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Julianne Moore a single man tom ford
Julianne Moore as CharlotteA Single Man (2009)

Julianne Moore breaks down her beauty secrets and cult looks

The actor and Hourglass ambassador opens up about her biggest beauty regrets, early make-up experiments and how the industry has changed over her career

Over the course of their career, an actor will spend hours upon hours in make-up chairs, getting transformed into character, preparing for the red carpet or being touched up for a talk show appearance. With almost four decades of iconic roles under her belt, Julianne Moore knows this better than anyone. But while you might think it has made her an expert in cosmetics, actually, she says, it’s the opposite. 

“I always say that when you’re an actor it’s almost like learned helplessness when you’re working with people who truly are experts,” she laughs. “They’re artists, they are going to be able to do things that you’re not able to do, but you do learn. You learn about shades and you learn about application. You develop an eye for it, so you get a little bit better. But they’re better than we are.”

It was the experts Moore turned to when she was first approached by Hourglass to star in the make-up brand’s new lipstick campaign. Already aware of some of its products – the concealer, the eyebrow pencil – she still looked for the opinion of the true connoisseurs. “I asked some friends of mine who are make-up artists, and they said [Hourglass] makes really great stuff. If you ask make-up artists, they will always tell you the truth.”

Unlocked Satin Creme Lipstick is Hourglass’s latest launch. Vegan and cruelty-free, the lipstick comes in 21 shades including ‘Red 0’, a red shade that, unlike traditional reds, doesn’t use carmine (AKA crushed beetles) to achieve the hue. Developed over three years, the award-winning, patent-pending shade is the first vegan replacement for carmine and the brand is hoping to eventually make the ingredient open source to encourage more vegan business practices.

For the campaign, the brand brought together Moore and a collective of women who fight for a range of social causes: from United Nations healthcare ambassador Soukeyna Dioufwho is devoted to raising awareness and funding for Malaria prevention, to animal welfare activist Yovanna Ventura. The campaign also features TikTok star Tatiana Ringsby who is passionate about LGBTQ+ rights, while Moore herself is an advocate for gun safety legislation. 

“We don’t all care about the same things and, in a way, it’s kind of good that we don’t,” says Moore. “Everyone [in the campaign] has something that they feel passionate about and they work towards. It was a group of all these people who are using their platforms to do other things. I really enjoyed that – they were really wonderful women, too.”

Dazed called Moore over Zoom to have a chat about the campaign, her beauty secrets and regrets and her favourite make-up looks over the years.

I love your lipstick!

Julianne Moore: This is the new campaign and it’s really emollient. This ‘Red 0’ is vegan and cruelty free – the thing that I learned during the campaign is that generally the pigment that the beauty industry uses to make lipsticks is derived from insects, beetles. They have formulated this vegan pigment that’s really vibrant, moist and long-wearing.

Was it important to you that it be vegan and cruelty-free?

Julianne Moore: What I liked about Hourglass, because I had been familiar with a couple of their products when they approached me to do this campaign with them, is that it’s female-founded, which was really interesting and important to me. It’s also purpose-driven and it’s a luxury brand: so [I liked] the idea that it’s great make-up with great formulations, long-wearing and luxurious, but there’s also ideology behind it, there’s purpose behind what they’re doing. The fact that they’re donating 5 percent of the profits from this lipstick to animal rights, I thought was interesting. I like that, because I think if you can make a difference with some of the luxury products that you buy, then why not? 

What are your memories from the shoot? How was the experience?

Julianne Moore: I was actually impressed with the casting because not only did I think that everybody was so beautiful, but they were lovely people, absolutely lovely. We laughed a lot and I think everybody felt comfortable with each other. You feel comfortable but you also feel funny. Making commercials can be a weird thing because you’re all standing very close – when you’re on camera with somebody, you’re much closer than you would be in real life. I liked their spirit, I liked the way that they were all really purpose-driven. Nothing felt heavy and they all had a great sense of humour and people were really supportive of each other.

In the campaign, you’re all wearing red lipstick, how does it make you feel? I know when I’m nervous, or I have a big meeting, I always go for the red because it gives me an inner confidence.

Julianne Moore: When you wear a bright colour or when you call attention to yourself in that way, you are saying ‘pay attention, look at me, I’m pulled together, I feel polished, I feel professional, I feel attractive,’ right? I think we use make-up and clothing and all of these things that we do to ourselves as signifiers that tell the world how we want to be seen, or how we feel about ourselves. So, in that sense, I think it’s really interesting and I think it’s nice that people can have a tool that makes them feel good about themselves.

