Emily Weiss Talks Mall Rats and Moisturizer

Emily Weiss, the mastermind behind cult beauty blog Into the Gloss and, more recently, the founder and CEO of Glossier, is cool. We get it. The fact is hammered home every time someone writes a profile of Emily Weiss, and having seen her in person at a Create + Cultivate conference, I can confirm that she really is as chill and — ugh — “effortlessly cool” as her online persona implies. Her hair? Tousled. Her outfit? Boyishly minimal. And her makeup? Nonexistent. Glossier, the blog's spin-off skincare brand, is far more focused on creating a clean, glowing palette than it is on actual, colorful makeup. It's a priority thing; products that focus on root issues, striving for transparency instead of covering up what's wrong.

You might thing that for a beauty guru who embodies minimalism, Weiss' go-to branding would be sleek, all-white, and Scandinavian-inspired, but both her brands opt for a much funner vibe: young, fresh, uber-playful, and light pink. It's enough to make you want to grab a Hello Kitty mini-backpack and hit up Limited Too. I talked to Weiss about teen dreams, creepy beauty marketing, and whether or not her brands are secretly time travel machines designed to place us all firmly back in the 1990s but with better skin. (OK, I didn't ask that. BUT I WONDERED.)

Her mall-obsessed childhood informs her work today.

I loved this quote from Weiss' recent profile in the New York Times:

I was really into the mall. The feeling you get of being in those environments that were so branded.

There's something so insular and pleasantly dated about malls — and whether you actually hung out in malls as a preteen or just watched movies about preteens hanging out in malls, the spaces will forever be linked to adolescence.

“Yes, I loved the mall," Weiss tells me, "from getting my ears pierced at Claire’s as a 10th birthday present to wanting the 'skater' look minus the actual skateboarding and stalking the Manic Panic section of Hot Topic in 7th grade. I think I’ve always loved different worlds and ducking in and out of them, and in the mall that’s literally what you can do. This was pre-Internet for me; now that’s what you do on Instagram — go down rabbit holes, 45 weeks back in people’s accounts. The mall, stores like Limited Too, Delia’s, and Stila makeup counters — just everything I loved and felt connected to as an adolescent — definitely feed into the inspiration for Glossier. I think it’s so important to have that 'grab factor' with a brand, where everything just looks and feels yummy and puts a smile on your face.”

Traditional beauty marketing hinges on exclusion.

As anyone who’s been reading Into the Gloss knows, the site exalts a sort of effortless, no-makeup-makeup, fresh, natural beauty. And that’s great — unless you really struggle with acne, or facial scarring, or have any sort of other personal reason to keep wearing foundation. I’ve noticed that sometimes the commenters on the site get upset when yet another fresh-faced model says something like, “Don’t wear heavy foundation; you’re beautiful just the way you are!” What if I want to? they reply. What if I need to?

It’s an awfully tricky question, so I threw it over to Emily, who said, "I think the 'exclusion' that many women feel, myself included, at different points in their lives is a result of traditional beauty marketing that says wrinkles are bad; the same marketing that used to say blue eyes and blonde hair is best. You can have acne and still be beautiful. You can have under-eye bags and still feel good about yourself. Conformity does not equal beauty — you do you, whether that’s no makeup, a lot of makeup, surgery, no surgery. Every woman has the right to be happy in her own skin, and women should also be allowed to change their minds and not be shamed for it. Basically, I want individuality to reign supreme.

Glossier does not believe that minimal is best. We believe in taking good care of your skin and being true to yourself, and we want to help make that easier for people to do."

If Glossier were a high school cafeteria table, everyone could sit at it (wait, is this metaphor a stretch?)

"Beauty shouldn’t be stressful, it should be fun," says Weiss. "Everything about Glossier should be accessible, to anyone who wants to be a part of it. You don’t need to go anywhere except online to connect with us."

Her top five obsessions?

1. "Seoul, Korea."

2. "My one and a half year old niece, Luna."

3. "Donuts from The Smile."

4. "Coffee by Sylvan Esso."

5. "Finding an apartment that won’t bankrupt me."

Moisturizer is THE FUTURE, people

I figured that if anyone could spot a skincare trend coming a mile away, it would be Weiss, but her answer was more basic than I expected. "I think in four years of interviewing hundreds of awesome women, the biggest takeaway is moisturization," she said. "When I was growing up, it was all about 'oil free' this and that. Dried out skin is not good for anyone, full stop. So with Glossier, that’s a real guiding light for everything we make — making sure first of all, skin is hydrated. It’s like a plant. Water it. Make sure it’s taken care of, not just 'squeaky clean.' I think women get that now."

BRB, going to marinate in a vat of Argan oil for a few hours.

Your teenhood inspires her brands

Any of this sound familiar? "Hello Kitty and that whole Sanrio family really influences Glossier, as does the '90s grunge fashion scene. I love conversations around gender; I love the book The Fourth Sex: Adolescent Extremes, originally published in 2003."

We should all be adolescents forever

In a world of think pieces howling that Millennials won't grow up, Weiss sees things a little differently. "I think I’m mostly inspired by adolescence because there’s the rebirth of becoming who you want to be, trying out different personas, discovering new things — not just who you’re groomed to be by your parents from actual birth. So I actually feel like adolescence should be encouraged and extended throughout life: this ability to shapeshift and adapt. Hopefully you find some peace and regularity at points, because being a teenager forever would be unsustainable, not to mention exhausting, but that self-analysis and really striving to find your own compass makes you feel alive and ready to let go of stuff that’s not actually working for you anymore. At least I think so."