If a dictionary entry for “sushi face” — the beauty phenom of getting a puffy face from eating too much Sugarfish the night before — existed, Julianne Moore’s face would appear next to it for accreditation. Since she mentioned it in a print interview several years ago, the phrase has popped up all over the internet, and I think of of Moore every time I reach for low-sodium soy sauce. “Heck yea,” Moore tells me when I ask whether “sushi face” is real or a beauty urban myth. Catching up with last month at Cannes, I talked to the L’Oréal Paris spokesperson about her “sushi face” views, her most difficult birthday, and how she thinks about aging in a non-pejorative way.
I read in an interview once that you said you only walk on the shady side of the street. And I started doing it too!
It’s true! You get used to it, and then you can’t stand to be in the sun. I can’t even take the light because of my eyes. I do it to my husband all the time where he’ll be like, “I’m cold” but then I’m like, “Let’s walk in the shade.”
What about al fresco dining?
No way. I hate it. You’re baking in the sun. Plus in New York, the cars are driving by and all the dirt flies into your food. I’m that person who is like, I want a table inside. But you know what, you can always find one!
Another thing I read about that’s of much contention on the internet. Your talk about “sushi face” — is it real?
Heck yeah. It’s because of the sodium. My husband loves to have sushi in L.A. because it’s so good out there. But if I’m there for an awards show or something, I’m like, “No, I’m not doing it the night before the Golden Globes.” [Laughs.] My face will be puffy.
Even with low-sodium soy sauce?
I can [see a difference]! But not everyone reacts to it that way.
So you obviously use sunscreen everyday. Which one?
I use the Age Perfect one. I like to find a moisturizer that has SPF. A lot people say, “I don’t want to get a bottle of Coppertone and put it all over my face.” But if you have a moisturizer you like with sunscreen in it, it’s very easy to get your SPF, even if it has an SPF 15. If you’re at the beach, that’s probably not enough. But in the city all day long, that’s good.
What is your nighttime routine like?
It’s so boring to say, “I always wash my face,” but I do. But some people don’t. I put on some eye cream, moisturizer, and put my retainer in and go to bed. [Laughs.] I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I’m supposed to wear my retainer forever?” Yes, I have worn it every single night. And the times I haven’t, I was sorry.
How do you think being an actress has affected the way you’ve thought about aging?
I think it’s kind of great. Aging is something to be aware of, and not in a pejorative way. There’s always this thing like, Oh my god, fear of aging, what do you do? What do you do to combat it? Well, we are all aging. A child ages. The awareness of moving through time is an important thing to have. As an actress, you’re going to have that because you’re always reflecting on what’s going on in life. It’s an opportunity to reflect on your own life and experiences.
It’s impossible for myself, as an actress, to be stuck in time because movies are always moving in time. Having children also places you in time. You watch them change, and you change. That’s a great thing about life. It’s important to talk about that and not to talk about the fear of aging or seeing it as something to combat. It’s just life. It’s normal life. It’s important to fully be where you are.
Was there ever a time when you were more aware of aging in a more fearful or worrisome way?
When I was 29, it was my hardest birthday. It was surprising to me that it wasn’t when I was 30. But 29 felt like some kind of demarcation of time that was significant in a way that it shouldn’t have been. I had this feeling of, I really have to get it together. There’s this idea that you have your 20s to experiment and your life has not yet gelled. So you say, well I’m only 22. Or 24. Then you get to be 29 and you’re like, well, wait a minute.
A lot of it had to do with not being 100 percent happy about where I was in my life. It made me reexamine what I wanted and think about how to reframe it. Like, why am I feeling this way? What is really going on with? When age makes you feel uncomfortable, it usually has to do with what is going on in your life and not the age itself. It made me think about … my life as a whole, in my work and personal life.
I think that for some women and for me growing up, I thought I could create my career and work life — that was something I would pursue, but my personal life was something I was going to let happen to me. I don’t think that’s true. You have to invest as much in your personal life and the creation of it as in your work. You can’t just wait around. It’s not that you have to construct it. It’s impossible to construct stuff. It’s just that it’s also worth the investment.
Speaking of investment, what things to you do to invest in wellness?
Ashtanga yoga is really, really important to me. I came to it in my late 30s. The kind of yoga that I had done sporadically before was not that engaging for me. Ashtanga isn’t something I can’t necessarily do every day but I try to do it four times a week except when I’m at Cannes and I can’t do anything. And I try to walk everywhere in New York.
Are you into facial treatments?
Yes. I see Joanna Vargas in the city. She’s fantastic with her microcurrent facials. She’s so funny. I like feeling good about myself, being rested and doing an exercise that makes me feel good physically and mentally, and doing treatments that are noninvasive. I like her so much.
Do you go once a week?
No. Are you kidding? [Laughs.] Who could afford that? I feel like it’s an indulgence to go once a month but when I do, it does make a big difference.
We often talk a lot about inner beauty and its power. But how do you reconcile the tension between that and a world where outward beauty is obviously a part?
When you really dissect beauty and why you’re attracted to someone, it has to do with who they are as a person. In hair and makeup, what we’re doing is enhancing what is most attractive to us naturally. Having clear skin, flushed cheeks, lips that look moist, hair that’s shiny — all of those are human characteristics found naturally. We’re still responding to something that is not enhanced and trying to illuminate what is within you already. That’s a correlation that feels healthy and doesn’t step too far outside the box with anything.
This interview has been condensed and edited.