When it comes to Gen Z TV characters with enviable makeup looks, Eleven from Stranger Things probably isn’t the first character to pop up under makeup tutorials on your FYP. She's more often than not covered in blood and mud rather than decked out in highlighter and mascara. Still, as the series has progressed, Eleven has come into her own in many ways, including when it comes to her beauty looks, rocking quintessential 1980s scrunchies and coloured eyeliner. And behind the scenes, the actress who plays her, Millie Bobby Brown, has been picking up tips of her own.
Growing up on set, Brown, who is now 17 and has been sitting in makeup chairs since she was 10, quickly found out which products worked, and more importantly which ones didn’t work, for her sensitive skin. She also quickly realized that — when it comes to Gen Z skincare and beauty — there aren’t many brands catering directly to that demo and their skin concerns (think products that wake up skin but aren’t necessarily anti-aging).
So, like any self-starting and ambitious person of her generation, she took matters into her own hands. She launched the clean vegan beauty brand (no parabens, no sulfates, no animal testing, and no animal by-products and PETA Cruelty-free and Vegan Action certified, according to the website) florence by mills two years ago. The brand, which boasts everything from toner to eyeshadow, is now finally coming north, launching in select Shoppers Drug Marts starting September 3.
Ahead of its Canadian launch, Refinery29 spoke with Brown about the inception of her beauty brand and the one behind-the-scenes makeup trick she learned from Stranger Things (guaranteed it's not what you think).
Refinery29: Starting a makeup line at 15 is the stuff of teenage dreams. What made you launch it?
Millie Bobby Brown: My ambitions and goals have always been devoted to film and TV; I love it and that’s my job. Within that, I was in the makeup chair for a very long time, constantly putting foundation on my face and moisturizing. And I started to get into beauty and makeup myself, but realized that there wasn’t a beauty brand that would be beneficial to my skin and my skin type, which is sensitive and young, so I didn’t want to put anything too heavy or harsh on my skin. I wanted to create something for everyone, to include everyone, that was clean and totally vegan. It takes time and it's a big process. I started it four years ago now, but I knew I wanted to do it for everyone out there that was going through the same struggle as I was.
How involved were you in the process of bringing florence by mills to life?
MBB: I was in pretty much every meeting, and if I wasn't in the meeting, I was filming Enola Holmes; so I was pretty much there and ready for it all. The harder parts [of the process] are approving formulas. That’s what took the longest time and it’s quite specific. But I felt like, debuting with my own company, I needed to make sure the products were what they say they were. So I did a lot of trials and errors. I don’t think there’s much point in doing a company for you if you're not involved.
Why was it important for you to have products that are clean and are vegan?
MBB: I’m a vegetarian and was a vegetarian going into [the process]... The stuff we put on our skin should be like the food we eat; it should be good, it should be healthy, it should be full of nutrients and good extracts.
Was there one particular product that launched you into thinking about a beauty brand?
MBB: I was very young when I started the brand, so I wasn't really using a lot of makeup and skin care like I am now. But even now I test out other brands' products to know how they are. I like to buy other products and see what's out there on the market, see what people are doing, so that we can make it better in our brands and our company. I think that's very important.
I think eye balms are really great! I stand by them. Before florence I loved eye balms, but the problem was that they were anti-aging. I was 15 and I was like, I have puffy eyes in the morning when I go to work at 6 a.m. and I'm on camera all day, what can I do? So we created an eye balm that includes caffeine in it, that has a cooling [effect] to help de-puff, that has great extracts in it to help re-energize. That's an example of what the process was, of me trying other brands to know what we can do better with ours.
So, is it safe to say the eye balm is your favourite product from the brand?
MBB: I would say my favorite product from the skincare side would be the Dreamy Dew Oil-Free Moisturizer just because of its hydration. It’s lightweight, the smell is incredible, and the dewy texture that it leaves on your skin is just awesome. I personally love that one. For makeup, I feel like, oh, my gosh, I could go on forever. You know what? I love the tinted lip oil. We just we just came out with that. It leaves a slight stain, but it's very hydrating, so it’s so nice to your lips. And also the Built to Lash Mascara. I feel like my makeup isn't done without mascara.
You spend a lot of time on set and shoots. What's the best skin care or beauty trick that you've picked up on set?
MBB: That shaving cream can take off any stain. I put on a lot of lipstick when I was younger, and lip gloss that would stain my lips, or sometimes after photoshoot days, I’d have eyeshadow that’d stay on my eyes. So shaving cream takes anything like that off.
That is a hot tip! I would never think of using shaving cream for that.
MBB: In [Stranger Things], when I get a bloody nose we have to take it off because obviously we can't make it look like I have a bloody nose [outside of set], so in season 3, that’s what we used.
Speaking of...you're on set and working again, but how did your skin-care or beauty routine change during the pandemic?
MBB: I didn’t wear makeup and I washed my face with water a lot, just to see how it was reacting. Because I was living in Georgia — I was quarantining [there] — the humidity was really keeping my skin at bay. It's really when we went into winter time, like this past winter, that my skin got very dry and I was wearing a lot of makeup [again]. It was tough, but I feel like I’ve gotten her back on the right track now — by her I mean my skin [laughs].
She’s volatile; you do have to tend to her through the different seasons.
MBB: I know! She’s so bloody needy.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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