Inside a Pop Star's Beauty Routine, Featuring Zara Larsson

Updated 09/23/16
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If you don’t have Zara Larsson’s zesty summer anthem–to-be, “Lush Life,” stuck in your head yet, you’re about to. In fact, within the next year, your life (and Instagram feed) are en route to explode with the fresh-faced Swedish teen, who’s quickly spreading her pop icon status from Europe to the U.S.

But let’s say you’re not currently humming Zara’s single or double-tapping her posts. Maybe you’ve seen her digital campaign with Clinique, #PlayWithPop. In celebration of the brand’s new highly pigmented Lip Pop colors, Zara performs “Lush Life” in four different musical genres, each correlating with a different Clinique hue.

She does so in an interactive music video, where at the tap of a screen you can see Zara instantly change genre, vibe, and overall look. (Warning: It’s very clever and freakishly addictive to play with). Watch the trailer below, and click here for the interactive, full-length version.

But speaking of Zara's look, we couldn’t help but wonder: How does an 18-year-old on the verge of pop stardom go about shaping her image? It has to be a carefully considered process. And it's not everyday that one gets the chance to hear a burgeoning chart-topper spill her secrets before skyrocketing into the hazy, untouchable sphere that is celebrity.

Luckily, when we met Zara at SXSW this year, she was eager to divulge. Sporting pink stiletto nails and white-blonde hair, her look was distinct and purposeful, a sign that her image-refining process has already begun. 

All candor and smiles (Did we mention the girl has braces?? So cute.), Zara dished to us about her on-stage persona, her must-have products, and why she’s currently entering her “Rihanna era.”

To peek behind the scenes of Zara Larrson’s beauty life, keep reading!

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BYRDIE: If you could have a Taylor Swift–esque #squad join you at SXSW, who would be in it?

ZARA LARSSON: Oooh, like a girl squad?! Oh gosh, Taylor really has a good girl squad. I would pick Rihanna, because I think she would just be super cool to hang around with and have fun with. Then I would pick Beyoncé. And then, I would just bring my friends from home—and Rihanna and Beyoncé [laughs]. 

BYRDIE: Speaking of Beyoncé, do you have an onstage alter-ego like Sasha Fierce? 

ZL: I don’t really. At least I don’t have a name for her, or it, or whoever. I kind of get what Beyoncé is saying, like when you walk on stage, you become this other person. But at the same time, I feel like I’m myself. I’m pretty out there as a person. From listening to interviews with Beyoncé, I think she’s a very shy person, very quiet. But then on stage, she’s the opposite of that. But I’m not very shy, so maybe I don’t need an alter-ego like that.

BYRDIE: Does your look onstage differ from your look in everyday life? 

ZL: I mean, on stage, it’s just a lot more. The lips are brighter, the eyeliner is more winged, the lashes are bigger, the contouring is sharper. Everything is just more. It’s like my everyday makeup look times 10. 

But I actually play it pretty safe. I don’t think there’s anything in my life where I look back and think, Oh my gosh, why did I do that?! But, as they say, there’s still time [laughs].

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BYRDIE: Who are your current celebrity beauty icons?

ZL: I would say Rihanna, because I feel like she can rock anything. A great example [of how she inspires me] is in my Clinique music video [for “Lush Life”]. It’s super cool, because in the video, I have four different looks. It’s still me, same song, same me. But the looks are so different. And I love that Rihanna just does that all the time. Especially with the lips. Like, she could rock a black lip or a dark green like no one else. And her hair. She literally changes her hair every week. I love that about her.

She’s not afraid of trying things, but everything looks good on her, you know? I don’t go quite that far. But maybe in a few years, I’ll be like, Why yes, I’m rocking a dark green lip! 

BYRDIE: Do you have a favorite look from your music video?

ZL: My favorite is definitely the vixen one—the one with the black wig—because it’s very different from how I usually look. So when I looked in the mirror when we shot it I was like, “Ooooh!” 

BYRDIE: So maybe that was almost like like an alter-ego?

ZL: Yeah! Or even the country-inspired look. I usually don’t have my hair like that. So it was really fun to try out. 

BYRDIE: What products do you have in your makeup bag right now?

ZL: This Acne Solutions BB Cream ($38) is my life-saver. It covers up everything you need to cover up. But it feels really light and good on your skin. Sometimes it just feels like you have 30 layers of shit on your face, you know what I mean? But this one is not like that. This one is great.

I love a good moisturizer, obviously. Can you just feel this? Clinique’s Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief ($39) is so silky, I love it. And this Moisture Surge Face Spray ($23) is kind of like the same thing but a spray. Just for hydrating.

And eye cream. Clinique’s Pep-Start Eye Cream ($27) is brand-new. I tried it last night for the first time and really liked it. And this Chubby Lash Fattening Mascara ($17) is like the best mascara I’ve ever tried, honestly.