Would you say you find make-up empowering in your own life?

Julianne Moore: Yeah, it can be something that can feel empowering. Like I said, if it makes you feel better, makes you feel like that’s the face that you want, that’s the self that you want to present to the world, it has to be. I think we should all feel like we’re doing it on our own terms. If you feel that you have to wear make-up, or you have to present yourself in one way or another, then it doesn’t feel empowering. But if you’ve chosen it, if it’s something that you’ve chosen for yourself, I think it feels really good.

Out of all the characters that you’ve played, are there any that stand out for you as having great make-up?

Julianne Moore: Charley in A Single Man. My friend Elaine Offers did that make-up and she did a spectacular job – the eye make-up was so elaborate. The thing that she had to do that was so hard was make-up one side of my face, and then do the other side and match it. Make-up artists don’t work that way [normally], they kind of go back and forth and back and forth. It was a big challenge for her to have to do half a face and then do the other half. My make-up was really fantastic.

I also love your look in The Big Lebowski, the dark lips and then the bare eyes. 

Julianne Moore: It is a cool look, right? It was a very specific and very 90s look.

Do you have any make-up regrets when you look back over the years? 

Julianne Moore: I have plenty of make-up regrets. I’m really weird about my eyebrows because, first of all, I’ve absolutely destroyed them over the years. They’re just terrible because I plucked them from the time I could hold the tweezer and then would let them grow back in, and then it would be thin brows again. Now they’re terrible and so I looked at different ways that they were filled in and when people make them really dark they look horrible. So I have lots and lots of eyebrow regrets. 

Historically, the beauty industry has not been great at representing women above the age of about 25. Have you felt that impact as youve gotten older, felt unrepresented or felt a pressure from the beauty industry? 

Julianne Moore: No, frankly. Honestly, I feel like the beauty industry has changed. I do feel that there used to be an emphasis on everybody being very young, white and female. Now I’m seeing an industry where lots of different people are represented and they’re offering products for different skin tones and ethnicities and different ages and things are gender-free. I feel like there’s much more inclusiveness now in the beauty industry. And I do feel like this has been coming for a long time.

Do you remember the first time that you started experimenting with make-up?

Julianne Moore: My friend Barbie and I, that’s all we did. It always starts when you’re around 12, or it did for me. We’d go over and make each other up and Barbie’s mother thought that Barbie had a really heavy hand.

When you’re first experimenting, I think everyone has a heavier hand. I remember putting coloured mascara in my friend’s hair and her mother was not happy about that.

Julianne Moore: I remember my daughter – this isn’t a beauty thing – but one of her friends came over and made every single hair tie in the house into a daisy chain. So I went to look for a hair tie and all I found was this long, long string. It went on forever. I was like, ‘All of them!?’

How long did that take her?

Julianne Moore: I don’t know, I was so mad! I had a box of hair ties and she braided them all.

Did you undo them all, or did you buy new ones?

Julianne Moore: I think I bought some new ones. I started to undo it then I was like this is ridiculous!

How was the experience of watching your daughter discover make-up?

Julianne Moore: She’s definitely much more subtle with her make-up use than I was. When I grew up, we all wore a lot of eyeliner and stuff. She has a very, very light touch and I think that it’s a different time too. I’m not seeing what you were talking about before, where there was an attitude towards [make-up] that you’re using it to cover things up. Now, I think it really is about highlighting and accentuating what you have and so that’s a change that she’s been a part of.

Has your own relationship with make-up changed over the years? Do you find yourself using it in different ways now than you did before?

Julianne Moore: Yeah, I think I know more about it, I think I’m also less dependent on it. There are times when I want to wear make-up and I want to look a certain way and I’ll put some effort into it. There are some times that I don’t feel like I want to present myself that way and I only use a little bit of it or not at all. 

I think what’s been great about the beauty industry is that you feel that there’s a choice. You don’t feel that it’s a requirement: this idea that in order to be fully dressed, you have to be fully made up. It’s like well, no, you don’t, you could just wear lipstick if you want, or if you’re the kind of person that just wants to wear mascara, that’s okay too. You use make-up as a tool and it’s just about how you express yourself. It’s not something that is a requirement. It’s something that you do for yourself to feel a certain way.