Interviews

New York Times Columnist and Ellis Brooklyn Founder Bee Shapiro on Clean Beauty, Skincare Minis, and Lasers

New York Times Columnist and Ellis Brooklyn Founder Bee Shapiro on Clean Beauty, Skincare Minis, and Lasers

For Bee Shapiro, the road to beauty wasn’t a straight one. In fact, she began her career as a lawyer — but this period in her work history was short lived. Just eight months into her first job, she quit. “I was just thinking, ‘Is this life? Is this it?’” she admits. Fatefully, she soon found a job writing at The New York Times®, where, as luck would have it, the beauty columnist was leaving. Shapiro leapt at the opportunity to take her spot. 

It was there that Shapiro truly fell in love with everything beauty. Over 11 years later, the Skin DeepTM; columnist, 37, is still enamored with the field. “I really think beauty is something you can grow older with. Ten years ago, maybe I was more into makeup and, today, I am more into skincare.” 

Skincare and fragrance, that is. About five years ago, Shapiro combined both passions and turned them into a new point on her career path: brand founder. “There I was, pregnant with my daughter Ellis and still testing a million products for work, and I got to the point where I was like, what am I putting on myself?” she explains. “I became obsessed with the ingredients in my products.” And while many people have ideas that just languish, this self-described “doer” saw a hole in the market and made it happen, launching Ellis Brooklyn®, a luxury natural fragrance and body care line.

We spoke with the Seattle-raised writer and mother of two about her daily skin routine, what has surprised her about being a beauty entrepreneur, and how her beauty routine has changed over the years.

Spotlyte: How did you take your idea and actually turn it into a company?

Bee Shapiro: I am just a doer. I knew that so many women were beginning to change up their routine and look for cleaner options. Being a beauty editor put me in the perfect place to start this because I knew what I wanted from the beginning. It was 2013 when I first started thinking [of the brand] and then we launched in 2015. So, it definitely took some time from the idea to when it first came out! 

Spotlyte: What has surprised you most about running Ellis Brooklyn? 

BS: How hard it is! To be honest, writing comes pretty naturally to me. I just know how to write a story by myself. Putting together a product requires so many other people — it’s a whole collaborative process. It’s a different scenario, and for my vision to stay true, it requires different skill sets.  

Spotlyte: What has been most satisfying about creating products for your line?

BS: Just the products. I love beauty, and I love when a product comes out. Sometimes we work on that product for years! It’s the best feeling in the world. I often call this business my fourth baby — I have two daughters, my husband, and this business.  

Spotlyte: How would you describe your own beauty aesthetic? 

BS: Before kids, I would have called myself a minimalist. I went for that no-makeup look. Now I would say that my philosophy is “enhanced.” Meaning: I am that person using seven products in the morning to get my needs accomplished. I have no shame in using a face roller to get my undereye bags down. I guess you could say that I have a good excuse to use all products that come across my desk now! With two kids under five years old, I truly need more.  

Spotlyte: What is your skincare routine?

BS: My morning and my nighttime routines differ. In the morning, I try to use products that are more soothing and restorative, as opposed to ones that are meant to repair or correct. For example, I don’t use products that contain vitamin C or retinol in the morning. Vitamin C oxidizes in the sunshine and is slightly exfoliating, too. Retinol is similar. These both promote cell turnover and, in my mind, you have less defenses against UV. So, I just like to use these at night.

[Editor's note: Retinol shouldn't be used by those who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]

Spotlyte: What do you use during the day?

BS: During the daytime, it’s about moisture for me, and I think about it in layers. I don’t love heavy creams, and there are so many serums and lighter layers to use now. I am more into the “glass skin” look these days. Because of that, I prefer to layer in the hydration. I love the Grown Alchemist® Instant Smoothing Serum, the Dr. Barbara Sturm® Brightening Serum, and The CreamTM; by Augustinus BaderTM; — the regular one, not the “rich” one, which is good for winter. It may not be packed with actives, but it’s such an amazing cream. 

