Photograph by  Tommy Ton

Photograph by Tommy Ton

There are beauty queens and then there is THE beauty queen who is Linda Wells. As Founding Editor in Chief of beauty bible, Allure magazine and Founder of the new makeup line Flesh , no one knows beauty better than Wells. Needless to say, her beauty opinions are revered and she is often cornered at cocktail parties by women (and men, let’s be honest) desperate for her inside intel. Pull up a chair and listen closely because Linda is sharing her all-time best beauty advice. Just for us.

You’re welcome.

In New York, every event is a business event. And if you doubt that, please come with me to a cocktail party. About an hour in, the conversation inevitably turns to a question-and-answer session. 

It goes like this: 

1.  What’s the best eye cream?

2.  Do you really need a serum and a moisturizer?

3.  Is Crème de la Mer worth it?

4.  Is La Prairie worth it?

5.  Is Biologique Recherche worth it?

6.  Is Augustinus Bader worth it?

7.  Should I get Botox?

8.  Should I get lip injections?

9.  What can I do about my neck? 

10 And the wild card question …

 So, let’s pour ourselves a drink, kick off our high heels and get down to business.

First, I need to remind you and anyone who asks that I’m not a doctor, but I’ve interviewed hundreds. I have tried almost every product in creation, and I’ve worked in beauty for my whole adult life, as a journalist (at Allure, The New York Times and Vogue) and now as a founder of a beauty brand (Flesh—check it out @fleshbeauty and fleshbeauty.com). 

shop the post

Now, the answers:

1. What is the best eye cream? 
I like a variety of eye creams, but they aren’t going to get rid of bags or dark circles entirely. For those, sleep is the best cure — and you’d be amazed what a difference eight hours (ok, seven) makes. Also, puffiness and circles can be a result of allergies; treat the allergies and your eye issues might disappear, too. While you’re at it, stop rubbing your eyes, unless you really like wrinkles and want as many as possible. As for eye creams, I like all of the Olay Eyes products; the science is solid, and the price is right. StriVectin eye cream is a big favorite among dermatologists. RoC Retinol Correxion eye cream has the key ingredient to minimize lines (retinol), plus hyaluronic acid to moisturize. Glow by Dr. Brandt —my former dermatologist — has retinol to work over time and light reflectors to make your eyes look better immediately. And I love Lancôme Absolue Yeux, a luxurious lightweight serum in a chic gold bottle. 

2. Do you really need a serum and a moisturizer?
“Need” is a big word. And if you were choosing between a serum and an SAT tutor, then no. But I use both serum and moisturizer, even though, when serums first became a thing, I thought they were a sneaky way for the beauty industry to sell us more products. I like the fact that serums tend to have concentrated active ingredients. And I especially like those ingredients to include antioxidants, which protect the skin against cellular damage from the sun and pollution, and hyaluronic acid for moisture. I like Elizabeth Arden Prevage, Dr. Dennis Gross C + Collagen serum and Skinceuticals C, E, Ferulic . And my absolute favorite is Erasa XEP 30, a serum containing a neuropeptide that relaxes wrinkles. It was created by a brilliant chemist, and I’ve seen the clinical studies. It’s legit. I alternate among these serums, applying one of them to clean skin and waiting about 10 minutes before topping it with moisturizer.  

3-6. Is Crème de la Mer/La Prairie/Biologique Recherche/Augustinus Bader worth it?
If you have gold bricks stacked up in closets, then apply all of the expensive creams you want from your earlobes to the soles of your feet. Namaste. For the rest of us, that depends. I haven’t seen clinical tests on these products, and without the scientific backup, I can only rely on the way they look and feel.  As a basic moisturizer, La Mer Soft Cream wears well under makeup, is easier to apply and has a more appealing scent than the classic La Mer cream. If you want a total indulgence, La Mer’s body cream feels like a spa treatment, which is how I rationalize the price ($195 for 6.7 ounces).  La Prairie makes the most luscious sleeping mask (I have it on now): a thick, pinkish cream that comes with a mini paint brush applicator. When my skin is parched and begging for mercy, I turn to this.  I never caught the Biologique Recherche fever. I had a facial at the Paris salon once and it was ... fine, in an old-fashioned French way. The Lotion P50W, is as smelly as everyone says it is, and some people believe that’s evidence of its power, but there’s no correlation. 

The newest cult moisturizers are Augustinus Bader The Cream and The Rich Cream. I like the way the rich one keeps my dry skin moist all day and night. The man behind the creams is a stem-cell biologist, which sounds good but I haven’t seen scientific evidence to back up the claims. My advice: buy a small bottle/jar of an expensive product before committing to the full size. Use it regularly — that’s key. And decide for yourself if it works on your skin and is worth it to you. If not, there are some real treasures at the drugstore: Avène makes excellent skincare products designed for specific issues (acne, redness, extreme dryness, etc.). Olay Regenerist and Olay Whips are stars; if you applied them with your eyes closed, you’d swear they were five times the price. Neutrogena and RoC are based on real science and performance. 

