'I came out of the room and did a fist pump of joy'
Welcome to Beauty Bytes: a place where I chat to celebrities about all things beauty – from their favourite products, to their biggest beauty disasters. Plus I grill them on everything from their social media habits to their all-time favourite meals. You know, all the important and essential things that we need to know about.
Author, presenter and founder of the Happy Place podcast, Fearne Cotton is one of the country’s best-loved national treasures, known for her down-to-earth-ness and great sense of humour. Here we caught up on all things beauty, including her new range at Boots, plus she shares her best beauty advice, go-to vegan beauty products and what it was like to meet Hillary Clinton IRL.
LA: What’s the worst beauty trend you’ve ever attempted?
FC: Make-up wise I definitely made a plethora of errors in my teens. In our school there was this phase of wearing way too dark lip liner, a really dark lip shade. I look at the pictures of it and it almost looks like eyeliner, it’s so bad. And then there was this really weird shade called Heather Shimmer.
LA: Someone was just talking about this the other day, the Rimmel one?
FC: Oh my god, it’s awful. It’s like this pearlescent, brown-ey purple. I mean, we all looked horrendous, I think we were all trying to be TLC and it just wasn’t working. And then way too much eyeshadow. I plucked my eyebrows way too thin, which then took about 15 years to grow back.
LA: At least they finally came back, you live and you learn. How do you take care of your skin, do you have a day and nighttime routine?
FC: I mean, not really. As long as I take all my make-up off at the end of the day, then I’ll just use any regular cleaner or cloth. I’m trying to use non-disposable cotton pads, the ones that you can wash, I’ve been doing that a lot. Then I just put some moisturiser on and that’s it really.
LA: The removing of the make-up is the most important bit, really.
FC: I think so, and then on days like today where I’m not actually doing anything, I just don’t wear any make-up.
LA: What’s your favourite skincare product?
FC: I’m not sure. I never really know, I just go to the local chemist on the High Street and buy whatever, a micellar water or any cheap cleanser. I don’t think the expensive ones are necessarily better than the High Street ones. I try and get a big bottle so I’m not using [lots of] plastic bottles all the time, I just get one bottle that I can use for a long time, I’m not really fussy about where it’s from.
LA: You can get some really nice cleansers by drugstore brands that dermatologists recommend too. What does the word ‘wellness’ mean to you?
FC: That’s a good question, because I think [the word wellness] gets thrown about in the wrong way. I do a lot of work around mental health, I spend a lot of time talking about it and thinking about it, so I think sometimes it gets batted around too flippantly. I think at the end of the day, it’s about liking yourself and knowing that you deserve to be looked after. That’s not in a luxurious way, that’s in a way that is bespoke to you – it has to be about doing things for you that make a positive impact on your life, that will then benefit you in the physical sense, the mental sense and the emotional sense. That might be finding a purpose, that might be not working so much, working a bit more, going for walks everyday, eating a little better. It’s whatever you can do to really help nurture yourself. It’s something we all struggle with; I struggle with it, I can be a little bit of a workaholic and really want to push myself. At a time when it’s not as busy or that doesn’t require as much energy or effort, I can beat myself up a little bit or think I’m being lazy. We can all be so hard on ourselves, and I think that wellness is a real full-bodied look at what affects you mentally, emotionally and physically and what you can do to help yourself out. It’s a real sort of bizarre, nebulous emotion, but it can’t be one thing, it’s bespoke to you.
LA: What sort of things do you do when you need some down time?
FC: Sometimes I need some down time, but other times I just need to be inspired to feel better. I don’t think it’s always about recuperation, sometimes it can just be about going for a really long walk or a run, listening to a great podcast or reading a brilliant book. I’m a bit of an introvert, weirdly, I like hanging out with my friends and people at work that I really get on with, but at parties with big crowds I get really drained. So I need time on my own to do things in solitude. So it’s just anything that I can be content on my own doing, that really balances me out.
LA: Also, with your podcast you’ve created this really nice space that helps an awful lot of people – but making it must be really therapeutic for you too?
FC: Yeah! Oh my god, for me it’s really the most selfish endeavour. I’m just learning every week, figuring out what life is about – I’m as clueless as everyone else is. We’re all just hoping for the best and rumbling along. For me, conducting these interviews and having these conversations is about getting to know life in a different way, a little bit deeper, and looking at different angles and perspectives and hearing people’s stories. Storytelling is just so important; I think we all need to look at that a little more and try and understand how we can have a little more autonomy than we think we do. But equally, we have to learn to let go and go with the flow. For me, the podcast is about picking people’s brains apart and luckily I’ve learnt something from every episode so it’s just a joy, really.
LA: It’s so lovely. I’m very excited for this week’s episode [with Jonathan Van Ness], that will be me on my way home.
FC: Ah, I’m so glad, thank you.
LA: What’s the best beauty advice you’ve ever been given?
FC: What would it be… I guess I used to love matte and would really mattify my face. My make-up artist, who is one of my best friends and my kids’ godmother, Justine Jenkins, she’s all about keeping it dewy. I used to be really scared of looking shiny, but it does just make you look younger and more glowy. She’s really brilliant and doesn’t use anything that’s tested on animals or non-vegan. So I’ve really learnt a lot from her in terms of only using brands that align with that way of thinking. She’s just amazing, I’ve worked with her for years.
