Exclusive: Rachel Brosnahan on $7 Skincare Secrets, Insomnia Remedies, and Speaking Up

Lars Niki/Getty


The premise of Amazon’s show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, is simple: a 1950s Jewish housewife reinvents herself and dives into the New York comedy scene after her “perfect” life falls apart. It’s Rachel Brosnahan’s portrayal of the title character Midge, however, that make the bingeworthy show feel so nuanced and timely. The concept of choosing to pursue your own dreams over your familial duties, speaking out when others try to silence you, and feeling so lost while at the same to so very much alive are themes that feel as relevant to women in 2019 as they do in 1958. Brosnahan has earned two Golden Globes for her nuanced take on Midge, who wears red lipstick like it’s a weapon and cinched skirts like it’s her battle uniform—but IRL, Brosnahan’s style and beauty choices are more low-key. “It takes about two hours for hair, makeup, and wardrobe in the morning,” she laughs during our interview at the New York Edition Hotel. “It’s made me really want to shorten my own beauty prep time as much as I can, so I can maximize the limited time I have off.”

Brosnahan, unlike Midge, has tousled blonde waves and is wearing a blue flower-adorned tea dress when she greets me. There’s no red lipstick in sight, but Midge’s candlelit skin is very much present—it suddenly makes a lot of sense as to why Cetaphil would tap her to be their first-ever celebrity ambassador. “It felt like such a natural fit because I’ve been using Cetaphil products for the better part of the last ten years,” Brosnahan explains. “My mom introduced me to Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser when I was 16, and it’s been a go-to ever since then.” Apart from being the definition of #goodskingoals, Brosnahan spends her days off being an outspoken activist, using her platform to raise awareness for issues like global poverty and the importance of education. “Global Citizen encourages young people to get involved with the issues they’re passionate about,” she says, when I ask her about the organization she just traveled with to Peru. “It helps you learn more about some of the issues you may not know about and to use your voices to help influence our leadership, to speak loudly and proudly about the things that you care about, and ask our leadership to reflect what you want and feel.” Ahead, we talk about Brosnahan’s sensitive skin journey, sleep tips, and why it’s a privilege—and more important than ever—for women to speak up, whether it’s 1958 or 2019.  

BYRDIE: Can you talk about your own skin journey? Have you always had the amazing skin that you have right now?

Rachel Brosnahan: I have really sensitive skin—always have. It gets easily irritated and inflamed. It goes from really dry to really oily, so I feel like balance is key to my skincare. For me, that’s just means keeping it simple. Before I was introduced to Cetaphil, I played sports, and my skin was really unhappy. I was breaking out from all the sweating and hormones of being 16. I was trying really intense products to clear up my skin, and my skin would get really dry. Then, I would use really intense moisturizers to make my skin less dry, and then I would break out. I was stuck in this cycle, and it was my mom that taught me that less is more. I think that’s something that I’ve really held onto, especially when I am working—I try to use as few products as possible. I’ve found a few products that I really trust, and I am a creature of habit, so I’ve stuck with them.

BYRDIE: What are your favorite products from Cetaphil?

RB: There’s two of them. The Gentle Cleanser has always been my number one, but I also really love the Moisturizing Lotion. The Gentle Cleanser calms your face, and the Moisturizing Lotion calms your body. I use both every day.

BYRDIE: Do you have any new favorite beauty products that you’ve picked up on the set of “The Marvelous Ms. Maisel?”

RB: I’ve been using Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum ($185) from our makeup artist on set. When I came into this season, I had been traveling a ton, and my skin was not thrilled. I had been using some products that I loved, but they recommended that I give it a try and I’ve been using it ever since. 

BYRDIE: Are there any ’50s-inspired makeup or hair tips you learned on set?

RB: Midge’s look is very different from my own, so one of the only pieces that I borrowed is that Midge isn’t complete without her bold lip. While that’s not my everyday look, I also feel the look on set doesn’t come alive until I put that lip on. So, I’ve been experimenting with bolder lip colors in my everyday life when I feel tired and want to use very few products to make myself feel and look put together. I’ll throw a lip on and a little bit of mascara and be out the door. 

BYRDIE: Midge considered very outspoken and brash for her time. How do you relate to your character in this day and age? 

RB: Women all over the country are finding their voices in a brand new way right now, and I’m really inspired by this moment we’re living in and proud to be a part of it. I also feel a great responsibility.

BYRDIE: You’re very outspoken on social media about causes and issues you believe in, while a lot of actresses try to stay quiet or neutral because they don’t want to alienate certain people. Why do you feel like it is important to speak up and be vocal?  

