of all Happy Dance profits.

NB: Entering the CBD category can be tricky. Any surprises?
KB: There were a lot of preliminary conversations before we got going because the biggest challenge is that people don’t understand it. CBD is everywhere now, but very few consumers actually understand what it is. The space has become so incredibly saturated and complicated, so it’s tough to know what to trust. I hope to break through a little bit of that. I tried to express myself through the brand and what I want to buy, and I hope that’s how consumers see it. It’s easy to use, the ingredients are simple, the packaging is fun and using it just turns down the volume of everyday life. I hope it’ll be relevant to today’s modern mom, or anyone who is looking to dip their toe into the CBD category for the first time.

NB: What’s next for you as the year comes to a close?
KB: I’m always excited for the holidays, and I’m really excited for Halloween this year because we sort of have the perfect idea for a family costume: We have a white, fluffy poodle dog that we want to be Snoopy and a bone-thin Yorkie we call “the dusty hanger.” She looks like a bird. My idea is, “What if they were Snoopy and Woodstock and we were all the Charlie Brown characters?” So I’m currently gearing up for that. I hope the idea sticks.

I’m also excited and a little hesitant to go back to work. I might start something this month and that feels really early. I’ve been incredibly safe because I don’t mess around with diseases. I think it’s smart to listen to science, and there’s so little known about this. We’ve been really, really, really cautious, but I also know that the economy needs to be started again, or we’re going to have a much bigger problemsoon. As a businesswoman, I realize that. I know that if I can jump-start a project to get going, that’s 100 or so people who will get a paycheck every week. So, I guess right now I am most looking forward to having a very COVID-safe production experience soon and getting back to work. Not just for me, but for everyone.

Photography: John Russo (shot via FaceTime); Makeup: Simone Siegl at A-Frame Agency; Hair: Jenny Cho at A-Frame Agency; Styling: Nicole Chavez at The Wall Group; Jewelry: Jennifer Fisher

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