A veteran magazine beauty editor/writer (and a member of the 40+ club), Genevieve Monsma created MediumBlonde to help Gen Xers and Baby Boomers age the way they want.


What Works: Erin Cotter, GOOP's VP of Beauty

What Works: Erin Cotter, GOOP's VP of Beauty

One benefit of working in the beauty industry for so many years is that I've encountered dozens of smart, savvy professionals (beauty company CEOs, product development VPs, power publicists, colorists, stylists, makeup artists, etc.) who've tried thousands of products and treatments, and, thus, have uber-informed beauty regimens. I've certainly swiped tips and recs from them—and now so can you. As part of a regular series, I’ll be asking inspiring, in-the-know women (all 40+, of course) to share their best tips and favorite products. The point? As always, to find out what works.

 Erin Cotter,  GOOP 's VP of Beauty

Erin Cotter, GOOP's VP of Beauty

Today's beauty insider: Erin Cotter, GOOP's VP of Beauty 

Erin’s career has zigzagged around the country (and briefly took her to Europe). She was raised in Farmington Hills, Michigan, then spent her twenties in Milan (Italy) and San Francisco. While living in northern California, she created Passport, a line of travel-friendly cosmetics she sold at Sephora, Holt Renfrow (Canada) and Harvey Nichols (in the UK). While Erin and I have (surprisingly) never met in person, our New York lives did overlap. She lived in Manhattan for a decade (2006 to 2016), and worked in beauty marketing for Matrix haircare, Korres (a Greek beauty brand owned by Johnson & Johnson), Bumble and bumble, and Estee Lauder.  While at Lauder, Erin ascended to VP of Global Skincare Marketing and oversaw Estee Lauder’s $2B global skincare business.

Then last year, Erin left New York for LA, to take what she describes as her “dream job” at GOOP as VP of Beauty (GOOP, for those unfamiliar, is Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle site and brand). Erin oversees GOOP’s “Clean Beauty Shop,” and I discovered in our phone chat for this profile, that she really knows skincare—especially what she calls the “clean” category (minimal chemicals, nontoxic, sustainably produced products, etc.). I also found her approach to aging refreshingly reasonable, especially given how many years she’s worked in the beauty world—and has lived in New York and LA, where beauty maximalism abounds. Curious to know more? I was too. So, here, for Erin Cotter, is what works:

The one anti-aging product she really can’t live without “After twenty years of working in the beauty industry, I know that sun exposure is the number one cause of skin aging. So, I don’t go outside without first applying sunscreen, especially now that I live in California and go to the beach or hike almost daily. My favorite SPF at the moment is Coola Matte Tint SPF 30. It’s a clean, chemical-free sunscreen, which is important to me because chemical formulas can irritate my skin and make me break out. This Coola SPF provides sheer, very natural color and is really light, almost like a whipped mousse. In general, clean sunscreens have come so far; they used to be so heavy and chalky, but not anymore.”

How she gets glowing Erin (like me) admits, “I'm obsessed with exfoliating. I have combination skin and am prone to clogged pores and rough texture. Right now, I am loving the GOOP Exfoliating Instant Facial. It works immediately—you can feel it working—and makes my skin super smooth and glowy. I’ve used a gazillion different exfoliators, but this is one of the best. It has five different alpha hydroxy acids, plus salicylic acid [a beta hydroxy acid]. I aim to use it every other day, usually at night before bed.”

Her neck-to-toe skincare addiction “Shortly after starting work at GOOP, I discovered Goe Oil. At the time, I was beginning to realize the importance of cleaning up my beauty routine; I’ve always been into health and wellness, but moving to California and working at a company that valued nontoxic beauty was making me rethink my product choices. So, we had some Goe Oil in the office, and I decided to take it home and try it. It's one-hundred-percent natural, made with plants, fruit and flower oil. And the scent is otherworldly—it smells like Tahiti. I use it all over by body and have been amazed at what a difference it has made in my skin—it's become so much softer. Even at the end of the day, hours after I've applied the oil, my skin still feels smooth and soft.”

 The  RMS Pop Collection  includes a bronzer, luminizer and two bright yet sheer cheekcolors (that can also be used on your lips!).

The RMS Pop Collection includes a bronzer, luminizer and two bright yet sheer cheekcolors (that can also be used on your lips!).

