BEAUTY BYTES: Karen Elson on how she made Jo Malone London even boujier, being starstruck by Prince George and her constant battle with frizzy hair

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 favourite cheat meals. You know, all the important and essentials things that we need to know about.

Late last year, I sat down with supermodel and singer, Karen Elson, to talk about her exciting collaboration with jeweller Duffy and Jo Malone London – the Birthstones Collection. She revealed what Pat McGrath has taught her about lipstick, how she fears we might be headed to world similar to Handmaid’s Tale and introduced me to Winston Smushface. KT – Digital Beauty Editor.

KT: YOU HAVE MANAGED TO MAKE THE ALREADY CHIC JO MALONE BOTTLES CHIC, HOW DID YOU MANAGE IT?

KE: I originally had the idea to do a whole horoscope collection, but that would involve like inventing twelve new fragrances for each horoscope. Which was unrealistic when you’ve got so many incredible Jo Malone London fragrances already. So then we started thinking about what else we could do that was months-related, that’s kind of personal and bespoke. And then we came up with birthstones; let’s make a new bottle cap that has a birthstone inside of it. But instead of just having a regular bottle top we brought Duffy, the jeweller, in to design something really weighty and heavy and luxurious. They’re handcrafted and I love when something’s been made with quality and love. Everyone has their own favourite Jo Malone London fragrance so you can personalise your bottle or buy someone their birthstone as a present.

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karen elson jo malone

KT: AND HOW DID YOU FIND DUFFY?

KE: Someone said to me, ‘Have you heard of Duffy?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, the hairdresser. I love Duffy the hairdresser. I’ve worked with him before.’ And she was like, ‘No, there are apparently many Duffys around and it’s actually Duffy the hairdresser’s brother – also Duffy.’ Interesting right?

KT: IS HE MARRIED TO KATE HALFPENNY, THE DESIGNER? 

KE: I don’t know. Apparently there are lots of Duffys around, all married to incredible women. It came about very organically in that sense. We had some meetings, he showed me mock-ups and I really wanted something that stood out. I guess it’s quite elaborate but it’s quite simple at the same time. Like something that, you know- something that feels sharp but it also feels very classic. I would want to see that in my bathroom.

KT: AND WHICH BIRTHSTONE ARE YOU?  

KE: I’m January, so garnet. It’s just kind of sweet. A friend gave me an Esteé Lauder a Carpicorn compact a few years ago and I love it. You hold onto those things forever.

KT: SO WHICH ONE IS YOUR SIGNATURE FRAGRANCE? WHICH SCENT WOULD YOU PUT YOUR GARNET CAP ONTO? 

KE: It’s very hard when there are so many gorgeous Jo Malone London fragrances. I have a few go-to favourites, which I mix and match all the time; Red Roses is obviously for any time, because it’s such a beautiful, beautiful fragrance. Just a spritz of Incense and Cedrat is very seductive. I’m definitely getting more into Honeysuckle and Davana. English Oak and Redcurrant, Blackberry and Bay; I mean there are so many.

KT: WHAT’S THE WORST BEAUTY TREND YOU’VE EVER ATTEMPTED?

KE: Pearlised lipstick. Hate it. I can’t stand like a pink pearlised lip.

KT: THAT SORT OF FROSTED LOOK?

KE: Yeah. I can’t deal.

KT: WHAT’S THE BEST BEAUTY ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN?

ELSON: Less is more. Like, twenty people have said it to me, a lot of them good makeup artists. I remember clearly Dick Page saying it to me. What I love about him, as a makeup artist, is that he’s quintessentially less is more. Like Dick knows how to do one subtle thing that looks beautiful but hasn’t taken away from the original beauty of the person.

KT: AND DO YOU ADAPT THIS INTO YOUR OWN MAKEUP?

KE: I never want to overkill, but if you’re going to do something have it be impactful. But not a way that you’re overwhelmed by it.

KT: LIKE A RED LIP?

KE: Like a red lip or – like today I was like let’s use blue eyeliner, I like to play with colour but never over doing it.

KT: WHAT IS YOUR BEST BEAUTY PRODUCT RECOMMENDATION? 

KE: It’s hard because I go through so many products all the time, I love beauty products – I’m a hoarder. Skin wise though, I’ve been into Vintner’s Daughter. Of all the oils, that actually seems to do something. But I always mix it with something.

Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum, £175 Cult Beauty

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KT: IT’S BECOME QUITE THE CULT CLASSIC. DO YOU MIX IT WITH A CREAM? 

