If you grew up with Andrea Lavinthal in her hometown of Livingston, New Jersey, you might recall her over-tweezed, bleached eyebrows, or her affinity for Sun In®. If you met her more recently, though, you’ll recognize her as the glamorous People® magazine’s Style and Beauty Director.
Despite her self-proclaimed beauty faux pas of the past, Lavinthal, 40, has sustained her passion for products and treatments over the course of her career (for 18 years, not including internships she held before graduating from Syracuse University in 2001). In fact, during her time in the beauty department at Cosmopolitan® magazine, she started the outlet’s first beauty blog and also helped launch Cosmo RadioTM on SiriusXM®. (These days, you can listen to her on The Taylor Strecker Show, live from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.)
Much like Cosmo’s bold attitude, Lavinthal is a confident force of meme-maker-meets-mom. On Instagram®, her relatable, sometimes self-deprecating captions offer a glance into her professional life as an editor, as well as her personal life with long-time boyfriend Justin, and their kids, Saxon, 3, and Vaughn, 9 months. Occasionally, she’ll post handwritten snail mail from her childhood: personal letters sent to her parents from sleepaway camp — the text typically begs for mom and dad to take her home (they don’t). In more recent life, for Halloween, a caption summarizes her costume, “Mom Who Wishes She Was 25 and Wearing a Slutty Costume at a Party Where She’s About to Go Home With a Dude Dressed as a Hot Dog.”
Speaking of her significant other, she prefers certain words to describe her eight-year relationship. “Saying ‘my partner’ sounds like we're in a law firm together,” says Lavinthal. “Sometimes I say ‘my husband’ and sometimes I just say ‘my Justin.’”
Lavinthal and “my Justin” originally met in her Union Square apartment building — more specifically, in the laundry room. “We lived in the same building,” says Lavinthal. “I gave a note to our doorman for him, and that's how it all started.” Luckily for him, Lavinthal made the first move — and, luckily still, he gets her beauty stash leftovers. (We’re jealous.)
In our interview, Lavinthal takes us through her skincare routine and discusses what kind of facials offend her, and the rock star she wanted to marry, as well as the reality of being a beauty editor and the people who’ve supported her dreams the most.
Spotlyte: How did you first become interested in beauty?
Andrea Lavinthal: I was always into products, since as long as I can remember. Even shopping with my mom at the grocery store, I would go right to the health and beauty aisle and spend a lot of time looking at the various products. I remember my first real product was a Salon Selectives® leave-in conditioner.
At a young age, I was reading magazines, specifically the beauty and fashion sections. My mom always tells the story about how I was reading a magazine and asked her if I was “beige,” and she was like, "I have no idea what you're saying." I showed her the word. I was trying to figure out my complexion. I loved going to the Clinique® counter and playing with the skin diagnostic tool with the sliding thing back then.
Spotlyte: Who was your beauty icon growing up?
AL: Stephanie Seymour — my everything icon. Everyone knows I modeled my bat mitzvah dress after her wedding dress in the November RainTM video. My parents just gave me way too much freedom and let me do that. I wanted to marry Axl Rose.
Spotlyte: Between your childhood visits to the beauty counter and present day life, what have been your favorite personal beauty faux pas of years past?
AL: The entire time between sixth grade to senior year of high school was an ongoing faux pas. I had perms, I had bangs, I plucked my eyebrows. The biggest thing that I ever did — that nobody in the family will ever let me forget — happened when we went on a family vacation in sixth grade and I brought a bottle of Sun In® with me. I would jump in the pool, and then spray the Sun In in my hair. My hair was initially yellow. [But] by the time we got home, it oxidized and turned bright orange, with some green in it.
People would stop my mom in the supermarket and say, "You need to do something about Andrea's hair." She took me to her colorist. They dyed it dark brown, and it took unevenly, so they had to cut it into a bob. I had a dark brown, chin-length bob. [That] age is the worst time to be suffering such a beauty mishap, when you're starting to develop (even though I was still flat). I was miserable.
