Talking Nail Polish and Skincare with Kerry Washington

So you can be just a little bit more like Olivia Pope.

By: Alicia Cesaro

Sometimes an actor becomes so embedded in a character that, no matter what, they will always be associated with it. Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope—the white-hat-wearing fixer who has popcorn and wine for dinner, chic AF pajamas and great coat game—is one of those cases. Which is why her teaming up with OPI to launch a D.C.-inspired nail collection based on her Scandal character and the city Washington herself has called home for many years makes so much sense. A quick glance at her Instagram will verify that the actress loves switching up nail colors on the regular, and her pretty much perfect almond nails showcase that perfectly.

And, for the record, we're not even going to try to downplay our fangirl-ness when it comes to both Kerry Washington the actress and Olivia Pope the fictional character dreamt up by Shonda Rhimes (who we could fangirl out on, too, but we'll save that for another time). If our live tweeting every Shondaland Thursday is any indication, we're fans. So, yeah, we jumped at the opportunity to chat with Washington and pick her brain about all things beauty. Between her work with OPI and as a Neutrogena ambassador, she knows her stuff. She schooled us on the benefits of hyaluronic acid, multitasking products she relies on as a mom, and why the nude nail polish from her collaboration is a personal favorite. We’ll be playing name that OPI shade (and tweeting along) during the entire sixth season of Scandal.

 

How her OPI collection came to be:

“The Kerry Washington + OPI collaboration was actually [OPI co-founder] Suzi [Weiss-Fischmann]’s idea. It was pretty surreal the first time I met with her because she has been involved with every collection for the company and she’s an amazing entrepreneur and a really inspiring woman. OPI always does collections based on geography, and they’ve worked with artists before but not with an actor. Because it’s such an exciting time with politics in Washington, it’s a play on words and fun to create a collection inspired by me and the city because I’m so closely related to it. I’ve lived there for many years and I work there for pretend on TV. I was thrilled and inspired, and I jumped at the idea and opportunity."

 

Her favorite nail shades:

"I have two favorite colors. It changes a lot. You know when you get a new album, you have your favorite song at first and then over the course of your relationship with the album it changes and you have a new favorite? That’s kind of how I feel about the collection. But there are two colors that hold a really strong place in my heart. I knew I wanted to have a nude in the collection because there’s the traditional nude like what we think of socially as nude, which is a very pale pink called Pale to the Chief. I love that color, but I knew that I wanted to have a nude that spoke to women of color, which would be more of a brown tone. I named that color after my daughter—it’s called Inside the Isabelletway. Then there is a really gorgeous strong blood red. It was really important to me to find a red that looked good on every single skin tone. And this one does—it’s such a universal, beautiful strong red. We called it We The Female, inspired by We the People.

"During the week, I tend to wear the same color at work as [Scandal character] Olivia Pope. Olivia is more of a woman who loves consistency in her clothing, so I’ve usually stayed with one color for the whole season [while filming]. This time I’m going to alternate between two different colors for the entire season six of Scandal. But on the weekends I like to have a lot of fun with my nail color—whether I'm going to an event, red carpet, or just hanging out, I definitely like to play. I have very petite hands, so when my nails aren’t done, I feel like I have the hands of a fifth grader, so I choose a nail shape that really elongates my hands."

 

On beauty experimenting (and changing her routine for pregnancy):

"I do like to experiment with and try new products. That’s actually one of the most fun parts of my job as a creative consultant at Neutrogena. I’m always trying to be aware, trying new things and investigating what’s out there in the beauty landscape and seeing how we can fold it into what we’re doing and improve upon it in our labs. So, I’m always trying new products—but there is some restriction when I’m expecting—I’m much more careful about beauty ingredients when I’m pregnant. I don’t use any retinol products, and I'm very mindful of restrictions based on the advice of my ob-gyn."

 

Her #1 skincare rule:

"For skincare, I’m a big believer in double cleansing. The number one thing I am absolutely religious about is taking my makeup off. I’ll use makeup remover wipes to take the makeup off, but that’s not cleansing for me. That’s just the first step—taking the makeup off that has been cooked on my face for the past 15 hours on-set. And then I’ll use a cleanser. Not only does it change because I’m investigating what’s out there, but even within the Neutrogena line, the product I love the most really depends on what time of year it is. And when I’m expecting, my hormones change a lot over the course of those months. So, I just try to really listen to my skin and the weather. I’ll switch to a cleanser that is more moisturizing when I’m traveling a lot, because of the planes, or if I’m in New York in the winter. I tend to not focus on that so much in the summer.

"I’m a big believer in moisturizing. That’s a very, very, very important step in the process. I really love Neutrogena's Hydro Boost Water Gel. Hyaluronic acid is one of those things that’s safe to use when you’re expecting, and I just love it. I give it to all my girlfriends. All the Hydro products are so good. Now that we have the Hydro Boost with the SPF in it, it’s just amazing. SPF is so important.

