From film sets to the red carpet, Drew Barrymore has spent a big chunk of her life in the makeup artist's chair. Employing all the industry tips and tricks she learned along the way, she knew from the outset what she wanted her own cosmetics line, Flower, to be. "I think that makeup really transforms a woman’s demeanour, attitude and confidence levels," she tells Refinery29. "It’s like armour. When I was a little kid on set, I’d see these women go into the makeup trailer at 4am, hunched over with their collars pulled up and their faces turned down. Then, through hot rollers and lipstick and all of this magic, they were completely different women by 6am. That to me was the power of beauty: transformation."
In 2011, having just finished her contract as a co-creative director at CoverGirl cosmetics – "I felt like I had a college degree in makeup" – she entered the beauty space with her own creation, Flower. Now, seven years later, the cruelty-free brand has launched in the UK, and it's every bit as good as we’d hoped. Ranging from £7.99 for pigment- and hydration-rich lipsticks to £14.99 for a dewy skin-boosting primer, it’s accessibly priced but, most importantly, it works.
Let’s start with the lip range: the Mix’N’Matte lipsticks are buildable without drying out and the shades come in bold, velvety reds and honeyed nudes. "I test them as if it was car testing," Barrymore laughs. "I drink with it, sleep with it, eat with it... I reapply it when it’s faded because god knows how many times I’ve looked in a mirror and thought, 'Oh my god, it looks like I’ve been smoking for 89 years and got dry mouth!' I'm obsessed with the way lip formulas perform, because more than anywhere else, the lip category of beauty is where women can feel their most vulnerable."
Barrymore notes that the beauty industry was very different when she started out those seven years ago. Social media wasn’t as prevalent as it is now, and new brands didn’t pop up so often. "That’s why it took us years to get there with our Light Illusion foundation," she explains. "There have been so many trends since we started: BB, CC, full coverage, matte, dewy... It was all about the tinted moisturisers with Laura Mercier back then, before it turned to the full-face Instagram tutorial. I wanted to find something that still had life in it."
One of the highlights is the Supernova Celestial Skin Elixir, which has sold out across the US and is set to be just as big a hit over here. What looks like a sparkly liquid made for Instagram is actually a super dewy and hydrating primer with no glitter residue at all. It smells like lavender and contains essential oils, giving skin a natural-looking glow. "It’s like my American Express card," Barrymore laughs, "I don’t go anywhere without it! I notice my makeup when I’m not wearing it. I blend it with foundation, wear it on its own with concealer. It’s not sticky or tacky and doesn’t pill, and it never once has broken me out – and everything breaks me out." As the brand’s first foray into skincare, is this something we can expect more of in 2019? "I would love it – slow and steady wins the race," she says.
Barrymore’s beauty looks are some of the most referenced on Instagram, from her vampy grunge days to her ice white, matte skin. What does she make of her throwback looks now she's deep in the beauty arena? "I really miss my thin eyebrows! Although I’m so lucky they grew back, because I tweezed them for so many years... I also loved bleaching the crap out of them – I had a personal stock investment in Jolen. Another thing I loved: We used to draw MAC’s Spice lip liner all over our lips, then get a powder puff and pound it over our faces, and reapply and repeat. It was like we were trying to create our own matte lipstick with chalky powder and lip liner."
Is there a decade she’d love to see come back into vogue? "Well, the '90s was really just '20s makeup redone," she says. "Everything is cyclical, we’re always honouring different decades. We've had the '70s and '90s, but I can’t wait for the '60s to return, from Twiggy to Sharon Tate – those eyes! That hair!"
While a plethora of brands have pledged to become cruelty-free in the next few years, Barrymore was insistent that Flower would be from the very beginning. "We’ve been cruelty-free since day one, and now it’s a new trend in the industry. I’m so glad that it’s become an industry standard," she says. And that’s not the only aspect of the brand that makes it perfect for the UK market right now. Barrymore could so easily have gone into luxury makeup, yet Flower's priciest product comes in under £15.
"I feel so odd with this luxe, overly curated, high end price point," she says of the brand's inclusive pricing. "I feel bad paying those prices; it doesn’t make me feel empowered, it makes me feel concerned. I don’t want to work in a vacuum. I’m a mass girl! Look at all the movies I make: I don’t make depressing arthouse movies, I make joyful films – rom-coms and Charlie’s Angels, films that make people want to drive their cars fast and high-five their friends. I hate depressing, I hate elitist, and I never really wanted to work in that realm. I just don’t like alienating people, because I know how it makes me feel and I don’t want anyone else feeling that way."
If that isn’t a refreshing mantra from Hollywood royalty, we don’t know what is.