From common skincare mistakes to making formulas affordable by way of her Primark range , beauty and creative director Alessandra Steinherr is generous with her skincare advice. She fits in her weekly Sunday Facial no matter where she is in the world, and given her jetsetting schedule she knows a thing or two about duty-free beauty bargains, where to find the best skincare products on the planet of and how to keep skin hydrated on a long-haul flight (no mean feat). For ultra-strong French retinol and the best facial in the world according to Alex, look no further...
She’s the sheet mask stewardess, mists like a maniac and buys budget makeup in the US - come fly with beauty expert Alex Steinherr for the ultimate travel beauty tip-offs
The beauty products she buys abroad
“Nowadays, you can get so much great stuff in the UK but my main obsession is with Japanese beauty . When I go to Japan, I buy a Bioré sunscreen in particular that’s really phenomenal. It’s an SPF 50 chemical sunscreen and it works beautifully under makeup. Of course in Asia they’re very big on sunscreen to maintain skin health and generally they don’t want any sun damage at all, but they’ve also got a huge pollution issue over there and many of the sunscreens in that market target pollutants too, so there are quite a few interesting ones that I bring back from my travels. To be honest, in terms of what I bring back from trips, Japan would be the place where I go a little nuts.
“The makeup there is amazing too - I especially love a brand called Addiction and another called Three. They still have wonderful brands that are unknown over here, whereas I used to buy lots of stuff in France such as Collosol , but increasingly you can get all of the French pharmacy brands over here now very easily.
“That said, there is a really good retinol that I buy called A313 Vitamin A Pommade, but it’s a very strong retinol - it’s brilliant, but it’s not for beginners, it’s for people who can take it! You can buy it over the counter in French pharmacies.
“When I go to the US I tend to shop most for beauty in drugstores as they have a lot of the more affordable makeup that isn’t available here - Covergirl is a brilliant example. I used to buy Wet’n’Wild but that’s available in Boots now.
“To be honest though, I love beauty so if there’s anything that I don’t know, I will go and get it and try it. When I went to America recently I went completely bonkers, particularly when I found Tatcha. It’s a Japanese brand (no surprise there) but its American based and I love a lot of the stuff that they make.”
Why she’s inspired by Asian skincare culture
“The Asian approach to skincare appeals to me because I love the textures - they tend to be light and easy to layer, which I love. This isn’t limited to Korean skincare - routines and products from all over the continent fascinate me.
“In everyday life I don’t do a ten step skincare routine, because of the way that our lives are it’s not possible, but I’m very influenced by the approach and I’m generally so impressed by all the formulas. Asian brands tend to think about everything, especially the texture of skincare, and I just think that the products on the whole feel beautiful on the skin.”
The only time she’ll ever use a face wipe
“The only occasion when I’d pick up a face wipe would be when I’m flying and don’t want to use a micellar water - experience tells me that it will go everywhere during some random turbulence or I’ll inadvertently go over my onboard liquids limit. So when I fly I will use a wipe, because better a wipe than nothing, but that’s really the only situation when I would.”
Alex’s inflight beauty routine
“I have the longest in-flight routine - I treat the plane like I’m at a spa, because you’ve got the time right?! I am that ridiculous person putting on a million masks, and years ago people would look at me weirdly, but now it’s a bit more accepted.
“When I get on the plane I use water based wipes from a brand called Koh Gen Do . Then I’m the sheet mask queen - I bring a lot with me and have been known to hand them out to people. Sometimes I get a strange reception but most people get it and love it. I’m like the stewardess of sheet masks.
“Speaking of which, all of the inflight attendants love it, and in return I always ask them for their tips because it’s so interesting to learn what they use. If nothing else when I give out some masks I’ll normally get some extra nuts or something.
“After cleansing I mist like a maniac. I use Estée Lauder Micro Essence Aquaceutical Mist , £48 for 75ml, which you used to only be able to buy at the airport but you can get it elsewhere now too.
In my opinion it’s the best mist in the world because, unlike a lot of solely water-based mists that can actually dehydrate your skin as you go, this one is almost like a liquid Advanced Night Repair Serum formula. I’ll keep misting that but I’ll ‘seal’ it - that’s when I use Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Recovery Complex II , £55 for 30ml, Advanced Night Repair Eye Supercharged Complex , £45 for 10ml and my Primark Sleep Spa Mask, £5, - my in-flight routine was pretty much the impetus behind me developing it.
“Back to the sheet masks - I use my Primark Maximum Moisture Supreme Sheet Mask, £4, very often and I also love Sarah Chapman 3D Infusion Moisture Mask , £13.50, and Lancôme Genifique Hydro Mask , £62 for four, is an amazing sheet mask.
If my skin is really dry I'll then layer on Crème de La Mer Moisturising Cream , £120 for 30ml, as well. It’s not a vast routine but it’s very considered and if it’s a long flight I'll do it twice.
“I never fly wearing makeup, ever. Unless it’s a short flight and I have to go straight to an event on the other side, but when it’s a long-haul flight, makeup is a no-go for me. I get on board with a clean face, then I do my routine and then six hours into the flight, if it’s a 12 hour flight, say, I’ll repeat it. If it’s a New York flight (around eight hours), I’ll do it once on take off and once before landing. Then it gives me that instant boost before I land. You get the hydration in and you don’t walk off like a total prune, because who wants that?”
What she stocks up on in duty free (Toblerones aside)
“I always go to the Estée Lauder counter because I can stock up on the Advanced Night Repair range - I buy the multipacks to make the best savings.
“Then, if it’s there, I always go to the Gucci Beauty counter - there’s one at Heathrow but otherwise it tends to be hard to find and I love Gucci makeup.
“Then I always buy my foundation at Dolce and Gabbana. There’s a particular Dolce and Gabbana foundation that my friend Nikki Wolf ( Nikki Makeup ) put me on to. It’s called Perfect Luminous Liquid Foundation , £39 for 30ml and it’s a great, dewy base for my dehydrated skin. I also love Dolce and Gabbana Millennial Skin Longwear Concealer , £28 for 5ml, but that’s quite hard to find too.
“Also, when I run out of La Mer The Lip Balm , £52 for 9g, that’s when I head to the Créme de La Mer counter. It’s so, so expensive but it’s good so I alway re-buy it.”
Why she’s willing to travel for a facial
“You won’t be surprised to learn that I’ve had a lot of facials in my lifetime thus far but the best facial I’ve ever had was at Ling Spa in New York. It’s small and it’s nothing ostentatious - it’s not five star luxury in terms of the surroundings, but the facial was out of this world. It was a three hour facial to start with!
“There was some Chinese massage, but to be honest I can’t even tell you what technique it was, it was just the best thing ever. I walked out of there and my skin look filtered. I took photos and I was like “oh wait let me take the filter off” and there was no filter. It was insane. It was a year ago and I still dream of how brilliant it was.
“In general I love treatments where a therapist takes care of more than just your skin. Sure, that should be the focus, but incorporating a bit of massage and shiatsu and stuff like that (again I’m going back to Asian approach) makes for a fantastic holistic experience.”