Photo credit: Lola Gusman, The Hermes Hippie
It's not often I have the chance to chat about beauty believe it or not. Most times I'm working on formulations, research, traveling, running a staff and business, etc., but it's rare that I have the chance to share things I love or funny beauty stories with anyone until I spoke to Lola. If you don't already know who Lola Gusman, natural beauty extraordinaire and all time fabulous New York chic and sophisticated lady is, well I'll tell you. She's the type of woman we all covet for a friend...you know, the one who knows all the best restaurants in town, has the DJ's number, a great shoe collection, engaging stories about travel and secrets that she'll share, but only if you're lucky enough to sit down and drink a good cocktail with her. Lucky me, I've done that and we've often ended up laughing and sharing our love of beauty products both past and present. Lucky for you too dear reader as we came up with an idea to go retro with interviews and a giveaway for two lucky fans. (Details at the end of this interview.) Lola is a great writer, her blog, The Hermes Hippie is a true love affair with the world of beauty, full of honest and charming admissions of an addiction we can't get enough of. When Lola comes across a new product we all eagerly listen because she has tried them all and like any beauty addict has the well stocked bathroom to prove it. Trust me on this folks when I say Lola is the real deal here as she purchases products thoughtfully combing over every detailed ingredient. I hope you enjoy this fun interview and please enter our giveaway which ends at 6pm EST Wednesday, January 13, 2016.
Victoria: Let’s go way back to our wild days when we didn’t care what we put on on skin or faces because we didn’t know any better. Can you remember what one thing started your beauty obsession?
Lola: I think this is true for most women, but it started with my mother and grandmother. Both my mum and grandmother were famously beautiful (my grandma actually stopped traffic a few times) and they were both makeup minimalists. My mum has worn foundation just once in her life and her "less is more" attitude has definitely informed my barefaced philosophy. We lived in the Soviet Union and quality skincare was virtually nonexistent, so the women in my family turned to nature. Basically, whatever they cooked got slapped on their faces and bodies: from strawberry, cucumber or homemade yogurt for the face, to egg yolk, olive oil and cognac (Armenian, not French!) hair masks, they've done it all. I'm sure that this has a lot to do with my current obsession with natural ingredients. And I am yet to find anything that works better than that hair mask!
Victoria: What was your signature look when you were twenty? What you not step out of the house without putting on?
Lola: I was taught to apply makeup at the very first MAC store on Gay Street in the West Village by the brilliant Jeffrey, who wore full drag at 10 am, so you can imagine that my makeup minimalism went out of the window for a bit. I would spend 40 minutes and use 5 shades of beige, taupe and brown to achieve a "no makeup" (hah!) eye look. Oh, the 90's! Of course, I started law school right before turning 21, so between the sleepless nights at the library and the generally low maintenance vibe of my classmates (I think they saw me as a brunette version of Elle from Legally Blonde just by virtue of my 5-inch platforms), my makeup routine became virtually nonexistent.
Victoria: If I were to scroll through your high school year book, what would I see?
Lola: Oh good heavens! Do we have to? Because it's was all beetling brows and a bad perm and VERY questionable outfit choices. Although I did use the famous Mae West quip "When I am good I am very good, but when I'm bad I'm better" for my senior quote, so I'm pretty pleased with that one.
Victoria; If you could recall any musical icon that inspired your look who would that be?
Lola: Madonna. No question about it. I've done the "Human Nature" hair knots and dark lipstick, the Evita braided bun, the Sex Book high ponytail... Even the half-hearted attempt at the Marilyn blonde. There was also the "tutu, fishnets and ankle boots" incident, but we are not going to talk about that. Also, when I was younger, everyone told me that I looked like Liza Minelli circa Cabaret, so I kind of went with it. Though she's more of an everything-icon.
Victoria: What habits did you used to practice that you cringe about now?
Lola: I started coming to the US with theater troupes in my early teens - right around when my skin started going haywire - and discovered the "joys" of benzoyl peroxide, Sea Breeze and other lovely nuclear options. Oh my poor, poor face! Luckily, my mother freaked out, threw out my horrible, tinted zit cream and got me some gentle French products like Avene and Vichy. Also, this one didn't quite become a habit for obvious reasons, but I was once severely cash-strapped and decided to DYI a facial wax... by using electrical tape. A couple of weeks spent with giant scabs on my face taught me to leave these things to the professionals or, at the very least, not using item from a toolbox on my face.
Victoria: What beauty mistake do you see some women repeating over and over that you’d like to see stop?
Lola: Can I say contouring? It looks fascinating and beautiful on Instagram and I admire the artistry of the makeup artists, but ultimately, I think the extreme versions can look a bit like an Egyptian death mask. Plus, I just don't think it's does the skin any good to smother it in that much makeup all day long. An even bigger mistake, though somewhat related, is sleeping in makeup. That one there's really no excuse for and people just need to stop. It's just so, so terrible for your skin! And your nice bedding, too.
Victoria: Let’s go into the future. What futuristic product would solve all of your problems?
Lola: A hologram generator? So that I can avoid going out in public on bad face days (or just when I'm feeling too lazy to shower). Ok, in all seriousness, I don't think that there is a magic ingredient or product that will suddenly make me look like a flawless goddess. Frankly, there is only so much topical products can do, but I have high hopes for non-surgical methods like ultrasound, light therapy, etc. Oh! And I need a robot to stand by my door and remind me to put on sunscreen!
Victoria: What do you tell hardcore non-believers about your love of natural products?
Lola: Can I be horribly obnoxious for a minute? My face speaks for itself. I'm 38 and my skin is possibly the best it has been since I was a child. When people randomly compliment your skin, green beauty becomes an easy sell. Though to be fair, I'm yet to encounter a hardcore non-believer. After all, green beauty isn't magic. It's not that difficult to convince people that quality ingredients in high concentration work better than a drop of actives in a jar of scented Vaseline (sorry, La Mer, but it's true). Also, I know I keep coming back to this, but this really needs to be said again and again. People don't like being told that they are putting toxic crap on their face. Even if they are, it makes them feel stupid and ill-informed and who likes that?! Also, no one wants to throw out all of their lovely, expensive makeup and skincare because it's "toxic" and is killing them one mascara swipe at a time. Which is why I only focus on the positives. I don't tell people to throw out their La Mer or Chanel. Instead, I tell them that these beautifully packaged and gorgeous smelling products are just better. And they believe me!
Now let's get to the fun part! Both Lola and LBF are running a contest on our blogs. To read my answers to these questions visit The Hermes Hippie and share a comment on either blog post and/or Instagram tagging your favorite beauty BFF. We'll pick a pair of winners (you and your beauty BFF) and send you Crema Supernova, Crema Virtuosa, Barbary Fig Seed Oil and Elysian Fields with a value of $365 and gorgeous skin guaranteed. (This contest is not limited to the US, but custom duties, taxes and fees will be your sole responsibility.) We can't wait to hear about your favorite LBF products and beauty stories!