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Bobbi Brown on Her New Book, No-Makeup Makeup and Why She’s Embracing Beauty from the Inside Out

After leaving her namesake company, the makeup mogul’s next chapter is all about wellness.

The name Bobbi Brown is synonymous with a natural makeup look that is universally flattering, never goes out of style, and always looks like "you, only better."

In 1991, as a freelance makeup artist, she launched her eponymous collection of neutral lipsticks that revolutionized the beauty industry. Estée Lauder bought the brand in 1995, and Bobbi served as creative director for 25 years—authoring eight books, starting her own blog and serving as Yahoo Beauty's editor-in-chief along the way.

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But now, she's starting a new chapter and branching out beyond makeup. 

After walking away from her company last year, she has launched a ninth book that introduces us to another side of Bobbi, one that is all about wellness. Beauty From the Inside Out does include makeup tips, but there's also skincare advice, nutrition recommendations, healthy recipes, yoga poses and interviews with dozens of inspirational experts. It's a natural evolution of her makeup philosophy, and something she realized with experience—that becoming the best version of yourself starts from within.

Thanks to Indigo and The Kit's Rani Sheen, I was lucky enough to meet Bobbi recently, when she was here in Toronto, and hear her chat about what inspired the book and much more... 

What was your process for working on this book?

The process was first of all to get my team together—my writer, my photographer, the producer of the book. It was the same team that I had at Yahoo, so that was really fun for me to bring everyone back together. We booked the models. They always make me write things before I go into a studio, but I would rather go into the studio and then write things. So the writer interviewed me a lot. Then I went in the studio and we just shot things and we figured it out. 

This book more than any of my other books was very much about research. The woman who wrote the book with me is a woman named Sarah Bliss. When I was the editor-in-chief of Yahoo Beauty, she was the head writer. 

So Sarah, who wrote this book—who has also written other books—she worked way harder than I did. Every person I thought of and said "Call him, call him!" she had to call him and interview him. So it's a pretty word-intensive book, even though I don't look at the words, I only look at the pictures. 

Beauty From the Inside Out by Bobbi Brown.

Who are some of the experts you loved hearing from?

I'm someone who is really curious. I work a lot of hours and I travel and I have a pretty crazy life—a wonderful but crazy life. I tend to go to different experts for different things. To be able to ask all these people to teach me more, and help teach everyone else, was really exciting for me.

Dr. Frank Lipman is this amazing doctor. He used to be an emergency room doctor and decided to treat preventative medicine instead of sick people. There are experts such as Elle Macpherson, who used to be a big supermodel, but now she's got this really cool company that teaches women how to alkalize their bodies. There are trainers. David Kirsch is in the book. My son, Cody Plofker, who is a strength and conditioning coach. There is a breathing specialist, [whose work] I still haven't figured out how to master. 

So the book is not just you read it once, you put it down. You read it, you get inspiration, you do something. Then, hopefully I want people to use this like their Bible. "Okay, I don't feel great, why?" Sometimes when we're not feeling good, it's because we're out of balance. We're working too much, or we don't have enough joy in our life, whatever it is. Hopefully all the tips in the book will help you get there.

What are some of the wellness tips you've incorporated into your life that you weren't doing before? 

First of all, the food. I found this amazing chef and nutritionist on Instagram from Clean Food Dirty City. I love her bowls. They're amazing. Now, when I cook dinner, I try really hard to make it look Instagram-worthy. Honestly, the more beautiful the food, the healthier it is. You want to incorporate all different colours of food when you eat. So that's something that I'm doing.

I've learned tips like putting salt in your water—like pink Himalayan sea salt—to help you hydrate yourself. Because sometimes the water doesn't really register, according to some of the doctors. And it really does work.

It helps you feel more hydrated?

Well, because sometimes water just doesn't register in your body for some reason. That's why some people turn to Gatorade or coconut water. But a little bit of sea salt really does make a big difference.

What's in your go-to bowl?

My go-to bowl is always quinoa, some avocado, some greens. I like to put a little bit of sauerkraut in there, because that's really good for you. And I love tahini dressing.

Bobbi Brown's Beauty Bowl.

Makeup artists always say that great makeup starts with great skin. What does great skin look like to you?

Well, it's great skin but it's also clear eyes. When you're eating really healthy, it's amazing the difference. Your circles are less, your eyes are clearer. I practice what I preach, but I'm in the middle of this intense book tour and I don't look as good as I like to look when I look in the mirror. So I really do notice that when you are able to balance a little bit more it really does help.

Great skin just means it's hydrated and it's even. But it's mostly your eyes are clear. For me, great skin doesn't mean you don't have lines. I'm someone who actually really likes lines on the face.

I love your section on skin treatments, where you go into detail about the options that are available. You also talked about how you tried Botox in your 40s. Can you tell us about some of those experiences?

