Olivia Wilde is taking on the beauty industry with her new role as chief brand activist for True Botanicals, a natural skin care line founded by Hillary Peterson and Christine Mace-Turner. Here, the outspoken actress discusses the politics of beauty, her must-have products, and why it's crucial to take a stand on social media.
When did your journey with natural beauty begin? Olivia Wilde: About 10 years ago, I started thinking a lot more about natural beauty because my work involved so much makeup and so much focus on the external. I found myself suddenly defined by my looks in a way that I never had been. My approach to beauty and fashion has always come from a curious place and an appreciation for it, but never an obsessive place as a young person. Then it became more a part of my world, and a lot of people were suggesting products and saying, 'In order to look the way you should look, you have to use this harsh product.' A dermatologist saying, 'You should look like this, you should do this.' I just took the reins back and said, 'I really want to know what I’m putting on my skin.'
What attracted you to True Botanicals? OW: I had heard of True Botanicals from a few different people, I knew it had a really good reputation, I knew it was beautiful. Once I tried it, I was like, 'Oh, it’s really good. It actually works.' It was checking that box for me. Then I started doing the research on it and was blown away by the results of the clinical trials. I got to meet [True Botanical co-founders] Hillary [Peterson] and Christina [Mace-Turner], and that sort of sealed the deal for me. I really wanted to be a part of what they were doing. They were so—not only so brilliant as individuals, as women—but so personally passionate about what they were doing, and it was clearly much more than just a company. I desperately wanted to be a part of it.
This partnership is more than beauty products for you. What’s happening in the beauty industry? OW: Well it’s not regulated, and it’s something that people think is. It’s a problem. The consumer assumes that when someone is selling them something, it’s been researched and regulated and is safe. But the fact is, in the EU, there are over 1,300 ingredients that are banned from beauty products. In the US, it’s under 20. There has to be a better approach to what we’re putting on our skin, what we’re slathering all over ourselves. I just think, if the average woman is using 12 products a day, how many ingredients are we putting on our skin? How much of that is seeping into our bloodstream? It just seems completely unacceptable to continue on in the way the beauty industry had been. I wanted to be a part of a movement that was making a real difference, and I wanted to show that it was possible—because it’s one thing to go around beating the drum about the problems that exist, but I wanted to also take an optimistic, proactive stance, and say, 'But there’s an alternative.'
True Botanicals boasts a range of effective beauty products using natural ingredients..
What does your role of chief brand activist entail? OW: I love that chief brand activist means there can be other brand activists. It implies that I can be a leader and an example of a brand activist, but we’re all activists, and we can all join in that movement. It’s really welcoming people to be a part of it. I think my role is going to be spreading the word, encouraging people to be a part of that movement, and really standing up for these important issues. I’m not afraid to go and speak to anyone who thinks that this isn’t worth their time. I think it is a political issue. I mean this is a much broader conversation, but there is a war on women happening in this country, and beauty is certainly a part of it. This is a part of the movement we all need to be signing up for, and is demanding better for ourselves and for our fellow women.
You’re not afraid to speak your mind on social media. How will you use your reach in this new role? OW: I think one thing about my social media presence is that I’m authentic, I’m always myself, and sometimes that gets me into trouble, and I don't really care. It was the great Kurt Cobain quote, 'I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I’m not.' I am genuinely passionate about certain things and I share that. Then I learned that people were starting million-person marches through Twitter—that was my initial way into social media, through activism. I joined Twitter so I could help raise money for this small organization I helped found in Haiti, and I thought, 'Oh my god, I can talk to people directly about what’s going on.'
And you can have fun! So my relationship to people who follow me on there has always come from a place of authenticity and wanting to share information. I think if you have a voice, you have to use it; it’s irresponsible not to. The feedback I’ve gotten from that, people saying, 'I saw what you posted and it made me get involved in that cause,' or, 'I saw something you posted about a product, and it made my life better,' or something like that—that really is awesome. But the giant companies that don’t have these same core values have massive marketing budgets, and they are flooding the world with their advertising. And consumers—it’s not their fault they’re assuming everything they’re being told is true and that they’re being kept safe. That’s not true. If I can help counteract that using whatever voice I have, I want to use that carefully.
What are your favorite products from the brand? OW: Pure Radiance Oil was the first one that kind of blew my mind. It was immediately different to me, because it didn’t feel greasy and it didn’t feel like it just sat on the surface of my skin; it felt like it was absorbed. It’s something that I use before bed, and before I put on makeup, and it doesn’t make my makeup look super greasy and shiny. The Nutrient Mist—I use this all day long because it smells so good and it’s really refreshing. Right now, I’m doing a play and I use it right before I go on stage. It’s like the end of my little pre-stage ritual. I use the Pre-Cleanse Oil to take makeup off and then the Renew Cleanser. And I have to say, for work, I end up wearing a lot of makeup, and it takes it all off and makes my skin very clean. I use the Vitamin C Serum three times a week.
I have really enjoyed experimenting with the different products, including the body wash, which I use, my son uses, and my daughter who's 7 months old [uses]. It’s so gentle I can put it on my kids, and we can take a bath together. My son calls it the 'new soap.' He doesn’t want anything else now. It’s nice to know that what I’m exposing them to is completely natural. In the past, I would feel guilty that I have something on my skin. I would kiss my baby and think, 'Oh no, I put something for acne on my skin earlier and I kissed her little soft face, and what just went into her bloodstream?' It was worrying me. Now, I enjoy the fact that whatever’s on my skin is actually good for them. The mom guilt is real and it never goes away, but let’s not add to the mom guilt by putting chemicals all over them—we have enough guilt to deal with.