I'm chatting with Kristen Bell the same way I've been chatting with just about everyone for the last year and a half: over Zoom. A large painting of a Great Dane is visible from behind her signature blonde bob. "Are we talking about bangs?" she asks, adjusting herself in her office chair. We've never met before, but she starts our conversation like any of my closest friends would — with compliments and advice about my new haircut. "Because Sara, you know, my husband says a man’s number one job is preventing his partner from getting bangs," she tells me. (The husband — but not soulmate — she is referring to is Dax Shepard, of course.) "He says with all the girlfriends he’s had, they've asked him and they've done it and [he's] had to deal with six months of them complaining afterward."
These are the kind of candid, albeit occasionally controversial anecdotes that land Bell and Shepard in the headlines. Earlier this week, the celebrity couple was trending for the comments she made about "waiting for the stink" before bathing their children. But it’s these stories that make Bell so relatable, even if she’s largely famous for playing a teen detective, a cartoon princess, and a dead woman living in the afterlife: She's opened up about her struggles with anxiety and depression and the challenges of marriage. She is no BS with a spoonful of sugar. Somehow, even while she’s talking about the world being on fire, I find comfort in her sparkly blue eyes and Gossip Girl voice.
Bell approaches her CBD skin-care line with the same candor and optimism. Happy Dance is bright and joyful, meant to deliver easy-to-use, calming, and effective products that busy moms can use during their 20 minutes of “me” time. She launched the brand in partnership with Lord Jones last year, but tells me that she spent a majority of the pandemic developing a new face cream that can hydrate and soothe the most sensitive of skin, like hers.
Below, Bell talks about her new moisturizer called Look Alive, her current skin-care regimen, parenting advice, and the truth about bathing her kids.
Refinery29: Thank you for taking time to talk to me. I’m a huge fan of Happy Dance since you launched. I now appreciate all the campaign videos as a new mom. But I have to ask — why CBD? As you know, it’s become such a buzzy word in the beauty space. What is it about CBD that you love and specifically, in skincare?
Kristen Bell: You are correct. It is a buzzword. The whole category has exploded. But it’s still confusing to people. People don’t know what it is. I was introduced to it by my hairstylist Jenny Cho, who is always on the cusp of everything. She was like, "Try this Lord Jones tincture. You’ll really like it." I didn’t notice that I felt any different, but after a week of using it, I definitely could admit that I was able to tune out the noise easier. I describe it as turning the thermostat of my life to the right temperature. But as a busy mom, when I’d forget to take it, it would always be a little bit of a bummer. So what inspired me to get into this category is that I wanted to combine the products. I wanted to create some products that would deliver CBD, so you wouldn’t have to worry about taking it in any other form, but also make trusted CBD products widely accessible to people.
There were a couple big boxes that I wanted to tick. I wanted to demystify the category and make the boxes fun and happy and bright and not rely on a stoner trope or a super clinical one. I wanted to talk about CBD in a way that people understand. It is a compound; there are over 100 inside the hemp plant that have soothing properties and calming properties. This [compound] will not get you high under any circumstance. I wanted to create a brand that was worry-free, easy-to-use, would not break the bank, and would improve people’s lives.
R29: Is getting high the thing you think most people get wrong about CBD products?
Bell: For sure. Understandably. It’s like, cow milk comes out and you can turn it into a bunch of different things, but you can’t drink cheese. That’s a bad analogy, but there are many different properties in many different plants and hemp is one that science has been discovering has a lot of really cool compounds in it. It’s also really important that when you’re dealing with one that’s really science-based that we’re putting a certificate of analysis on every bottle. The amount of CBD in it can be checked on the website to make sure that that batch has that amount. We use a lot of third-party testing for heavy metals and pesticides, because things are coming from a plant.
We launched with this trio that were my three main go-tos. A body moisturizer, the bath bomb, and a coconut oil, which has been on my list since day one. I use it to take my makeup off, to moisturize my cuticles — I use it for almost everything. To have a coconut oil that has CBD added is the best multi-tasking product out there in my opinion.
R29: Tell me more about the newest product you launched — the Look Alive face cream.
