Say hello to Unfiltered, a fresh, new beauty series where you’ll get an exclusive glimpse into the dressed-down beauty routines of our favourite celebrities. They’ll reveal their guilty-pleasure beauty practices, the five-minute-routine product lineup they can’t live without, the one good-skin tip they’ll be forever thankful for, and so much more. To bring every conversation full circle, we ask each celebrity to send us a selection of self-shot, filter-free photos of their choosing to capture the essence of their Unfiltered beauty philosophy.
First up, we're getting to know actor Lydia West—one of the stars of this year's biggest TV shows, It's a Sin. With a self-confessed “really intense” skincare routine and a pared-back yet playful approach to makeup, she’s sharing everything from her favourite products to her on-set beauty secrets below. Enjoy!
How would you describe your relationship with beauty?
In recent years, I’ve really come to value beauty, especially skincare. I used to wear lots of outrageous makeup—a full face of foundation, very thickly layered and not very well matched—but in recent years, I’ve come to appreciate skin—seeing skin and seeing freckles and making sure that my skin is hydrated and fresh. So I’d say I have quite a close relationship with beauty, from a health perspective as well as an aesthetic one.
If you had to leave the house in five minutes, what beauty products would you use before you headed out?
So, first, I would just splash water over my face and oil it with the Kiehl’s Daily Reviving Concentrate (£41)—it smells like ginger, and I literally place it over my face and inhale it. Then a quick brow soap to brush up my brows. For deodorant, I’m using an amazing one from a brand called Akt. It’s a Deodorant Balm (£18) which was created by musical theatre actors, and it’s for performers, so it’s meant to last all day. You know, if you’re in musical theatre, then you sweat quite a bit, so it’s tried and tested by performers—it's really good. Then my Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Stick (£20). I’d just chuck that on, and that would be it really.
Your skin looks so glowy. What does your skincare routine consist of for morning and night?
It’s really intense! In the morning, I scrub with the Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Cleanser (£29), which has kind of pearl drops in it, and it’s really nice and soothing. Next, I’ll use Kiehl’s Daily Reviving Concentrate, and following that, I’ll use the Liz Earle Instant Brightening Eye Cream (£23). It’s so good, just ’round the eyes. Then I’ll use the Liz Earle Skin Repair Light Cream (£24) to moisturise, but this changes depending on what I have.
And then in the evening, I will cleanse with Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser (£18) to remove any makeup, and then following that, I might do a mask. I have Kiehl’s Avocado Nourishing Hydrating Mask (£36) right now. Then I’ll tone with Kiehl’s Cucumber Toner (£29), and following that I use Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate (£40). I’m obsessed. It’s such a good product. I’ll follow that with the eye cream, the Midnight Recovery Eye Cream (£28), and then I’m currently using as my night cream a Neal’s Yard Vitamin E and Avocado (£22) one, which I love. Before I go to bed, I apply a This Works Sleep Balm (£12) on my wrists and Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream on my lips. I told you it’s intense.
I love a really full-on skincare routine! What has your skin journey been like? Have you always had naturally good skin?
I never used to care for my face. I just didn’t see the value in skin, but I have a good friend who is really into beauty, and she encouraged me to try some Kiehl’s products, and I never looked back from there. I have quite bad psoriasis, so everywhere apart from my face, I’ve been through this journey of using different creams and different ointments and trying to fix it. It was only recently that focusing more on my gut health has helped me to almost cure my psoriasis. Now I do see the real value in trying to take care of your skin alongside your general health and well-being.
Wellness and beauty are so intertwined. Do you have any wellness practices or take any supplements that help to give you a boost both mentally and physically?
I take quite a few supplements daily. I take biotin for my hair and nail strength and a general multivitamin for women. Then I take vitamin D because, with my skin, I was advised by the doctor to increase my vitamin D intake. Sometimes I take CBD too, a 25 milligramme CBD capsule. I don’t know if it’s proven to help anxiety, but it has kind of calming effects and makes you feel a bit more at ease with the stresses of everyday life.
Let’s talk hair. Yours always looks amazing. What are your must-have products for caring for your curls?
I’m currently using a really good sulphate-free shampoo and conditioner from Imbue and its leave-in curl spray, which is really good, but I swear by Mixed Chicks Leave-In Conditioner (£18), which is an orange lotion that I scrunch into wet curls. I’ve also used Moroccanoil Intense Curl Cream (£24) for a number of years. I prefer light products on my curls because if they’re heavy then they get weighed down and then kind of just go flat. On the day that I wash my hair, I put the product in, and then I normally leave it for a week and just refresh it with water. It usually activates the curls again and leaves them bouncy and light and not so weighed-down. But that’s something I’ve learnt with age. When I was younger, I would coat my hair in curl cream, and it would just be greasy and flat and not very nice.