What was amazing about working for Yahoo is that we got to interview a lot of experts and find different things out. So I really wanted the chapter to talk a lot about lasers and the new things that are out there.

Look, I wish there was something that would get rid of the lines on my face. I did do Botox twice and it did not work for me. Once, I had an eye droop and the other time I had a very pointy eyebrow. My husband only knows because I've said this before and I don't think he's going to read my book. But he might see a Twitter, "Bad Botox!"

I decided that it really wasn't for me and I better concentrate on feeling good rather than how I look.

Are there any skin treatments you like now?

I really love this new device called NuFace. Do you know NuFace? A lot of the celebrities, when they go on the red carpet, they go to these great facialists who have this electric current thing. It's really amazing. It doesn't last for more than a day or so, but it's incredible. 

There is a device called NuFace that was brought out by someone who started the electric facials years ago. And it actually does work. It's one of the few things that really does work.

NuFace Trinity Facial Toning Device.

Do you have to use it every day?

You use it when you think you need it. What it does is it just stimulates everything and almost gives you a lift. You do it by yourself, it's like five minutes. Sometimes I do it twice. It doesn't hurt you.

As you've been transitioning to a healthier lifestyle, does that include natural makeup as well? 

I am someone who is really curious and really open. One of the amazing things about leaving the brand that you created—where your whole life was about trying to figure out how to make this the best makeup brand in the world—is that now, I get to look around and see what else is out there. 

I find there are some really interesting things both in the natural space and in the drugstores. I personally don't find a lot of interest in the big cosmetic companies. I'm kind of over it. Hopefully, they will figure out how to reinvent themselves. I still wear Bobbi makeup but I'm trying lots of other things.

Any particular natural brands you're impressed with?

I'm really looking hard and trying to find some natural brands that I am crazy about. I haven't found one yet. I'm working on it. Especially mascara. I don't think there is a really black natural mascara. But I saw there is someone who came out with a two- or three-day mascara. It sounds scary, but I want to try it.

What are the biggest makeup mistakes you see women making?

I see a lot of makeup mistakes. But I think the first makeup mistake I see is women wearing foundation that's actually a mask. When you put a foundation on, you should just look like you have really good skin. I like to look at women who look like they have even skin and you don't see it on their face. It's a hard thing to achieve. 

Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation SPF 15.

So what are some tips for achieving that?

If you don't need a full foundation, try a tinted moisturizer. You can also spot correct little areas on the face. 

And moisturizer is your best friend. A lot of times, you put foundation on, and it just doesn't look natural. I always put moisturizer on my hands, put it together [with the foundation] and just tap it on the face. It just kind of wakes up everything and makes your skin look more natural.

You're famous for a very natural-looking but quite groomed look. It's not no-makeup makeup. If somebody has 10 minutes in the morning, what would be her Bobbi routine?

Well, 10 minutes is a long time to do your makeup. I think for five minutes, you get up, you wash your face. I don't need to wash my face in the morning, I just splash water on it because not much happens after I go to sleep. So I just splash water, and I put a moisturizer on first thing. 

Then I usually do my makeup in the car. I don't do it in my bathroom. It's going to be a little concealer, corrector, a little something around my nose for redness. A blush, mascara, and then I'll grab something brown, either a pencil or powder, and do my eyebrows. If I have time, I'll smudge a little liner. And that's it.

I never put lipstick on. I don't know why, I just don't. I use lip balm.

Do you re-apply your makeup throughout the day?

There are different days that are Bobbi days. Like a Bobbi day like today, I think I was on six or seven TV shows so I did touch myself up. But most days, I don't. Maybe if I'm going out in the evening, I'll spend another two minutes. Usually, it's in the car driving with my husband to the golf club or wherever I'm having dinner.

Bobbi Brown at the Indigo launch of Beauty From the Inside Out.

Do you find people often think makeup artists must wear a lot of makeup?

I don't really have a face for makeup. Some people look great with a strong lip. Some people look good with a smoky eye. I don't think I do. I think I look better with less. One of the reasons I do my nails and have a blowout is because even if I don't have a lot of makeup on, I still look groomed. 

Do you know how you find the best colour blush? Pinch your cheek. Honestly, even if you have no blush on, look how much better I look. 

You look amazingly rosy.

That's the colour blush. You can do the same thing with your lips. You can bite your lips and they turn nude. It's just practical.

You have a really nice section in the book about finding the makeup that is right for you. How do you find a nude lipstick that looks good?

Nude does not mean beige. Nude is the colour of your lips. A lot of times, women will put a lipstick on that takes the colour away from their lips. That instantly makes you look bad. 

