L.A. vs. NY: How Is Beauty Different From Coast to Coast?


Photo by Urban Outfitters

As a self-proclaimed New York girl through and through, it’s been interesting to get a peek into life on the other side (of the country). Byrdie is bicoastal—chic, I know—so the majority of our team is L.A.-based. After spending a week there, I came to realize L.A. has this really interesting dichotomy, with a culture as much prescribed by the entertainment industry as by clean living. It’s just as much “so L.A.” to eat a vegan diet, swear by crystal vibrations, and live on the beach as it is to teeter around Rodeo Drive in sky-high stilettos and get lip injections before your 18th birthday. In that same respect, ladies dripping in diamonds on the Upper East Side are just as quintessentially New York as grabbing brunch in Brooklyn wearing last night’s eyeliner.

Still, I was curious how beauty concretely varies from place to place—if there were cut-and-dry explanations for why our faces, hair, and bodies are dressed up so differently, even while following the same trends. It’s true that L.A.’s perennial sunshine yields seemingly endless beach waves and glistening tans, while New York’s pedestrian-dominated streets add a chip on our shoulders and more grit to our style. It’s an understated cool that keeps our roots (purposefully) grown out and our skin mostly bare.

While I had my own (albeit not entirely objective) ideas, I thought it best to get the opinions of the other Byrdie editors as well. Many have lived in both cities and have experienced the change firsthand.

Keep reading for all their interesting bi-coastal beauty insight.

Victoria Hoff, Associate Editor

“L.A. beauty is currently at a bit of a crossroads. People associate it with beachy, effortless beauty à la Marissa Cooper (#neverforget) or Lauren Conrad, but the rise of the vlogging community (and Kardashians) has paved the way for a beauty look that’s more hyper-precise and sculpted, where putting on makeup feels like you’re watching an artist at work. New York, on the other hand, seems to embrace the bare-faced trend more readily—my friends on the East Coast aren’t prone to spending hours on their makeup and consider red lipstick the ultimate beauty statement. But I think both coasts are slowly being influenced by the other, whether they realize it or not.” — Faith Xue, editorial director

“When I lived in NYC, it was totally kosher to go without makeup at the office (or anywhere, honestly). In fact, I feel like most people try to avoid looking too 'done.' I do feel like regular blowouts are more of a thing in New York, but in terms of makeup, there’s more of an emphasis on natural, bare-faced beauty. That being said, you’re still expected to look put-together and polished.

“And then I moved to L.A., the land where people wear a full face of makeup to go hiking. (Not I.) It’s almost a cliché—it’s like everyone is walking around hoping to be discovered or become Instagram-famous. I almost like that I have to make more of an effort when I go to the office, since it’s always fun for me to play around with my many beauty supplies. But then the weekend rolls around, when I prefer to go bare-faced, and I’m still used to ambling around the sleepy streets of Brooklyn on a Sunday morning while equally bleary-eyed, pajama-clad citizens make their coffee and bodega runs. I basically had to decide when I got here that I wasn’t going to give a crap or play the comparison game—I don’t have to be photo-ready all the time just because (almost) everyone else is. But when it comes to health and wellness, L.A. definitely has the edge!”

Elizabeth and James Nirvana White Dry Shampoo

Elizabeth and James Nirvana White Dry Shampoo $28

Glossier Boy Brow

Glossier Boy Brow $16

Byredo Gypsy Water

Byredo Gypsy Water $265

Lindsey Metrus, Associate Editor

“I think L.A. is overall trendier when it comes to beauty, whereas NYC is more offbeat. When all the magazines and bloggers are talking about strobing and half buns, everyone in L.A. has a face full of highlighter and makes the half-bun their signature. Meanwhile, NYC girls roll their eyes at the trends and continue doing their own thing. I think a lot of this just has to do with the daily grind of NYC, as does the idea that L.A. girls just put more effort into their hair and makeup in general. In NYC, you can spend an hour on your look, but by the time you reach the train, your face has melted off and your hair has fallen. In L.A., the dry weather and driving culture allow your hair and makeup to stay put longer, so it’s worth putting the effort in.” — Amanda Montell, associate features editor

“Being in L.A. makes me feel like I need to be more ‘on point,’ if you will. You'll never feel less like an L.A. girl than when you’re walking around West Hollywood in your Old Navy wedges and have them break on you (this actually happened to me—I was mortified). When I’m in NYC, I feel more laid-back and relaxed—maybe that’s because I’ve lived here a while and know I won’t be judged by my neighbors if I run to the store in gym shorts and no makeup. But when I’m in L.A., I want my hair and my makeup to look perfect so I can keep up with the Joneses. I also instantly feel that beachy vibe and like to put on a little self-tanner and maybe a touch extra bronzer so it’s not too obvious that I’m a pale city dweller.”

Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray

Shop L.A. essentials:
Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray $27

Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow

Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow $68

Related Stories