Ayesha Muttucumaru sits down with film star and SK-II Global Ambassador Cate Blanchett to hear her beauty secrets

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Last week, GTG attended an exclusive Q&A session with SK-II Global Ambassador Cate Blanchett. Conducted by health and beauty journalist Nadine Baggott, we gained an insight into the actress’s beauty regime, her make-up bag must-haves, the story behind her association with the brand and the secrets behind her flawless complexion.

The picture of elegance in a striking fuchsia Stella McCartney suit, crisp white shirt and nude heels, she exuded the presence of a true modern day movie icon. Here’s what she revealed regarding her feelings on being the face of pale beauty, going make-up free and what’s on her Christmas wish list this year…

How did you come to work with SK-II? Is it true that Mary Greenwell introduced you to the products 11 years ago?

“Yes, eleven years ago when I was pregnant with our son Dashiell. I think I took my skin (which was quite resilient) for granted and then when I was pregnant, I started to develop melasma and my skin changed. I was working with Mary and she had an SK-II product which she recommended I try.

“SK-II were very surprised that I liked the whitening products because they were only really for an Asian market, but I found that they shifted the melasma. The Facial Treatment Essence affected both the texture as well as the overall tone of my skin and so I then started investigating the brand from there.”

What are your favourite products in the line?

“The range has really expanded. Pitera is the essential core so in the end, my desert island treatment would be the Facial Treatment Essence , £65. Recently they rebooted it with extra Pitera to make the LXP version (LXP Ultimate Revival Essence,  £241) which is what I use.

“My regime in the morning is so simple, I don’t even need to think about it. It’s literally the Essence and then the LXP Ultimate Perfecting Serum , £250 and then I put the LXP Ultimate Perfecting Cream  on, £275 every morning and night. I also decant the Essence into a spray bottle and so after Mary’s done with my make-up, I’ll nip to the bathroom and spray it on top so that when I go out, I don’t feel powdery or heavy or caked on.”

You’re one of today’s modern icons who’ve made pale beauty beautiful again. Have you always been comfortable with being a pale beauty?

“Well no, to be honest. In fourth form, my mother pulled me off the roof as I was covered in baby oil, trying to get a tan. She said, ‘Darling, this is just not going to happen for you. Come inside and put some sunscreen on.’ So I went the other way and went a bit goth for a while.

“I think with the incidence of skin cancer in Australia, they’re probably now the most sunscreen conscious nation in the world, but it was by necessity. As a result, they just stay out of the sun. I think that’s why SK-II was so surprised that I used the whitening products because I come from a nation of bronzed, beach bunnies.”

It’s interesting because it’s a Japanese brand and radiance, luminescence and pale skin is a sign of beauty in that part of the world - the complete opposite when compared to over here.

“It’s not necessarily about bleaching the skin which is a long, ancient tradition in Japan. It’s more about evenness of tone and that’s what I find the range does. It just works on the luminescence of the skin.”

Do you have a signature make-up look?

“Probably minimal. Normally when I go out, I don’t have a lot of time as I have three sons and they have no time for mummy spending five minutes in front of the mirror. It’s minimal with a pale lip. I have almond eyes so I add a bit of mascara too.

“I think when you wear a red lip, you don’t want it to wear you, so it’s about finding the right colour. I love a good frock so if I’m going out, it will come from that. Edward Bess do a really great range of reds; Mary  always uses pink on me and I would never think of using a pink because it can look a little ‘princessy’ but it’s all about finding the right one for you. I’ve found over the years that I have to wear less and less which is a bit counterintuitive as you get older, but I feel more confident now in the quality of my skin than I did 10 years ago.”

Are you quite comfortable without make-up?

“Not this morning! It depends on the day really. Often there’s no time. I’m more likely to dispense with putting make-up on when I’m heading out of the house, but I will not dispense with the skincare. What I’ve seen after using [the brand] for as long as I have is that you don’t need to use a lot and you don’t need to spend a lot of time doing it everyday:  two minutes in the morning, two minutes in the night and then use the mask every week. I suppose it’s a bit like exercise (if I could find the time to exercise), the theory that if you exercise once a week then you’ll dispense with it compared to if you do a little bit everyday. I’m not quite there with the exercise, but I am there with the moisturiser!”

