Charlize Theron is one of the most influential actresses of our time, and one of very few known for presenting beauty looks that subvert Hollywood convention as much as symbolising them. Sometimes she’s the classic blonde bombshell (or literal golden goddess, as famously reflected in Dior Parfum ads, having served as the face of J’adore for nearly two decades). At other times she’s walking the red carpet devoid of make-up and with a controversial hairstyle – not only in the name of her art, but because she finds “real beauty” in the unconventional.
“I know a lot of women are very attached to their hair but I’m not, weirdly,” she tells me via video call. “For me, it’s no issue to cut it all off or do weird shit to it.” Professionally, physical transformation is often necessary for Theron to become a character, of course. “Like shaving my head for Furiosa. That was a big statement that I absolutely loved. And I just did the The Old Guard 2 with a mullet – I was like, ‘It’s fucking gorgeous! It’s so punk rock and Patti Smith.’ And then I did a bowl cut for Fast & Furious 9, and I loved that too” – despite people’s reactions when she embraced it off-set. “I think that stuff shouldn’t be time-capsuled,” she says. “I want to be brave, I want to do different things”.
Sometimes, for Theron, doing things differently means doing less. As well as for red carpet appearances, she often does her own make-up for movies – a rarity in her world. “I have such respect for the hair and make-up departments that work in my industry, and I’ve created some performances that I could have never done without them,” she says, “but I also play a lot of characters who should not look like they came out of a make-up chair – so I think that’s really where it started,” she explains. “I love that I work with people who can sometimes understand that creativity is maybe just doing less and not more.”
On the flip side, she has also been modified using heavy make-up or prosthetics. “For a movie like that, all of that stuff really takes a hit on your skin,” she notes. Therefore, “as an actor, I think I have more of an appreciation for skincare than ever,” she says, and it’s because of those aesthetically transformative characters she’s “really invested the time after to restore” her skin.
For this, “properly cleansing, giving it a steam and then just really applying the moisture back in” is her process. Not that it’s her standard beauty routine, though. “I have girlfriends who are just incredibly ritualistic with beauty; they have a whole set of scripts, and I’m definitely not like that.” For Theron, it’s a journey. “In my 20s I would sleep with my make-up on, wake up the next morning and use a q-tip to clean it up and go right back out into the world. And then you hit your mid or late 30s and you’re like, ‘Oh, so this is why they make moisturisers for your face!’ I think the older you get, the more you want to feel good about your skin.” And feel good she does.
“I have felt more beautiful the older I have gotten. And when I try to figure out why, it’s because I feel like I have found more power,” the 48-year-old explains, referring to her personal empowerment (“not power in, like, the gross kind of way”). It’s that feeling of knowing herself better than ever. “I don’t have time for bullshit anymore. I just feel more comfortable the older I get. And I think a lot of that is because I have found my power and I have real true happiness.” This includes becoming a mother when and how she wanted to, she tells me; “None of this stuff has been a good backup option for me – they were all very precise things that I wanted in my life and I was lucky enough to be able to have them. They just really, really make me happy”. And this radiates. “When you’re happy you walk past a mirror and you go ‘Damn, wow, I look good. I haven’t even showered and look at this!’.”
I’m quickly assured that she does, in fact, shower – and that she does so in style. As a face of Dior, Theron enjoys “the great privilege of exploring their products,” a highlight being the J’adore Les Adorables Shimmering Scrub that’s made with 24k gold particles. “There’s something so heavenly about finishing your shower that way,” she says. This glistening disposition feels very Theron. Her favourite make-up product is also a luminosity-imparting one. “I absolutely love the Dior Forever Skin Glow,” she says. “I’m so perplexed by why it works so well. It almost works like a light foundation, but it gives your skin this glow.” This, with a little concealer, makes your skin look radiant, she says. “I use it on movies, and I use it when I don’t want to wear a lot of make-up on a red carpet. I’m not big on foundation; the older I get the more I don’t want my wrinkles to gather up all that foundation. So it’s a really, really good product for that.”
The two items that she “would have to get dropped off with on an isolated island,” however, are a lash curler and mascara. Ahem, what about sunscreen? “I am factor 50 all the way – I don’t care if it’s winter or grey or rainy,” she makes clear. And then, of course, there’s her beloved fragrance – J’adore – which, between roles, “is always nice to come back to”. Passionately recalling the “pretty special” moment of discovering the iconic scent’s newest iteration, L’Or de J’adore, she says she was “very lucky and spoiled to experience it for the first time with Francis” – Francis Kurkdjian, that is, perfume creation director at Christian Dior Parfums and the nose behind countless cult scents (from Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male to his own Baccarat Rouge 540).
“The first thing that came to mind when smelling L’Or de J’adore was that I found it very intoxicating. I just couldn’t stop wanting to smell it,” she says, beaming. “It’s very concentrated in its floral sense, but it’s very warm – it feels very solar, like there’s sun in it.”
May we all aspire to Charlize levels of luminosity, both inside and out.