If we looked in your bath or shower right now, what products would we find?
I’m very much into my rituals, so in the morning, I’ll have a shower, and in the evening, I have a bath. For my morning shower, I love Aēsop A Rose by Any Other Name Body Cleanser (£33)—it’s got rose and cardamom. It’s just a really nice, wake-up, refreshing scent, which I love. Then in the evening, in the bath, I use the Love Beauty and Planet Shower Gel (£5), and I usually soak in magnesium flakes or Epsom salts.
If you could only choose three beauty products to use for the rest of your life, which would you choose and why?
I would choose toothpaste because it’s just so necessary! There’s no point in having a fresh face of oil but bad teeth. I would use the Akt deodorant because I don’t want to smell. And then the third product—I’m choosing very practical items—the Mixed Chicks Leave-In Conditioner.
Has anything about your approach to beauty changed over the last year, and are there any particular beauty looks that you’re looking forward to trying once we’re out of lockdown?
I worked with an amazing makeup artist a couple of years ago, and she was obsessed with skin, her focus was skin, so she would just cover any blemishes and use a little bit of concealer but wouldn’t touch much else. I remember being like, “Nic, I just want a full face of foundation,” and she would say, “Lydia, no. You need to show your skin!” So I’m excited to get out and kind of show off my skin and get a little bit of a tan. In terms of what I want to try, the makeup artist on It’s a Sin gifted me with a Pat McGrath eye shadow palette with all of these amazing ’80s colours, and she taught me how to properly do the eye shadow because I have no idea how to do it. So maybe on a night out, I’d like to try that.
We have to talk about It’s a Sin because it’s been such an enormous hit—congratulations! How did you prepare for the role of Jill?
I did quite a lot of technical research. I tried not to be too well-informed on the time because Jill learns throughout the years, but through reading the scripts, my eyes were so opened to what happened and what people went through, so I had to dig into it. I read some amazing books—Ghosts of St. Vincent’s by Tom Eubanks and Viral by Ann Bausum. I watched all of the AIDS dramas and films probably ever made—things like The Normal Heart, The Inheritance, Pose—a lot from the American perspective. There’s also an amazing website—HIV.gov—which has a timeline of all the things that happened through the years. But I gained a huge amount of inspiration from Jill [Nalder] herself telling me about the time: what life in the Pink Palace was like, what it was like working in the West End then going to the hospitals and sitting with people in the evenings, her experiences of living with these vibrant characters and their lives and the fun that they had. I learnt something new every time I hung out with her and she’d come up with another story—it’s just spectacular. Then when it came to the character and the lines and the friendships between the group, I tried to do that by myself.
Did you anticipate that the show would have such a huge reaction from the public?
We hoped that it would because we knew how special it was. I think that as an actor, whenever you do something, you hope that people will watch it and you hope that people will respond to it positively and connect to it, but you don’t expect it. So when it happened with It’s a Sin, it’s such an important story and it’s an untold story, and the fact that it’s resonating so highly with people is just all the more special because it’s an educational show as much as it is a joyful celebration. It just feels so, so amazing. I really have my work cut out in the future because it’s so special, and I hope there’s more work like this. It’s left a really strong feeling in my heart, and I hope it stays with people as much as it stays with us because we put so much love into it, and to get that love back from people, to have it affect people and change lives, has just meant the world to us all.
What one thing would you like everyone to take away from watching It’s a Sin?
Of course to banish the prejudice and stigma that surrounds HIV and AIDS but also to see it with a more humanitarian perspective through the character of Jill. We’ve all loved and lost and cared for people, and I believe that most of us step up in times of crisis and turmoil. There is always a battle to fight, and there is always going to be discrimination and underlying issues with the world, but bring love and kindness and compassion to your everyday lives and to the people who you affect. I hope people take that away from the show—that everyone can be a little bit more Jill because we all are Jill, really. That’s why she connected so well with everyone—because she’s in all of us already.
Has the show’s ’80s setting influenced your own beauty aesthetic since filming, or can you see it doing so?
