Laura Dern Was The Original Wellness Celeb: Here Are Her Healthy Habits
Well before it was chic to have a personal brand tied to wellness, before it was more commonplace to read ingredient labels, before mainstream health care started espousing the benefits of meditation, and before the line was blurred between actors and activists, Laura Dern was occupying this space in a major way.
"I was lucky to be raised with a consideration of my body and the earth," says the two-time Academy Award nominee. "My mother [actress Diane Ladd] and grandmother were aware of what was coming from the land, how it was being treated, how we were treating it, and how it was treating our bodies."
Born and raised in the wellness epicenter of Los Angeles, she, from an early age, was practicing things that many adults have trouble developing routines around. One of her earliest healthy habits? Meditation.
On her long-running meditation practice.
Starting at around age 8, Dern's mother began teaching her about the benefits of meditation. "My mother practiced various forms. In our household, meditation wasn't seen as an 'alternative' option; it was seen as a place to come to self, de-stress, and create that mind-heart-body discipline," says Dern. "When I started, she would talk me through my own little practice and how to do it. Then at 18, I actually learned transcendental meditation. I've had various teachers and been on retreats, but I still mostly favor the TM practice."
Now, Dern loves seeing more mainstream doctors and organizations come around to it. "It's exciting to read about all the new scientific research here; it's all so fascinating," she says. "Once you start doing it, you learn that it's not only a great way to connect to yourself, but it's how you can be the most productive in what you do and love."
Why clean skin care is actually health care.
"For a long time it was: OK, there's health and then there's beauty. Sure, there might be lead in our lipstick and our skin care might have tons of hazardous chemicals, but we're not going to ask any questions if it does what we want to it do," says Dern. "And I think that was fed to us: It was all about the secret formula and certain promises on the label."
That won't be true for much longer. "The beauty industry is having a massive shift: The people who can provide great results while considering your health and planet, that's what I want to use."
She was first introduced to the True Botanicals Renew Pure Radiance Face Oil by her makeup artist on set. "The cinematographer and everyone was like your skin has never looked prettier. Hearing that from other people was the start; I actually reached out to the brand after because I was so moved by their work and perspective," she says. If you're not familiar with the brand, True Botanicals is known for their clean, natural, and effective products—from hair and body to skin care. They're also known in the beauty space for advocating for stricter regulations of the cosmetic industry—focusing on eliminating ingredients that are known toxins.
For day-to-day, Dern keeps her routine pretty simple: "Not only do I have sensitive skin, but if it's too complicated, I get overwhelmed and just don't do anything," she laughs. Most days, she just sticks to a gentle cleanser, the oil, and SPF. However, that doesn't mean she won't try new things here and there. "It's like going to the gym. If I'm going all the time, I need to shake it up. I really stick to that idea for how I take care of my body in general," she says.
As for makeup: The less coverup, the better. Not only for her sensitive skin, but she wants to be a role model for her daughter, in a world of Instagram-contoured faces. "I use just the tiniest bit of coverup for tone, and then spot-treat with concealer as needed," says Dern. "I'm raising a teenage daughter, and I just don't like imagining such young skin covered in thick, heavy makeup, like you see online. I grew up learning that I needed to allow my skin to breathe, and I want her to think the same."
How we can all be advocates.
Her long list of advocacy partnerships (Oceana and the Natural Resources Defense Council being two) and history of outspokenness (like on equal pay and the crisis at the border) has solidified her as a celebrity who stands by her activism. This isn't just good PR or the hot new celebrity trend.
"When I started, I wanted to create a platform that was all about responsibility. If you are given a microphone, it's important you use it to help others. It was partly inspired by family and partly because I've been lucky enough to have people continue to educate me throughout my career," she says.
But now, notes Dern, it's more important than ever—not only for herself personally but for all of us. "Every citizen can be a person with a platform! Whether it's with your friends, on social media, your school community," she says. "Nowadays, if you have any, any empathy, you should feel compelled to do something. I mean, you pick up your phone in the morning and you have some app that is feeding you information or a headline that feels daunting. Just remember that we are all in this together. So it's really up to all of us to inspire each other to be better: Rally friends to do a beach cleanup; write to your government."
She notes, however, that it's not always easy: "It can feel overwhelming, and it's easy to get paralyzed. Personally, I've learned to breathe through the news, so I can find the mission in it. If we are all loud together, we can actually inspire change."
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.