It’s official: We’ve got a major girl crush on Susan Joy. The superstar stylist, who works with everyone from the The New York Times to J. Crew, has some major fashion street cred. It doesn’t hurt that she’s also refreshingly candid and absolutely gorgeous, to boot.
Joy invited us to her LES apartment to take a look around, and that's where we learned her best-kept beauty secrets, picked up a few styling tips, talked honestly about our culture’s obsession with youth, and learned why hoop earrings send her into a blind rage. Read on, and you might just find yourself crushing a bit, too.
Photographed by CJ Isaac
How do you describe your beauty look?
"It's pretty basic, with a little bit of a pop."
Does that correspond with your style?
"Yes. My style is quite classic, but whimsical. Classic with a twist. And it's all about a mix."
J.Crew shirt, BCBG skirt (a Nordstrom Rack find)
What's your morning beauty routine like?
"Well, it's skin care that's important to me, so I wash my face with Cetaphil in the morning. I have a serum that I love, and I moisturize. And then I use a primer and I use a tinted moisturizer in the summer, but I'll probably switch back to a foundation for fall."
Susan's must-have skin care products: Neocutis Lumiere Riche Anti-Aging Intensive Hydrator, Skin Care Lab C + E Ferulic Serum, Avene Cream For Intolerant Skin, Bioderma Crealine, H2O Makeup Remover, Bio-Oil, Vivite Daily Facial Cleanser, Avene Hydrance Optimale Riche.
What do you do with your hair?
"Well my hair is naturally wavy, but it goes into ringlets on the bottom and it's straighter on the top. In the morning, I twist my hair back into a bun, and jump into the shower, and then my hair is done for the day. Maybe the hair will sometimes get a little Morroccanoil to control flyways or it'll get some dry shampoo if it's a little greasy or it needs a little lift, but that's basically it."
What's your biggest beauty issue and how do you fix it?
"I always feel like my hair is a mess and my skin is red...I think I'm a messy person in general. I live in organized chaos. That applies to beauty, my fashion, everything in my life. It's perfectly imperfect. There is no such thing as perfection in my life. There's always something awry. And I think that's a good thing."
Susan's amazing living room, filled with flea market finds and tons of light. Jealous, much?
What do you do for makeup?
"For general days, I do the same thing on my eyes. I use this Clinique Lid Smoothie — it's pretty natural and I don't generally wear that much makeup. I'll use a couple of different blush colors, like Orgasm by NARS. For night, I'll do more eye and maybe less lip. And then throughout the day, I may carry a few different lipsticks with me, and sometimes I'll stick to one or maybe I'l mix it up.
Do you have a lipstick preference?
"I was really planning on a signature lipstick; I had decided that I wasn't going to do all of these different colors anymore, I was going to stick to one and there's this amazing, weird, pastel-y, apricot-y pink color — I had it made at Three Custom Color
— it's a remake of this '50s Revlon shade called Naked Pink. So I did that, and I'm wearing it, and I really like it, but it's not matte enough — it's a little bit too creamy, and my lips just eat it off, so it's not going to be my signature shade. I'll wear it a bunch, but I have this NARS pink that's more matte, that I really love. And I love Hourglass, they're amazing. I use this Hourglass primer — I'm kind of obsessed with primers at the moment, but Hourglass is the best.
A few of Susan's makeup essentials, tucked chicly away in a Sandro makeup bag.
What's one beauty product you can't live without?
"Moisurizer. I really love Avene — I have three different moisturizers. I have the one with sunscreen, but I don't love it as much as the rich one or the one for intolerant skin. The one for intolerant skin isn't that heavy, but it's really hydrating. It feels like water on your face. So yeah, it would be moisturizer."
What's was your worst beauty mistake?