Bell: The Look Alive face cream was really launched out of the fact that nothing was ideal for my face. I wanted to make sure that anyone who was super busy or felt like they only slept three hours last night didn’t have to feel that way; that we would be there for you and that you could rely on us to help you get through it. I wanted it also be really simple. Developing this in the pandemic made me realize how important simplicity is and ease-of-use because everything really slowed down.
I also love the science behind it and figuring out what worked best in a product. I’m addicted to hyaluronic acid — I think it’s the best possible thing for my skin. We have four different molecular hyaluronic acids and the base of it is avocado oil, but it’s not an oil that just sits on your skin; your skin really absorbs it. And one thing that I’ve found that’s really cool is that I can put it over makeup, which is really a bonus that nobody was striving for. It just happened. I can use it on my eczema, where I'm dry on my face during the day and what it does is it just refreshes the look. It’s kind of incredible. And then bisabolol, which is the worst name in the world — it’s derived from ginger and blocks environmental damage like daily stressors and reduces redness.
R29: What was it like testing out the formulations trying to land on this final product? Did you feel like a mad scientist?
Bell: Oh yeah, I completely nerd out on ingredients. But I also don’t settle. Like, "This one’s not good enough and this one settles on the skin — it has to have a different texture." The fatty acids from the avocado oil were mandatory but we wanted to make it in a way that didn’t leave a residue on the skin. It has the texture of whipped butter, but when you put it on your skin, it doesn’t leave the oily residue like you would get if you were actually using whipped butter.
R29: I just got it yesterday and I love the texture. I love how lightweight it is, but it’s very moisturizing. My skin slurped it right up.
Bell: That’s the goal. I remember when I was living in New York and going to the beauty supply store Ricky's on the weekends with all my friends from NYU, my skin would get so dry, so I would get Bag Balm. It’s like a Vaseline with an antiseptic in it — old women would slather it on at night. I remember using that and my face would have this crazy sheen and I would be like, "Nothing else blocks everything out and keeps me moisturized!" I’ve always been on this kick to find something that could moisturize my skin in the way that I need, but not leave this greasy residue.
R29: You did it. Congrats! So, what’s your current skin-care routine right now?
Bell: My goal now is different than it was 20 years ago. That was very forward-facing, presentational with lots of makeup and colors to look like someone else. Now I just want to look like a healthy version of myself. My skin is changing, it’s sagging in certain places, it’s not in others. My goal is to make my skin as healthy as possible for my age. And because I can’t use any harsh products that resurface, but everybody needs exfoliation, I am addicted to my Clarisonic. RIP.
R29: Oh, so you’re just holding onto yours for dear life?
Bell: Oh, it’s my third child. It’s my most prized possession. You could never take it away.
R29: Are you bidding on eBay for back-ups?
Bell: 100%. I’m all over it. I use a cleanser with it that’s from Instytutum that’s an oil-to-gel. Again, it’s not a leaves-a-residue oily, but it clears everything without sucking all my moisture out. And then because I still have combination skin, I use the iS Clinical Active Serum for breakouts. It definitely hearkens back to the days of Seabreeze, which we put on our skin in high school and smelled like a medicine cabinet. And then I use Look Alive over it. That’s pretty much my regimen. The only place I don’t mind a residue is around my eyes. I want the thickest possible layer because I feel like the fine lines are getting the extra attention.
R29: So day and night, you’re using Look Alive?
Bell: Yeah. And then obviously because it doesn’t have SPF, the foundation that I use from IT Cosmetics — that has a SPF 50 in it, so I’m getting a lot there. Thankfully so many people are putting SPF on because it’s obviously vital. I also have a baby care brand called Hello Bello and the SPF lotion is the best. So I’ll put Look Alive on and then the Hello Bello SPF and then makeup if I’m wearing it.
R29: How has your definition of beauty changed since becoming a mom?
