By Hilary Sheinbaum
As if Sarah Brown’s 14-year tenure at Vogue Magazine wasn’t impressive enough (and it is), more recently, the beauty-industry titan took her wealth of knowledge and experience (and power) to Violet Grey as the Executive Director at Violet Lab. There, she leads a committee of testers and curators and approves which products are approved for the Violet Grey shelves. (Like we said: impressive.) So, of course, we had to wonder… is her morning as streamlined as the process in which she edits her beauty closet containing serums, moisturizers, oils, and more?
“I’d love to tell you that 30 minutes after I wake—at dawn, of course—I have already run around the Central Park Reservoir suited up in icy pastel workout wear, whipped up a complexion-enhancing, gut microbiome-balancing smoothie blended with antioxidant-rich rainforest fruit, and read a book in a different language,” says Sarah. “Ultimately, though, that is not reality.”
Instead, here’s how one of the most respected women in beauty spends the first 30 minutes of her day.
Unless I have a really early meeting or a breakfast date, I try to wake up without an alarm most days. It makes me feel really good when my eyes naturally open at pretty much the time—like my circadian rhythms are in sync.
I read the news in bed, propped up on a few extra pillows. A quick yet furiously comprehensive scroll through everything going on in the worlds of politics, fashion, beauty, entertainment, and friends, including but not limited to: The New York Times, Business of Fashion, The Cut, Vulture, The New Yorker, Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Page Six, CNN, NPR, Vogue, Glossy, Instagram, and Twitter.
If you want to know what’s going on in the world, follow smart writers and smart people from all walks of life on Twitter—truly the best and most efficient aggregator for individual stories, trends, general outrage, wonder, and delight. This is how I get myself into the headspace of the day. I read everything I can.
As we like to say at Violet Grey: We try everything, so you don’t have to. Truly. Every shelf, ledge, rim, and viable surface in my shower is occupied by something I deeply love and must have on hand at all times, like Nécesaire body wash in Eucalyptus, Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt, or something new we are considering for a coveted spot in our Edit.
Before sending products to our Committee of industry experts to vet for Violet Code Approval, we make sure we love them first. Every single thing. So, I am generally choosing between a gazillion shampoos, conditioners, masks, body washes, bars, scrubs, and facial cleansers each morning. It’s tough work, but someone has to do it.
Once I step out of the shower, my sink-side beauty routine again vacillates between the non-negotiables I love and trust and will not go without: Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum, Macrene Actives Neck & Decolletage Treatment, Costa Brazil Jungle Firming Oil, among others, new favorites: Vardis toothpaste & wooden toothbrush, Eighth Day’s new reparative moisturizer, and a ton of things I either want to try or really should try for consideration for VG.
My Curation team and I need to use things enough to form an opinion. Do we like it? Does it work? Do we look better? Can we tell a difference in our skin or hair from yesterday or last week? Does it smell good? Is the packaging smart? Does it make me feel glamorous? Does it make my life easier? Did it replace a step or something else I was faithfully using until now? Do I love the experience of pulling it out of the cabinet, or, even better, do I love it so much that it has somehow earned a place on the countertop? Am I ready to bump this up out of “testing” and into “my routine”? Would I spend real money on this—would I recommend it to a friend or my mother? And even if perhaps I don’t love a particular item—for a multitude of reasons—could I imagine that someone else would? Once I step into the bathroom, I’m at work.
I walk downstairs and make a cup of coffee with milk and sugar. My New Year’s resolution was to get off sugar but that was abandoned after one day. We have no complicated pour-over method, and we do not use freshly roasted artisanal beans. I have a frother somewhere but don’t know how to use it. We are a Keurig household because we can’t deal. But, I do pour that cup of milky, sugary, pod-coffee—Trader Joe’s Ethiopian blend, by the way. At least it’s fair trade!—into a nice, looks-good-on-Zoom white porcelain Jonathan Adler mug. And, then I’m off to the races!
Sarah Brown is the Executive Director of Violet Lab. She has championed countless brands, products, artists, and founders as an editor during her 14 years at VOGUE Magazine, and she continues to do so in her subsequent role at Violet Gray as a strategic advisor to the beauty industry.