Yes! I never experimented much with my hair, but now I’m trying half-up, half-down styles and bigger hair—the bigger the better now for me. As well as that, I never used to wear blusher, and now I’m obsessed with blusher. I’m actually using an amazing blusher at the moment—the Glossier Cloud Paint in Haze (£15). Oh my god, I’m obsessed. Yes, blusher has now very much been adopted into my everyday life. Blue mascara is really cool too, and all the big eye shadows and big hair. I really wanted to go bigger with my hair [in It’s a Sin]. We tried on this extension which was really long, very Whitney, but Russell [T Davies] said it would be too much attention on Jill’s hair.
You must spend a fair amount of time on set with makeup artists and hairstylists. Are there any secrets that you’ve picked up from the behind-the-scenes beauty experts?
I think the importance of priming and prepping the skin. I use Glossier Futuredew (£23) to prime my skin in the morning, and then when I put foundation or concealer on top, it just glows through. So I think learning the stages of moisturising and priming before then applying makeup. Because before, I would just wash my face and then put my foundation straight on. I’ve also learnt what hairpins can do! I have a really long fringe, but it was short at the start of lockdown, so at my current job, they’re pinning it to create a little fringe again. It’s a good hack without having to chop it yourself. I always cut my own fringe, and I get in trouble for it all the time.
Do you have any “guilty pleasure” beauty practices that you like to indulge in?
My friend sent me a care package during lockdown, and she sent me foot masks that peel all of the dry skin off your feet. You actually end up looking like you have athlete’s foot! I swim quite a lot, so I did a foot mask then went to the pool and just looked down at my feet and saw all the dead skin falling off. It is actually gross, but I’m kind of here for it. I just thought that I’d better put my Crocs on when I walked through the changing room so that nobody else could see. I’d definitely say that’s my guilty pleasure.
From looking at your Instagram, it seems like you have a lot of fun with makeup and hair. Where do you find your beauty inspiration?
Because I don’t wear much makeup every day, I look to other people who don’t really wear a lot of makeup either, but then when they do, they also look amazing and great. So I love Zoë Kravitz. She’s a great inspiration. I love what she does with her eyes: artistic dots and line work and then a statement lip with nothing else. I love Zendaya. She’s amazing too and always looks great at shoots. I like to be experimental where I can at shoots and events and try something that I could never do myself. Victoria Beckham—I love her makeup and what she does. I feel like she always looks very elegant with it. Florence Pugh always looks beautiful and stunning. And Pat McGrath is great.
When it comes to makeup, what are the staple products in your makeup bag?
For day, I’m very Glossier-heavy at the moment. I start with the Futuredew, and then I use its Stretch Concealer (£15) and Coconut Balm (£10) for my lips. I use Benefit Hoola Bronzer (£28), and I love its mascara too, actually, Roller Lash (£24). I use it every day. Then Soap Brows or Glossier Boy Brow (£14) and probably a Benefit lip tint. In the evening, I’ll use MAC Blacktrack (£18) for my liner. I love orange eye shadow, just really subtle, and I’m currently using a MAC one. Maybe if I were doing a smoky eye, then I’d use a brown [kohl] liner and then a red lip. I actually have an amazing red-lip collection at the moment because I did a shoot where I said I loved red lipstick, and then Gucci sent me theirs, so I’m using that, which is just stunning. Sometimes if I’m just popping out in the day, then I love a Nars Tinted Moisturiser (£33) too, which is kind of fresh and dewy. I’m very dewy. I prefer a dew to a matte, so I’m very shiny all the time, which is why I need the Charlotte Tilbury powder (£35). But that’s about it. My day to night doesn’t change that much—maybe I’ll just do a thicker liner or some underneath. I’ve stopped wearing anything at the bottom of my eyes during the day because I was told by a makeup artist that it’s more youthful, but in the evenings I like to line them.
As you head into the last years of your 20s, what are your thoughts on ageing, and what about your next decade is most exciting to you?
My sister has gone grey quite young. She’s 32, and she’s really grey, but she dyes her hair. I don’t want to say I’m excited because it will probably happen to me tomorrow now, but I think I am excited to see my hair grey. It depends, though, because I think a full-on silver-fox curl is gorgeous and looks stunning, but then I think the odd grey hair is a bit jarring, so I’d probably want to cover that up. I’m also really looking forward to trying some new hairstyles and cuts. I’ve wanted to cut my hair for a long time, and I keep blaming it on my work that I don’t. I’m waiting for a job to come along where they say, Lydia, we have to shave your hair off or do a really short pixie cut, and I’m here for it, but I just need that motivation of having to do it to make it happen. So within the next 10 years, I hope to experiment with a different hairdo.
Finally, what’s your Unfiltered beauty philosophy in seven words or fewer?
Focus more on the inside than out.
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