Alexa Chung Shares Her Makeup and Hair Secrets

aka excuse for a beauty post

“I grew up in a miniature village in the middle of the countryside in England, quite secluded from the outside world. I was always enamored by the fashion industry. I’d read Vogue magazines at the hairdresser’s while I was waiting for my mom to get her hair done and used to write essays on the fashion world with my friend Lucinda who lived up the road. This was before blogs or Internet or stuff like that. Even now, I consider myself mostly a journalist because I write interviews for a living. I did TV for a bit, and somewhere along the line I started writing a column for The Independent newspaper in England, and now I write features for British Vogue. It’s a bit braggy to say, but I’m over here [in New York] writing cover stories on couture, but literally no one knows that I do it!

But it was because of the TV shows that I first really got into the fashion thing. I went to a Chanel show because I had to interview Karl Lagerfeld and everyone thought I was there as one of the ‘It girls’ that sit front row, but I went backstage because I was working. I walked up to talk to Karl and his bodyguard told me that I could do the very last interview and that everyone else had to just record it. I was like, ‘Fuck!’ So I went to the front of the group and forgot all my questions. The only thing I could remember about the show was the music, so I asked why he played The Shirelles. He was really happy because someone was asking a new type of question for once, and my relationship with Chanel kind of grew out of that. Once they’d been like, ‘She’s all right guys,’ the fashion world was like, ‘Oh!? Who’s this guy?’ and I started doing more and more of that.

So, suddenly people became interested in what I was wearing. As a [TV] presenter, you’re given a budget each season to buy a wardrobe that you’d choose from for each show. It wasn’t that much money, so I’d buy two nice pairs of shoes and one really lovely blouse, and the rest I’d fill in with H&M, Topshop, and Zara. Because of that, people at home would be like, ‘Oh, I’ve got that top, but it’s interesting that she’s putting it with those boots,’ etcetera. It was once people began taking my picture every time I left the house—because it’s an easy fashion shot—that I started getting a bit weirder about going out without any makeup on, and I think that’s when I started wearing foundation every day.


I do a concoction of stuff. Right now, I mix YSL Le Teint Touché Éclat Illuminating Foundation and a bit of the Laura Mercier Illuminating Tinted Moisturizer together with my fingers and just rub it onto my face. And I use this Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage for under my eyes—you have to cover that shit. To finish, I’ll pat Chanel Sublimage Cream on my cheeks for a bit of a glow.

When I’m wearing makeup, I choose between doing my eyes or mouth because I don’t want to look like a beauty pageant child. I’ve got quite a strong face—if it’s got too much on, I just look like a man in drag. Lips are usually easiest to do. I’m so pleased that they started selling this again—Rio Rio by Topshop. I told Liv Tyler about that. Chanel Rouge Allure Incandescente 97 is a good red, as well. If I’m doing eyes, then I use a lighter lip, and for that I’m obsessed with all the YSL peachy, salmon-y colors. I love the Rouge Volupte in Rose Infinite 7. Their nudes are really good.

Because I have the luxury of having my makeup done frequently, I don’t have a huge collection of products. But I am an avid wearer of eyeliner—I would say I’m wearing it 90 percent of the time. Someone at a dinner recently asked me if it was tattooed on because they’ve never seen me without it, which I actually think would be wonderful...though I’ve gotten really good at doing it. I’ve done mine for so many years that I can just draw it on really quickly. It's funny, the makeup brand Eyeko approached me to collaborate, and we had a meeting and talked ideas and they asked if I wanted to help develop some products. It really made sense. So, it started with just the Skinny Liquid Eyeliner, which is a pen. I really love it—before I was using a brush and pot, but it’s so much to take with you, and you’re always getting your bag dirty with the brush, and you have to clean it every time; it’s a nightmare. The pens are much better. My technique is to start with the little flicks on the outside first, and then fill it in. Sometimes, I’ll do just a tiny line for a brunch, but if I’m going out for the night, then I’ll experiment with thicker lines. If you mess it up, then you just have to go with the flow and it becomes a full look. Anyway, then we did the Eye Do Mascara, and we’re now working on the Me and My Shadow stick, which is a thicker version of a kohl pencil and the idea is that you can just kind of smudge it on. It has a brush on the other end to help. It’s so easy, and really the best I've used.

The culture in England is such that it’s really not cool to look like you’ve tried so hard. If someone’s gone to the spa to get their nails done, you’re like, ‘Oh rate yourself!’ which is saying, like, ‘Ooh you’re fancy!’ It’s seen as very self-indulgent. Though, in America, if you’re pampering yourself and getting the blowout and the rest of it, you’re seen as doing really well and it’s celebrated. In England, it’s the opposite—it’s very embarrassing to seem like you're lording it up over people. It’s just not about being ‘done.’ We’re into being clean, just not looking like you’ve made too much of an effort.


It’s like with my hair: I wash it every day because I have to—it gets so greasy. But then I just literally tuck it behind my ears and wait for it to dry. I’ve gotten disparaging comments about this before because people get annoyed about it. They’re like, ‘I’m so sick of Alexa pretending she doesn’t do anything.’ No, I really don’t. I’m mixed race—I’ve got half Chinese hair, half Caucasian hair—so it's very fine and naturally bends as it dries. I have a pathological fear of using products in my hair because, again, it’s so greasy. I do like the Wella Ocean Spritz Beach Texture Hairspray, and I’ll use the L’Oréal Texture Expert True Grip powder in the back at the crown to give it some volume. But it’s like cement, so you have to use it so sparingly. You don’t just pour it straight onto the top; I lift up pieces up and dust it in beneath.

I do have to switch up shampoos quite regularly because otherwise my hair will get used to it and I'll get build-up, or it starts going really greasy. I just found a Klorane Shampoo with Quinine and B Vitamins, which leaves you with a nice dry texture. L’Oréal INOA Color Care is good, too. And then I use conditioner just on the ends; it helps keep my fringe from getting too greasy. For conditioner, I like Pureology Pure Volume.

I get the impulse to cut my hair or change my look every day. I used to have a bob, and then one day I just realized like, 'OK, the jig is up—boys just like long hair.' I hate to generalize, but they do! So I thought, ‘Why don’t I just look nice for a second?’ and I grew it out. I’d be imagining what it’d be like to flick my hair, or what it would be like when I could finally tie it up, and then as soon as it hit the optimal length, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I want a bob again ‘cause it’s cool.’ I think it’s boring to stay in the same lane too long. My plan is to have a bob when I’m older anyway; my mom always had one her whole life and I think it’s more flattering than long hair when you’re older.

My hairdresser, George Northwood, and I came up with the idea of 'Future Cuts' because I’m so weird about who cuts my hair. He literally might be the reason people like my hair, because he’s so clever with it. But I travel so much and have to be away from him, so we’ll have to plan in advance what we want to do. For example, the plan was to grow out my fringe and then cut it short, so during that process he’s done less layering so it grows nicely. 'Future Cuts' are about planning ahead instead of being reactive, so it grows into the thing you want it to be.

Rest of the article: INTO THE GLOSS

What are your beauty secrets, ONTD?