Welcome to our series, Beauty Test, where we invite the freshest faces to the Byrdie studio to test-drive the most buzzed-about beauty trends—or to be honest, just some rad makeup looks we’ve been dying to see in real life. This month, get to know up-and-coming actress Adria Arjona.
At 9 a.m. on a Friday in Los Angeles, after a week as jam-packed and demanding as Adria Arjona’s, it doesn’t matter how famous you are: Nothing can happen—not makeup, not hairstyling, not productive conversation—until you’re caffeinated. When the 25-year-old arrives at her neighborhood coffee shop (West Hollywood’s industrial-chic Coffee Commissary) in a ponytail, sunglasses, and just a light coat of Laura Mercier’s tinted moisturizer, it’s immediately clear that she and I are on the same page. By the time she walks through the door, I’ve already half-finished an iced black tea the size of a watermelon.
“I’m gonna go grab a macchiato” is one of the first sentences out of her mouth. “Go caffeinate, girl,” I respond in solidarity.
Arjona is no stranger to early mornings and long days. The Mexico City-born daughter of a Puerto Rican beauty queen and a Guatemalan musician spent most of her bohemian childhood traveling the world to see music and art, until she landed in New York City at the age of 19 to pursue a performing career of her own. She scored her stateside breakout role as Emily on the HBO series True Detective in 2015 and has been steadily growing her résumé ever since. It’s all led up to her badass turn as Jules Reyes in the sci-fi action film Pacific Rim Uprising, which hits theaters nationwide tomorrow, though she almost has no time to enjoy the event in real time.
The physical training for her next film project—involving a rigorous workout schedule—and a robust social life currently consume her calendar. (“I try to eat as healthy as I can so I can enjoy my drinks,” she tells me later. “I work so hard. I’m 25 years old. I need to have fun.”)
Right away, Arjona’s personality feels familiar: Like me, she’s in her mid-20s (and loving it) with a glorious potty mouth, a lot of energy, and little patience for small talk or formalities. “I cannot sit still,” she tells me of her MO. I also relate to her role as the black sheep of her family: She opens up about her tomboyish childhood, which clashed with the vision her glamorous pageant girl mother held of a daughter. “If anyone wants to know [beauty] secrets, they should go to her,” Arjona tells me frankly.
But that’s the whole point: It’s Arjona’s unconventional, artistic attitude toward beauty that I want to know all about. So, with uppers coursing through our systems, we spend the next 30 minutes talking all things beauty and wellness, from the Puerto Rican skincare tricks her mother taught her (or at least tried to) to her minimalist makeup aesthetic to her thoughts on the 21st century’s most toxic beauty trends. Keep scrolling to get inside the perpetually moving mind of Adria Arjona.
On how exercise benefits her brain:
“My meditation is running. It’s the only thing that allows me to get out of my head, into my body. When I’m running, I’m connected to my breathing. I sometimes come up with ideas. I’m my most creative when I’m in that runner’s headspace. I wasn’t [always into it]. I used to be more into Snickers bars than gyms, for sure. I originally got into it to, well, to lose weight. [Laughs.] To get cardio. And I hated it at the beginning. Then I started doing intervals. And then I just started to get really excited to see how my body was progressing and adapting to what I was giving it.
I started running longer and longer distances, and then one day, I just felt it. Sometimes I would read a script and feel really confused by it or feel unsure about whether I could do this character, or I would feel connected to her but not be able to envision her, and then I’d just hop on the treadmill and run, run, run, run, run, and all the sudden I’d get pictures of who she was. Running just fleshes everything out.
“I also have a trainer who keeps me sane. His name is Tim. What a guy. I had a crazy day yesterday; my head was just bobbing, like about to explode. And he was just like, ‘You’re not gonna go home, I’m sorry. We’re gonna finish. If it takes us three hours, we’re gonna finish.’ And I was like, ‘Ugh, motherfucker. I regret the day I met you.’ But it’s good. I connect with him and love him to death. He kicks my ass. If I’m not with him, I really like doing Pilates. And I try to eat as healthy as I can, so I can enjoy my drinks—guilt-free.
Because you need it. I work so hard. I’m 25 years old. I need to have fun as well. And I do. I work my ass off, I train, I eat healthy, and I also party and have a good time, like every other 25-year-old should be doing.
On her Puerto Rican skincare tricks:
“My mom was a beauty queen, and if anyone wants to know secrets, they should go to her. Honestly. She knows all the right ways to put cream on your face—like, in circular motions. If you see her, she hasn’t had any surgery, and she looks like she’s 20 years old. She’s very classy—always wears black and neutral colors but she spices it up with her makeup. Growing up, I just wasn’t into that. My form of expression was a little crazier. I’d have my hair crazy or like a really big lip with no other makeup.