Everyone has different colour lips. Sometimes you put a lipstick on, you think it's nude, and it's orange. Or it's pink. Really, you have to test it on the bottom of your lip. And if you're someone who has a beautiful lip colour, you don't need lipstick. You can see your lips. But for many of us, if our lips fade, you need a colour that looks like your lips. And that colour also will be great on your cheeks.

Bobbi Brown Art Stick.

So it's about kind of pulling the colours out of your face?

That's what I like. I even like to find eyeshadow that's the colour of your eyelid. It just makes things easier and looks more natural.

That's a great idea. Is that to contour your eye shape?

Well, I don't like the word contour. People misuse it. I once was forced into calling a brush a contour brush. When I grew up learning makeup, we used to draw a dark line on the lid and put light on the bottom. Who knows what I'm talking about? It's not attractive and it's not natural-looking. I like things that blend seamlessly. 

But I'm not really a good makeup artist. It's the truth! I'm better at picking colours that blend themselves. 

So you're not like a painter that's going to paint a masterpiece on someone's face. 

I'm not a painter. I'm not. But I find such pleasure looking at women's faces that I'm able to make them up so they look like themselves and bring out their own natural beauty.

One of my favourite lines in the book is that when you do someone's makeup for the first time, they're always pointing out their flaws. And you say that you don't even see them. 

I don't.

When you go to make up someone's face, what's your process?

Well, I first take the makeup off as soon as I see them. And I just look at them. It takes a minute. I always start with under-eyes to try to get rid of darkness. After you do that, sometimes you don't need that much. You really don't. When I make someone up, I always ask questions. How do you like your makeup? What look are you going for? Because not everyone likes the Bobbi makeup look.

Bobbi Brown's famous natural makeup look.

What if they said "I want a full base." Would you do that?

I've worked with people and we didn't really have the same styles. But we found a compromise.

When you started in the '80s, it was very much about contouring and exaggerated features, which is not all that different to the makeup trends right now. What do you make of that?

I ignore the trends because there are so many trends that come and go. Right now, what is the trend? Is contouring a trend? Not really. It's out there but I don't think it's a trend. Is the natural makeup thing a trend? It could be. But it's not really a trend. Red lips, dark lips. It's really what looks good on you.

What do you think about self-expression through makeup?

I'm all for self-expression. I love when women come in and they've got like pink stripes in their hair. It could be many different things. I love that. But I love self-expression you could actually change. Makeup you can wash off. The hair will eventually grow out or you can dye it. I like things that are you. 

The trick is to find what works for you. I like simple things. I like to throw on some bracelets or wear a big watch. I'm not saying everyone has to go out and buy a big watch and bracelets. What is your thing? Be comfortable with it and do it. 

What would you do with someone who normally doesn't wear makeup?

You're a virgin, okay. You start really simple. Get a couple products that you could use different ways so you're not spending thousands of dollars. Like maybe a natural blush that you can also use on your lips, like a creamy formula for your cheeks and your lips. But something that looks natural. Make sure it works on your lips first. 

Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge For Lips and Cheeks.

And then just get a brownish colour that you could use to fill in your brows and smudge your liner. Skip foundation and even tinted moisturizer if you don't need it. If your skin is good, just add a little bit of definition and a little blush. Or else just pinch those cheeks.

What would you suggest for someone with light brows and lashes, who doesn't look good in ashy colours?

Well, there are some taupes that are reddish based and that's what you have to find. They're not impossible to find. You can go to the brand I used to work for. We had a colour called Grey which used to drive me crazy because it wasn't grey. It was taupe. Just cross it out and write taupe. I get no commission on it. I don't make any money on it anymore. The Bobbi Brown Grey will work for you. And black mascara, not brown. Then you'll have no issues. 

Bobbi Brown Perfectly Defined Long-Wear Brow Pencil.

We all have some issues, by the way, when it comes to beauty. Anyone here doesn't? It's just normal.

How do you find a lipstick that stays on longer than a few hours?

Stop looking because there is not a lipstick that stays on that long that actually looks good on your lips. It feels awful to me and I don't like the way it looks. Wear a tinted lip balm. If the rest of your makeup looks good, then you don't need a bright colour on your lips. A pinky colour on your cheeks would be more important than lipstick. 

What's the best makeup to wear on film?

Well first, make sure there's good lighting because lighting is everything. Add a little bit more mascara and a little more concealer than you normally do. But don't go much heavier than that. Then just know your stuff and talk into the camera and pretend you know what you're doing. Fake it 'til you make it.

Let's talk about DIY beauty. There was a really good anecdote in the book about how you came across an unused potato scrubber in your kitchen, and you took it to the shower and used it to exfoliate your feet.

I never used it for a potato. I don't know if it was a gift, but I found it in my drawer. I got it at Williams-Sonoma and it's pretty intense. You would never use it on your face. But if you're ever gone to one of those great spas where they really scrub your skin, it's the most amazing thing in the shower. I've bought every exfoliating thing out there and those don't work as well as this does. So I have it in my shower. A potato scrubber.

