Busy Philipps got her start playing a plucky college freshman on Dawson's Creek, but in the years since, she's become better known for her unfiltered approach to celebrity and her refreshingly candid social-media presence. From her days on The WB to hosting her own late-night talkshow, Busy Tonight, Philipps has seen it all in Hollywood — and then some. Here, the new face of Olay opens up to Refinery29 about her approach to beauty and style, her favorite products of all-time, and the pressure of being a strong female role model in the male-dominated industry of late-night TV. The following interview was told to Megan Decker and edited for length and clarity.
As far as beauty, how has your look evolved from when you were working as an actor to your new role: a talk-show host where you’re playing yourself, not a scripted character?
It’s a cool and unique process to get my "look" for each show. I have a full team — Erica Cloud who styles me, Kindra Mann who does my makeup, and Kristin Heitkotter who does my hair — and we think of every show as if I'm playing a different character. We think about the fashion, and how the makeup and hair should complement the style and the vibe. It’s really an extension of myself — just playing dress-up. I’ve always loved expressing myself that way in my real life, and so it only made sense that it'd be a form of that creativity on my show, too.
How does your glam on the show differ from your everyday beauty routine?
I’m not a woman who wears foundation or powder off camera; I’m definitely into very natural skin. I’ll do a toner and then some moisturizer over that — right now, that’s the Olay Regenerist one — and that's pretty much my everyday face. Maybe I’ll use a highlighter shimmer situation on my eyelids if I’m feeling it. I actually have light blonde eyelashes and I’m not really down for eyelash extensions, so I just like to curl my lashes and use mascara.
How do you approach switching up your look from show to show?
When I started my show, it was important to lean into the fact that I’m a female voice in late-night TV. It’s an industry that’s dominated by men, and has been for the entire history of television. So conceptually, when we thought about the show — myself, Tina Fey, and the show runners — it was important for us that I project the purest form of myself, without ever losing touch with my femininity and the aspects of my femininity that make me, me.
We start every show from scratch, starting with who's coming on as my guest, and my writers and producers and I design how we want that show to look. We think about the topics we’re going to talk about, the bits we’re going to do, and then Kristina and Kendra and I build the beauty look from there. So every night's a little different, with lots of moving parts.
What are the beauty products you can’t live without?
It’s stupid expensive and makes me feel out of touch to even say this, but I love Kérastase. I’m obsessed with the Nutritive Lait Vital conditioner, and I will always splurge on that bottle. I’ve been using both the shampoo and conditioner for years, and that brand is probably the thing that I love the most in terms of beauty. I have super-sensitive skin, and my hair products can mess with it, but the formula never causes breakouts — I’m just fiercely loyal, and will use that line until it gets discontinued.
You’ve spoken about directors asking you to cover your moles or hide them with makeup. Do you still have experiences with that today?
No, not at all. I’m my own boss, so I would never put up with being shamed for my skin, like I was early in my career. Actually, one of the reasons I was appealing to Olay as a partner is because of my skin and of the experiences I’ve had with my moles. It’s an empowering, full-circle moment for me in my career. My skin is one of the things that I was told to make less than myself, and now this iconic brand is tell me that they love my natural skin — that's amazing.
Now, I’m savvier and older, and I have more agency in my career, so I have less of a desire to fit into anyone else’s idea of what is "beautiful." It's still somewhat of a struggle; I still have to make it clear when I do photoshoots that I don’t want any retouching done to remove any of my beauty marks or moles. We should all be celebrating and protecting our skin.
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