RB: I’ve been so privileged to have been given a platform and have access to a lot of people at once with a single post. I feel like there is a responsibility in having a platform that large. It’s a responsibility that I don’t take lightly. Something that I want to encourage with my platform is the idea that alone, it is very difficult for any single one of us to make a difference. But in numbers, we can change the world in any way we want to. That is something I am trying to impress on my followers. It’s important for us to remember that as we get disillusioned with our government, with our leadership, and feel the overwhelming weight of some of the greatest issues facing the world right now. It’s easy to feel hopeless, but it’s not productive.

BYRDIE: You mentioned self-confidence. As the new face of a well-known skincare line, some people might assume you’re confident in your skin all the time—but we all know it’s an ongoing journey. How do you lift yourself up when you experience moments of self-doubt? 

RB: I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have a great support system from a very young age between my family and my friends—I recognize that not everyone is so lucky. Generally speaking, I’ve always felt pretty good about myself and about my body. But even people who are generally confident struggle sometimes, and sometimes it feels debilitating even if it’s not something that is overwhelming. It’s important to remember as we move through the world that putting a little bit of extra kindness into the world can help people in ways you can’t imagine. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve leaned more and more on my chosen family (my friends), in addition to my family. We are able to lift each other up when we’re feeling down, but also I think taking care of myself in various ways is important. Self-care has played a big part in maintaining a sense of self-confidence.

BYRDIE: Tell us about some of your favorite self-care practices.  

RB: I like to exercise where and when I can. It’s not always easy to do consistently with a crazy schedule, but it makes me feel good physically, mentally, and emotionally.

BYRDIE: Favorite workout?

R: Yoga and SoulCycle. I like to try new kinds of workouts. I belong to Equinox. I tried this class called MetCon3. It nearly killed me, but I felt great. Very sore, but great. It was tough. I love to hike, but it’s not always easy to hike in New York. But even an hour or so outside of New York, they have really great hikes. I try to eat healthily because when I feel good on the inside, I feel good on the outside and look better on the outside.

BYRDIE: What’s your favorite healthy meal?

RB: I’m not a great cook, so recently I started using SunBasket. It’s really good. They provide you with everything, and all the materials are recyclable, and I appreciate that. I’ve learned some really great new recipes from using SunBasket, and it’s been fun to change it up. It also helps me cook a little bit. But otherwise, a couple of things I like to make on my own are miso glazed salmon with rice…a go-to snack for me is a rice cake with sliced avocado and salt and pepper and paprika. I like a green smoothie with a bunch of green veggies and fruit.

BYRDIE: Are you a coffee-as-breakfast person?

RB: No, I have to eat, or I feel terrible. But sometimes if I am in a hurry, I’ll do a green smoothie and drink it quickly before I go out the door. Or I’ll do some avocado and toast and a poached egg, or cereal sometimes. I’m not super consistent. I try to listen to what my body wants, and if I’m not feeling great, then that means I should eat some more greens, get some more vitamins and minerals into my body. But if I want a burger and fries, I’ll also go for that too because that makes me feel good in a different way.

BYRDIE: How do you keep your body functioning at 100% with multiple projects and long hours of shooting? 

RB: Sleep is really important. It’s not always easy working all these crazy hours, but sometimes it’s worth skipping a workout to get an extra hour of sleep. There was a period in my life where I put a lot of pressure on myself to make it to the gym because I thought that was the way I had to keep healthy. But, sometimes if I take that extra hour of sleep, I feel better, and I feel like I look better. My brain is sharper, and it has to be that way when I have to learn all these lines.

BYRDIE: Sleep can be so elusive. Any tips for falling asleep when your brain is wired?

RB: I like to get up and stretch. I try to stretch before bed, but if I can’t sleep, I try to stretch and breathe deeply to relax. My whole body is pretty sensitive, so I can’t take anything like Zzzquil because it makes me crazy.

BYRDIE: I really appreciate how vocal you have been about the things you believe in. If there’s one thing, you would wish to share with all the young women in the world who feel helpless in this time of political turmoil, what’s something you would tell them?

RB: Nurture each other and lift each other up. There’s room for all of us at the table. There’s been this misconception for a long time that there’s only room for one of us to succeed. That’s how we get kept down and out of the conversation.

BYRDIE: Any advice for someone who wants to find a cause to get involved in?

RB: We’re all passionate about something and now more than ever, there are so many different ways to get involved with the issues we’re passionate about. So, first, I would say narrow it down to what you’re passionate about—whether it be animals, sustainable practices, gender equality, or education. Maybe there is a specific organization that’s targeted at one of those things, but there are also organizations that encompass many of those things. For example, I’m an ambassador for Global Citizen, and their goal is to end extreme global poverty by 2040. There are so many different issues that contribute to the cycle of poverty, and that’s an organization that also emphasizes this idea that our voices alone may not be as powerful as we’d like them to be, but when we come together, we can make change happen.

Click here for the best drugstore skincare products for every skin type.


Related Stories