“As You Get Older, Less Is Best”: At 52, Naomi Campbell Has Never Been More Comfortable In Her Skin

Naomi Campbell is in between rehearsals for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee pageant. She has just returned from Cannes Film Festival, recently celebrated her 52nd birthday, and is fresh from shooting the campaign for Pat McGrath Labs’s Divine Skin Rose 001 The Essence, with a noted photographer – and British Vogue favorite – Steven Meisel. She is on a very hectic schedule. Constantly traveling, at events, and in front of the camera, she is never anything less than dedicated when it comes to the subject of her skin.

When I was younger and I started in the business as a model, I wore as much make-up as possible,” she says. “Almost like a mask. Now, I feel completely the opposite. I feel as though I’ve come to realize that it’s better to wear as little make-up as possible. So you can see you. I don’t want to be behind a mask. I want people to see me. And to feel me. And to see my expressions.”

Seen fresh-faced and make-up-free in the latest Pat McGrath Labs campaign, Campbell perfectly illustrates the mantra of British Vogue’s beauty editor at large and make-up maestro, Pat McGrath: “Divine make-up begins with divine skin.”

Campbell, who was photographed with her baby daughter for the March 2022 issue of British Vogue, is aware of how motherhood has heightened her perception of the importance of self-care. “Obviously I want to take care of myself because I want to be around for my daughter as much as I can, you know, but I was already on this track – I just think that being a mother has enhanced it.”

It’s better to have skin that looks like it doesn’t need copious amounts of makeup,” she explains. “I think if you take care of and nourish your skin, you won’t need as much make-up.” The supermodel is not glowing, something she points out is intentional: “I love to shine. I love skin to look, hydrated, dewy, and oily… Some people don’t like that. But I think you look better that way. As you get older, less is best – and it’s better to have a hydrated face, as opposed to a matte base.”

McGrath stands as a witness to Campbell’s luminosity. “Naomi was glowing, inside and out, as she arrived to shoot Divine Skin: Rose 001 The Essence with the legendary Steven Meisel,” the make-up artist and mogul says. “Her beauty and joy filled the room, and her skin absolutely glowed on camera. She’s been using The Essence for more than a year, so it was truly breathtaking to see how divine she looked on film. Naomi’s beauty is without compare – what makes her special, and the ultimate McGrath muse, is her loyalty, unparalleled work ethic, and sublime soul,” McGrath goes on. “It is an understatement to say that I consider myself blessed to call her a friend. To be a part of her legacy as a trailblazer in the worlds of beauty and fashion is an honor.”

Campbell also uses the word family when she talks about working with McGrath. “It was a coming together for us [to do this campaign], and it was so special to get to work with family. I am so proud of what Pat has done and created. It’s not just about putting on make-up, it is the transformation of people’s lives that she has changed through her make-up and her brand.”

Divine, indeed.

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Pat McGrath Is Launching Her First Skincare Product – And Naomi Campbell Is Already A Fan

For all the follows and likes Pat McGrath generates around her make-up artistry every season (Julia Fox’s internet-breaking black eyeliner didn’t just happen), it’s the skin quality she has pioneered over the course of her storied career that is perhaps her biggest calling card. Hydrated, but not oily; smooth, but realistic, with a make-up-priming moisture quality that is “lightweight yet nourishing,” McGrath explains. Much like she developed a seven-step lipstick technique to achieve the ultimate in petal-soft pigment, McGrath has been cocktailing her own skincare formula for her entire career, layering simple creams spiked with rose water to create a quick-penetrating emulsion. And just as that signature make-up technique became Pat McGrath Labs’ best-selling MatteTrance Lipstick, her patented skin prep has finally been bottled. 

Called Divine Skin Rose 001 and formulated by a Korean lab, the milky liquid that will launch on patmcgrath.com on 29 April closely resembles a blendable essence, formulated with 92 percent naturally derived ingredients; shake it up, and a ceramide-boosted oil phase combines with an antioxidant-spiked rose water phase to create McGrath’s replenished, rebalanced glow. 

The truth is I’ve been working on skin care as long as I have been working in make-up,” admits McGrath, who has tweaked her formula not in focus groups but on supermodels, including Naomi Campbell, who stars in the campaign for the rose-tinted glass bottle. “I wouldn’t use anything else,” says Campbell — which is high praise considering Campbell is serious about her skincare, specifically her hydration. “You never want your skin to look dried out. It’s not attractive. It’s unbecoming,” she says. Here, Campbell reveals how she’s been using the uniquely textured essence, and why after all these years in the business, good sleep might be the real secret to good skin. 

As someone who has been on countless sets with Pat and at countless shows with Pat, what is her point of difference when it comes to skin finish?

When you work with Pat, before you she puts make-up on you, she really massages your skin — she loves glowy, dewy skin. So your make-up goes on smoother, everything just rolls. That’s her secret: that the skin still looks like skin and you see you and that’s important, I feel. That’s what I love about her; she never makes me matte. When you’re too matte you lose the whole person. Your make-up becomes like a mask. Pat’s make-up never looks like that.

As a McGrath Muse and, perhaps even more importantly, a Pat McGrath confidant, were you at all a part of tweaking early incarnations of her first skin-care product?

She’s been trying this out on me for a while now so I’ve had a bit of a head start in using it in my skin regime. We were actually using it last year when we were doing the Divine Rose make-up launch, but I couldn’t talk about it then, so I’m so excited that I can say all of this now. The cat’s outta the bag! In the beginning, she would ask me things like, “How does it feel? How long did it stay on?” But it’s really always been so easy — and it goes on the skin, but it also goes in the skin. 

It just makes everything glowy and plump, which is important for me because I’m on set all the time, and I’m in front of lights, and I’m on planes, and my skin dries out and it gets really dehydrated no matter how much water I drink. Drink water, drink water. I never drink enough. My test is really traveling, though — how often do I need to reapply something on the plane so my skin feels hydrated. I usually sleep straight through flights and with this, I’d wake up and still have the shine.

It is not an exaggeration to say that your skin is, in fact, divine. Drop the routine!

It’s about clean for me. I cleanse in the morning and I cleanse at night. You’ve got to get the make-up off! And I need products that help make my skin look good without make-up, because I don’t wear make-up when I’m not working. I just put little bits where I want to cover blemishes so my skin can breathe. My next step is usually a serum, and sometimes I use the Essence first, before my serum, and sometimes I mix it with my serum and put it on together. You can top it off with a cream if you like, but in the summertime you don’t need to. The Essence is enough. 

I watched an amazing clip on your YouTube channel about some of your pre-runway body prep including an incredible lymphatic drainage massage. Are there any treatments that you regularly engage in for your face in tandem with good skin care?

I try to do my facials — you need to if you’re travelling, or you’re in the sun a lot. I don’t wear a lot of sunblock on my skin because I break out from sunblock. So I like people to extract because you have to clean out your pores sometimes! And I do microneedling every once in a while, too.

These days, so much of good skin care comes down to good self-care. How do you prioritise yourself with such a busy work schedule — and a newborn at home! — not just physically but mentally and spiritually?

The water thing is huge for me, and I’m always, like, how can I make water fun? Growing up I wasn’t really raised on soda so we always had cordials that we mixed with water, and that’s what I still drink. And I try to eat the right food and take the right vitamins — vitamin D, vitamin C, B, zinc, fish oils. Good skin is so much about what you eat, too. And sleep! I try to get as much sleep as possible even though I have a young one now. When I was younger I really didn’t need that much sleep, but now I like my sleep. It kickstarts things and helps me be enthusiastic about the day ahead.

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