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Skin Deep: Interview with Bee Shapiro

A beauty writer for The New York Times, Bee sat down with us to talk about her book, and the inspiration behind what has already become our new beauty bible.

When Bee Shapiro began working as a Beauty Writer for the New York Times, she collapsed into a luxurious pile of glittering products. Lipsticks, fragrances, oils, and lotions blossomed around her as she tried to keep up with the endless shower of innovative companies dominating an industry previously steeped in tradition. She danced along the cutting edge of the beauty world. She learned about the people behind the movement. Shapiro worked as a mirror, capturing every angle of this shift in how we thought about what we put on our bodies.

In the end, the only thing left to do was start a company herself. Shapiro noticed that natural beauty products were gaining major traction, but felt a gap in the market where natural fragrances should have been. She founded Ellis Brooklyn to design the only thing she had yet to encounter in her work: the perfect nontoxic, sustainable scent.

She has now written a book, Skin Deep, which dives beneath the surface to source wisdom from industry icons like Christopher Robin and influencers like Gwyneth Paltrow. Her book teaches us that beauty and skincare are ubiquitous, and there are so many ways to do it right.

Bee sat down with us to talk about her dynamic career, and the inspiration behind what has already become our new beauty bible.

Bee Shapiro

In a way, beauty chose me.

How did it all start? Were you always drawn to writing about beauty?

It started by accident! I was covering fashion and lifestyle for the Style section and I was the most junior of all the fashion writers. I was wondering how I would ever make my mark in the Style section with four amazing writers above me. As luck would have it, the beauty writer left for her dream job at Travel and they asked me if I’d be into it. I immediately jumped at the chance. In a way, beauty chose me. But looking back now, I’m so grateful it did because beauty is something I truly grew into. As I’ve gotten older, my priorities have changed. Whereas I would save and save for a handbag when I was in my 20s, I’d rather spend that on my skincare and services now.

Tell us more about Skin Deep. You managed to capture the women you interviewed so well. How did you choose each of these inspiring women?

I think timing plays such a big role in our lives that for me, finding women at a specific point of time in their careers was important to their stories. For example, with Priyanka Chopra, she was this new breakout star and she hadn’t signed a beauty deal yet but everyone knew it was coming. Or with Kylie Jenner, I was interviewing her right before she launched her beauty brand. She wasn’t this big beauty boss yet. She was perhaps a bit more open and maybe a little bit more insecure. I wanted the unfiltered, real interviews where each person is truly sharing what they actually use.

St. Vincent by Ben Sklar

St. Vincent, musician, photographed by Ben Sklar

What are 5 (or more!) beauty tips that you learned from some of these women?

1. From speaking with all these fabulous women, I find there is usually a reason for their routines. I think when you use a certain product makes a big difference. Some women told me they only wash their face in the morning with water because they wanted to preserve the natural oils that were created overnight. Or another person told me not to use vitamin C in the morning because it might oxidize faster or leave your skin more vulnerable. Instead, you should use it at night.

2. Martha Stewart showed me there’s no shame in putting a little or a lot of effort into your skincare. She is unabashedly very devoted to her regimen and it’s paid off!

3. Nicole Richie said in her interview that she puts Lucas Papaw ointment up her nose when she flies to ward off germs. I have zero proof if this works but ever since I interviewed her I’ve started doing it – so far, no colds.

4. Anna Kendrick buys a new perfume to commemorate important events or places she’s been. I love that idea—because smell is the most psychological of our senses. Actually, it’s become part of my creative process when developing fragrances for Ellis Brooklyn. I take notes and bring back scents from the places I visit.

5. The actresses, especially, are great about cleansing their skin. Their nighttime routine always involves a very thorough cleansing process. It’s changed the way I think about cleanser. Before, I would think of cleanser as more of an afterthought when in fact it’s one of the most key products in a regimen. It’s your starting base.

Emily Ratajkowski by Elizabeth Lippman

Emily Ratajkowski, model, photographed by Elizabeth Lippman

Skin Deep gives an in-depth look at the role that beauty plays in our lives. What did you learn about your subjects’ different approaches to beauty?

You hear it said a lot: customize your beauty regimen to youreself. It’s really sound advice because, after reading all these tips and products these women offer, I learned that it’s not about believing in beauty product hype but finding things or settling on a routine that makes you feel good.

As a beauty expert, what are some of your favorite beauty products? (skincare or makeup)

I’m constantly trying new products for work, but here are some of my recent favorites:

I’m not a huge facial oil person, but the Elemis Superfoods oil is so good. It’s very soothing and absorbs well into the skin. Some facial oils, I find, just sit on top of the skin. I also really like the Elemis Pro Collagen eye serum. It’s hydrating but very lightweight and sits well under makeup. Vitamin C products can be a wonderful pick-me-up. With two toddlers, lord knows I need brightening products. The M61 Fast Blast mask is great because it literally takes 2 minutes and the effects are lovely. Avène moisturizers are a great default for me—especially the A-Oxitive water cream line that is hydrating yet lightweight.

I’m currently doing a story on makeup textures, and I’m obsessed with the Urban Decay Velvetizer powder. I add a dash to my usual foundation and it creates a perfect slightly diffused finish without making it look like you have anything on. Kosas lipsticks are my everyday. The colors are very well thought-out and I love that it’s a green brand. The best green mascara I’ve tried is the one by W3ll People. The downside is that it’s really only for a natural eyelash look. If you want major drama, I like the Lancome Monsieur Big. I have a soft spot for anything sparkly and the new Tom Ford Extreme glitter eyeshadows are incredible. The glitter actually sticks to the area you applied and the colors are just wow.

As a New York Times beauty columnist, author, founder of the successful beauty line Ellis Brooklyn, and mother of 2 young daughters, you are a true superwoman! Any future projects that you would like to share with our readers?

No more projects, ha! Well actually, we are moving in June to a new place and my next project will be decorating our new space. I absolutely adore home design so this is a treat for me. My dream home would be clad in 1st Dibs finds, but my reality is that my 19-month old loves to mark things up with ballpoint pens. Thank goodness for West Elm and Ikea—whatever it takes!

Lani Allen

Lani Allen is a graduate of Columbia University’s Non-fiction Creative Writing program. After serving as Vice President of her class for two years, she contributed written pieces and illustrations to many on-campus publications. As a writer with a passion for beauty, Lani enjoys capturing the stories of innovative thinkers and risk-takers shaping the industry as we know it.

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