LA: What is the best product recommendation you’ve ever received?
FC: She uses a lot of Burt’s Bees make-up, that is really lovely, their foundation usually sticks to my skin. Hourglass and bareMinerals we’ve used a lot over the years. She’s always got something new, some new amazing vegan brand. Inika she uses a lot. I’m really not fussed about what the newest thing on trend is, or the most expensive product that Gwyneth Paltrow uses to cleanse her soul, I’ll just use whatever is vegan, sustainable or long lasting. Stuff that is not going to be detrimental to the planet as much as I can. I would rather go down that line, rather than thinking about what’s going to give me the most contoured cheek or whatever.
LA: What’s in your make-up bag right now?
FC: You know what, I was thinking to myself when I’ve got a day off I need to go through it, because it’s just disgusting. It must have like eight mascaras in there and it needs a clean out. I’ve had eyeshadows break in there, so it’s got all these crumbly bits and then my daughter likes to rifle through it, nicking my lipstick, so that’s a depleted area. But there’s a bunch of stuff, I’ve got a lot of nice Charlotte Tilbury lipsticks that she gave me. I’ve got bareMinerals and Burts Bees and all of those brands that I’ve talked about that JJ uses. Yesterday I found a Christmas bauble that one of the children must have put in there. It’s huge and it needs to be decanted and refined, but it’s one of those jobs that I just can’t be arsed to do. You know what, maybe I’ll do it today.
LA: Or, in 2022.
FC: Yeah! Exactly.
LA: How do you look after your hair?
FC: You know what, now it’s short I don’t really have to. Before, when it was mermaid long and everyone thought it was extensions, I did have to use a lot of leave in conditioners. But now it’s short I like it to look a bit messed up, I almost like it to look in bad condition. I’ve got really thick hair and a lot of it, I’m really lucky. I got it from my dad, it’s really robust. I don’t really do anything to it; I wash it, condition it and usually allow it to dry naturally because I can’t be arsed to dry it. If I’m going out I might put a bit of movement in it, put some products in it to make it look a bit messed up. That’s it really, quite low key.
LA: It’s great to have low maintenance hair.
FC: I haven’t washed it in five days though, which is a bit gross, but I think it still looks okay. It doesn’t get that greasy.
LA: Once you’ve done that once I feel like it doesn’t need washing as often afterwards.
FC: I know, I mean I don’t leave it that long normally but I haven’t had a bloody second with these kids, so I just don’t have time.
LA: I mean, that’s what dry shampoo is for. Do you have any go-to products?
FC: I got sent something the other day from Living proof, and that was great actually, very nice. I’ve been using that a lot, it’s lovely. But often I’ll go to Wholefoods and buy something that is vegan again, not really bothered. As long as it doesn’t smell too crazy then I’ll give it a go. You know what other products I use, Percy and Read, they do a really good stuff to make it all textured, so I’ve been using a lot of that.
LA: How often do you work out, and what would you say is your favourite form of exercise?
FC: I work out a lot because I would say I really get a kick out of it mentally. I love running, I did this big five-mile run yesterday which was gorgeous, I was listening to a podcast and time flies, which was great. Other times I’ll do a 20 minute HIIT workout or some very chill yoga in the kitchen. I don’t go to classes, I don’t have time for any of that. With children, it’s impossible to be like, OK, next Tuesday… Until they’re both at school, there’s no time for any of that. So I just do stuff that’s free and ad hoc that I can do whenever I can. I tend to work out five to six times a week, but like I said sometimes I go on a long run, other times I’ll do a quick 20 minute HIIT. It’s not always massively lengthy.
LA: I think it’s good to just cram wherever you can, especially when you can get that mental buzz. Do you have a signature fragrance?
FC: I do! My favourite, favourite, favourite smell ever – I found this lovely lady at this market in Ibiza about two summers ago and as I was walking past, I was like, ‘what is that smell?’ I went back and had this lengthy chat with her, and now I go back every year, we have this catch up and I buy as many bottles as I can. The brand is called Evelyn Naón. There are two scents, but the one that me and Jesse both love is unisex and it’s called Ibiza Al Oud. It’s otherworldly, churchy, mysterious, amazing, exotic heavenliness. I pass someone and they ask me how I smell like some kind of healing hippy. The bottle is so beautiful, you have to Google it or go on her Instagram, they’re such beautiful containers. I buy as many as I can to last me the full year before I go back the following summer. Again, I like supporting small brands and small companies who do things well, and that’s a nice way to do it.
LA: That’s a nice story, too.
