Most actresses on the heels of their big break don't have much to say yet about their beauty routine, but not Lily Cowles. It took the plucky breakout actress, who plays alien mean girl Isobel on Roswell, New Mexico (the CW's grown-up new reboot of the '90s sci-fi series), until she was 31 to score her first major TV role. "Honestly, I'm grateful," she says of her later-onset fame. Postponing celebrity gave Cowles time to establish a grounded sense of self, which is immediately perceptible from her confident (though deeply self-deprecating) way of talking about her beauty routine.
The daughter of two theatre actors, Cowles grew up in the backwoods of northwest Connecticut. "We didn't have a television," she describes. "We were kind of like left to our own devices, so play and imagination were definitely how I occupied my time." Her love of makeup developed from watching her parents use it to transform for their productions—and then using it herself to morph into different characters. "Even today, I love that I can wake up and go really fresh-faced, or I can get real edgy. You can just play into whatever mood you have, and I think that's what's always excited me about beauty," Cowles says.
Just about a month out from Rosewell's premiere, we got a chance to chat with Cowles about her current beauty and self-care routine as a 30-something who's just now experiencing the glamour and challenges of TV stardom for the first time. Keep scrolling to read her refreshing take on makeup, wellness, and more.
Courtesy of Lily Cowles
On her simple everyday makeup routine:
I tend to keep it pretty simple, but I'm on a Tom Ford kick right now. Speaking of aliens, that man is not human. He can do anything. He does everything perfectly. On the show, they started using Tom Ford on me, and it's amazing. The brand has this foundation stick that has this dewy, glowy effect with just enough coverage but you can still see the skin through it. Whenever I wear it, people ask what I'm wearing. Tom Ford's skin makeup is just phenomenal. He also has a great shade-and-illuminate palette for contour and highlight. And I love the Glossier Haloscope highlighter—the way picks up the light. I also love the Benetint by Benefit, that little rosy stain you can use on your lips and your cheeks. It comes in a small size you can throw in your bag. I put it all over my face.
I also love Clinique's High-Impact Curling Mascara, which I've used for like 17 years. It's a product that I've been using for so long because I love the curved brush and the way it naturally curls my eyelashes. But I also love that it stays put, and then to take it off, you just wet it, and it peels off in these little tubes. I've been on that for such a long time. I actually got my first job because of this mascara. I was going up for a job at the Museum of Natural History in New York City, which is the coolest place in the entire world, and there were two interviewers. One was all business, just wanted to hear about my experience, but the other was like, "I'm sorry. I can't get over your eyelashes. What do you use on them? They're so beautiful." And I was like, "Oh, it's Clinique High-Impact Curling mascara." I wound up getting the job and I'm still best friends with that girl who interviewed me. The mascara was the beginning of a very deep friendship and one of the coolest jobs I've ever had, so I give that to Clinique.
Courtesy of Lily Cowles
On how fame has influenced her beauty vibe:
I love exploring and trying new things and being adventurous. I tend to be either really fresh-faced and wear almost nothing, or I go all out. I have no middle ground. Like, I don't know what business casual is. I don't understand it. I'm either in sweatpants or a gown. I sense that I actually look like a 12-year-old boy with no makeup on, which I'm totally cool with. I'm actually stunned by the spectrum of what I can look like. Like how I can look when I wake up versus how I go to sleep. I know this is changing, and I'm happy for it, but I've often felt really sad for men who kind of have to exist on one plane. Like they don't get to experience this spectrum.
Granted, things are changing now, so I feel like guys get to explore a lot more. Now there so many men who are making amazing makeup looks. But anyway, I want to do more edgy stuff. I tend almost to take it to a degree where I think people get a little nervous. Recently I was in an episode of Roswell and I was trying to convince the makeup artist to bejewel my face—jewels on my cheekbones and each corner of my eyes. She was like, Lily, this is not happening. But with red carpets, I want to get avant-garde. Like Tilda Swinton in Suspiria.
Honestly, I'm grateful to be hitting this point in my life at this time. I'm a little bit older to be breaking in, but I'm so grateful for that because I have such a sense of myself now and I'm not afraid to put myself out on the line. I know the parts of me that really like to be androgynous and not be afraid of that. I'm excited to have a foundation of my sense of self that's strong enough, where I can be like, No, no, put the jewels on my face.
On the self-care rituals she swears by:
I think people tend to think about self-care as a luxury, but I just think it's such a necessity. I would way rather spend money on taking care of myself and getting my body back into equilibrium than on shoes or clothes. I am so grateful to have grown up in nature. Like I said, we didn't have a television or anything, so my parents basically opened the front door, and we just kind of scampered outside. To this day, I feel like being in nature is just the most powerful thing that I can do for myself. If I'm feeling overwhelmed or ill at ease, I just go outside and get a little sun. If you can, lying on the ground is so good. I miss dirt. I miss having dirt on me. I didn't wear shoes until I was like 14. Besides that, I drink a shit ton of water. I think I'm an amphibious person. I need to be really well hydrated. So I drink over a gallon of water a day. I have this giant silver canteen that I carry around.
New Mexico is also amazing because it is filled with natural hot springs. And that is one of the best parts of filming here. I have gotten chin-deep in the hot springs culture, so to speak. I'm constantly going and soaking my old tired bones. Filming is intense. It's really long hours. It's cold and you're in heels and you're expected to be sucking in all the time, and it kind of sucks. I mean it's wonderful, but when I get to have time off, I try to just jump into a hot spring immediately. I'm like a plant: Give me water, sun, and dirt, and I'm happy.