Have you ever wondered how Jennifer Garner manages to keep her complexion looking so young and flawless? It almost looks as if she is aging in reverse. The secret? By religiously wearing sunscreen. Not just on the beach. Not even just throughout the summer. She wears it constantly. Every. Single. Day. For the last 15 years, Garner has been a devout sunscreen user and insists that SPF is the single most important part of anyone’s beauty regime. And since joining Neutrogena as an ambassador, Garner has been preaching the benefits of sun-protection as a professional SPF advocate. And if her glowing, youthful complexion is any indication of its results, then I’m sold. If you’re like me and you “forget” to wear SPF — anyone else have childhood memories of your parents coating you in greasy sun-block that made sand stick all over you? — then let this be a much-needed reality check.
Read on as the actress walks us through her skincare routine, why wearing SPF is so important for young women, and how she stays grounded in an appearance-obsessed industry.
What does your skincare routine look like?
I think skincare is the most important thing you can do for beauty. It helps you feel good, and your skin is the first thing you present to the world. And by far the most important thing you can do to take care of your skin is use SPF. Every day is a sun day. You’ve got to wear SPF every day without fail. It has to be like brushing your teeth. So, for me, the most important thing I use every day, without fail, is Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen — no matter what. It’s so lightweight and sheer you don’t even know that you have all that protection on, and then you don’t have to worry. There is also a body mist [Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen Body Mist SPF 30] that has this full spray and handle, so it gets you everywhere. It’s fantastic.
When did you pick up the sunscreen habit, and how long have you been using daily sunscreen in your routine?
Gosh, I guess I started to be good about sunscreen maybe 15 years ago. I think I had a makeup artist at work who talked about it non-stop. And then I started working for Neutrogena about 10 years ago. I had used their products my whole life, but I had been serious about their sunscreen for the last five years, and it was just such a perfect marriage. I was so happy to go out and be like a preacher and to preach to women everywhere about the importance of taking care of your skin.
Is there a particular sunscreen you like to wear on a daily basis?
Yeah, I have always, always loved the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen. I don’t even know if the 100 was available a few years ago, but as soon as it became available I switched. You can wear it under makeup — it doesn’t leave you feeling greasy, it’s so lightweight. It’s just a no-brainer. And then the body mist spray I have in my car, in my bag, next to the front door — I can spray my kids from anywhere! Just “wwwshooo!” They think I’m a lunatic with that thing. But it’s great because it’s done quickly, it’s done efficiently, and if you’re doing it yourself, you can get your back with the handle that it has. It’s especially handy to use. That is my favourite body product.
If you had to choose five beauty essentials, what would they be and why?
Gosh, I don’t even have six essentials [laughs]. I would use my sunscreen — I don’t know if that counts as one or two, because I would use both the body mist and the face protection. So, there’s that. After being at work all day, I use my Neutrogena makeup remover wipes every night. Because if I’m picking the kids up for school or something, or I’m out-and-about and I don’t want to have a full makeup from being in front of the camera, then that is an easy way to take care of it without leaving any residue, and you don’t have that craziness that you can have after washing off a full face of makeup. Then let’s see… I guess I would use… I’m looking at my bathroom sink right now… What else do I like? I like Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray that is for volume. I use it on my roots. I don’t always use it, but I would take it with me because if you need it, you need it, and that’s one you would want along. Gosh, and otherwise the other thing I can’t live without is my lip stuff, and that would be the Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Lip Moisturizers. I have them all over. I have them in every bag. Sometimes I’ll look in my bag and I’ll have four of them.
What’s the best beauty tip that was ever passed on to you?
Well, this is what I try to teach my daughter: makeup is there to enhance and to correct. It is not there to cover. So, I always need a little concealer. I get a little water on my nose or some sun on my chin and it’s red sometimes under my eyes or on my eyelids. But that’s kind of as far as I go. I don’t really use a foundation, and if I do, I brush it on so thinly that it’s watered down. You want to see skin. I think that’s what I didn’t used to understand. If I look at pictures of myself in college, you can’t see my skin. And you want to see skin. You want to see your own eyes. You don’t want to notice makeup.
How do you prep for the red carpet beauty/skincare-wise?
If I have a red-carpet, I usually see Nerida Joy — she’s the facialist that I’ve gone to for about 20 years. You know, I don’t even know what she does. It’s not like she does a peel. It’s not like she does anything crazy fancy. My skin just always feels really clean and looks great after I see her.
A less-is-more look then?
Yeah, less is more. You just want your skin to feel its very best. That’s what it’s all about.
A lot of women in their 20s and 30s don’t wear sunscreen every day. What would you say to them?
Oh man, if you can just have something to fast forward, because in my 20s and 30s I thought: Well, it’s good to get sun every now and then. It’s not good to get sun now and then. I tell this to the girls, every girl that has ever worked at my house, or young woman, or woman, I tell them: Guys, I promise you think you don’t have sun damage, you think you’ve taken care of your skin by only getting a sunburn once a year or that getting a tan feels great — getting a tan does feel great, but that’s why spray-tans exist. That’s why bronzer exists. If you need to do that. But I promise you, you will hit a point in your late 30s where you will wake up one day, and all of this will show up all at once, and if you could just know that feeling in your 20s and 30s, then you would wear your sunscreen every single day. I mean, whenever you start is the right time to start — if you start when you’re born. Otherwise, you’ve got to just say: Okay, I’m just going to be good and put this on no matter what.
Working in an industry that’s very focussed on appearance, how do you stay grounded?I try to not focus on appearance. [Laughs]. I try to focus on — you know, it is a part of life in what I do, and I am lucky to have artists around who can make me look better than I ever deserve to look. But I try to focus on what I’m doing. And part of that is honestly — I know this sounds geeky—I really try to not see pictures of myself. Because if you see pictures of yourself, you will start to tear it apart, and that’s not fair. Every picture isn’t meant to be scrutinized. I mean, people tell me all the time “Oh, you look better in real life than you do in photos,” and I think, “Okay good, because I hate when I see pictures of myself.” Just focus on what you’re doing to make the world better — maybe that sounds easier than it is. And if you’re putting pictures of yourself on Instagram, don’t spend a lot of time looking at them. Just stick ‘em up. Work on the intention and not on trying to be perfect. And don’t spend a lot of time looking at other people’s perfections. Spend a lot of time worrying about how you’re impacting the world.
Main image credit: Elias Tahan