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Susan Sarandon’s Tips for Embracing Aging

Susan Sarandon. Photo: 2017 Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

Susan Sarandon has always had a good time in Cannes. After a night where the headlines declared she (and her cleavage) were ruling Cannes, the actress is back for another year in her spokesmodel role with L’Oreal Paris. Although time ran out during the interview to ask Sarandon about her décolletage beauty routine, the Cut did talk to her about why she thinks kind and curious eyes are the most beautiful, not being afraid to demand the “good” light, and never watching any of her movies.

What do you think the tagline “I’m worth it” implies about beauty?

It’s a really important tagline that now we maybe think is more obvious. But at the time, it was revolutionary to be taking care of yourself, indulging in yourself because you’re worth it, rather than for a man, or to get a husband, or to please someone else. But do “it,” because you’re worth the time and it’s worth focusing on yourself.

Personally, I’m very drawn to a person who has kind eyes and seems awake, present, engaged, and curious. To me, that lightens up a face no matter what the features are. This idea of being bored and brittle and overly done-up to me is the least interesting way to go. It doesn’t appeal to me at all.

Beauty is about engagement and confidence. Whatever you do that makes you confident, whether it being going to the gym or running, you’ll look beautiful. And that can include making sure you have some mascara, a lip, or are staying hydrated.

In light of beauty being from within, how does that affect your approach to beauty products?

As you get older, less is more. The things you could do when you’re 20, you better lose by the time you’re 70 or else they’re garish. You can’t get away with as much. It goes into the realm of Baby Jane. That’s why I stay away from colored eyeshadow, unless it’s for a character.

Beauty products should enhance who you are, rather than making you into someone you don’t feel comfortable with. You find your own style. Don’t try to be someone else, not everything works. Just as it is with clothing, the more you can see the person, the more the actual soul of the person shows through, the better. You want to use products that allow you to be there when you’re finished applying them.

How has being an actress affected the way you’ve thought about aging and beauty?

Well, in being an actor, you’re so watched all the time. Your face is so big and the camera gets lower — the lighting can be bad so that even when you look good, you look bad. It makes you more aware than if you had a job where you weren’t so big all the time. And now, you have tabloids. I don’t like to do red carpets as a thing. You can’t just throw something on. It’s a lot of scrutiny and it takes the fun out of it, unless you have a group like what I had last night.

I’m lucky I started out as a character actor and not as a great beauty. I don’t have the pressure on me that some people do. I created a career out of being other people. Like Bette Davis, it makes it a little easier. But like she also said, growing older is not for sissies.

When I did Dead Man Walking, that was a great turning point. I had bad haircut, bad clothes, no makeup. I really had to focus on love — not just for me, but the love for him. Religious people have an unconditional love, that’s what keeps them going and fills them up. I had to try and find that — that open heart can make you quite beautiful.

So in watching yourself back on film, you try to be generous and focus on self-love?

I don’t watch [my movies]. I watch, if I have any, say, like if I’m producing something like The Meddler, I watched the final cut of that. But I know it’s not going to be good when I’m on set if the camera is very low and the overhead light is very harsh. If that’s the point, that’s fine. But if you’re in a romantic comedy, then I say something, like “This is not fair.” Time out, not fair.

But it really takes you outside of your job. It’s wonderful if you have makeup and hair artists that you can depend on, to look at that and be like, There’s this terrible side light, can you help me out? It also doesn’t just happen when you’re older. It can happen when you’re younger with bad lighting. If you’re trying to age, bad lighting really helps. I resent having to watch that.

I can see in the first few days of working on something. In Ray Donovan, I’m supposed to look good because I play the head of a studio. I could tell the minute I got on the set that the director of photography was going to pay attention.

When you go on talk shows, you can see some of them have amazing lighting, especially if there are lots of women in the crew. They know where that lighting is. Sometimes you can sit down and the host has all this “fill,” and you’re sitting over here and it’s not happening over here. You say, “Wait a minute, I could use that. Could I get what he has?” And sometimes, that will happen.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Susan Sarandon’s Tips for Embracing Aging