The actress sits down with InStyle to talk about going filter-free, owning her sexiness, and taking a clean approach to skin care.
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December Issue: Laura Dern on Beauty
Credit: Pamela Hanson/LGA Management

When you were growing up, who taught you about all things beauty?

My grandma raised me with my mom. She was from Mobile, Ala., and she really honored her face. The only makeup she wore was lipstick and mascara, and that remains what I consider beautiful. It’s interesting because even though my daughter [Jaya, 15] and I have never discussed it, she loves lip balms and mascara too. So I realize that as a little girl, she was watching me get ready — just like I watched my grandma.

How has your approach to skin care changed since being named a brand activist for True Botanicals?

I’m not a purist, but I try to keep it clean and natural. I always thought I was very health-conscious about my beauty routine, keeping it simple with a few seemingly organic products. But pollutants add up. Now I won’t use anything that’s not safe for my daughter to use. I don’t want to poison myself. Women haven’t asked questions in the past; we just trusted labels. As we become more educated, it’s wonderful to learn what’s good for us — even if we still have a few vices.

December Issue: Laura Dern on Beauty
Credit: Instagram

Did you discuss new products or treatments with your Big Little Lies co-stars?

We talked a lot about skin care. Reese [Witherspoon] and I even share a facialist. It’s a group of women working together for months, and we all want to take care of our skin and have tried different fads. Zoë [Kravitz] turned me on to a face mist that was so beautiful. And I’m always looking for organic makeup and companies that are doing good things for the planet, which Shailene [Woodley] knows all about.

What advice did you give them?

The one tip I bring to all of my friendships is that baths are the ultimate game changer. If I’m at a hotel and have eight minutes before I have to run somewhere, I’m in a warm bath with lavender. It’s my meditation and can totally change my energy.

You’ve said in the past that you’re not interested in getting work done. How do you think the conversation around plastic surgery has changed in recent years?

Medicine and cosmetic health are advancing, and with more ways to take care of ourselves, I would guess that traditional plastic surgery will soon be a thing of the past. I don’t think there’s any avoiding the pressure to look a certain way, no matter our profession. But we’re fighting hard to change culture and create a real paradigm shift around ageism, racism, and all the things that make us feel less, whether it’s the color of our skin or the wrinkles or blemishes on it.

What have you learned to love about your body over time?

Curves! I was coming of age at a moment from the late ’80s into the ’90s when supermodels were very no-hips, so I was always self-conscious about having hips. I am the skinny girl with the booty, that’s for sure. I used to feel shy about it. But as a woman, I have learned to really honor it.

December Issue: Laura Dern on Beauty
Credit: Instagram

You’re very unfiltered — and often makeup-free — on Instagram. Why is it important for you to keep things real?

Probably because I don’t know how to work all this stuff; if I got a tutorial, I might never come back! No. To have other women or my daughter see me disguising what I look like would be unfortunate. The beauty of getting to be an actor is to transform or reveal parts of yourself. In one film you look radically young or glamorous, and in another you look old or like a hot mess. With social media, people are “branding” themselves, and it’s easy to reinvent. But it shouldn’t all be “Look how amazing my life is: It’s always easy, and the sun’s always shining.” There’s a lot to do in the world, and the more transparent and authentic we are, the more we’re going to get done.

December Issue: Laura Dern on Beauty
Credit: Instagram

How has your definition of beauty evolved?

Self-confidence, ambition, age, wisdom — those are all things I find super sexy in women. I find no one more beautiful than my beloved friend Isabella Rossellini, and I’ve found her so much more stunning with age than when I first met her.

What’s a misconception about aging?

There is an American female myth that younger men don’t find older women sexy. That is a myth. Take it from me!

Laura's Must-Haves

True Botanicals Renew Pure Radiance Face Oil

Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm

Marc Jacobs Beauty (P)outliner Longwear Lip Liner Pencil

L’Oréal Paris Voluminous Mascara

For more stories like this, pick up the December issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download November 22.