Spotlyte: Did your beauty mistakes deter you from trying new things?
AL: I never, ever learned. In high school, I was given a Kevyn Aucoin book, The Art of MakeupTM. I was inspired to put JoleneTM on my eyebrows. I turned them orange.
Spotlyte: Who have been your biggest cheerleaders throughout your informal beauty education and your career?
AL: Definitely my parents. In terms of my overall career, both of them are incredibly supportive. There was a point in high school where I subscribed to seven or eight magazines at a time. That's a little bit out of control, but they knew that it was my passion. I still bring home fashion magazines for my dad; he loves to read them. I got him a subscription for Town and CountryTM, and Vanity Fair® for mom. She loves People, too. That's actually been her favorite magazine for nearly 40 years now.
Spotlyte: You started your career at Cosmo — a magazine known for pushing the envelope.
AL: When I went to Cosmo, which had very raunchy cover lines, my dad still proudly displayed the issues with my byline in his office. He's a lawyer in a pretty conservative field, and he’d have an issue of Cosmo in his office that says something like, “101 Ways to Lick His Ice Cream Cone This Summer.” He framed the first issue that had my name on the masthead. It's still hanging in my room.
Spotlyte: Has your beauty career influenced your parents?
AL: My dad is very into products. Although he wouldn't admit it, he's more aware of grooming than my mom. I could bring her home La Mer® or Dove®, and it does not really make a difference to her.
My dad emailed me when the Dyson® dryer came out and wondered if I could get him one. My dad has almost no hair, and I got him one. He uses it. I don't have a Dyson dryer, but my dad does. He also uses a Mason Pearson® brush that I got him. I do not use one.
Spotlyte: In your spare time, what do you read regularly for fun?
AL: I love New York® magazine. I read it digitally now, but that's only because we moved so many times in the last few years that I got tired of updating my subscription address. The reporting and the articles have been so good.
I do love Town and Country magazine. It's so snarky and funny, and I laugh at the cover lines. Their articles are for a life that I don't lead, but I like reading about. I got my dad a subscription, so when I go home I can read them.
Spotlyte: How have your reading lists changed over the years?
AL: All the magazines that I've loved in the last 20 years don't speak to me anymore. Now that I'm 40, I feel like I've aged out of most print. I can still read Vanity Fair and not feel like it’s speaking to a millennial. Having worked in these magazines when I was in my twenties, I now get what it must have felt like to be 35 and older — feeling like “this just isn't my life.”
Spotlyte: What do you think is the biggest misconception about being a Beauty and Style Director?
AL: I’m not getting a facial or my hair done all the time. It's not just the stuff you see on Instagram. I Instagram when I'm at the red carpet, but the majority of my job is sitting at my desk.
When you work at a weekly magazine, and you also work on digital, the news cycle is hourly and weekly. I don't really get to leave my desk a whole lot. If I'm not here, things bottleneck. There's a deadline that has to be met every single week for print. I need to be here for meetings — a lot of meetings.
Spotlyte: So, your life isn’t a movie?
AL: It's not the [The] Devil Wears Prada®. It’s not How to Lose a Guy In 10 DaysTM. It's much more normal.
Every editor says, “every day is different,” and that’s definitely true for me, especially when you work on print and digital. Monday is usually my craziest day, because that’s when we close the issue and have four meetings: [in the] morning to go over the issue, early afternoon to discuss the cover, late afternoon to look at the pages, and early evening to look at the pages again. In between those meetings, I’m usually making last minute changes to my pages, trying to keep up with my email, going over upcoming stories the team is working on, and praying that Kim Kardashian doesn’t make a major hair change in the middle of all this — although that’s always great for traffic.
I do The Taylor Strecker ShowTM Tuesday mornings [on the radio], then rush into the office and try to catch up on email. We have our team weekly [meeting] in the afternoon. The rest of the week is a lot of meetings [and] run-throughs for upcoming stories — where we look at beauty or fashion merch with the photo and design teams to decide what to feature — attending key PR events, etc.
