Alessandra Steinherr is something of a legend in the beauty world. She’s a walking encyclopedia of beauty knowledge and a real powerhouse. We grabbed her to talk her new blog, the secret of that amazing skin and her desert island products. Prepare to bookmark her site (and want to order everything she recommends) immediately.
For the past ten years, Alex has been the Beauty Director at Glamour (which is where we met. I would linger by her desk in the hope of gleaning some beauty wisdom/an iota of her fabulousness) but she’s now also set up an eponymous blog which promises to navigate the often-bewildering world of beauty products with an experienced, passionate eye.
Her blog comes as no surprise – her gorgeous Instagram account (@alexsteinherr) is awash with people eagerly seeking her beauty advice, and she’s unfailingly generous in providing it: this is the site they’ve been waiting for. I love her honesty (yes, she really is a product junkie – there were times when you could hardly see Alex for products – and, yes, she really does try everything) and she never recommends something she wouldn’t use herself. Think of Alex as your own personal beauty editor – and what’s not to love about that?
Have you always had a passion for beauty?
Do you know what? In my heart I always was a beauty editor! I grew up all over the place (the States, Belgium, South America…), but nowhere near what you’d call a fashionable centre: London, Paris, New York – the places I wanted to be.
My grandmother was a haute couture fashion designer in Austria and she was so glamorous. I grew up reading her magazines, watching models being dressed, totally immersed in that world. My grandmother was also very glamorous when it came to make up: she always wore Chanel no 5 and bright fuchsia lipstick – women she were really groomed in those days.
I spent all my pocket money on magazines – I was a magazine-obsessed girl – but it was never about the fashion, it was the faces. I was never the skinny girl – I’ve always had curves – so I gravitated towards the hair and the make-up because it felt more attainable. Not in the sense of, ‘I can look like a model’, but more ‘I can wear that mascara’.
How did you get your foot in the door of the beauty industry?
I went to university and studied economics because my father wasn’t having any of it! But when I graduated I said to him that I was going to London to do unpaid work experience. His response? “WHAT? You’re not going to do a PhD? Well that’s a great waste of your education.” I told him that it was my passion, but he considered magazines a hobby, not a job. To his credit, he told me that if this is what I wanted to do, I should go – but I had to finance myself.
I didn’t know anyone in London, but I speak a few languages, so I got a job in a lawyer’s office and worked in translation until I had enough money to afford a little room in a dingy flat, and then I started on unpaid work experience (it’s so much better that internships are now paid) at Marie Claire. (Honestly, I had to ration my food! I could afford jacket potato with beans, but some days I had to think about whether or not I could afford to have cheese with it.)
However, I cannot tell how how excited I was to be there. I literally thought I had arrived. I was meant to be in the beauty department, but they put me on reception, but ‘get on with it’ has always been in my character. I remember telling myself: ‘My foot’s in the door. I can make this work. I WILL make this work.’ I was probably very annoying because I kept offering to help everyone – but then the deputy editor, Elsa McAlonan, took me under her wing and helped me with my writing. I assisted the fashion director for a while , which was hard – there was a lot of crying in the cupboard – but it makes you stronger. Then Elsa told me there was a beauty assistant position on Sugar magazine – and that’s how I started my beauty career.
What are your desert island beauty products?
I love products so much; if I hadn’t been a beauty editor I would have wanted to develop products. I always hope every new product IS going to change my life!
I’ve Advanced Night Repair, Estee Lauder used this since my mid-twenties. It’s not a miracle product, but with continued use it makes healthy skin. It’s a bit like taking your probiotics; it makes a great base.
Of course I’ll need sunscreen. I use Heliocare Hydragel Sun Touch, because it’s SPF 50 and it has a tint.
A black mascara. I like YSL False Lash mascara. For me it’s not about the newest products, it’s about the best products. You know me, I try everything, and I love this because it gives you volume, but not in a clumpy way: clean volume, I call it.
I am obsessed with Candleglow Sheer Correcting Powder by Laura Mercier. It’s amazing. It literally makes skin glow. There are a lot of highlighter products out there which make your skin look shiny like a robot, which is a look, but it’s not my look. I don’t want to shine, I want to glow, and I want to look good in real life; not just in a photo. Candleglow is amazing for any. It’s changed my life in the sense that it has overtaken my macke up bag
In terms of skincare, I’m all about ingredients. The Internet’s a wonderful thing and there’s a lot of information out there, but there’s also a lot of misinformation. Which is why I like Bakel – the ingredient list tells you exactly what’s in there and what it does. That’s really good.
You know I love my bronzer, that’s my downfall. Mary Greenwell [the uber-famous make-up artist], always says to me, “Alex you’re wearing too much bronzer! You’re orange!” To which I say, “Thank you!” That means to me I look great. But I also love blush – MAC Mineralize in Dainty gives the prettiest glow on all skintones. Just make sure you blend, blend, blend.
What are your rules to getting glowing skin?
Rule number 1: Always cleanse your face properly. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve goen to bed wearing make-up. It’s boring, but if you don’t do it, there’s not point putting anything else on your face. Especially these days with all the air pollutants skin is exposed to.
Rule number 2: I think the reason my skin is still decent after trying so many products is that I’m very conservative; I don’t put anything aggressive on my skin. It doesn’t matter so much with make-up – that’s just colour, but when it comes to skincare, be aware of your skin. So, don’t use too many acids and don’t over-exfoliate –it’s a huge issue and it can really thin your skin.
Rule 3: Feed your skin from the inside. I am a supplement queen. I take omega-3 (anti-inflammatory), vitamin C (helps with building collage) and magnesium (because a lot of women are deficient). And I drink a lot of water, but I also drink a lot of coffee… So when I get up in the morning I drink two glasses of water and put a little cider vinegar in it – that’s a trick my grandmother taught me. Two big glasses are non-negotiable. Hydrate before you caffeinate!
Images via Alessandra Steinherr