"Sorry about that!" Zoë Kravitz is grinning, gliding towards me in the hallway of a hotel suite, apologizing for keeping me waiting briefly — she had called her makeup artist into the bathroom for a last minute touch-up before our conversation.
"I love that," she says, leaning in to get a closer look at my necklace. "Is that bone?"
(It is — of course she guessed correctly.)
It's the kind of attention to detail you'd expect from someone who's been working on the launch of their own makeup collection, likely having dutifully spent time testing swatches and brainstorming the designs for her new line of lipsticks with Yves Saint Laurent. After spending two years as the face of Yves Saint Laurent beauty, Kravitz says her interest in the industry had been piqued enough that she wanted to take things into her own hands — and a collaboration with the brand for her own makeup line seemed like the logical next step.
"I've learned a lot since working with YSL, just about makeup and the makeup industry. I found it really interesting and inspiring, and I love makeup," she says. "I'm a creative person, so when I become interested in something, I want to do it. I want to do more than just wear makeup and talk about it."
The line includes six shades of lipstick ($38 each; yslbeauty.com), one of which, Arlene's Nude, is out today. Each lipstick — three reds and three nudes— was inspired by a different person in Kravitz's life (Arlene's Nude was named after her grandmother), and the idea was to create everyday shades for people of all types of skin tones.
Ahead, the actress and perennial cool girl talked to InStyle about her favorite cheap beauty buys, the advice she got from mom Lisa Bonet, and her own beauty tip: “Don’t go full asshole.”
What is your personal definition of beauty?
I think beauty is when you feel comfortable in your skin and when you feel free. I think makeup, the purpose [of it], to me, is to highlight the things that you love about yourself and adore [about] yourself because we're all so beautiful, we deserve extra adornment. But I don't believe in using it to completely change how you look, or to cover yourself up and try to look like somebody else. Beauty is highlighting who you are.
When do you feel the most beautiful?
I feel the most beautiful when I am creating or making something that I love and care about, or when I'm with the people who I love and care about.
What's your daily skincare routine like? I'm sure everyone wants to know that.
[Laughs] Really simple — I use these products called Retrouvé that I really love, they're natural and they make different serums and face creams. I also love coconut oil — really simple products like coconut oil is great for if your skin is really, really dry. I go to get to different facials, I go to a woman called Terri Lawton in Los Angeles, and when I'm here [in N.Y.C.], I go to Christine Chin. And then drinking water, getting sleep, all that stuff. It's important.
Have you learned any beauty lessons from your mom?
I think my whole philosophy around beauty comes from her. It was really important to her, for me to understand that beauty starts from the inside, and not only in terms of health but also in terms of keeping that light inside of us alive and trying to be a good person, a loving person. I've met some really beautiful people who, once I see that they're not nice people, that beauty doesn't really do it for me anymore. So I really believe that it starts with who you are.
That's why I love your Instagram bio so much: "Trying not to be a total asshole."
[Laughs] Thank you. Thank you for appreciating that. It's okay to be a little bit of an asshole. But try not to be a total asshole.
That's a good beauty tip, I like that.
"Don't go full asshole." [Laughs]
Are there any super affordable beauty products that you can't live without?
Coconut oil. Coconut oil is wonderful, I use it on my body. Every time I get out of the shower, I put coconut oil on. It's great — just be careful if you're wearing silks and stuff. I ruined so many clothes like that, I put it on and think it's soaked in, and then I'm like, "No!"
Tea tree oil, too, it's great for blemishes. What else? There's a company called ISUN that makes really lovely organic products. They have a really good sunscreen. Sunscreen's important. And Dr. Bronner's, love their stuff, love their soaps — I like the almond, I like the rose. Peppermint's nice, but sometimes it's a little tingly.
What about splurges? What do you go all out on?
I would say the facials and stuff, for me, are the beauty splurges.
Do you remember the first beauty product you were obsessed with?
Maybe Lipglass? Remember Lipglass? MAC's Lipglass. I was very into that when I was like 15.
The beauty industry is now starting to focus more on diversity, but is there anything that you think we still need to be doing when it comes to inclusivity? What changes do you think we still need to see?
I think people are becoming more conscious and aware, especially with someone like Rihanna and Fenty, who's making colors for every shade for every person, I think that's great and I think a lot of other companies are seeing how important that is.
I think to me, the most important thing, or the thing that I would like to see shift, is this idea of having to look the same. I feel like there are a lot of beauty trends right now that kind of try and literally change the shape of your face to make it look one way, that's what we think is beautiful right now, I guess — like, small nose and the cheekbones and the brows and the big lips.
I just get worried that people feel like that is the only way to look beautiful. If you don't have a little nose, and you don't have big lips, and you don't have high cheekbones, I think you still need to be able to see a reflection of yourself in beauty. I hope people kind of start to lean away from that.
To that end, are there any beauty trends out there that you think you would never follow?
Never? I guess, never say never. And I just think everything is just about how it's executed. Like, contour is great if you do it lightly.
Do you have any beauty regrets or mistakes?
I think the biggest mistake I've done is wear too much makeup. Especially when I was younger, forgetting about the importance of balance with makeup, not doing everything at once. You can't do a strong lip with a strong eye with a strong cheek. You just can't do it all. I think simplicity is key, balance is key. And I've definitely seen some pictures of me from when I was younger, and I'm like "Ugh!"
I feel like you've escaped the curse of the very tweezed nineties brow, though.
I did do that when I was about 15.
Yeah, I came home and my mom was so mad at me. She was so, so pissed, and she scared me so badly that I never touched my eyebrows again. And luckily they grew back. Because sometimes they don't. But I did do it once. I did the full — you know when it's like a ball, and then an arch? And it's like, what is that? I did do that.
Did you do it yourself, or did you get someone to do it professionally?
No, I did it myself. I did that to myself. [Laughs]
VIDEO: Is It Cool with Zoë Kravitz
Do you have any advice for your younger self? Beauty-related or not?
I think my advice to any younger person is to just try and enjoy it, which is so hard because we've become so obsessed with getting older and having freedom and being an adult, being sexy and all these things. I look at my little brother and sister now, and I'm just like, "Ugh, this is such a precious time." Wanting to get out of that time is part of that age, but just try to enjoy being young.
Do you think your perception of beauty and what's beautiful has changed over the years?
Yeah, I do. I think when I was younger, I thought that beauty was tall, thin, blonde, and white, because that's what I saw on all the magazines and in all the movies. I think over the past 15 years of my life, I've learned how to love myself and see beauty in a deeper way. In a realer way. I always just try and get out of my own head and look at the people I love and how beautiful I think they are. And I try and reflect that love back to myself, because sometimes it's so hard to be kind to yourself.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.