KE: Yeah. I’m such a sucker for good packaging as well.

KT: IF YOU HAD TO HAVE ONE HAIRSTYLE, ONE MAKEUP LOOK AND ONE NAIL COLOUR FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, WHAT WOULD YOU CHOOSE?

KE: Ok, well I want Rapunzel-long, big, Jessica Rabbit hair so give me that. I’ll be so happy with just hair down to my waist – so happy. If I had to have one makeup look-  Pat McGrath’s made me some lipsticks so we’d choose one of her Elson lipsticks. And Chanel Rouge Noir – a deep, deep blood red.

Pat McGrath Labs MatteTrance Lipstick in Elson, £35 Net-A-Porter

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KT: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR BEAUTY SECRET?

KE: Good skin. With good skin you can get away with a lot, you know? I think if your skin looks good without wearing any makeup, that’s the best base. So for me, I think when you neglect taking care of your skin, it makes it hard to even put anything on top of it. Don’t hide things, like let it out. Let your skin shine. Be what it naturally is. If you’ve got good skin it’s very easy to apply makeup.

KT: WHAT ARE YOUR TOP THREE BEAUTY BRANDS?

KE: Jo Malone London, obviously! Pat McGrath because she’s one of my best besties. My third would be Vitner’s Daughter. Because it’s small, it’s only got one product.

KT: WHAT’S IN YOUR MAKEUP BAG RIGHT NOW?

KE: What did I bring with me? So right now I love Tom Ford’s eyeliners because he always has really great colours. So I’ve got like a myriad of Tom Ford eyeliners. By Terry foundation; she has a sheer foundation that I love. Also the Tom Ford palette, it’s got the highlight and rose tint. I’ve got Benetint, the classic Benetint. And Pat McGrath lipsticks, oh and Charlotte Tilbury mascaras.

KT: HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR SKIN? AND CAN YOU TALK THROUGH YOUR MORNING AND EVENING ROUTINE?

KE: Oh, gosh. Well depends on each day. I fell asleep with all my makeup on last night. So I did like the beauty faux pas of that. But morning time, I like the Eve Lom morning cleanser. And depending if my skins feel oily or dry, I like this Kat Burki enzyme spray that if I’ve gotten off a plane – it’s perfect for that. And then I might follow up with her vitamin C cream and some Vintner’s Daughter and La Mer. And at night-time I basically do the same thing, but I might use Augustinus Bader, because I’m obsessed with that cream at the moment and I feel like it does something.

KT: WHAT IS THE BEST MAKEUP TIP A PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP ARTIST HAVE EVER GIVEN YOU?

KE: Pat McGrath taught me to apply my lipstick with my fingers. I’ll put it on and then I’ll blend it in with my fingers because it’s more of a diffused lip line, which makes your lips look fuller. When you’ve got a lip that’s harsh and drawn in, for me at least, I don’t like the way that looks. Pat has always been very hands-on, quite literally. So I’ve really taken how she applies makeup on board.

KT: WHAT ABOUT MANICURES?

KE: Love them. Love, love, love.

KT: HOW OFTEN DO YOU GET THEM AND WHAT DO YOU GET?

KE: When I’m shooting I sometimes get too many. I can get quite tough with a manicurist when she’s coming at me trying to cut a cuticle off that’s already been cut three times that week. I’m like, ‘go away.’ But when I’m home in Nashville, I love to get pedicures and manicures. Such a small luxury. I don’t do nail art or acrylics or anything like that, but I like an interesting colour. I love Chanel nail colours. Universally, Chanel nail colours are like some of the best nail colours so whatever they’re doing, I always take note.

KT: HOW OFTEN DO YOU WORKOUT AND WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE WAY TO EXERCISE?

KE: I love working out. It’s funny I didn’t workout a lot in my twenties and in my thirties I really fell in love with it. So when I’m home in Nashville, I like to workout five days a week. I love it. I do Pilates, I might go on a hike, I might do a spin class. But when I’m travelling it’s so hard and often, even if there’s a gym downstairs, I find myself being more drawn to room service, a glass of wine, and TV. I’m not working out because I want to be thin. That’s the last thing I’m doing it for. I’m doing it because I want to feel strong. I’m all about that at the moment. While I like doing a spin class, I never try and over do it beyond my point of- beyond the threshold-

KT: HOW DO YOU LOOK AFTER YOUR HAIR? 

