In Conversation with Alice Lane
This internationally acclaimed and pioneering makeup artist finds joy and inspiration in the everyday, knowing true beauty is never far from reach.
Some people see every moment in their day as a creative opportunity, relishing the chance to bring a bit more beauty into the world. That’s Alice Lane. One of the most acclaimed and sought-after makeup artists in the world, Alice has worked with just about every legendary photographer you can think of, from Annie Leibovitz to Tim Walker to Arthur Elgort, and has a devoted list of well-known clients. She also holds a special place in my heart as one of the first makeup artists to emphasize the beauty of natural, visible skin—rather than rushing to cover it up—and was an early devotee and supporter of Vintner’s Daughter. She regularly shared her love of our products with clients on photoshoots or suggested them to friends who were struggling with their skin, and I’m grateful this gave me the opportunity to get to know Alice. It’s impossible not to be inspired by her joyful, effervescent spirit, perfectly embodied by her signature red curls. Her commitment to following her truth led her away from Manhattan to upstate New York, where she lives with her son, Walt, and assorted pets, which is where she was when we spoke.
Along with a commitment to forging our own paths in the beauty industry, Alice and I share a belief that true beauty comes from inside, and her honesty and kindness make her a beauty unlike any other. I hope you enjoy getting to know Alice through our conversation and, as always, thank you for being here with us.
Thank you so much for taking this time Alice. Remind me, how did you first discover Vintner’s Daughter?
It was because of you! You sent my agent some bottles of Active Botanical Serum to try. She knew I was about less is more, take care of yourself, take care of your skin, makeup as an accessory, beauty is on the inside kind of person. So I’m sure she figured, ‘Alice will like this.’ That was before Instagram kicked off. It’s not like how people now do tagging and mass sampling. So I took it home, tried it and loved it. I had so many issues with my skin over the years because my skin is so sensitive. If I have a stressful day I will have a breakout. You can see every emotion I have on my face. But I don’t want to feel like I have to put makeup on to cover things up. Your skin should be good enough to stand by itself, which is its own kind of glamour. Just simply getting up and feeling good about yourself is important. I don’t want to ever have to feel obligated to wear foundation.
At the time you were really the only one doing this type of skin forward makeup, which focuses on the skin rather than covering it. Did it feel like you were a pioneer and was there some resistance at first?
Yes! At the time, I really didn’t see any other way. The reason I fell in love with makeup was from a standpoint of fashion. I loved fashion and art. It seemed like a way to be really creative. I didn’t come from an angle of wanting to change people or cover something up. When I put my kit together I remember saying to someone, “I really hate foundation, do I have to have it?” (Laughs). And she said, “Well you are not going to get far without it!” I saw it as a mask on people’s faces to cover the skin. When I was an apprentice and assistant I worked for an incredible artist, Aaron DeMay. He taught me how to use a makeup palette as a concealer and just cover up the little imperfections so you couldn’t even see there was makeup there at all. Everybody was doing this full coverage, more is more, but I stuck with what I was doing. I just said, "I can’t!" Perhaps I am not rolling in dough, but I don't care. I had to follow what I wanted to do.
Just simply getting up and feeling good about yourself is important. I don’t want to ever have to feel obligated to wear foundation.
You were following your truth.
I am following my truth. My career was never about making money. Part of why I moved upstate was because I wanted to really live my life the way I wanted to. I didn’t have that money-making drive to live the lifestyle in NYC and participate in what was going on around me.
It is the same with Vintner’s Daughter. For me, it is never about world domination. If I can make two or three products that change people’s lives and their relationship with their skin, that’s everything. Having been in the beauty business you’ve become someone that people turn to for advice and an understanding of where the industry is going. Has your idea of beauty changed at all?
It is not so much that it has changed but more that it evolves, and it always will. I’ve learned some truths. I’ve put makeup on individuals considered to be the most beautiful women in the world, getting up in their faces and seeing them in the flesh without retouching. The only people that are truly beautiful are the kind ones. You can come in with imperfections, or things that are wrong with your face. It doesn't matter. But if you are not a person with that goodness inside—I hate to use the word ugly because I don’t like it—it shows up. You end up using makeup or fashion to try to control what is going on on the inside, but people can tell. You just give off a vibe. I can try to make you look like a different person, but it's always going to come back to what’s on the inside.
How does that apply to the larger world? In your life, how does beauty appear to you?
I am one of those people who find creativity in almost everything I do. I will make a boiled egg in the morning and put it on a plate in a nice way, or cut toast in a certain way or arrange little things around the house. My boyfriend’s mother came over the other day and said, “You’ve put the dog leashes on the hooks in a certain way.” Those little things give me such joy. Like just sitting outside in nature and listening to music, which is one of the biggest parts of my life. There is not a day that I do not listen to music.