Spotlyte: What is your morning skincare regimen?
AL: I don't wash my face in the morning. I just shower. If I have leftover eye makeup, I use Bioderma® micellar water to remove it. Then I put on a vitamin C serum. (I’m using Drunk Elephant® C-Firma® Day Serum right now.) I let that sink in, and if my skin is dry, I put a hyaluronic serum on next. I’ve been using CeraVe® Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum because it's just very simple, no frills. Once that is absorbed, I mix together IT Cosmetics® Bye Bye Foundation® with In Transit® Skin Defence, a daily moisturizer with SPF in it. I know that I have to wear SPF every day no matter what — even though it’s annoying, you just do it.
Spotlyte: What does your nighttime regimen entail?
AL: I wash my face with Naturopathica® Aloe Cleansing Gel or Shani DardenTM Daily Cleansing Serum. And then I put on Shani Darden Daily Toning Essence. I still can't really tell you what an essence does, or if you need it, but it feels nice, and it’s nice to have if I'm feeling self-care-y. Then, I either apply Shani Darden Texture ReformTM [or] Drunk Elephant® T.L.C. Glycolic Night SerumTM. For moisturizer, I use Lala Retro® Whipped Cream.
Spotlyte: There are so many beauty products on the market. How do you choose the right ones?
AL: The skincare landscape now is so overwhelming, even for a beauty editor — especially for a beauty editor. We see everything, and we have access to everything. Even I am sort of at a loss about which direction I want to go in (Do I go all clean and try one of the all clean lines? Do I go for the super science techy stuff?), I want to give products a chance to work, because if you constantly switch around your products, you don't really know what's what.
Spotlyte: With so many products being sent to your desk, do you finish every bottle you try?
AL: I try to use products until they're almost done, so I don't waste them. If it's shampoo or moisturizer, and I really don't want to use it, I give it to Justin.
Spotlyte: While your product collection is infinite, do you have one dermatologist (or two) you see regularly?
AL: I have a few derms that I love, but the one I use most often is Dr. Dendy Engelman. She has done injectable wrinkle reducers on me in my eleven lines, because when I sleep I scrunch my eyebrows together. My ex-boyfriend pointed that out to me many, many years ago.
[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers are used to temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face such as the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet. They should not be used more frequently than every three months. Like any medical treatment, they have potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetic specialists now.]
Dr. Engelman has done [some] filler in my lips, which I have to admit I loved. I can see why people want to go bigger and bigger. It’s kind of like diamonds: it shrinks over time. What starts off feeling like “I don't want anything too crazy,” you get used to. She's [also] done filler [in] my cheeks and my marionette [lines].
[Editor’s note: 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, it has potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if it’s right for you. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetic specialists now.]
I've been meaning to go back in, but I keep putting it off because I have to take my kids to the pediatrician. That seems like it should be a priority.
Spotlyte: When did you first start getting injectables?
AL: Close to my thirtieth birthday — maybe by 32.
Spotlyte: What other treatments do you get?
AL: I love a good facial. My favorite facials are ones that really get in there, clean out your skin. I'm appalled when they don't do extractions. I recently got a facial with Renee Rouleau. Whenever she's in town, I try to see her. She's really knowledgeable. I also go to Heyday®. They have really nice natural products. It's relaxing, without having to put on a robe.
Spotlyte: What's in your makeup bag?
AL: I curl my lashes. I'm not going to leave the house without curling my lashes, no matter what. Even if I have a flight and I have to leave at 4 a.m., I'm curling my lashes.
For mascara, everyone knows my absolute favorite is Maybelline® Full ‘N Soft®, but I obviously experiment with all different kinds. Right now I'm using SaieTM. It’s Laney Crowell’s brand-new clean beauty line.
I love all of Benefit's® brow products. They have so many pencils! It really does help make you look more polished and more together.
I love blush. For glow-y cheeks, NARS® and Chanel® are usually my go-to blushes. Hourglass® has this Ambient LightingTM Palette, and I never really figured out how you're supposed to use it. I just mesh them all together and put them on my face and hope I don't look crazy.
