Carolyn Murphy, the face of Estee Lauder & design director at Shinola, confirms the adage that true beauty is more than skin deep.  The model, who has graced the cover of VOGUE 7 times, is a single mother and considers herself a “literary nerd, a gardener and an all American girl.”  We sat down with the supermodel as she candidly chatted about balance, beauty and meditation, plus the values she hopes to impart on her 14-year-old daughter, Dylan.


Photo by Hunter & Gatti

When you’re not working, what’s your own beauty routine like? What products do you like to use?

When I’m not working my beauty routine is super simple. I cleanse morning and night with a cream cleanser, followed by Rosewater Spray, then I use Advanced Night Repair serum and end with La Mer moisture cream. I like Coconut Oil for makeup remover. As for makeup, I usually don’t wear any! 


What 5 essentials do you recommend to new mothers who no longer have the time to put on a “whole face” but who still want to look pulled together?

The 5 essentials I’d recommend for a “fresh face”  for new mothers are: 

1) moisturizer

2) tinted cream with sunblock for sheer coverage, like Estée Lauder BB Cream

3) concealer

4) cheek and lip tint, I like Clinique Black Honey

5) Mascara to make the eyes look awake. 

Carolyn Murphy

Murphy photographed pregnant by Mario Testino

As a busy working mom, what is your best advice for other working moms trying to strike that balance between work and family?  What is your biggest challenge?

The best advice I can give is to make sure you make time for yourself. If you’re happy, the family is happy and we all know that time alone, whether it’s a walk or time at the spa, helps. Time with girlfriends is also key, and I’m still working on that. My biggest challenge is that I was putting myself last, taking care of everyone and everything and then myself. I’ve learned to take off my cape and stop trying to be super Mom, that what matters is quality time together as a family as opposed to quantity. 

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Photo by Eric Cahan

What do you do to carve out time for yourself?  Meditation / Exercise / Nights out with girlfriends, etc?

I’m not good at carving out time for myself until I’m on the verge of a meltdown! Being a single mother, without a staff or family around makes it more difficult. It’s all about time management and planning. Meditation has helped tremendously because it’s 20 minutes in the morning and 20 late day, so I can connect to “me”. I try exercise at least 3 days a week but I’ve slacked there lately. All my Mom friends work as well, so time together has to be planned in advance. 


Murphy with daughter, Dylan photographed by Emily Weiss.

As a supermodel with a daughter, what do you try to teach her about beauty and self image?

My daughter is 14 and this is the age where developing her self image is really crucial. Me being a “supermodel” does not change my approach but it does make more cautious. If anything, I can stress to her how a lot of images we see in magazines are retouched and not “real”. Every woman’s body is different and it’s about embracing our body types. I teach her that real beauty is kindness, intellect and a routine of self care. These things can not be bought. 


How do you balance your time between work, your child and nurturing yourself?

I’m really terrible at balancing time with all of the above. I need an assistant or a nanny to take care of me! Seriously, I am trying to figure it out at 41 years old with a 14 year old daughter. I try not to work too much and I mean that with the blessing of being given my career, so I consider it a luxury. My mother was a single working Mom and we were latch key kids- it was tough. So I am embracing the fact that I can be a more hands on Mom. When I do take time off and have the span of time between drop off and pick up at school, I then workout, take a class, see a movie or visit with friends over lunch. 


Photo by BFANYC

What are some of your specific gadgets, organizational tools or aids that help maintain a stress-free work/family balance?

I recently read about a Life Coach app so I need to look that one up! My biggest organizational tool is my iPhone and lap top, syncing the calendars and events. I usually sit down every Thursday/Friday and plan out the week ahead, confirm apts and such. I print out our weekly calendars and put them on the kitchen bulletin board.


If any, what changes did you make to your work hours/life in order to create more time with your daughter? 

I decided to live a different lifestyle, work less in order to be home more. I felt guilty for turning work down but then I also felt guilty when I had to travel for work and not be home for Dylan, so I would take her out of school. Moving back to NY helped with work because I can work from home more but we sacrificed the LA lifestyle. 

"Charles James: Beyond Fashion" Costume Institute Gala - Arrivals

At the MET Ball in 2014 with Leonard Lauder.

With less time to get ready in the morning, what is your go-to look in order to look chic and put together for a full day and possible evening events?

My go to look to come across as chic and effortless, is hair pulled back in a straightened bun, the “fresh face” makeup above and a great pair of shoes! I think a simple outfit dressed up by current accessories like a handbag, jewelry and shoes, is a big yes. 

As one of the faces of Estee Lauder, which are your favorite products?

I love all Estée Lauder products because they are a part of who I am- I grew up around and grew up using the brand. My favorites are Youth Dew bath dew, Modern Muse perfume, Perfectly Clean face wash, Advanced Night Repair, Re Nutriv Ultimate Lifting Cream, BB Tinted Cream, Sumptuous Mascara, Pure Color Envy Lipstick in Envious, and Bronze Goddess


What is the most valuable thing motherhood has taught you?

The most valuable thing motherhood has taught me…I think I’m still learning but so far, I’d have to say that I have learned about unconditional love, selflessness and patience. We can’t expect to be perfect or expect our children to be perfect. We will screw up and the best thing we can do is always come from a space of loving consciousness and kindness. If we keep those two things at the forefront of our approach to parenting, we can not fail. 

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Slider Image by Yelena Yemchuk.  Other images courtesy of Carolyn Murphy Instagram.


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