"Balayage [hair color] was the worst thing ever. It was actually one of my worst experiences at a salon ever. The girl was so lovely, and I was so excited about balayage; I thought that's so lovely, the idea of painting it on. But I think my hair is very thin — there's a lot of it, but it's very fine. So when she put it on, the other hair around it must have lifted a bit, so it ended up being kind of reddish, gingery, brassy. So there was the blonde and the other hair was brassy.
It was so horrible, and she was toning it and toning it, she did a couple of tones, and this is a Saturday and it was the last appointment. She knew it was wrong, and I had come as a recommendation, she knew I was in the industry, so she was trying to fix it, and it wasn't fixing, so she just started to blow it out, and she was like 'It's the weekend, call me next week if it's a problem.' And she hands me the hairdryer and the brush. And my hair is like, one section is blown out and the rest is wet. And I'm like…really? Horror story. So that's my worst experience. Balayage I don't want to try again."
Bracelets by Lia Sophia, vintage cuff, rose-gold chain from her grandfather, H&M hair elastic, woven bracelet from a friend, Keith Haring iPad case.
What's the best piece of beauty advice you've ever been given?
"So many people have given this advice: wear sunscreen. It's the single best thing you can do for your skin. Wear sunscreen, all the time. As a child I got sun blisters…the Australian sun is very harsh. I would get sun blisters on my nose. If I don't wear sunscreen, I burn. Tanning is actually not part of my vocabulary."
As a stylist, how important are hair in makeup to you in terms of creating a full "look?"
"I feel like it's really important on set, but it's not something that I generally consider day-to-day. I generally just do what I'm feeling, rather than thinking about 'a look.' These days, I don't generally do 'a look.' I don't have the time to work a look and be flawless. I feel like if you wear a look it has to be perfect, and that doesn't really fit with my life, with who I am. I work, I do stuff, I'm active. And I don't think about it. A 'look' just doesn't work."
Do you think of hair and makeup as an accessory?
"I think the most important thing about beauty is not the fashion aspect, it's the personal aspect. Because it's a reflection of you who are. I feel like a fashion shoot sets the tone for who the girl is. If I'm thinking about who she is and what she would wear, and what she would do...I mean obviously it's still visual. But I like to think of it on a slightly deeper level than 'Oh, that's pretty.'
"And I think maybe that's how I approach things…it's much more emotional. Like, it's a gloomy day and I need a bright lip. And that's how I dress too. Like it's a gloomy day and I'll wear something bright…or not. I'll dress drab because that's how I'm feeling. All these things can can give you that feeling that you want to evoke. But you don't necessarily need the other. So if you want to feel sexy then you don't necessarily wear the silk bras and the tight skirt and the bright lipstick and the dark eye…it's like where's the balance, how do you mix it up."
Tell us a bit about your beauty product organization method — it's kind of epic.
"I love boxes and I love my label machine. But as I said, my life is often chaotic. And I have tons of stuff. I definitely have the touch of a hoarder in me. But being a stylist, you never know when you might need something. So there's always a reason to keep something. So I could probably get rid of all of this makeup. But then there's Halloween, or you feel like wearing green eyeshadow for some reason, or your skin is doing something crazy and you need to try something new. So the way that I deal with having too much stuff is by separating it, organizing it and labeling it."
So why the boxes?
"I hate plastic trays, they're so ugly. And also, I like re-using things. You know, you buy a pretty pair of shoes, and you have a really gorgeous shoebox. I like to re-use it. I hate the idea of throwing out this stuff…I think there's so much waste in the world. It really upsets me. I'm a big recycler."
Who is your beauty icon?
"For hair, I guess it's Blondie. And then…I don't really have one for makeup. It's like an element of this, or an element of that. It's like oh, I would love a little touch of Marilyn today, or a touch of Audrey."
Are there any modern-day celebrities whose look you really admire?
"Alexa Chung — she always looks good. I think she's ridiculously cute."
A few hues from Susan's extensive lipstick collection
There's a big fascination among American women with youthfulness. What are your thoughts on anti-aging?