"If I’m not filming, I like to do a tinted moisturizer or a layer of foundation into an SPF. I don’t have the time or the patience for having makeup on most days—only a little bit of something to help even out the tone if I feel like I need it. And then I'll throw on a little mascara and a super-easy sheer lip color. Our moisture sticks are so easy, you don’t even need a mirror to put them on. Something super easy and simple. The biggest thing when I’m not working is to let my skin breathe. But, as a mom, sometimes I’ll want to just throw on a little bit of blush or mascara—it just depends on what I’m wearing, what I’m doing. But I try to let my skin just breathe when I’m not working."

 

Her favorite multitasking products:

"As a creative consultant at Neutrogena, I’ve really fallen in love with hyaluronic acid. I didn’t know about it before. We’ve been working on putting it into a lot of really new, exciting products that are going to be coming out. We have this new lip balm that hasn’t hit stores yet, but it literally never leaves my purse. And then we also have new concealer sticks. When I think about it, honestly, it’s about moisturizing and then a little bit of concealer stick. But I’m just so excited because we’re putting the hyaluronic acid into our foundations and concealers. I love a product that multitasks—as a mom and a professional woman, anything that makes getting out the door faster and allows me to focus on my wellness, family and career. So I’m really excited that we’re launching all these new hyaluronic products. The best is I get to present it to my girlfriends or makeup artists at work, which is so much fun."

 

How she prevents burnout:

"In terms of wellness, I do try to get enough sleep. There’s no substitute for sleep when it comes to wellness. I really admire the work that Arianna Huffington is doing around sleep and taking care of ourselves. I’ve had periods in my life where I experienced burnout, and I’ve definitely tried to learn from that. I truly want to live this life as a marathon and not a sprint. I try to focus on sleep, I try to eat well. I think defining what 'eating well' means for you is really important because I truly believe that it’s different for each person. Everyone has different needs when it comes to nutrition and it depends on where you live and what your schedule is. I try very hard to continue to grow my understanding of what eating well truly means for me in my life on a given day."

 

Working out for the mental *and* physical benefits:

"Working out is really important to me, and not just in terms of looking a certain way but because it’s so important for me time. Symbolically, I try to put myself first, to put my oxygen mask on before helping someone else. But it’s just a way for me to clear my mind and be loving towards my body. I approach my workouts not as a time for punishment or making my body into something it’s not, but as a time to love and appreciate the work that it does for me, to honor this vehicle. It’s the one thing you’re born in and the one thing you die with.

"I’m a Pilates addict—it’s such a mind and body workout. I’ve done it for years, so it's a favorite. But I also really like to change it up a lot. In this pregnancy, I’ve been doing a lot of water aerobics, and it’s so fun. It’s so outside the box of anything that I’ve ever done—it has a fun kind of retro feel to it. I love to walk and hike—it double tasks as workout time and girlfriend time. The Scandal girls love to do that when we can. With all my workouts, I try to mix it up and have a nice balance between strength, mind and body, and cardio."

 

How she's giving back (and you can too):

"I’ve been working in different ways with the Allstate Purple Purse Foundation to help end abuse against women and girls for over a decade. I started doing this work with Eve Ensler and the V-Day organization. And then the Allstate foundation reached out to me—I had actually never heard the term 'financial abuse' before. It’s so common and, of course, when it gets explained to you, it makes so much sense. Financial abuse is when an abuser uses finances—anything from taking away her credit cards, taking away her mode of transportation in order to get to work, destroying her credit, showing up at her job and making a scene. These are tools that abusers use to make a woman feel trapped. In their research at the Allstate Foundation, they’ve found that the number one reason women don’t leave abusive relationships and the number one reason women go back to abusive relationships after they’ve left is because they don’t feel like they have the tools to be able to take care of themselves financially."

 

“I got really excited to be a part of a very concrete solution, being able to give tools to women. The foundation has developed an entire curriculum that helps women find jobs, keep jobs, restore their credit, and build their savings. These tools help to empower women to be able to walk away. This will be the third year that I’ve designed a purse for the foundation—it’s going to be purple. Purple carries a message because it’s the color that represents domestic-violence awareness and prevention. And a purse represents a woman’s financial well-being. It’s where you keep your wallet, your keys, your cell phone. The idea of the purse is to have a fashion-forward way to enter into the conversation. It’s really difficult to talk about black eyes, hospital visits, broken credit. But it’s easier to talk about fashion. The purse becomes the way into the conversation. It becomes a way for someone who is interested in fashion and beauty to talk about the issue. So we use those bags to raise awareness but also to raise money for all of these grassroots organizations all over the country that are giving women these curriculums, these tools, and even, at times, giving grants for these women to be able to leave. It’s important work, I really love it. This year we’re doing something very special; I can’t talk about it too much, but we’re involving more than one designer this year. I am still doing a bag again, but we’ve also gotten a few very special designers who I love to become involved as well, acknowledging the importance of this work. We’re continuing to expand the reach of the project by involving more and more designers and artists, so it’s really great."

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