Her less-makeup-looks-better mantra “Now that I’m in my forties, I wear a lot less makeup. I never really wore foundation but I did experiment with shadow, eyeliner, a bright lip. But these days I mostly have a bare face. I’ve found too much makeup can be aging. Also, because I wear less makeup, I think I’m more comfortable in my own skin. This morning, I just applied my Coola SPF and Juice Beauty Illuminating Primer. I use this primer all over my face—and it gives you this magical, glowing skin. Then I use my RMS Pop Collection palette on my cheeks; it includes a bronzer and two cheekcolors. I will apply a little Juice Beauty Mascara and, if I’m going to wear lipcolor, I’ll put on Kosas Weightless Lipstick, which is clean with no toxins but also super chic. I’m not interested in using something that’s too crunchy. I do like glamourous packaging. Rosewater is my favorite color—it’s like your lips, but slightly deeper.”

The value of sensible eating “When I lived in New York for ten years, it was intense. I worked like crazy, and didn’t sleep a lot. I also rarely had time to exercise. So, I made it a point to eat healthier—it was the one thing I could control. And it did help. I wasn’t extreme about it. I just loaded up on fruits and vegetables and tried to avoid processed food or excess sugar. It’s simple, really. And when I ate healthy, I felt and looked better. Since I moved to LA, thankfully, eating healthy and exercising are both easier, as it’s really a way of life here.”

Her thorough skincare routine Erin may have scaled back on makeup, but she pulls out all the stops when it comes to keeping her skin in good shape. Her morning and evening routine are packed with proven, active ingredients. This is what she’s using right now: “In the morning, I wash with Goldfaden MD Pure Start Cleanser. It’s super light and gentle. Then I apply a double dose of antioxidants, Skinceuticals CE Ferulic plus Tammy Fender Antioxidant Creme. I tap on Tammy Fender Awakening Eye Gel, then top it all with GOOP Enriching Face Oil and my Coola Sunscreen. At night, I take off my makeup and clean my face in one step with the GOOP Melting Cleanser. It leaves my skin soft, not tight. Every other night, I use the GOOP Instant Exfoliating Facial, and I finish with Vintner’s Daughter Serum. It’s super powerful; everyone loves this product.”

Low-maintenance haircare is her MO “I wash every other day with True Botanicals Shampoo and Conditioner; they both have light citrusy scents. Then I apply Bumble and bumble’s Invisible Oil Primer, which detangles and provides both UV and heat-styling protection. My hair is naturally straight, but I’ll give it a little texture by spraying in either Bumble and bumble Surf Spray or Lavett & Chin’s Sea Salt Mist. And, if I want to make the finish softer, I’ll mix in some Bumble and bumble Don’t Blow It Cream. I try to always air dry, which is better for my hair—and easier now that I live in LA, where it’s warm all the time. I also get my hair colored—and have been since I was a teenager. I go to the salon every eight weeks for highlights.”  

 Erin Cotter

Erin Cotter

Why aging has surprised her. In a good way. “I expected my forties to feel differently. I thought I’d feel older. Have more wrinkles. But that hasn’t happened. Being in LA and being active probably helps. I have lost some volume in my face, and people who haven’t seen me in a few years think I’ve lost weight. I haven’t—my face is just less full. While I could go to a dermatologist and get fillers, I’m just not the type. Aging, to me, is part of life, and I like the way it’s going for me so far.”

Why being 40 means you can say no. And not feel guilty. “At this point in my life, time is precious, I’m not afraid to say no to the things I don’t want to do.”

How she works fulltime and finds time for fitness “I run because it's the easiest, most efficient way to get in a workout during the work week. Five mornings a week, I will run four to five miles on the beach near my house. Then, on weekends, I'll go for a long hike.”

Two things she’s learned in the beauty biz “First, if you want skincare products to work, you have to use them. Consistently. So many women don’t do that and then wonder why they don't see results. Second, expensive products are not necessarily the most effective. I would never spend $500 on a face cream. I believe in high-quality ingredients, but you don’t need to spend an exorbitant amount to get them.”

Her stress-relieving strategy “At least twice a week before bed, I take a bath. I fill the tub with warm water, Epsom salts and some essential oils. I find it to be excellent therapy, both physically and mentally.”

On her aging strategy going forward “I accept aging as a natural part of life. So, no Botox or filler for me. I may miss my younger face at times, but I’ve also become less obsessive and critical of the way I look. It’s more important to me to look and feel healthy than it is to be skinny or young.”

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Foundation Made For Your Face. Literally.

Foundation Made For Your Face. Literally.