You are in incredible shape and you have quite a dancer’s physique like the character you played in Benjamin Button…

“It’s the Baryshnikov theory! I saw him dance quite late in his career and it was the most beautiful piece of costuming. He had a turtleneck sweater on and he was of course incredibly graceful, but what you did was focus on his hands. The theory is that if you move your hands gracefully then people won’t notice the body!”

What do you do to feed your looks from within? Do you have any nutrition tips?

“My son’s digestive system has been quite challenged so I’ve been doing quite a lot of investigation and have started to take chlorophyll in the morning. The only way that I can get him to drink it is if I do too. I put a couple of tablespoons into water and I also have it at night. That’s been fantastic. My son quite likes it because they must drink some potion in the Harry Potter films that looks similar! It doesn’t taste bad, but it doesn’t look great!

“I also love grapefruit juice. I often think it’s good to go with what your body genuinely craves and I don’t mean toffee covered popcorn or Coca-Cola! I mean what your body craves when you’re in pretty good nick. I don’t eat a lot of red meat, but that’s for environmental reasons too; I drink hot water with lemon and vitamin C.”

Make-up’s been quite an important part of your career with regards to creating characters and the roles that you’ve played such as Bob Dylan, Elizabeth I, Katharine Hepburn…

“I used to do that as a child though on a Sunday, because we wouldn’t watch a lot of television. I used to dress up in my mother’s clothes and get out her make-up and use it to see what I would look like as a 60 year old woman or if I was a man, or what would I look like as Bette Davis.

“I love how make-up and hair can transform you. That’s a huge part of being on film. There’s no rehearsal time or discussion time (for example if you’re working on a Woody Allen film), so even before you speak, there’s your visual arrival and this comes through discussion with your make-up and hair people and the wardrobe department. I love how that can transport an audience.

“For Blue Jasmine, I made the decision in the final shot of the film not to wear any make-up at all because I felt she had such a mask on and it would be great to leave her in the final image with nothing and to be completely transparent. Perhaps 10 years ago without SK-II I wouldn’t have been so brave!”

Is it a process you enjoy?

“It’s also about working with the cinematographer and seeing how you’re lit. You want to know what the atmosphere and the world that you’re inhabiting is like. Certainly though, hair and make-up can transport you whether it’s on the red carpet or for a character. We’re always playing a version of ourselves. Today, this is my Stella McCartney fuchsia version of myself but 4 hours ago it was a sinusitis-ridden, been up too late last night version of myself. I think that’s fun.”

What’s the most valuable piece of beauty advice that you’ve ever been given?

“Probably by my mother, telling me to stay out of the sun. I also remember doing a film years ago and the make-up artist saying not to over pluck my brows, which I haven’t done because they don’t grow back.”

What hair products do you rely on and who does your hair?

“I use Philip Kingsley’s range of shampoos. They also do a great product called Elasticizer , £27.50, which is fantastic. And Nicola Clarke , she’s the best colourist.”

Mary Greenwell told me that she thought that you had the most beautiful face that she has ever made up. Who do you consider beautiful?

“There are so many. I remember the first time I saw Gong Li in Farewell My Concubine. She’s the most unbelievably luminous beauty. Her character was quite ferocious and incredibly strong but also unbelievably graceful.

“Also Liv Ullmann is amazing and I think that Judi Dench is so beautiful because there’s this sort of light about her, and every single line on her face has come from laughter and engaging in the world.”

What inspires you?

“I think anything that’s stripped back to its essence. Things that are pure. It’s that philosophy of Zen or Scandinavian design where you feel like they’ve pared things down to their essential. I don’t like things that are over-embellished. I like anything that’s essentially itself and anything that’s unique.”

When are you happiest?

“When I don’t know what’s coming next. I love the unexpected. It’s that sense of standing on a cliff and looking out onto the horizon or when you’re in the country and the hills just roll and roll and roll. I remember when I was 18 I was in Turkey and I climbed the highest mountain at sunrise and you could just see the light beginning to come out. Just when you thought you knew where the horizon was, another hill came into view and then another.”

How will you be celebrating Christmas and what’s on your Christmas wish list?

“You know what I want for Christmas? (And I want my husband to see this!) I’m usually not a big present kind of person, I normally ask for a candle or a tea towel or something, but this year I want this clear, perspex canoe. It’s the most beautiful object I’ve ever seen.”