Are there any other DIY things that you've concocted?

Honestly, coconut oil. I've been talking about coconut oil for so long, but coconut oil is like the perfect thing because you can get all your makeup off with it. For me, it leaves a nice cushion so you don't even need moisturizer. It's great for your hair, it's great for your skin. 

365 Organic Refined Coconut Oil.

I've been putting it in coffee. Everyone's heard of the Bulletproof Coffee; coconut oil is great [for that]. Coconut butter even tastes better than coconut oil.

How do you eat that?

You can definitely take a spoonful of coconut butter. Sometimes I do that at night if I come home and I don't want dessert. I'll take a half a scoop of coconut butter and it's really sweet. It's delicious. There are many recipes in the book with it, too.

There are a lot of recipes and they seem very easy. Was that important?

Yeah, they're all really easy. I'm not someone who can actually follow a recipe. I'm a visual chef, where I look at a picture and try to figure out how to make it look the same. Unfortunately, it doesn't always taste as good as the people who can follow recipes, but it looks pretty on Instagram.

If it looks pretty, they're more likely to eat it.

You start with healthy ingredients and you figure out how to put things together. Often, I'd be working, I'd come home, and when my boys were younger, they'd just be staring at me and the guilt would come in. I'd open up the refrigerator and there was always a cooked chicken. There was always pasta made just sitting there. There was some kind of green vegetable. So I chopped up the vegetables. I just put them with the pasta, the chicken, some Rao's spaghetti sauce, which is this amazing sauce, some cracked pepper and some cheese. I made dinner in three minutes. So that's one of those things that I'm good at, but you've got to kind of prepare and have the pasta ready.

Have you updated that now that you have become more health-conscious?

I have, actually. Now we eat brown rice pasta, or sometimes quinoa or zucchini pasta. We still use the sauce. We use more greens. Sometimes, if it's just my husband and I, instead of the chicken—he doesn't eat meat—we do Italian tuna. It's really delicious and it's quick.

What do you do when you're on the road?

The hardest thing is when I travel. I've only been gone 24 hours, but it's hard when you're not by your own kitchen. I've had every meal at a restaurant at off hours. Today, our lunch was at 4:00 and dinner will be after this. You do the best you can and you go home and you recharge.

When I was younger, I used to just blow it when I was away. I'd just say "Okay, I don't care, let me just eat that dessert." I don't do that anymore because it doesn't make me feel good.

Does it feel like you are depriving yourself?

I am not deprived at all. I would rather have a vodka on the rocks or a tequila for the same 100 calories as a cookie. It's all about choices. Some people would rather have a doughnut. It's what's important to you. 

Beauty From the Inside Out by Bobbi Brown.

There's also a chapter on fitness. I love the message that strong is better than skinny. 

First of all, we all come in different sizes. No matter how much I eat healthy and exercise, I'm never going to have long limbs. I just won't. So I might as well be the best for myself and not compare myself. I can't compare myself to models, I can't compare myself to anyone here. I just have to be fit because it makes me feel good.

How do you do make time to work out?

How do you find time? You schedule it in. I'm not one of the 5:30 am people. I know a lot of women who are and I'm envious of that. It takes me a while in the morning. Normally, I work out about 7, 7:30. That's the best. 

And walking. If there's nothing else, walking. You could walk everywhere. I sometimes do phone interviews while I walk outside. I usually wear an Apple Watch. One of the experts in the book told me 10,000 a day of steps is okay, that's maintenance. But if you want to lose weight, it's 12,000 every single day. Once you put your mind to it, you can get it done.

What are your strategies for dealing with stress?

We all have stress. It's how you manage it. I had three kids on top of it all. I have to say, I don't know how I got through it. There were times when I had insomnia. There were times when things were not good at work. I really give my husband the credit because he was there for me saying "Breathe." He wouldn't let me talk about work or do anything after 9:00 at night. Even to this day, he's like "Not now. Not now." I try to get him when I can, but it's definitely not at night. 

Honestly, things look better in the morning. Whatever you're thinking about at night, you'll look at it differently in the morning. And it's one step at a time. One thing at a time. Don't give up. You will get through it. As an entrepreneur, I don't stop but I'm learning more about balance in my life.

What keeps you inspired?

It all kind of happened at once, leaving the brand, turning 60. I just turned 60 by the way. There are so many interesting things out there now. I find our world fascinating. When things aren't working—you know, retail is tough, media has changed—for me, instead of feeling bad about it and whining, let's go do something different. That's what is exciting to me. 

With Bobbi Brown at her Toronto book launch.

Thank you Bobbi! Find more from her at Everything Bobbi and on Instagram.

Where to Buy

Bobbi's new book is available at: