Pore Decisions

Carolyn Murphy Has Used This Serum For Over Two Decades

“I just don't want to be overdone — it's not really my jam.”

Carolyn Murphy on aging, skin care, and wellness.
Pore Decisions

In Bustle’s Pore Decisions, celebrities, influencers, and Bustle’s own readers recount their personal skin journeys: the good, the bad, and everything in between. Here, Carolyn Murphy chats about skin, surfing and embracing longevity.

When Carolyn Murphy opens the door to welcome me into her casita, I’m momentarily blinded — both by the sun basking her in a Paris-filter light, and by her beaming skin. I noticed her glowing visage during a longevity panel she spoke on earlier that day (“Ask about skin routine or supplements,” I jotted down in my Notes app), but up close, it’s even more impressive, both dolphin-smooth, yet still elastic and emotive. In our unholy age of fillers, Botox, and Ozempic, it’s an anomaly — but Murphy has always gone against the grain.

Carolyn Muphy’s name is synonymous with the supermodel era of the ’90s, but while her peers lived the typical model life and partied until sunrise, Murphy was discovering the world of supplements, probiotics, and the gut-skin connection. It opened up a path that she would continue to live by for the rest of her life. “My mindset is that if I'm not taking care of my body, mind, and my spirit, then nothing is going to look right because I'm not going to feel right,” she says. These days, that means eating a clean diet, surfing to her heart’s content in Costa Rica, and embracing the gift of aging.

Longevity, after all, isn’t something to be taken for granted. Murphy should know — she’s been the face of Lauder for over 20 years as one of the longest-running celebrity-brand partnerships in history. In an industry that tends to discard or overlook women over a certain age, it’s a testament to her universal appeal and the brand’s dedication to speaking to women at every stage of their journey. But that doesn’t mean a little science doesn’t hurt. “I’m such a geek,” Murphy says. “This is where the nerd really comes out.” She’s referring to Estée Lauder’s new Ultimate Diamond Transformative Brilliance Soft Crème, which makes a grand promise: In two weeks, it will make your skin cells [act] younger. “I’m like, what do you mean, they’ve been studying these seven proteins that already exist in our body and how to mimic that topically?” she marvels. It’s certainly an eyebrow-raising claim, but the brand backs it up with studies and some convincing statistics.

Ahead, Carolyn Murphy shares her skin care journey, a refreshing perspective on growing older, and the one product she’ll never give up.


What’s your first skin care memory?

I remember it so vividly. I was with my nana and my mom. The Clinique Three-Step was a huge thing. The bar of soap, the toner, the Dramatically Different moisturizer. I was a teenager and I remember getting that kit, and it was like I had arrived — I became a young lady by having that. Perscriptives was another brand that Estée had, which made the best concealer in the world. I remember I'd go through the shopping mall and see photos of Paulina Porizkova for Estée Lauder, and I was like, I want everything that she's having.

Did you ever deal with acne or anything when you were a teenager?

I actually dealt with that a little later in life, in my early teens, when I was first starting to model in New York. It was horrible. I went to this dermatologist who was actually the consultant on Clinique, Dr. Orentreich. It turns out that the Clinique toner was a really good way of dealing with that acne at the time, and then eventually, I realized I was probably eating badly too — as one does when they first arrive in New York at 23 and they have no money. Ramen and pizza…It doesn't really work that well. I think that's when I started the wellness trajectory, because I knew taking care of the outer [was connected to] the inner.

Wellness wasn’t a topic people were aware of or even really discussing then. How did you get into it?

We were all on set together, and you just start talking amongst girls, and then that's where the information and knowledge came from. I ended up meeting this woman who was a nutritionist, Sally Kravich — she's one of the originals. It was just upwards from there because then she introduced me to a life coach who was really good at chakra rebalancing and meditation, and so one thing led to another — from age 23, 24, 25, that was my trajectory, and then it went into reading all the self-help books and going to hatha yoga. I became a vegetarian just for a short while. I think that was when I made the conscious decision that this was going to be my lifestyle and that I had a more integrative approach to everything.

