Anne Serrano-McClain is the founder of MCMC, a Brooklyn-based fragrance company she runs with her sister. Here, she shares her beauty routine, including a life-changing hair product and the secret to gorgeous brows…
Do you wear makeup?
Yes, every day. For me, a little bit goes a long way, but I need that little bit! I wear Eucerin SPF30 sunscreen every day. One of my family friends growing up was a nurse and she always recommended Eucerin. In the summer, or if Im traveling, Ill use Kiehls Super Fluid UV Defense, which is an SPF50.
First, I apply my sunscreen and while its still the tiniest bit damp, I apply Benefit bronzer in Hoola. Im fair, and the bronzer really makes me look alive and gives my face definition. My sister, who is my makeup guru, told me to apply bronzer just under the cheekbones, along my hairline in a C curve, plus a dot on my chin. Ive been using the same bronzer for seven years now. I like the color, which is very subtle. I also hate makeup with any sparkles in it whatsoever, and this is the only one Ive found that doesnt have any. Even when products claim they have shimmer or are luminizing, it just means they have tinier sparkles! Then I apply eyeliner (either NARS black moon pencil for a smudgy line or Stila black liquid for a clean one) and finish off with two coats of mascara. My friend gave me Dior Creme de Rose lip balm for my birthday and I keep it in my bag and use throughout the day for a subtle, sheer pink lip. Working in the beauty industry, I try not to get too taken with packaging and instead focus on the product, but sometimes there are things that just make you feel good when you see them, and this is one of them.
You have amazing brows. Whats your trick?
I always, always pencil in my eyebrows with Anastasias Perfect Brow. I prefer a hard pencil to a powder, and I need that stiff brush on the end to blend. Every month or two, I also get my eyebrows threaded. It doesnt seem to matter where I go, they always get it right: the shape, the arc, the little trim with mini scissors.
Do you have any favorite splurge items?
I just bought Lancome DEFINICILS, which makes them look very long, sleek and natural. Ive actually thought about lash extensions because a couple of friends do it and it looks so pretty, but Im scared! I hear that as the extensions fall out, sometimes your lashes can too?! Thats a deal breaker for me. I need every lash Ive got.
Are there any budget items you love?
I keep Heritage Stores rosewater spray in my fridge and use it as a facial mist. Its an all-natural rosewater and has the loveliest, loveliest smell. When you keep it in the fridge, its so refreshing to spritz. Ive even got my husband and two-year-old son hooked! We call it his perfume.
What do you love most about your look?
My dad is Irish, and I have freckles. When I was a kid, I didnt see them as a good thing. My mom, who is Korean, used to call them my sun spots. But as I got older, I realized it was something special to me. Now I try to let them shine instead of trying to cover them up.
What do you do to style and care for your hair?
I spent part of my childhood in Japan and am hooked on Japanese shampoo and conditioner. I currently use Shiseidos Tsubaki Shining shampoo and conditioner. It leaves my hair so much silkier than U.S. brands. It feels totally different. My friend also recently introduced my to Batiste Dry shampoo, which is the best thing thats EVER happened to my hair. Ive tried powders that you sprinkle on, but I never got the hang of them. This one is an aerosol, and you lift your hair a little at the roots, spray it on, and it instantly looks like you just got a blow dry. You dont have to do anything else. I love it.
Whats your nighttime routine?
After I get home from work and put our two-year-old to bed, nighttime is the only time I have a little peace and quiet. Sometimes that means watching Shark Tank and The Bachelor, and sometimes that means reading and lighting a candle or incense. In the evenings I take off my eye makeup with Neutrogena eye makeup remover, which is the only one Ive tried that completely works. I put it on a cotton pad, which I buy in bulk. I can be a little lazy about other things, but I do make sure to at least remove my eye makeup.
Have you read anything good recently?
I just finished Marie Kondos tidying book. Its life changing. I did exactly what she said I looked all over my house and gathered up every single piece of clothing, then evaluated everything piece by piece. I actually got rid of 70 percent of my clothing. I purged my beauty products as well. I had been keeping a lot of samples, thinking Ill use these when I travel, but then I never would.
Do you have a stance on bath vs. shower?
These days I take a lot of baths with my two-year-old son, Kairo. Its a sweet ritual after hes at daycare all day. We use just two productsthe regular Johnson & Johnson baby soap and Weleda calendula cream. At my baby shower, my friends planned these fun games and I won a big jug of Johnsons baby shampoo, and ever since then I associate that smell with him. Its such a classic baby smell. Right now, hes obsessed with trucks. Trucks are everything. We have a set of Alex bath trucks which he loves. He wont even get in the tub unless the trucks are already there.
Do you have a game-changing beauty product?
A couple of years ago my sister introduced me to NARS eyeshadow base. I dont actually wear eyeshadow, but throughout the day my mascara would always smudge and leave stray marks and black smudges. Now I put a tiny dot of this on my eyelids and problem solved.
You and your husband are so cute. Whats your story?
Our fifth wedding anniversary is this June. We met at a costume party. The theme was BladeRunner 2030. He was dressed as an escaped convict and I was a geisha from the future. He asked me out to dinner and we started seeing each other every single day. A few months later, I left for perfume school in France. He came to visit and proposed. I was super surprised but really happy.
Does he have any favorite products of his own?
My husband is quite a dude-ly dude, but he does wear fragrance every single day. He likes Dude No. 1 and MAINE. He also keeps Baxter of California facial scrub in the shower and Im obsessed with it. It smells and feels like ground almonds and I use it two or three times a week to get that extra layer off. My skin feels incredibly smooth after.
Youre around fragrance all the time. But when youre not at work, do you have a signature scent?
Lately Ive been switching between two in my own line. LOVE has notes of Japanese yuzu, a big magnolia flower, and then some smoky, dry woods in the base. The combo is feminine but not overly so and very natural. Ive been longing for warmer weather and just started wearing MAUI again, which has ginger and star anise on top, frangipani and green bamboo.
How do you go about creating a new scent?
I think of a perfume as a blur it doesnt work when you can identify each of the ingredients clearly. Its more like a hazy memory, where you can recall a feeling, the atmosphere. Ill try to make a scent that can take me back to certain moments and places. For example, NOBLE is based on four months I spent living in Nepal: the scent of night jasmine in the air, with the burning incense from Tibetan Buddhist temples, and the damp nature. Other fragrances Ive made are based on people. HUNTER is loosely based on an old friend. He took me snowshoeing in Vermont and read Thoreau. He built a maple sugar cabin and tapped trees. I wanted to create a campfire scent in ode to him. I used organic Bourbon vanilla, tobacco absolute and balsam fir, the sweet, sticky resin from inside a coniferous tree.
Do any scents remind you of childhood?
Growing up, I cycled through the cheesy scents everyone was into CK One, GAP Dream but the scent that I liked most was lilac. My mom is big on gardening and grows lilacs in our backyard and they have the nicest, nicest smell. That smell makes me more nostalgic than any perfume. It transports me to childhood summers.
Do you have beauty pet peeves or products you find intimidating?
Im in my 30s and Im still scared of lipstick! I think it looks great on other people but Im always afraid that my lips will get chapped and Ill have that horrible flaky lipstick look. Its irrational, I know.
Whats your favorite thing about what you do?
When I made the jump to working for myself, I realized how much Im capable of. Now when I come to work, every day I give 150 percent. Its not because I feel like I have to work so hard, but more because I love it so much. Its so fulfilling to really see the fruits of your labor. Most of the time, it doesnt even feel like work.
Do you have any other non-beauty rituals that make you feel your best?
Jewelry is kind of like my version of tattoos. Each piece I wear means something to me, and I dont take them off. Over the past couple years I switched to wearing only gold jewelry. At all times, I wear my rings from Erie Basin and Mociun, a turquoise necklace given to me by my best friend, and 14k arrow studs from Odette NY.
Last but certainly not least: Do you have an overall beauty philosophy?
There are so many trends and so many things to be influenced by: friends, blogs, Pinterest, celebrities. I remind myself that not every look will work on me, and I dont have to stretch to make it so. You look best when you try to enhance the qualities you do have.
Thank you so much, Anne! (And now Im off to order Batiste 🙂
P.S. 13 women share their beauty uniforms, and a trick for getting dressed.
(Photos via Anne Serrano-McClain, New York Magazine, Terrific Magazine, Flavorwire, Lianna Tarantin and Aubrey Road. Interview by Caroline Donofrio)
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