I’ve put makeup on individuals considered to be the most beautiful women in the world, getting up in their faces and seeing them in the flesh without retouching. The only people that are truly beautiful are the kind ones.
What musician or genre is speaking to you right now? Is there a song or album getting you through this time?
Right now I’m listening to a lot of Bill Callahan. He used to be part of a band called Smog. I’ve been listening to him on repeat. Also, an artist named Angel Olsen. She is incredible. I love her voice. I also listen to a lot of classical music. My favorite app in the world is Spotify. It was Bach’s 400th anniversary of writing The Cello Suites! I was listening to that the other day on the deck watching the birds. I was reminded that there is such great beauty in the world everywhere, and I try to find it all day. My life is not about having things. It is about being kind and happy and loving to others and myself.
That really is the most important thing. Anything else that you’ve found helpful during this time?
I have always been such a big lover of history and things taking time. Maybe that comes from growing up in England. Knowing that things don’t just come immediately. You have to work for them. And part of that is feeling sad and depressed. I try not to block it when I feel that way because it normally is a guide to what and how I need to change things in my life. One thing I struggled with, but am getting better at as I get older, is learning to care less about what people think of me. I have always been a little bit of an outsider. What they call eccentric in England, but in America it's called crazy. But you know, I love crazy. When you are on a shoot or working, you might have a lot of joy or energy, and it’s sometimes perceived as crazy. What people failed to understand when I first started doing this very creative, editorial work where you are always thinking of new ideas is that you get excited and that means you are tapping into that creativity. But oftentimes I felt cut off from that, stuck in the space between art and commerce. I found that very difficult.
My life is not about having things. It is about being kind and happy and loving to others and myself.
What do you think it taught you, not always having your approach to your work accepted?
It taught me that I was all right. That I was on the right path. The most important thing is to tell the truth to others and yourself. I wasn’t in it to win it or impress anyone. That’s not to say that I didn’t work my ass off. You show up, you are not late. There are standards of professionalism and I loved being professional, having a good reputation and people relying on me. That is so important and it's what gives you the freedom to be yourself. But I realized my values are simple. My needs in life are simple. I need very few things other than kindness, love and respect. After that you are golden. Whatever comes along is fate.
For example, when I met my partner I had basically decided that I was happy living alone in the forest in my cabin. I was not needing someone else around, and that was when it happened. I didn’t have the easiest childhood, which makes me appreciate what I have even more. I am very grateful. I am grateful to have met you. I am grateful for my son. I am grateful for my friends and for my creativity and my mind. As you get older you realize it’s not about all the things you use as a crutch when you are younger. At the end of the day it’s my mind that is going to get me through.
So true. Your mind, your heart, your spirit.
Yes. And the thing about all of those is you can nurture them, just like you would nurture a garden or exercise to improve your body. You work each day to make sure your spirit is intact. It’s like having a little savings account.
Absolutely. Speaking of nurturing yourself, can you tell me a bit about your skincare routine?
It’s simple, and now that you have Active Treatment Essence, it has made things even easier for me. Especially because I had so many problems with toner. Whenever I used a toner, you could literally see a stripe across my face because I am so sensitive and easily reddened. Even when I come out of the shower, I can have a red face for at least an hour. When I would use toners it would be so harsh and it would dry my skin out, then my skin would overproduce oils so that I would breakout. Now I use a face wash by a Japanese brand called Koh Gen Do. Their Oriental Plants Face Wash is so gentle. It is a gel and when it mixes with water it is foamy and fluffy. What I like about it is you do a 30-second wash and then you leave it to sit there for 10 seconds and it dissolves all the dirt. Then I rinse that and while my face is still damp, I put Active Treatment Essence on and I pat it in. Then I warm up Active Botanical Serum in my hands and that goes over the top. That’s it!
Incredible and makes me so happy to hear. So to finish I have a few last, quick questions for you. What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
That music is my first love. I am a trained musician. I studied it all the way through school. I was in an orchestra as a clarinet player. I play guitar, I sing, I have been in bands. Music is the real deal for me and just everything.
Dream holiday destination?
I really, really, want to go to Iceland. I want to see the Northern Lights. I want to go to that Blue Lagoon. I have been to such wonderful places through work, and each summer, we go up to the Adirondacks which I love so much. But seeing the Northern Lights is a big dream.
What is one of your most beloved, cherished things?
Most of them have to do with [my son] Walt. I saved a lot from when he was a baby, like outfits from when he was little. Those are the beloved things.
If you could have anyone’s singing voice, who would it be?
Nina Simone. It would be so weird if I had her voice, but it would be awesome. And her piano skills, definitely.