Bell: It’s definitely changed and evolved over the years and weirdly, I’ve gotten more comfortable in my skin as the category of my skin has gotten, I don’t know, older? Whatever you want to label it. Right now, it’s all about the health of my skin for me. I didn’t wear makeup during the pandemic at all and I didn’t get out of my sweats but my skin was loving me for it. I really took a break from everything other than seeing how my skin was reacting to different products or experiences or hydration levels or sleep levels vs. me using any product to cover things up. It was a real guinea pig moment for me. Oddly, the pandemic, even though we had so much time, I felt, and I’ve heard from other people... we didn’t have any time? We got nothing done? So that was another reason why I knew that combining CBD with a great moisturizer or a product you already use was mandatory because everyone is a multitasker and even when we have time, we don’t have time.
R29: As a new mom to an almost one-year-old, I’m working harder to talk to and about myself in a kinder way, especially around my daughter. Do you have any advice?
Bell: Yes! You know what Brene Brown says: “You cannot ask your daughter to have a quality you don’t have.” You can’t do that. Modeling behavior is so fucking paramount for them. I went through the same thing. I don’t have body issues that would need to be addressed by a doctor, but I definitely looked at the mirror and I’ve been like, "Ugh." You have to throw that out the window. So I changed all my words around the house. For example, I do work out for my mental health. It keeps my brain healthy, but my girls will be like, "Why are you going to work out again? Why do you do this?" and I tell them, "It’s for my mental health. It’s to keep me happy and sane, because when your heart rate gets up, your brain gets happier." Also, I say, "I don’t care about my size, I care about how strong I feel" — that is a really, really important one.
With makeup, the way we’ve done it, I’ve never attached any you should or shouldn’ts. They have little makeup palettes in their room. They’re six and eight. Sometimes they come downstairs looking like drag queens. Other times, they don’t have anything on. And we never comment on it because the same reason you would never say, "You shouldn’t wear that purple turtleneck, you don’t need to be wearing that purple turtleneck yet." That has nothing to do with it. I’m going to wear this if I want to wear it. And painting your face, I kind of look at it the same way. If you feel happier with colors on your face, great! That’s your choice to feel happier. But the language has definitely changed with me.
R29: That's really great advice.
Bell: One-year-olds are hard. I have learned to take that modeling behavior really seriously. I even expanded on the body image thing where, like, I can’t ask my eight-year-old to read her summer books if she never sees me sit down and read. I’ve literally had to fake it. I’ve had to grab a book, even though in the book, I’m like making my grocery list or whatever, cause Audible is so much easier. [My daughter] doesn’t see it as the same thing -- she’s not getting the same data dump in her brain by listening to a book vs. reading it — so I sit on the couch and snuggle with the dog and I let my mind wander and make my grocery list, but what she is seeing is me reading a book and she’s more likely to do it. Modeling behavior — it’s really crazy. If you think of your role as a parent as an acting part, it does wonders for them.
R29: I have to ask you — you've been in the news lately for comments you made about bathing your children. Did you think you were going to start this Celebs Don't Bathe World War 3 debate?
Bell: Do you know what's so funny? The planet is on fire, we're in a pandemic, and this is what people care about? By the way, none of it is real. It came out of Ashton and Mila being on Dax's podcast. I [didn't] even listen to that one, but apparently they said, "Oh, we only bathe them when we see dirt," which — they're comedians! That was a joke. By the way, even if it's not a joke, who cares! That's when you're supposed to bathe a kid — when they smell or they're dirty. That's the tell-tale sign they need a bath. There's nothing wrong with pointing that out. And then Dax and I started our Family Game night press tour, because we just started this game show, and we had been asked so much, that I responded with another comedian's comment, which was, "I don't look for the dirt, I wait for the smell." And the world is taking it very seriously. And it's so interesting.
R29: It's not anyone's business and the world is on fire, but it's trending news.
Bell: Also, what a sad human race point we're at when that is the headline. Because first of all — by the way, sometimes I do wait for the smell and sometimes I'll go like, "Oh shit, it's definitely been three days, they gotta get in." But they're kids, they're supposed to be dirty! Our kids are so dirty in the yard. Our yard is under construction and probably will be forever. And there's huge mud piles and they go outside and play with it every day and there's not a thing about it that concerns me. They're children, they're supposed to do that.
R29: It could be great for their immune system! And also by the way, you obviously care about your skin and love to bathe, because you have a whole line dedicated to skin care that includes a bath product.
Bell: People loooove drama.
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