Spotlyte: And what about at night?

BS: At night, I use [Biologique Recherche®] P50 for exfoliation — the PIGM 400 one, which is gentler than some of the other formulations. The way I was taught to use it is: you take a piece of gauze — not a cotton round — and put a bit of water on it first before you put on the P50, which dilutes it a bit, and then pat it onto your skin. And depending on how my skin is doing, I will use a sleeping mask. I love AMOREPACIFIC® Moisture Bound Sleeping Recovery® Mask and Biologique Recherche Crème Masque VernixTM;. I also like using vitamin C — I like the Drunk Elephant® one and I like the Skinceuticals® Phloretin CF® ($166). 

Spotlyte: How do you handle your skincare when you travel? 

BS: I am all about the minis. My husband is terrified when I travel. I am the person with [a] giant beauty bag. Not everything comes in a mini size, but many of my favorites do. I have been traveling a ton for Ellis Brooklyn, and I am that person on the plane who is doing a face mask, then using a roller, and then putting on oil. I have no shame. Now, there are some clear face masks, which make you look slightly less crazy, but I am not sure it matters…

 

Spotlyte: What is in your makeup bag every day?

BS: Lately I have been really into the Westman® Atelier foundation, which is in a stick. I don’t put it all over my face. I start in the center — where I need the most help — and just put it under my eyes, [and] around my nose and chin. Then I blend it up and around. There is also a Westman Atelier highlighter that is my favorite new product. It’s a rose-gold highlighter, but it looks really natural. I use it for blush, in fact, since it’s so creamy. I add a bit to my cheekbones, around my brow bones, and down my nose, but never to the end. A makeup artist told me never to do it all the way to the end, because then you will look like Rudolph.

I used to be a smokey eye person, but somewhere around my mid-thirties, I realized that I have to wear lipstick. I recently interviewed an actress for my Times column, and she said that the best way to bring color to your face is to wear bright lipstick. It’s true — I look much better with lipstick on!

As for my eyes, I have to wear mascara or do my brows, otherwise I look like I have nothing on. I am just one of those people. For mascara, I am currently using Charlotte Tilbury® Full Fat LashesTM;. I have tried lash extensions and really liked the results, but I am not that diligent about maintaining them — it’s a bit too high maintenance for me.  

Spotlyte: Do you do any in-office skincare treatments, including injectables?

BS: I have two dermatologists, [and] I have had Aerolase® laser — it’s great for evening out skin pigmentation, gently. You have to do it a few times to see the difference. But, because I am pretty conservative, and I don’t have a lot of time for downtime. I am fine going in a bunch of times for a gentler treatment [rather] than [going in] one time [for a laser] that is more aggressive. A stronger laser like Fraxel® is not for me — I pigment too easily.

And, so far, that’s it in terms of what I have done in a doctor’s office. Besides the laser, I haven’t done anything else — i.e. injectables — but I am open to it. In fact, I am thinking about going in to [try] filler this year. I want a bit of [volume] here and there. Nothing major. 

[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face, including the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet; they should not be used more frequently than every three months. Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, both injectable wrinkle reducers and injectable fillers have potential risks and side effects. Talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. And learn more now by chatting with a trained aesthetic specialist.]

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Spotlyte: What is up next for Ellis Brooklyn?

BS: We are growing. Our biggest retail partner in the U.S. is Sephora®, and we are growing to more locations. In terms of new products or categories, I want to be very considerate with how we grow. We are still explaining our fragrance story to everyone — what clean fragrance is. 

We just launched a CBD body oil, which actually stemmed from an article I wrote about a year ago. Having done all that research, I just didn’t feel like the various CBD products out there were treating the ingredients properly. Plus, they weren’t clean (i.e. they contained silicones and polyethylene glycols) and they weren’t beautiful, in fragrance or packaging. We have created an amazing, pesticide-free CBD that’s a beautiful formula as well. 

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