I love an eyeliner; always have. This Liquid Eyelining Pen ($20) is what I’m wearing now. And it’s really easy to put on. It’s called “pretty easy.” They just make things obvious! [Laughs] It’s so good. It’s literally pretty easy to put on, and it stays. You can make the line really thin, and the tip is super flexible.

Then we have the lipsticks. The Clinique Pop Lip Colour + Primer in Melon Pop ($18) is what I’m wearing today, just picked it out.

I get super oily, so this new Stay Matte Universal Blotting Powder ($27) is great for that. 

So, those are basically my go-tos!

BYRDIE: Do you have any unusual Swedish beauty tips or products?

ZL: I wish I did! My mom is so not into beauty at all. She’s naturally beautiful! [Laughs] No, but seriously, when I was smaller and wanted to put on some makeup from my mom’s makeup bag, I went in there and it was like, Oh, a deodorant. But my sister is really good. You know all the YouTube beauty tutorials? She watches every one. I just lay beside my sister in her bed watching whatever she’s watching. She has so much makeup, and I always steal things from her.

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BYRDIE: What’s your favorite on-tour beauty hack?

ZL: Just clean off your makeup when you go to bed. I didn’t care about that at all before. But then I got BREAKOUTS. So, just clean your face and moisturize! It sounds like two very simple things. But for some people, it’s not [laughs].

BYRDIE: Do you tend to switch up your skincare routine while you’re traveling?

ZL: I try to do the things I always do. I think the skin is actually thankful for that. I don’t think it’s good when you switch it up too much. So I just try to keep it simple. I clean my face with the same products every night. And then I just try to moisturize it a little bit more. Because when you’re on a plane, the air is very, very dry, which makes the skin go crazy and think, Oh my gosh, it’s so dry, I have to produce a lot of oil! And then it gets oily, but the air is very dry. It’s just a super-bad combination.

So if you hydrate it, I think you’re fine. 

BYRDIE: What are your favorite skincare products to use right now?

ZL: I’ve tried a lot of different things. Clinique has a great Acne Solutions kit ($38), the famous three-step. But, honestly, I went to the doctor for clearing out my skin, because it was so bad. I started to get scars and stuff, so I was like, No, no, no, no! So I went, and she just gave me prescription products. That’s what I use.

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BYRDIE: Out of all the places you've performed so far, what place has most inspired your beauty look? 

ZL: Ooooh, good question. Well, there’s a lot of contouring in L.A. Highlight and contour! So that really inspires me. But then in Paris, everybody looks very naturally beautiful. It’s the city of romance. Maybe you throw on a red lip. But wherever I go, as long as I have eyeliner and eyebrows, I’m good to go.

BYRDIE: What's on your playlist while getting ready for a show?

ZL: I definitely always listen to something, whether it’s a podcast or music, because it makes me calm. I love to watch Beyoncé’s live performances, because that gets me really hyped. And Beyoncé just calms my nerves. But right now, I’m listening to a lot of Rihanna. She just released her new album, ANTI ($14), which I love, so that’s what’s on repeat. And actually I love this one Swedish podcast. It’s about philosophy. It just makes you think. It makes you calm when you listen to people talking about something that isn’t about being on stage.

BYRDIE: Your platinum-blond hair is amazing. How do you keep it so bright and shiny?

ZL: Well I just colored it a little bit over a week ago. I was like, a rat-gray blonde. I think that’s the perfect way to describe it: rat gray. And it was super long. I just decided I wanted to do something with it. So one day I woke up and said to my day-to-day manager, “I am cutting and coloring my hair today!” We were in London. And she was like, “Okay!” So I did, and I feel really good about it. 

You know, I’m 18! I wanna try things! It’s just hair. But it’s tough to get it blond, I did this in just one day. I really don’t like the warm colors. I’m almost to where I want to color it blue, because that’s the opposite of warm. I’ve never colored my hair super blond before, but I have a few products at home that I could maybe try out. This is really the first time I’ve ever done something dramatic with my hair. But I felt like it was time for my Rihanna era. [Laughs]

BYRDIE: What’s your favorite thing you’ve eaten here at SXSW?

ZL: Well, I’ve been here once before, and of course I’ve tried the barbecue. I love that. But, unfortunately, I’m a vegetarian right now!

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BYRDIE: And now, for a few rapid-fire questions. Are you ready? 

ZL: Let’s do it. 

BYRDIE: Lipstick or lip gloss?

ZL: Lipstick. I don’t like when it gets all sticky.

BYRDIE: Messy braid or sleek pony? 

ZL: Oh, um, sleek pony!

BYRDIE: Coffee or green juice?

ZL: Green juice, fo sho.

BYRDIE: Pop or EDM? 

ZL: Pop.

BYRDIE: Yoga or running?

ZL: Yoga.

BYRDIE: L.A. or New York?

ZL: New York.

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