Judi Dench once compared Cate Blanchett’s complexion to that of a white peach. It’s not entirely a euphemism — in person on the morning of the Winter Storm Stella, Blanchett’s skin appears firm, refreshingly tan-free, supported by excellent bone structure, and yet, without an overdone layer of Hollywood gloss (nary any obvious contour, highlight, or anything you might find on Instagram). Minus a brief stint when she played Bob Dylan and actively tried to moisturize less so that her complexion was more true to the musician, Blanchett has been keeping herself exquisitely moisturized for 13 years with SK-II, the legendary Japanese beauty brand for which she has been a spokesmodel for 13 years (it’s one of the longest-running spokesmodel gigs in the business). The Academy Award winner is very convincing, as she talks to me about why she believes she’s found the One when it comes to skin care, how she’s looked beyond lip service to truly recognize flaws as beautiful, aging without judgment, and why she’s very, very blonde in the upcoming Ocean’s Eight movie.
I read that you loved facial mists so much that you managed to convince SK-II to make one.
I’ve been pestering them for a long time! I used to decant it into a spray bottle. I would put it on in the morning or during the day over makeup. I found working in film, particularly with HD, putting powder on really reads on camera. If you spray the Essence on it, it sets the makeup, and keeps you looking hydrated. Finally, after about ten years of working with them, they did it [SK-II Mid-Day Essence Spray]! I was very pleased.
What do you do for your skin when you’re traveling?
Well, the Essence is it. I carry that with me all the time. The Facial Treatment Oil is hydrating. I’ll take a Facial Treatment Mask and an Eye Mask. Or I’ll decant a little of the LXP cream. I like to decant the LXP cream, too.
Do you still get strange looks when you’re doing a mask on a plane?
Um. I guess I do. But I’ve done it for so long. I usually wait till the lights are out, but I forget I’ve got them on. You don’t want to eat through them, that gets a bit ugly. If you leave them on too long, you realize how dehydrating the plane is. After 20 minutes, it goes completely dry.
We’re excited about your new role in Ocean’s Eight. Can you tell me about it and how you’re conceptualizing the character?
It’s a great, great bunch of women. I’ve been in the same movie with Helena [Bonham Carter], but never acted with her. I’ve never worked with Anne [Hathaway], but she’s gorgeous. And it was great to finally work with Sandy [Bullock].
We wanted to make sure everyone in the film had a distinct look. That’s the fun of the film — that these unlikely bunch of people are bound together to pull off a heist. You would look at them on a subway train, or walking down the street, and not be able to see how they could connect.
I worked with the costume designer, hair and makeup team to design my look. It’s part of the fun. A lot of times, people think your role as an actor is passive, but it’s not. For me, my character is a nightclub owner, so I looked punk into the ’80s. In the film, you’ll see I’m very, very blonde and bleached. My character moved through the punk, but we used that as an initial starting point. I’m very visually stimulated, and sometimes it can be a gallery image or piece of music that will inspire me. I’d been listening to a lot of Siouxsie Sioux during Thor and thought about that period, so that was influential to me.
People often use the word “perfect” to describe you. Does that surprise you?
They should see me at 6 a.m. I just try to look the best I can at whatever age I am. I’m interested in fashion and how people express themselves differently though clothing over time. I’m not interested in fashion when it comes to skin care. My skin is in pretty good condition and has been stable, because I found something that really works for me, and I’ve stuck with it.
How have your ideas about beauty evolved?
Well, it’s constantly changing. People talk about the idea of perfection, but I love that the Japanese idea about beauty involves flaws. Like, if you got a beautiful ceramic pot there would be a flaw in it. And the flaw in it is beautiful. A beautiful flower arrangement is always slightly asymmetric. It allows for a greater sense of people’s individuality. I always find people attractive when they are comfortable with their own skin and not trying to be someone else, but their best selves. They might have a slightly big nose or asymmetric eyes or interesting hair, but there’s a naturalness to them.
Some people are embarrassed by extensive beauty routines, or to even care about beauty at all, for fear it can make them seem vain. What do you think?
The best piece of advice is to wear sunscreen and not go out in the harsh Australian sun. You could say that’s looking after your skin. From a vanity perspective, you don’t want to be old and wrinkly. But it’s also protected my skin. It’s very different from makeup. Your skin is the biggest organ in our body. Exfoliate [Dermalogica makes a good one — Daily Microfoliant], moisturize, and wear sunscreen. That’s it. That’s fine. I’m very conscious of sun damage in my children.
We often pay a lot of lip service to accepting imperfection, but when did it become real for you?
As a woman, it takes a lot of strength. There’s so much pressure. I really long for a time when women aren’t mean to other women about it, and aren’t judgmental about what other women do. I don’t expect everyone to subscribe to the same type of beauty I’m interested in. Everyone is different, but it would be good to take that pressure off ourselves. There’s so much pressure on women to look a certain way, or be a certain thing, or to think that their outward appearance is the most important part of their personality or character. It’s certainly a part of it, but not the most important thing.
When I started working in the film industry, I was working with a lot of women. Some of the women were interested in the work and the characters. Some, more in how they look. I realized that I didn’t want to be in the latter. I want to be interested in the work. I want to look out at the world. I want to be interested in the job at hand. I should look how the character should look, and not think about how I look. The obsession on one’s looks can make you a bit crazy. And I thought, I don’t want to go crazy.
Hollywood and its unattainable standards for anti-aging are well-known. How has the way you thought about aging changed over time?
Well, I’m older. You’re older than you were last year. People talk about it a lot. Being consistent with the one skin-care line and not giving into the professional fear about it has made me feel a lot more at peace with whatever age I am. I think my skin is a lot more resilient. I have fewer breakouts than I did in my 20s, which you can say is partially hormonal, but also because I’m not changing it up. I’m not anxious about my skin. Strangely, the more people are talking about anti-aging, the less I feel anxious about it.
When I was in my teens and 20s, it was what you put on top of your skin. Certainly since having children, I realized it was all about skin care. When people are having issues with their skin, that’s when they don’t feel as confident, and they start to retreat. All that other stuff you layer on top — or we inject into our faces, or other things people are into — are ways to try and hide. It becomes less significant or less important. But for me, it’s about looking the best you can at whatever age.
There’s a big difference between altering your appearance and trying to work with what you got. My philosophy is to work with what you got. It’s about feeling comfortable in your own skin. But it’s easy to form judgment on other people. For me, I’ve just grown up that way. My mother is not someone who has surgically enhanced herself. It doesn’t seem natural to me. But that’s just me — ultimately, I believe women have judged other women too long.
This interview has been condensed and edited.