Bobbi Brown is the founder of Bobbi Brown cosmetics, a global beauty expert and a New York Times bestselling author. Her newest book, Beauty from the Inside Out, is at the forefront of a shift in consumer behavior to seek health and wellness benefits in all aspects of their lifestyle, including beauty. Beauty from the Inside Out addresses “beauty” through the lens of nutrition, spirituality, mindfulness, and self-confidence.
Brown joined J. Walter Thompson Intelligence global director Lucie Greene for a discussion at the launch of The Well Economy, the new report from J. Walter Thompson Intelligence about the new landscape of health. Below is an edited excerpt from their conversation.
To switch from a business focused on—it’s fair to say—external beauty, to one that was about beauty from within, what led to that transition?
I started Bobbi Brown Cosmetics 25 years ago with the simple philosophy that all women are beautiful, and with the right makeup anyone could be beautiful and feel confident. But I’ve always been a believer in what you put into your body really affecting not just the way you look, but the way you feel. This book now could not be any better timed, because I do believe that people right now more than ever care about how they take care of themselves, and how they live their life.
Do you want to take us through a few key aspects of it?
I’m not a health expert; I’m just very very curious. So I asked all of my amazing friends that I made in New York City over the years to basically tell me what they do and to share the information. There’s a lot about food, because I am a foodie. I’m an Instagram foodie. Things have to look really pretty, and they have to taste really good. But they have to make you feel good.
I’ve always been a big believer that food really makes a big difference. As someone that travels a lot and goes out, I’ve been in every kind of situation. My name has always been tied to confidence, because I also believe that if you’re comfortable and you look good, you feel good. And I do think this is something that women and girls want. So I do think it’s a trend.
Do you live like this yourself, then?
Honestly, I only know one thing, and that’s to be myself. I happen to love a good cocktail; I happen to love a really good espresso. But I don’t eat bread, and I try to really be careful, because I notice a difference. I like to feel good.
The mind and spirituality aspects were an interesting continuation of what we’re seeing in wellbeing trends: an emphasis on mind being central to your sense of wellbeing. And you have some interesting essays from guest experts, including Maye Musk, who’s Elon Musk’s mom.
Who’s also a nutritionist. And she’s also a model, and I believe she’s 68. And she’s amazing…
She defies age.
I’m turning 60 on my next birthday. It’s not about age, it’s about how you feel. And it’s not even about how you look, it’s about how you feel you look. That’s the big secret. People don’t realize that.
I’m not saying “Don’t wear makeup at all,” because I do. I don’t wear a lot. But you have to know what works for you. It’s about individuality, and it’s about balance. What does balance mean? It’s not all work. I’m happily married, and I have three kids. I try to balance my incredible work ethic with normal things, and I think that’s also really important.
Another age-defying person you have in the book is Elle Macpherson.
Yes, Elle Macpherson. The Body. I’ve known Elle since her early days in modeling, and she’s amazing. She’s an incredible entrepreneur. A true story: A couple of years ago, I was at the beach in the Bahamas. And I put my bathing suit on and I was like, “Okay, I feel pretty good.” So I go over to the ocean, and all of a sudden I see Elle standing there in her bikini. She looks unbelievable. At fifty-something years old.
That’s what I realized, you can’t compare yourself. Especially to Elle Macpherson. But her products are great.
There’s also this idea of distrust in all the promises of anti-aging skincare. We’re seeing a change in perception among millennials about aging, full stop. They embrace fitness and wellness, but don’t fear age. Just be the best you can be at all ages.
I never once put anti-aging on any products, because I don’t believe it. Because guess what? I’m older than I was when I walked in the door a minute ago. And there’s no cream on the market that gets rid of wrinkles. I also still see a lot of young girls getting Botox as a preventative, which really scares me. But the more we talk about the important of health and wellness when it comes to beauty, I think the better it will be.
If you were at a blue chip skincare brand, would you be looking more to move into this nutritional or wellbeing position?
I think it’s great for any of the big companies when they’re able to shift like that. I can’t really speak to it. I know if I was starting a line again, it would probably be a natural line, as natural as it can be. Even in my home, I just make sure that all the products that we use to clean don’t have chemicals in them. It just makes me feel better.
There is still a beauty section at the end of the book. How has your approach developed with this new direction?
I’m a very simple person. When it comes to beauty and makeup, I like women to look like themselves. I like the skin to look as natural as possible. I hate contour; I don’t like a lot of artificial things with makeup. If you look at the makeup in the book, it’s really simple. There might be a red lipstick and a strong pair of glasses, but there’s not tons of makeup.
It’s a very simple style, to teach women that you could just literally take it a notch down and be yourself. You can wear jeans to places. I’ve worn them to the White House. So it’s about teaching women how they can do really simple things, because we’re really busy.