What was something you learned during that time that made the biggest change in terms of how you felt?

I think one of the biggest things was drinking lemon water and taking a probiotic, which was so unheard of at the time.

What about things that helped your skin?

Drinking a lot of water. Taking your omegas and your vitamin Cs and antioxidants, just to make sure that you have the vibrancy from the inside. I’d always followed the thinking of, I want to look like myself. I just don't want to be overdone — it's not really my jam.


How do you avoid falling prey to the overdone look?

I think once you find your authenticity, then it's easier to do.

When did you notice others start to catch onto the skin care from the inside-out approach?

It wasn't until the late ’90s, early 2000s that I realized that maybe I was onto something. Luckily, when my relationship began with Estée Lauder, there were just huge proponents of like, yes, be yourself, talk about these things because this is what every demographic, every woman wants to know about.

Are there any other skin tips you learned from the years you spent traveling the world doing shoots?

Facial massage was something I learned in Japan early on in my career. Before every shoot, they would prep your skin by doing these facial massages, which now has become so popular, along with treatments like Gua Sha, and buccal face massage, which is something that I swear by and do twice a month. I have my lady, Joomee [Song], in L.A., who is magic — she's very discreet. And then Crystal [Greene], who I see in New York. Something else I learned from the editors in Asia on my most recent trip is to skip using face wash in the morning and do a cold splash instead. If I'm lucky enough to be getting eight, nine hours of sleep and my skin is regenerating in the night, why would I wash it off [with a harsh cleanser] in the morning?

“I'm not supposed to be perfect because that isn't realistic.”

Looking back, is there anything in your skin care routine you wish you had done differently?

Sun care. [I wish I had] been more diligent about it in my twenties and thirties. Sunblock is so key.

What’s been the biggest change in your skin care routine now versus when you were younger?

I use a lot more products. My routine has become more about nourishment and feeding the skin through layering products. I use Estée Lauder Micro Essence, Advanced Night Repair, Re-Nutriv serum over that… sometimes I’ll do Perfectionist Pro, which has the vitamin C, and always finish with a hydrating cream. I'm definitely on the drier side — I think that comes with aging — so I drink almost a gallon of water a day, I sleep with a little humidifier by my bed, I’ve even fallen asleep with the Advanced Night Repair mask on. I do whatever it takes.

Is there a skin care product that you’ve used throughout your decades-long career you’ll never give up?

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair. I used this product way before I signed with Estée Lauder.


The beauty industry has often put youth and beauty in the same equation, but you’re someone who seems fully at ease as you age. What’s your secret?

I'm going to break that down a little bit because I haven't always been so confident and comfortable in my skin. Because of what we see on social media, we judge ourselves and end up creating more insecurities, because we're comparing, which is so natural. What I've come to realize is that with age comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes confidence — but this is very newfound for me. I had to pause and ask myself, why am I fighting this? Why am I judging myself? This is not doing me any good. [I had to] turn that leaf and just say, no, I'm really proud of those wrinkles on my forehead, I really like my crow's feet, I'm not supposed to be perfect because that isn't realistic.

I think aging gracefully is something that I see in Aerin [Lauder], who just is fully embodied. She is who she is — I’m inspired by and aspire to be somebody like that, or somebody like Christy Turlington who is beautiful from the inside out. That again comes with self-dialogue and confidence. Rather than resisting getting older, it's just going with it, and getting excited about it.

You’re excited for what’s next.

Yes. I just realized that my daughter is 23, I've had a really wonderful career, so why should I stop? I have all of this experience under my belt, and the next chapter of my life will be very different. This is the time of celebration — of celebrating myself. At my 50th birthday party, I danced for seven hours. I have people that can attest to it. I was like, I am celebrating life, thank you. I think that perspective of gratitude is important — that I'm here, I'm healthy, so let's go, let's have another 50 years.