Amy Keller Laird Editor and Chief of Women’s Health. (Photo: Women’s Health)
I am a big believer in the fact that beauty and health are linked. Taking care of your body with diet and exercise is one of the best beauty tips I have. So it’s no surprise to me that before she joined Women’s Health, Editor in Chief Amy Keller Laird was the beauty director at Allure magazine. I recently met Amy when the magazine named me one of its 2015 Beauty Innovators. With the magazine’s ten-year anniversary issue coming this fall, Amy took time out to talk beauty, health, and the truth about calories.
Bobbi Brown: You have a background as a beauty editor — what made you want to pursue that career?
Amy Keller: I actually started out in the most unglamorous of jobs, as a copy editor. I was at Redbook. The beauty director, Didi Gluck, said she liked the comments I had been writing for the group and hired me. I kind of fell into it. Looking back, I was definitely into girly things, but I didn’t know that beauty editors existed.
It’s so great that Didi spotted your talent. It’s amazing to have a mentor. Although, being a copy editor was probably a great place to start.
Totally. That has actually helped me throughout my career in being able to come up with new and fresh ways to talk about a product. After you’ve written about a nude lipstick 500 times, how are you going to say it again? Especially when I was the beauty director at Allure and we had 185 write-ups to do, it was like, “They are all going to sound exactly alike unless I find a new way to talk about it.”
As someone who shares your passion for beauty, I also share your passion for health. I’ve always believed that beauty and health are so linked. I’m guessing you agree.
Absolutely! I think that is what is so great about Women’s Health. Anyone who really is concerned about beauty and their hair and skin is also going to be concerned about being fit and healthy. Obviously, here we believe that great skin comes from what you eat, what you do, and then, of course, using the right skin care ingredients.
How do you separate what’s hype and what’s not?
Luckily for me, working here, we have the best experts. We are always looking for the latest research and studies, but we are always delving deeper. We don’t just look at one isolated study. We wait until we have the big picture.
Where do you land on the concept of calories in/calories out? Is it that simple or not?
That is a huge question we get from our readers. “How many minutes do I have to run to burn off that candy bar?” We’ve become a society that thinks your food intake and your energy output are in direct correlation, which ends up creating a negative mindset cycle. For example, “I’ll run an extra mile tonight to make up for that cookie I had at lunch.” Truth is, our bodies don’t work like that. Our metabolic systems are intricate and complicated, so we’re doing a story on this in September to spell out the nuances. [The old theory] has gotten debunked by a few studies, because it’s not just the calories themselves, it’s the type of calories and food. A lot of experts are now saying that rather than focus on calories, you should be thinking more about portion sizes and the balance of nutrients (protein, carbs, fats) you’re having at each meal.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about health since you joined the magazine?
The most surprising thing is that most of it is about what you eat: 80 percent diet, 20 percent exercise. If I ate guacamole and chips and worked out all the time, I would still be flabby. Diet is so important to being fit.
As a former beauty editor, what treatments do you really think work? What do you think is worth doing?
I’m a proponent of retinol. It is the most studied ingredient for building collagen. I’ve heard many dermatologists say that every woman should be using it. We also did a story in our April issue about the skin care products that were the most hydrating, as that’s the most overlooked antiaging thing. If your skin is dry, everything looks worse. In terms of other treatments, I personally have not delved too much into lasers and injections and that sort of thing. Obviously, I know many people that have, but I can’t speak to it on a personal level.
I’m very anti-injectibles and very pro lasers. As someone who is at least a decade and a half older that you, it’s made a big difference in my skin.
What kind do you get?
I’ve had Ultherapy and Fraxel so far. It doesn’t really alter the way
I look, but it really helps with the collagen. I get my sunspots off every year because I was one of those kids that didn’t really believe what I read and sat in the sun with baby oil on my skin.
We all did that! If I was going to recommend something just from the many interviews I’ve done, it’s the Fraxel laser. It has really stood the test since it came out about eight years ago.
What about beauty products? What are your favorites right now?
I have a few from our 2015 Beauty Awards. For work, the Lancôme Miracle Cushion Compact Foundation is so cool. It’s like a little sponge pad that distributes foundation, either onto your fingers or a brush. You get the sheer payoff of a liquid with the nonmessiness of a cream compact. For the gym, I like Nunzio Saviano’s Anti-Frizz Sheets. They are coconut-oil-infused wipes that tamp down any frizz, individually packaged so you can throw one in your bag or even in a wallet. I also rely on La Roche-Posay Anthelios AOX Daily Antioxidant Serum SPF 50. This is such a great brand for sunscreen — they are geniuses at keeping even a high SPF feeling superlightweight.
What do you hope your readers will take away from Women’s Health as the magazines moves into its next decade?
You can make a transformation in your life. It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you are at this point, you can take small steps to being healthier, and everything builds on itself. It may sound really daunting, but on every page of Women’s Health we hope to have a small doable tip that women can try. Women are game changers. You can be a game changer, or you can find someone that can be a mentor to you. Our fitness director has completed an Ironman, and she’s been my fitness guru for the year.