Allure editor in chief Michelle Lee knows that makeup means so much more than simply painting your face. With themed issues covering the politics of hair and the mind-body connection, Lee engages a growing community of socially conscious beauty lovers, never forgetting that lip gloss and neon eyeliner are FUN.
Putting hijabs and blue brows front and center on the cover, Lee delights in the ever-expanding aesthetic universe. We asked the editor about being an industry change maker, her favorite beauty trends, her amazing nails and her inspiring Instagram feed.
How do you organize your day?
Every day is truly different, but each night before bed, I'll peek at the next day's calendar to mentally prepare for what's ahead. It helps me anticipate what type of day it will be and serves as a reminder in case I need to gather my thoughts for meetings. Plus, I get easily derailed by hunger, so it helps me know when I'll eat lunch—very important.
You banned the term "anti-aging" from the pages of Allure in 2017. Any backlash, or has the response been largely positive?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive! I think the best part of it is that it's made brands and consumers examine how we all talk about aging and how we may be perpetuating negative stereotypes about growing older. Some brands immediately said they'd like to join us in banning "anti-aging." And I saw a headline the other day talking about the new wave of over-60 models and it made me so happy. Since we banned "anti-aging" in 2017, there have been more models over 50 on the runway, on other magazine covers, in ads. I think we're seeing great progress!
Can you pinpoint your earliest beauty memory, the moment you became entranced by skin care/fragrance/makeup, etc.?
I was a late bloomer, so my earliest memories of beauty are my mom's things, like Pond's Cold Cream and her pink Oil of Olay moisturizer. I didn't become truly entranced until I was in college and wore dark lipstick and eyeliner almost every day. My obsession with skin care didn't come until my 30s—after I had my two kids. I was looking so haggard and tired and went to an aesthetician who told me that my skin was very, very dry (even though I had gone my entire life thinking I had oily skin). I changed my entire routine after that to be gentler and less stripping. It literally transformed my face ... and the rest is history.
How can fellow phone lovers battle tech neck?
Raise your screen higher and take breaks! Also, tech neck usually refers to neck pain, but in the beauty world, we're also now talking about it as rings of wrinkles that are developing because people are constantly staring down at their phones. Regular massage using either oils or a thick, moisturizing cream can help.
I love that you sent your staff out into the world for the "Out of Office" issue. With an eye toward gathering beauty inspo, where would you personally like to visit next?
I spent last summer in Japan as part of that issue, and my dream for a future OOO issue is to go to Korea. I'm obsessed with K-Beauty (below) already, so I know that going there will be otherworldly. We have access to a lot of Korean products here in the States, but there's still a lot that you can't buy. I think I'll need to bring a whole other empty suitcase to take everything with me!
You're a known nail-art addict—do you have any habits that help you maintain healthy nails?
I have naturally strong, hard nails. For the past three or four years, I've had art on my nails every single day. I can't remember the last time I had just a single color! When you have something pretty on your nails that took a little extra time and effort, it forces you to be more careful. You don't want to mess them up! I don't use my nails as a tool to scratch off stickers or to open cans. I don't go rooting around in bags with my hands. Be careful—and don't forget a base coat.
What are your tricks to maintaining such a fun Instagram account?
When Instagram first came around, I totally resisted it because I thought, "I'm not a selfie person!" But I started to develop my own style for IG that didn't make me feel like a fraud. I like for my posts to have a purpose, whether it's to demonstrate a highlighter I'm trying or to show my latest DIY nail art. I like to be a little silly too: I had a whole series where I'd invite IG-famous dogs to the office to be me for the day. We'd pose them at my desk, in the beauty closet, at a vanity, and I'd write funny captions. That led to @minimichellelee where I had my daughter pretend to be a mini editor in chief. I love that people now come up to me in the real world and reference something I do on IG, like I'm known for face misting and #EverythingIsANailArtProp.
For more beauty inspo, follow Lee on Instagram @heymichellelee