KE: Oh me and my hair is like an on going love-hate battle, to be honest with you. I’ve got really frizzy red hair. So to keep the frizz tamed, it’s a never-ending battle. I recently got one of those Dyson hair dryers and that’s actually really good.

KT: YEAH, IT’S MEANT TO HELP WITH FRIZZ SO MUCH.

KE: I definitely noticed that it helped with that. When I did a shoot recently I was like, ‘Why is my hair all different lengths?’ Somebody had used a curler and it singed my hair off. Because my hair is so fine hairdressers wants to get that curl, so they use such a high heat, that is will like singe your hair or damage it beyond repair. So I’m constantly dealing with that. As a model, part of just being a model is that someone’s like backcombing your hair to get that big hair look and I’m literally watching pieces of my hair falling on the ground. I’m like, ‘oh awesome.’ It’s hard. I do the occasional hair mask. Olaplex, I know – that’s been really helpful as far as like damage is concerned. Terax is a shampoo that I’m obsessed with. And there are a couple of Redken products that I’m into, as well – All Soft. It really smooths your hair out. And also, what’s it called – Rahua? They have a hair mask, a colour hair mask, that’s got tuberose in it. It’s gorgeous. Heaven. I just scrape my hair back back. Might as well just pretend it’s not there. I want to wear wigs. I want to be Rapunzel.

KT: WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TV SHOW TO BINGE WATCH?

KE: I just finished watching Handmaids Tale, which I absolutely loved. I’m now on American Horror Story, the Apocalypse one which I’m obsessed with. So good, so good. There’s so much to watch. But Handmaid’s Tale is, I mean- you know Margaret Atwood as well, what a writer. The director, Reed Morano – I actually know one of the director’s of Handmaid’s Tale and she’s this incredible woman – started out as a cinematographer, she’s such a bad ass, and is now directing. And she’s a big part of Handmaid’s Tale and how it came about and I just love – it’s eerie, it’s creepy, it’s quite likely we’re heading into those times but let’s hope not.

KT: WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT?

KE: Oh my God, I’m such a nerd. I love following animals all the time. It’s like my favourite guilty pleasure. Don’t give me too many fashion people, you know? Honestly, if you’re a puppy, if you’re a kitten – there’s this one cat, ‘Winston Smushface.’ I can’t with this cat. I’m going to show and it’s going to blow your socks off.

KT: HAVE YOU GOT CATS? ARE YOU A CAT OR DOG PERSON?

KE: Yeah, I’ve got four cats. I love dogs too. I love all creatures. Sometimes I think I like animals more than I like humans. What’s so special about Winston, is that Winston likes to sit up. And his tongue sticks out all the time. That’s what so special about Winston. They’re just funny.

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Bah humbug! ⛄️

A post shared by Winston Smushface (@winstonsmushface) on

KT: WHEN THIS GOES LIVE EVERYONE’S GOING TO START FOLLOWING WINSTON SMUSHFACE AND HE’LL SEE A PEAK IN HIS FOLLOWERS.

KE: I also love Pickle the Pig, I can’t. It’s too much. So yeah, nothing like grand and intelligent. I mean obviously I like all the feminist accounts as well. There’s like @feminist, @instafeminst, my friend Sarah Sophie Flicker who used to be one of the people who started Woman’s March and she’s one of my favourite Instagram activists. I’m all about that. But you have to counter the stuff that’s very powerful with cuteness.

KT: WHEN DID YOU REALISE THAT YOU WERE FAMOUS? WAS THERE PERHAPS A MOMENT WHEN YOU WERE RECOGNISED? 

KE: I remember it clearly. It was Halloween, 1998. Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell would always do their Halloween party in New York back in the day. And I was walking down the street and all of a sudden there was like twenty-five paparazzi following me and I was looking around confused. I literally had this moment like, ‘What is going on? Who’s behind? Oh- me.’ It was so weird because I was still a teenager so it was really – it was weird. Different days. Different time though because Instagram didn’t exist so it wasn’t like – you could still do your thing. We didn’t document every single moment of life.

KT: AND FINALLY, WHO’S THE PERSON YOU WERE MOST STARSTRUCK MEETING? 

KE: Prince. Hands down. I mean I met him a couple of times but the first time I met him, it was a Miu Miu party. Again like, ’97 I think. And I just walked the Miu Miu show and he was performing. And I remember having these crazy, high sparkly blue Miu Miu shoes – I still have in my closet. And I remember he walked into the party and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I love you.’ And he just took my hand and looked at me and I was like, ‘thank you!’ Although I think at this point in time, I’d be star struck if I met Prince George.

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