If you’re not currently bawling your eyes out every Thursday evening over ABC’s A Million Little Things, you’re probably the only one. It’s a show about grief, friendship, and re-invention: when Bostonian Jon Dixon (Ron Livingston) dies by suicide, his close-knit circle of friends is shocked into re-examining their lives—especially his widow, Delilah, played by Stéphanie Szostak with breathtaking humanity. When you’re watching, it’s pretty much impossible to take your eyes off Szostak, both because of her memorable performance and because you won’t be able to stop wondering how to cop the 44-year-old actress’s beauty routine. (Okay, I suppose I can only speak for myself, but can you blame me?)
So when I talked to the French-born actress over the phone last week, I was eager to get into the weeds with her about her skincare secrets, her experience playing Delilah, and everything else under the sun. Szostak happily obliged, sharing her favorite tips and tricks—and revealing that she’s something of a wellness junkie, as well. Read on to find out about her favorite drugstore mascara, her unconventional past with Chanel Beauty, and her go-to centering routine.
So, tell me: what are your French beauty secrets?
I would say not washing my face ever with water and soap—I use cleansing milk or makeup wipes. The Bi-Facil makeup remover from Lancôme—I use that all the time. My mom taught me how to put on makeup, and it was definitely a “less is more” kind of thing. I remember when I came here in my 20s, so many girls here wore foundation, and I was like, “What? We don’t wear foundation!” And a lot of times, if I have some lipstick or cheek cream stuff, I put it on my lips, on my cheeks, and I also put some on my eyelids, and it gives me a pop.
Your roots are actually in beauty marketing, right? How did you go from that to acting and modeling?
Yes, I worked in marketing at Chanel for skincare. I loved working there—I got freebies of the products—but I just had this feeling that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I just wasn’t that fulfilled. And then the director of advertising came to me one day and said, “We’re doing an in-house brochure for training, and we’re doing a photo shoot. Could you be part of the photo shoot?” So we did the photo shoot, and the photographer asked me which agency I was with, and I said “No, no, I’m not a model,” but then the idea sort of lingered in my head. I was 26 at the time, but I met with Wilhemina Models, and they said, “You look younger; let’s just say you’re 19.” So that’s how that started.
So then you found acting from there.
Yeah, throughout all this I kept having this idea that maybe I should take an acting class, which I’d never done. And three years later I finally got my butt in a theater class in New York City, and I was like, “Oh my god, I found what I love and I’m gonna do this.” It felt like I was alive, you know, like I had found something that clicked. It wasn’t even an intellectual decision—it was more of a chemistry thing, a sense of I need to do this.
Acting is a much more volatile career than marketing—do you have any rituals that keep you grounded?
Yes! When I was in Dinner For Schmucks, I was very excited, but when I got on set I was really so nervous and I just had this voice inside of me that kept saying, What are you doing here? They’re so good. They’re gonna think you suck, and it really impacted, I think, my performance. So on my next movie, I was like, “I need to step away and find a new way to be in my head.” I started meditating, and I read Deepak Chopra, I started a gratefulness practice, journaling. And I keep notes of things that I have read or heard in podcasts—like relaxation techniques or just things that I connect with—and I go over it every morning. It sort of reminds me how I want to show up every day, just for me. I sound so cuckoo!
No, you don’t!
Okay, good, because I am so passionate about that. I think that our confidence really comes from the way we talk to ourselves every day…our inner dialogue. I have this idea for a book about self-image for girls about boobs—it’s kind of a spoof and a funny thing, it’s just so hard to get it out there. But even just being aware of that voice inside your head helps you change the way you talk to yourself and helps you change the way you feel.
Let’s talk about A Million Little Things. How is Delilah different from other roles you’ve had, and what have you gotten out of playing her?
It’s the first time that I’ve played somebody who has to deal with grief, and I love that journey. That’s something that I’ve had to deal with in my life, when I lost my brother, and it’s really an honor for me to play someone who’s going through this because so many people have come up to us—the actors and the creators—because of how the show deals with so many issues that people deal with. To be part of a show that people connect to so personally, it feels like a gift, really.
When you’re working or keeping long hours, do you have any go-to products or routines?
I use a lot of essential oils before I go to sleep and sometimes on my back and things like that. The company I use is Saje, which I found in Canada, because we shoot in Canada. I love their body mists, and the Peaceful Slumber essential oil thing is great. What else? I have melasma on my skin, and I really love the Eminence Bright Skin Licorice Root Exfoliating Peel. For skincare, I use a lot of Caudalie. I love the whole Premier Cru line.
What about when you’re not working? Do you have any beauty or self-care luxuries?
I very rarely do anything, I do a facial probably just once a year. When I’m not working, I like to give my skin a rest and not wear much—concealer and mascara, that’s about it. I love the Makeup For Ever Ultra HD concealer, and I like the L’Oreal Voluminous mascara. I also love the Nars brow gel. I use a bronzer from Clarins. And then my favorite fragrance is Stella by Stella McCartney. I’ve been wearing it for years.
How has your approach to beauty changed from your 20s to your 30s to your 40s?
For some reason, getting ready for bed at night takes so much more time now than it did in my 20s, and I don’t really understand why, but I changed [my] skincare, so now my creams are probably richer and, you know, some anti-wrinkle stuff. I use eye cream, which I never used before. I always used Nivea night cream in my 20s, and now I’m going more towards age-defying products. I guess that’s really it. Oh, and the melasma that happened after I had my kids—I really don’t like it but there’s nothing I can really do about it. I’ve grown to be like, okay, that’s fine, that’s part of aging.
What are the biggest life lessons that you’ve gotten out of each decade? I think a big theme of aging is not only having things change but learning how to accept that change as part of it.
Yeah, and seeing your face change and you’re like, “Oh, right, I have these brown spots on my cheek, and my skin on my neck is starting to look a little droopy sometimes, and that’s okay!” I spent my 20s dealing with a lot of insecurities, but it was also a time to take risks. So looking back, if I had any lessons for my younger self, I would be like, Yes, take those risks! You don’t have kids. Just try new things, try as many things as you can. Fail, don’t be afraid to fail. My 30s was I became a mother, and it was hard at times because I sort of lost myself a little bit. My mom said to me, “Keep your life alive. You have children and you’re a mother, but have your own life, because your children will leave one day and you need to know who you are.” And then when I was about to turn 40, she said, “Oh, your 40s will be the best decade of your life!” And I was like, “Why?” And she was like, “Because you finally know who you are and you don’t care as much.” And I've found that to be so true.