"I haven't done any derm stuff. I haven't done any Botox and I'm actually very anti-Botox. I just think it's…I just don't want to put toxins in my body. There are enough poisons in the environment, I don't want to put poisons in my body. And the way that we communicate, there's a lot that's unconscious, and if you lose that expression, you're not communicating with people properly. I've noticed that with people. It's just like, there's something weird about her, I feel slightly uncomfortable, I just don't get her. And I don't know why. And then I'm like: 'It's the Botox.' So that I'm definitely anti.
"I don't know how I feel about the other stuff. I mean at different times I've thought I should do this, I should do that. But that's why I focus on the skin care. That's why I've gotten more into the serums…and just trying to do the most I can, within reason. I'm really into the idea of the acupuncture facials. I just really believe in the body's ability to do things itself, so anything you can do to help the body help itself. I'm not really into the doctors anyway. As much as I can stay away from the doctors, I will. And I hate the endemic thing in American society, where you take a pill to fix it, and you take a pill before it even happens."
What's one thing you see girls doing that you absolutely can't stand?
"I hate hoop earrings. I think they look so cheap. I love door knocker earrings; I have those myself, but I'd never style someone with a hoop earring, unless that was who they were as a character."
A few more of Susan's favorite beauty things: NARS Shadow Duo in New Delight, Dior DiorSkin Nude Foundation, NARS The Multiple in Orgasm, Moroccanoil, Caudalie Beauty Elixir, H&M hair elastics, Klorane Gentle Dry Shampoo With Oat Milk, Three Cosmetics Face Powder, NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer, Chanel Inimitable Mascara.
Going back to this idea of perfectly imperfect — what's your advice to girls for pulling that kind of look off?
"I think they need to own it. I think it's just something that comes with confidence. So not stressing about the little things. Learning what they can let go and what to focus on. As I say that, I'm thinking about my beauty routine, and I feel like I'm a terrible example, and I should pay more attention to my hair and I should be wearing lipstick all the time. And I don't. When my lipstick wears off, I'm working, and I'm not good at the mirror re-applying. I'm just not."
Johnathan Simkhai shirt, J.Crew shorts, Louboutin heels, vintage earrings.
Of course we have to talk nails. What do you do with yours?
"I love nails. I always have a lot of fun with manicurists on set. Lately I'd been doing a lot of french tips with different colors, so this is a nude-y mauve with lilac tips. I've also been doing a nude with a rose gold tip, which is kind of my signature nails, and I've been doing neon tips — I've done all sorts of other things. I love to have fun with nails. My go-to color is a grayish lavender. I get manicures often, like every week or so. But if I'm somewhere and I don't have time to do anything, then I'll do the Sally Hansen stick-on polish. I don't do my own nails otherwise. I'm completely incapable of it."
How did you get your start in fashion and what's your advice for those looking to break into the industry?
"I studied fashion design and then decided that I wanted to be in magazines, and I started doing photo shoots on the side, and then I interned at a magazine and started working at magazines in Australia. But I was always obsessed with magazines and fashion books and just really wanted to know all about fashion throughout the ages.
"I was always fascinated by seeing different groups of people…different social cliques and seeing how they all dress the same. How they all end had this certain thing, and you could tell that this girl was this type of person, and this girl was this — that was something that was sort of interesting and mysterious to me. And I still think that fashion is fascinating in that aspect. What it says about you and what you think you are and who you align yourself with. And what it says about your place in society, and society in general at the moment. We think that there's no cohesion as it's happening, but when you look back it totally does. You can relate it to what's going on in other areas of pop culture.
"For those looking to get into it, I would say gain knowledge. Watch all those old movies, and read books…I see a lot of girls coming through that just don't have any knowledge. Any background. They're just like 'I love fashion!' It's an US Weekly
kind of thing. They need to understand things on a slightly deeper level. And then, just go work with someone, and be around it. Dive in."
For more of Susan's fabulous advice, and to get a behind-the-scenes look into her fascinating, fashionable world, follow her on Twitter