FC: It’s interesting actually, I’ve always been massively obsessed with scent and since I can remember with my mum, I’ve always wanted to have ‘my’ smell. Going through the process with the collection has been way more scientific than I could have ever have imagined. You do this whole process of layering the notes, and I had no idea about that. I’ve been able to drill my obsession over the years, trying on all these perfumes and working out what I really like, which is always quite interesting, I think. You get a whiff and it gives you such an amazing sensory overload and it’s just gorgeous and potent. My favourite scent out of the three [in the collection] is called Calm and we do lots of different products in it, bath bombs and body spray and lotion. Because they knew I was completely obsessed with the smell, Boots made me a gorgeous perfume of it that I rinsed in about a month. That again is quite churchy and smokey.
LA: I have the Calm scent on my desk and not only do I spritz on myself, I spray the office too. If it came out as a perfume I would be on that.
FC: Maybe it will now, because as I said I’ve run out of mine pretty quickly. It works really well as a perfume, it’s kind of a more intense version of what we’ve already done really. That is my favourite scent. We’ve tested out some products for what comes next, we’ve done something really lovely with the (20:09) fleet scent which has now become Jesse’s favourite, he’s sort of become intoxicated with that one.
LA: That’s nice that you both have a different favourite as well. I feel like your home smells incredible.
FC: Yeah, it does. Always.
LA: Does your beauty routine change when you’re on holiday?
FC: Because I’m getting close to 40 and noticing my skin changing, I want to look after it a little bit more than say, when I was in my twenties. I do whack on factor 50 everyday and wear a hat, boring mum stuff that I used to laugh at my mum for doing, but you’ve gotta do it! I’m very minimal on holiday, I don’t really worry about it. It’s always more about scent rather than make-up or products, I always wear some sort of smell or perfume. I could never leave the house without putting perfume on, that is just a rule. Scent is more important to me than make-up or hair. I love it being part of who you are and when people meet you that’s a real part of who you are. I like it because I have a lot of friends who have their own smell, and what they wear is a real familiar moment.
LA: Scent is so personal that you want to put it on everyday, and it makes you feel good. What are your three most-used emojis?
FC: Let me have a little look and tell you. We’ve got the classic red love heart, we’ve got the laughing emoji, and the woman with her hand on her forehead. The facepalm. Yes, that was used on Friday when I forgot it was non-uniform day, when I texted Jesse that the cat had shit on the kitchen floor.
LA: It’s very universal. What is your favourite book?
FC: I’m obviously a nerdy reader, I get through about a book a week. I don’t even get to choose my books anymore, as I have to read something for every episode. The best book that I’ve read this year, I’m going to keep it fresh, there are some classics that I love but one of my favourite books I’ve read this year and possibly my favourite fiction is Daisy Jones and The Six. It was so clever, it took me into another world. When it was over I was like, ‘what am I going to do?!’ I felt so bereft. I’ve heard it’s going to be made into a film and I hope they do it justice, because it is sooo well written.
LA: Favourite movie?
FC: It’s quite a cliché, but the one I used to watch religiously is Four Weddings and a Funeral. I think it’s still funny and current in ways. It’s just brilliant, and I love Richard Curtis, I think he’s wonderful.
LA: What would your last meal be?
FC: Me and Jesse are really obsessed with these vegan Beyond Burgers at the moment, so I think I would have one of those with all the things on it; relish, mustard, vegan cheese and lettuce, tomato, the whole thing. It would probably be that.
LA: What is your favourite TV show to binge watch?
FC: I hardly watch any TV shows at the moment because I’m reading, but I’m about to start watching the new series of The Crown because I absolutely gulped down the first two.
LA: Favourite Instagram accounts to stalk?
FC: Probably Elizabeth Gilbert, I love her so much. I love everything she stands for. I love Instagram accounts where you can actually take something away rather than fallaciously and voyeuristically looking and commenting on people. So I really love to walk away from that one and go, Elizabeth just said this or that and I totally feel better about this in my life or whatever, and for it to have a positive impact.
LA: I think social media gets a lot of flack, don’t get me wrong, there are the negative bits, but there are so many great accounts you can really take things from.
FC: Yeah! It’s important, otherwise, don’t follow them.
LA: What was the first thing you bought from your first big pay cheque?
FC: It would have been something really gross, something from Morgan back in the day, or one of those High Street shops that was a bit more expensive than Miss Selfridge, but we thought it was kind of designer. I hadn’t seen a designer shop in my life until my twenties. Morgan or Jane Norman were like the mega posh shops, so it would have been some hideous wrap top or PVC coat. I’m from a working class family, so my first pay cheque wasn’t like, yeah, let’s go and buy a Chanel handbag! It was like ooh, yeah, let’s go to Jane Norman. It would have been something quite naff but that was cool at the time.
LA: Who were you most starstruck meeting?
FC: Probably Hillary Clinton last week, to be honest. It was just surreal, I don’t know if I necessarily felt starstruck, because I’m kind of detached from that these days because of the weirdness of my job. But I sat there and thought, wow, I’m talking to a woman with serious power, who’s held multiple positions that have been hugely impactful, and she’s seen and heard a lot of stuff. It was quite crazy thinking I sat there and had that hour with her.
LA: You must have felt like you were floating afterwards.
FC: Yeah! It was weird, the whole thing was bizarre. I came out of the room and did a fist pump of joy and there were about four secret service guys stood there. I was like, oh my god, that’s so embarrassing that I just did that.