Viola Davis Shares Her Anti-Aging and Self-Care Secrets

Hana Hong
·7 min read

Viola Davis—need I say more? A woman who needs no introduction, she's now making Oscars history as the most-nominated Black actress ever. Last week, I got to chat with the on-screen superstar, mother, and L'Oréal Paris spokeswoman (FYI, she's just as lovely and well-spoken in real life). Since L'Oréal's new campaign is called Worth It, I thought it would be only fitting to talk about her self-care routine and everything else that makes her feel worth it, even when working in a critical Hollywood environment that can often make you feel otherwise.

In just 15 virtual minutes, here's what I learned: getting older isn't something you should fear, you don't have to feel pressured into taking care of yourself by yourself, and blue mascara only looks cute when a professional does it.

viola-davis-skincare-routine
viola-davis-skincare-routine

Getty Images

For starters, congratulations on the partnership! Can you tell me what about L'Oreal's new campaign speaks to you—and why you find this partnership meaningful?

Viola Davis: You know, I think what gets me is L'Oréal's commitment to women of all ages and all colors. Their tagline I'm worth it is definitely the hooker. The beauty industry needs to make products that are inclusive and make women feel like they're truly worth it. I love L'Oréal's phrase "Age Perfect" [from the brand's Age Perfect line] because it doesn't disqualify older women from feeling like they have to be young to be beautiful.

I agree that's so important, especially when it comes to beauty advertising. Your acting career has been such an impressive journey, and I'm sure it's evolved throughout the years. How would you describe your relationship with beauty throughout your professional career?

VD: My relationship with beauty became more expansive the older I got. In a lot of ways, I feel like I really grew into that term: I'm worth it. I'm a darker-hued African-American woman, so from the time I was very young, the societal idea of what I should look like—and what I didn't look like—came for me. Because of that, I didn't feel like being beautiful had anything to do with me. Early on in my career, I felt that I wasn't pretty girl material, so I settled. That's just how you come to feel when you go on auditions, and the only auditions you get are certain characters. I was never the girlfriend or even the wife. I was always the best friend, maybe a mother in one or two scenes. It wasn't until I got How to Get Away With Murder that I realized I could redefine beauty for myself and love the way I look. It was then that I truly appreciated the way my skin radiates, my smile, and my abilities. I didn't realize how much of those attributes had to do with my beauty. I just believed that there was a prototype, and if you didn't look like that prototype, then you were nowhere near the perimeter of being beautiful. I didn't know that you can define it for yourself until I was 47.

When would you say you feel the most beautiful?

VD: I like when I look like me. I hate it when makeup artists put a crapload of makeup on me to force me into looking like something that I'm not. There have been times in my career—and even on stage—when a makeup artist would use products that literally bleached my skin to try and whiten it, or use foundation that was five to six shades lighter than my natural skin color. It should go without saying, but beauty products should be right for your skin tone and your age.

Definitely. On the flip side what would you say is your biggest beauty regret?

VD: Probably blue mascara when I was like 20 years old. And it was like a neon blue! And I would put a lot of it on. You could not tell me that I was not making the best makeup choices, and I would be amazed that people wouldn't be throwing compliments at me. Not to say I'm against graphic makeup—I guess it would work now if I had some skillful makeup artist put it on me, but yeah...I just didn't know how to do it back then.

Since we're sharing all the beauty secrets, what is the best beauty secret someone has taught you?

VD: You know there's been so many—and so many that I didn't listen to. Hence the blue mascara. But you know what? The best thing anyone ever told me is to make sure all of your makeup is off your skin when you go to bed. And I know that that's really, really simple, but when I was younger, I had large pores and breakouts all over. And I never knew where they came from until I realized that mindlessly wiping my face for two seconds and jumping into bed wasn't enough. Now, I make sure to steam, cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturize—and it's made all the difference. I have people who I grew up with come up to me and say that I look better now than I did when I was in high school. At first, I got a little bit offended by that, until I thought about it and realized someone telling you that you look better at 55 than you did at 17 is a pretty great compliment.

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During the pandemic, it seems a lot of us have become more simplistic in our approach to beauty. And self-care is so important these days, what are some of your tips for doing self-care right?

VD: One is making time for it. You can't feel like everything else is more important—self-care is just as high on the radar as work. For me, my self-care regime doesn't stop until I'm in bed. It's more of a lifestyle: I take Epsom salt baths, apply essential oils in the shower, tune into the Calm app, turn on diffusers, and use every kind of skincare and anti-aging treatment, which now starts with L'Oréal's Cell Renewal Midnight Serum ($33; walmart.com). I'm more of a bathroom girl than a closet girl, so I love taking care of my skin—I even do my husband's skincare! I do whatever makes me feel good, because there's so many intrusive elements out there that don't make you feel good. If skincare—which is something within my power—can make me feel better, I'm going to get a boatload of it and smear it all over my face.

In a way, self-care is really celebrating what it means to be alive.

However, what people need to understand is that self-care is very different from self-help. And I think that's really important, because another part of my self-care routine is being with my daughter and my husband. It's having really great, transparent conversations with friends over Zoom calls. It's OK to ask for help, and that's a part of my self-care too.

I think people being at home are finally understanding that simply being healthy and happy means so much. In a way, self-care is really celebrating what it means to be alive. And that means just embracing yourself and your family. I actually just said that to my husband this morning. I said, "I'm happy to have you. I'm happy to just be sitting in the backyard with you, I'm happy with you just staring into my face and me staring into yours." That loving mentality is how we should see self-care.