I love FleshTM Beauty FleshPot Eye & Cheek Gloss®. It’s a jelly with sparkles. I put a tiny bit on my cheekbones, and I feel very young and gorgeous and fabulous when I wear it.
Spotlyte: How has your beauty routine changed since having kids?
AL: In the last three years, I've had two kids. Every time I'm pregnant, and then at least for six months after, I use almost nothing. I go “beauty feral” because it's so hard to worry about every ingredient and ask, “Can I use this? Can I not?”
Spotlyte: While balancing your work and kids, what’s your secret to staying calm — or at least appearing that way?
AL: I am not a calm person. I don't try to calm myself; I distract myself, if we're being honest. I have a 45-minute commute every day, and I find that podcasts have become my way of zoning out.
I love TV. I try to read, but thanks to things like Instagram, my attention span is none. And, when I read books, it's almost addictive to check Instagram after every few pages, which is ridiculous.
Spotlyte: What shows do you watch?
AL: I am a BravoTM junkie, so I love [The] Real Housewives®, Vanderpump RulesTM, Southern Charm®, and all that trash. Justin and I just crush Netflix® and Amazon® shows — and then get depressed when our show is over and there's nothing else to watch. I get really attached to the show. If I love it, I'll do deep dives on the writers, the characters. I'll go into Reddit® and start reading fan groups. I'll join the Facebook® group. I want everything! I want to know if other people noticed the weird thing that I noticed. We blew through Succession®; I just fell head over heels into it. [Then], we did Mindhunter® — I love anything with a good serial killer. We just finished FleabagTM, which we loved.
Spotlyte: What beauty advice have celebrities given you?
AL: If you ever interview Kendall Jenner, she'll tell you that her sister Kim has told her not to touch her face. That’s actually not a bad piece of advice. Of course, you know, who else do I get my skincare advice from but the Kar/Jenners.
Celebs will tell you they drink a lot of water or they do a skincare mask or whatever. I'm like, “No, I want to know what you're really doing. Why are you 50 and look maybe 30? You literally look like you're made out of caramel. Why do I want to take a bite out of you? What laser is that? What filler is that?” They'll never tell you. They'll just tell you that they sleep on a silk pillow. Everyone is into the silk pillowcases. That's been a big one — or whatever cream they're paid to say that they use.
Spotlyte: Do you see a celeb hairstylist? Where do you get your hair done?
AL: When I was at Cosmo, every big colorist who I had only read about and dreamt of meeting was willing to do my hair. I have to tell you, a lot of them completely messed it up.
I've been going to Maggie Castellanos at Marie Robinson℠ for a bunch of years now. She is just so good. I tell people when they compliment me on my hair color that it's from the sun, but when they look at me, they know that I'm kidding. I then say [it’s] Maggie.
I went to Marie herself for years, but when she went on maternity leave a long time ago, I panicked, “Who's going to do my color?” I have a monogamous relationship [with Maggie] ever since. The two times I cheated on her, both times I regretted it. What's cool about Maggie is she gets my job, and she knows that once in a while [someone else will mess up my hair]. I usually text her before to let her know, and then I have to come in and she'll fix it.
Spotlyte: What makes you feel the most beautiful?
AL: One of the most powerful things I ever did was discover how to use a curling wand to do my own hair. When you figure out your hair, and you can get it the way you want it to look in your own hands, you are like, “I can do anything!” When my hair looks good, I feel like I need less makeup. I don't have to worry about my outfit.
During times in my life over the last 10 years, my hair has fallen out for various reasons. The psychological toll it took on me, feeling like I didn't have my hair, was astounding. It made me realize just how much our appearance, but particularly for women, our hair, affects who we are and how we present ourselves.
Spotlyte: What’s your mantra?
AL: “If you love it, buy it in two colors.”
Dr. Dendy Engelman is a paid Allergan® consultant.
Allergan® may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this article.