If you want clean beauty, try Tata Harper’s gorgeous lineup of skincare wonders made from natural ingredients. I love them. True Botanicals is a newer natural line with especially lovely face oils.  No matter what you do, always wear sunscreen—that’s a given. 

7. Should I get Botox?
I’m uneasy recommending any medical procedure — even if it’s mild and proven to be safe, like Botox. These decisions are personal. My advice is to do the research and find the best doctor before letting anyone take a sharp object, including a needle, to your face. That said, Botox has a long history of safety that pre-dates its use as a treatment for facial lines. It’s most commonly injected on the forehead, where it temporarily paralyzes the muscle for up to four months.  The popular objection to Botox is that it freezes the face, rendering it expressionless. We all know examples of people who take Botox too far and end up looking artificial and robotic. That’s why you need a skilled doctor who will apply just enough in just the right places, and who will tell you if your requests are totally bonkers. My dermatologist is Dr. Robert Anolik, who worked with Dr. Fredric Brandt and watched his every move. Dr. Anolik is gentle, conservative and always tells me the truth. You should feel the same way about your dermatologist.

 8. Should I get lip injections? 
Lip injections are trickier, because, judging by celebrities and Real Housewives, they’re so frequently overdone. To get it right and look sane, you need to find a superior doctor and trust their advice. Not everyone who gets lip injections is doing it to look like a Kardashian. With age comes a loss of volume in your lips, and that also exaggerates the fine lines around them. Judicious injections of a hyaluronic-acid filler along the perimeter and in the body of the lips can counteract that volume loss. Just know that it’s always better to err on the side of too little than too much.  

 9. What can I do about my neck? 
I, too, feel bad about my neck, and I would gladly wear a turtleneck year-round if I could. For saggy, lined necks, doctors have employed Ultherapy and Thermage, devices that use ultrasound or radio-frequency energy, respectively, to stimulate the production of collagen deep beneath the surface of the skin. More collagen means a smoother, firmer neck. The problem: These procedures have a reputation for being painful. A friend told me she once had to stop the doctor midway through her Ultherapy session because the pain was so unbearable. But that was at least 10 years ago. Since then, both treatments have been recalibrated to reduce the pain. Now, each device uses lower energy, requiring more passes over the area, which means the procedure takes longer but is less painful. Numbing cream isn’t effective in this case because it treats the surface of the skin, not the deeper layers. Doctors sometimes offer nitrous oxide — laughing gas — in lower concentrations than dentists tend to use. 

The most effective treatment for a saggy neck is, I’m sorry to say, plastic surgery. I’m sorry to say it because it’s surgery, with all the risks, anesthesia and recovery time of surgery. Let me add that I have nothing against face lifts, morally or aesthetically. I just encourage anyone who’s considering surgery to do their homework, prepare properly and follow the doctor’s orders to the letter. Too often, people are embarrassed and secretive about cosmetic surgery, and then end up making uninformed decisions, sometimes on a whim. You wouldn’t do that if you were having an appendectomy; don’t do it when the surgery is elective and cosmetic. 

10. And the last question, to make this an even 10: Why did you create a beauty line?
I created Flesh  last year because, even though there are millions of beauty products in the world, I always yearned for ones that married comfort and style, allowing you show your skin at its best, with superior ingredients and formulas that require no special techniques or tools to apply.  I conspired with one of the best makeup artists on the planet to come up with colors that work on every skin tone. To make sure we delivered, we tried them on hundreds and hundreds of people. The shades and formulas are so gorgeous that I use them every day, even when no one is looking. Our best sellers are the stick foundations , the Fresh Flesh Illuminating Primer  (it feels cooling and makes you look like you slept on a cloud), Fleshpot — a glimmery gloss for eyes, cheeks and lips; and Fleshy Lips, our sheer moisturizing lipsticks that come in 10 shades of nude. Flesh is sold at Ulta and on ulta.com* . And if you see me at a party, ask me about Flesh. I’ll probably have a few products in my bag to give you.

TS7 BONUS: Want to try Flesh for yourself? Shop on ulta.com and enter the code LOVEYOURFLESH for 20% off until the end of April 2019.

about linda

Linda Wells is the Founder of Flesh, a makeup line created by the most demanding beauty expert for the most discerning beauty lover.

Linda is the Founding Editor in Chief of Allure Magazine, allure.com and the Allure video channel. During her 25 years at Allure, she created the Allure Best of Beauty Awards, the Best of Beauty seal, and the Allure Beauty Box subscription service. She is the author of Allure: Confessions of a Beauty Editor (Bullfinch Press, 2006)

Most recently, Linda was contributing beauty editor at large at New York Magazine's The Cut and the producer of "The Linda Wells Report," in Hearst's Harper's Bazaar, Elle, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and Town & Country since March 2016. She began her career as a writer and editor at Vogue. She was a reporter at The New York Times and the beauty and food editor of The New York Times Magazine.

Linda has a BA in English Literature from Trinity College. She has two sons and lives in New York City.