But my mom was always more put-together. I was also a tomboy. So it was hard for her to want to teach her only daughter everything about beauty and then me be like, I don’t care! I don’t like beauty! Growing up, the only product I would really use was sábila (aloe). Because I’m a tomboy, I have so many scars on my legs, so my mom used to put that on me. It kind of smells funny, and it’s gooey and boogery and nasty. We would actually get the plant and use it like that. And my mom used to make scrubs out of coffee, sugar, and honey.
It activates your lymphatic drainage. The caffeine is anti-cellulite. I’ve seen my mom do that forever. I remember her doing that when I was little and crying in pain. Beauty is pain! Now I’ll do a coffee scrub once a month if I remember, when I have enough time to have a proper shower. I literally don’t shower. I don’t.
Products: Marc Jacobs Beauty Highliner Matte Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliners in Odysea and Over(night) ($25 each); Surratt Beauty Artistique Eyeshadows in Minuit, Dow, and Envier ($20)
On her minimalist beauty aesthetic:
“I’m still not the ‘girliest girl.’ But I have a fascination now with beauty. Once I changed my perspective from it being about physical beauty to it being about expression, that made it more interesting to me. For me, it’s not about conventional beauty. I like to feel different. Now I have a makeup artist, Carola, who is absolutely incredible and has taught me so much. She says exactly what my mom says, except I actually listen to her since I never listened to my mom. She taught me how to do a cat eye, which I still can’t do—but I try my hardest, and I love it.
There’s nothing sexier than just a cat eye and no makeup. Nothing on, just ChapStick and a cat eye. It makes you look different, not like everyone else with a full face of makeup. Oh, and an orange eye. I had been dying to do an orange eye, and I was able to do it at one red carpet event and for this shoot. Orange is my favorite color. Everyone was like, an orange eye?! But I like incorporating color, as long as it looks kind of natural and simple.
Products: Dior 5 Couleurs Couture Eyeshadow Palette in 767 Inflame ($62), Lime Crime Venus Palette in Venus and Creation ($38), Surratt Beauty Relevée Lash Curler ($34), Buxom Lash Mascara ($22), MAC Lipstick in Morange ($19)
On her must-have products:
“In the morning, I always wash my face with Tracie Martyn because I think hers is the best face wash out there. It’s really delicate, and my face is very sensitive, so I wash my face with that. Then I splash on cold water, and then I use the Chanel Hydra Beauty Micro Sérum and Le Lift moisturizer. And in the morning, I use the Kiehl’s SPF, the purple one. And I love the Sisley Eye Contour Mask. Obsessed with that. Literally do not travel without it. For lip balm, I use the Dior Addict Lip Glow. And then, if I’m in a rush, I’ll just put on the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer and run out of the house, which is kind of what happened today.
But I usually always go between Dior and Chanel. They hurt my pocket, but I love them. And then Tamah, who did my makeup for this shoot, gave me a bottle of Vintner’s Daughter. She put it on my face, and I was like, What. The fuck. Is this. It smells SO good. It sinks into your skin so fast. Because I hate those oily textures that just sit on your face and make you look shiny all day. This just soaks in, feels so hydrating. I just got back from South Africa, so my face was like a raisin. And she put that on me, and I just came back to life.
On 2018’s “toxic” beauty trends:
“I feel like the phase we’re in right now is one of the most toxic I’ve ever experienced. I would hate to be in high school right now. It terrifies me. For me, beauty and fashion all correlate with the arts: It’s a form for people to express themselves, to say, This is my mood today. But I feel like it’s becoming more of a standard that everyone has to do the very contoured face, matte lip, big eyebrows, and lashes that touch your forehead. The injected lips and the hair extensions. Everyone’s starting to look the same, and it’s hard to understand someone and see someone—not that I try to judge people by how they look—but you look at someone like that and you don’t quite know who that person is, because everyone’s just imitating and copying each other.
What I’m kind of scared of is … I see all these little girls lacking that ability to express and just imitating and all looking the same. There’s no individuality. Something that lacks individuality really fucking terrifies me, like freaks me out more than anything. I would honestly just like a world where every year, we just take a little more makeup off, and a little more off, and a little more off, until we are who we are.”
Production Credits: Photographer: Paley Fairman; Photo Assistant: Anthony Espino; Hair: Sunnie Brook; Makeup Artist: Tamah Krinsky; Manicurist: Chelsea King; Stylist: Yasi Moshtael; Model: Arjona; Studio: The Forge LA
Ed. note: Quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.