The actor and fragrance founder shares her favorite scent memories and beauty philosophy.
By Bella Cacciatore from GLAMOUR
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Chances are you know Michelle Pfeiffer from her long list of iconic roles (perhaps Scarface rings a bell?). Her newest movie, French Exit, was released earlier this year, but these days she’s just as busy offscreen. The actor launched her fragrance brand, Henry Rose, a few months before the pandemic hit, and hasn’t slowed down since.
With Henry Rose—named after her daughter Claudia Rose and her son John Henry—Pfeiffer hoped to fill a major market void: clean fine fragrance. Like many parents, she became aware of what was in her products when her kids were young. “I started looking at the ingredients and the safety of those ingredients and my frustration as a consumer was I couldn’t find products that performed and that were also safe,” she tells Glamour. “And then decades went by and I finally said, ‘The technology is there and the consumer is there. The demand is there. So why is this not happening?’” Since then, the market caught up to demand, and she was able to replace her entire routine with “cleaner” counterparts—except when it came to fragrance. In response, she created a sophisticated, gender-neutral line of perfume and body products she could feel good about.
The brand is largely inspired by Pfeiffer’s scent memories, particularly the newest launch, Flora Carnivora. She says the fragrance, which is the brand’s first floral and took nearly three years to formulate, was inspired by a specific childhood memory of sneaking into her elderly neighbors’ back garden, and being enraptured by the smell of the flowers. “It sort of reminds me of a movie,” she says. “They were this elderly couple, I actually had never even laid eyes on them, but I’m sure they were peeking out at me wondering what this bare-legged, barefoot, stringy blonde-haired girl was doing in their flower garden.”
“One day I got up the nerve to steal a bunch, and I ran back to my house and threw them in a Tupperware and used something to mash them,” she continues. “And that was my first foray into perfumery. Smelling flora carnivores brings me back to that time.”
In honor of the launch, we caught up with Pfeiffer to chat her love of fragrance, her beauty essentials, and the women who inspire her. Read on for the latest round of Glamour‘s Big Beauty Questions.
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Gamour: What’s one beauty rule you swear by?
Michelle Pfeiffer: That there are no rules. Beauty is such a personal thing to everyone. Depending on what your facial features are, what kind of skin you have, what kind of hair you have, not everything works for everyone. That also applies to fragrance; it’s such a personal thing. I think the rule would be try not to pay attention to trends.
What about a beauty rule you think is B.S.?
I think more than a rule, it’s actually a misconception. And that is that safer, cleaner products don’t perform as well. I have to say that hasn’t always been the case, and that’s why out of frustration as a consumer, I started Henry Rose. I couldn’t find products that performed, that were also safe. When I started Henry Rose, you could find clean products that performed as well as more mainstream products, but fragrance really lagged behind. I tried every natural essential oil fragrance on the market, and I just really missed that sort of fine fragrance.
Why is clean beauty so important to you?
Honestly, it never really was until I became a parent. To protect your kids, you start looking at the world in a very different way. I started reading ingredients on food we were eating, and personal care products we were putting on our bodies, and paying attention to everything. And wow, it was really eye-opening. One day I stumbled upon the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, and finally there was an incredible resource for me to start to choose safer products, and rate the products that we were using.
You can use only three beauty products for the rest of your life. What are they and why?
I would say sunblock because it’s going to be the thing that makes your skin look its best over time. I would say mascara. And I’ve been trying this new brand lately that was sent to me called Merit, and they have this product—it’s their idea of a cover stick. Rather than applying makeup everywhere, it’s about going in and covering those bad spots, and layering it where you need it most.
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What’s your earliest fragrance memory?
This whole notion of scent memories came up as I was learning how to formulate, and how to talk about fragrance and how to speak to the perfumers, and I realized through that process I was pulling from scent memories in my life. The very first Henry Rose fragrance, Torn, I realized I was going after the leather of my father’s cologne. I didn’t quite get to that, but that’s what it was, and it’s also why I fell in love this sort of Oriental category. So yeah, it would be my father’s cologne.
What’s your power perfume?
Has the pandemic changed anything about your beauty routine?
We hadn’t even launched a year when the pandemic hit. We weren’t sure if people considered fragrance an essential item, but as it turned out, they do. It actually improved our revenue. Whether it’s the scent in your home, it was all about people in their limited way creating an environment that made them feel good.
Personally, I still wore perfume even when I wasn’t seeing anyone. I found that by putting on the fragrance that makes you feel good, you catch a whiff of yourself and it gives you a moment of unexpected pleasure.
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Who are the women inspiring you the most right now?
I’m not alone and her name probably comes up a lot, but it’s Amanda Gorman. She’s inspiring on so many levels, but for me, it’s the hope and inspiration she brings to young people and everyone. The world is—and I’m oversimplifying—a very complicated place right now, and it’s going to be up to our young people. We’re handing them a really difficult deck to deal with and they’re going to have to fix it.
This interview has been edited and condescend for clarity.