There are a few things I find completely mesmerizing: a creamy vanilla latte first thing in the morning, a decadent slice of red velvet cheesecake, an extravagant pair of strappy sandals. Well, as of this week, I can add Kerry Washington to that list. Yes, I’ve always admired the Scandal star on a red carpet. But, seeing the 45-year-old in person literally rendered me speechless at first. Once recovered, my next inclination was to glean Washington’s beauty secrets — because I’ll literally have what she’s having.
“It takes an hour in the makeup chair, but sure,” says Washington with a laugh when I mention the effortless fresh face she’s known for. She’s just finished an outdoor yoga session, hosted by Neutrogena, which she’s been a longtime spokesperson for — so she’s extra glowy and zen, not to mention honest about her own beauty woes over the years.
“I feel like there was a time where I really struggled to find foundations that worked for my skin,” says Washington. “So, you know, I have compassion for that girl because she was doing the best she could.” In fact, the mother of two explains it was this specific struggle with makeup that drew her to the partnership with Neutrogena. “That's part of what I'm proud of,” she explains. “When I first joined this company, I could not find my shade range in our concealer department; it didn't exist. So, to have concealers and foundations now that I helped develop and that I use every day at work and at play. I'm really proud of that.”
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“Honestly I was not a retinol user before working with [Neutrogena] and I have really sensitive skin,” says Washington when discussing her skin care routine. “I've had eczema my whole life and really sensitive, very reactive skin. So I'm super proud that we have a retinol that's so user-friendly.”
And you can’t mention retinol without discussing sunscreen, and Washington has a particular passion for SPF, especially in the summer. More than just preventing premature signs of aging, a solid SPF can also serve as a potential life saver. “We wore SPF as kids, but I didn't really understand how important it was, and I didn't understand the importance of using a higher number, and the importance of reapplying, and really the importance of integrating it into every day,” she says. “We used SPF when we went to the beach, or if we were sitting at the pool as kids. But it has to be part of your daily defense, it has to be embedded into your daily rituals because skin cancer is preventable.”
For summer, Washington reaches for a serum-based SPF that’s hydrating and lightweight. “I think the Invisible Daily Defense Serum [by Neutrogena] has been a game changer because I can put it on under concealer, under foundation, and it just smooths everything,” she says. “Super hydrating, but not greasy in the summertime — I don't want to feel greasy, I don't want to have something heavy. So I really love that.”
Although her day-to-day look remains more natural and toned-down (“My go-to is like, you know, a slightly smudged line, a little mascara, concealer and go”), Washington says a red carpet moment allows her to play a little. “If I want to pop something onto my lip, whether it's a gloss or a bold color, like that's kind of where I play,” says Washington. “I also love that kind of Euphoria eye art trend that's happening right now. I haven't really found the right moment to play with it myself, but I'm such a fan.”
As for the Y2K beauty trends that are having a moment? Washington says she’s open to it. “Again, I feel like in my day to day I don't play as much, but when it's time to go out, on a carpet or have a date night, I think, you know, a little frosty shadow never [hurt] anybody.”
While her makeup may be a bit touch and go, the nail arena is where Washington shines consistently. From chrome manicures and whimsy decals to crystal-studded digits, nothing is off the table for the actor. In fact, Washington (who also happens to be a spokesperson for OPI) even chooses her manicure looks based on the various roles she’s playing at the moment. “So I'm playing a character right now who I decided is a chrome detail girl,” she says, referring to the gold-tipped nails she sported most recently. “Now I have rose gold and we might go silver for the finale. But I really, I love a chrome detail. I think that's really fun.”
But once filming wraps, Washington plans to fully embrace summer vibes and “go bright neon.”
Whether it’s a retro bob, natural curls, or bountiful boho braids, Washington loves to switch up her hair looks often. But doing so also requires her to keep it healthy, hydrated, and strong. “Hydration, hydration, hydration,” says Washington of her first line of defense that includes drinking lots of water. But there are also some trusty products that help things along. “I really like Pattern’s mask,” says Washington. “First of all, it smells like a spa. [Tracee Ellis Ross’] stuff is great. And I'm excited to try the new mousse that they just launched!”