photo by Clarens Prunyer
As executive director of Violet Grey's Violet Lab, former Vogue beauty director, award-winning journalist and born-and-raised New Yorker, Sarah Brown is the definition of a multi-hyphenate. So many years spent dominating the beauty industry have made Brown a certified expert when it comes to all things beauty, wellness and skin care. Violet Grey, Hollywood's go-to platform for unbeatable beauty recommendations, is the current lucky recipient of Brown's talents as executive director of Violet Lab, the umbrella under which the platform's extensive vetting process takes place. We caught up with Brown to hear the inside scoop about Violet Grey, learn New York's beauty secrets and get the low-down on Violet Grey's newest launch, the Doctor Rogers for Violet Grey Skin Recovery 101 kit.
photo by Brigitte Lacombe
What makes Violet Grey stand out amongst other beauty platforms?
We are all about the eye and the Edit: a tight curation of hand-selected best-in-class hero products, from old-guard icons to new, high-performance break-outs, all vetted, and awarded the Violet Code Seal of Approval by our committee of industry experts. It’s about the mix; it is about discovery. We like to say that we sell beauty but our product is trust, and maintaining our customer’s trust is what guides every decision we make: Does this elevate and improve your life? Would I recommend this to a friend, and would I spend the money on it myself? We also have a voice and an editorial POV that’s very distinct—a definite vibe—and we are a launchpad unlike any other, which is very similar to how I viewed my role at Vogue. We were the scouts unearthing the stories, the people, and the products you needed to know about and helping to propel them into the world.
What is the process like for recommending products on Violet Grey?
For a brand or a product, to make it onto our shelves, it’s got to be best-in-class and life-improving, basically. I am very aware that to introduce something new into one’s regimen, it’s got to perform better than (i.e., replace) other things one is currently using, or do something different that adds to an overall routine. It’s got to earn its place.
When our curation team identifies something we feel will complement our existing assortment, we then introduce it to our committee—leading industry pros who are uniquely qualified to review the product, from top hairstylists and makeup artists to derms, nutritionists, and respected gurus of every stripe—to test it and let us know if we’re right. This is the Violet Code testing process and products that pass earn the Violet Code Seal of Approval—the stamp that you’ve seen on our website. Every single thing we carry has been awarded the seal. The key to our Edit is keeping it tight, so when we add something, a new product or an entirely new brand, it is with a lot of intention. We don’t launch things because they are new; we launch things because we have determined our customer needs them.
photo by NOUA UNU STUDIO
How would you describe your beauty philosophy?
My approach to beauty is that, while it’s my job to try absolutely everything, in my personal life I am a true pragmatist and minimalist. I love beautiful things that make my life easier, that deliver, and that I enjoy using. Luxury for me is: Did this elevate my experience, make me feel (and look) good, and streamline my life so I have time for other things?
My beauty philosophy is that it’s tough out there (social media, human nature, society at large), so we’ve all got to be our own best friends. The most important relationship you have is with yourself, which is why it is so important for all of us to find a lot to love and to celebrate, and daily. It’s hard not to compare oneself to others or to feel we’ve come up short in some aspect, but I really do feel that being singular is so much more interesting—and memorable—than blending in with the pack, it just requires some confidence.
If you could only use three products for the rest of your life, what would they be?
I count on technology to keep getting better and better and brilliant founders to keep new innovation coming, so I would not commit to using anything for the rest of my life (except maybe my fragrance?), but three products I am especially loving, at this precise moment, are:
The Lyma laser: it’s major.
Eighth Day Resurfacing Tonic: the super-booster that refines your skin texture and preps your complexion for everything else that follows.
Costa Brazil Body Cream: the best scent in the world (promise) and the most luxurious consistency. Sinks right in.
Of course they are all Violet Code Approved and available at violetgrey.com!
photo by Vicen Akina
We need all the NYC recs! Fav brunch, dinner, neighborhood, shops, bar, workout class, spa, the works!
A random smattering of some New York favorites:
Breakfast-to-go: cardamom bun at La Cabra
Breakfast date: quiche at Balthazar
Mid-afternoon snack with a glass of red wine: robiola Foccacia at Gemma
Forever my favorite cocktail: Lychee martini at Indochine
Hostess gift for dinner parties: Pints of Ginger and Lavender ice cream from Sundaes and Cones
Pilates: I need a new place. Any suggestions?
Weekly Flowers: Sunny’s in the East Village. It’s like a secret IYKYK pop-up shop, but for flowers, and the hours are very mysterious. Sometimes she is open at 11PM at night; she is very rarely open at convenient hours during the day. But ask anyone who lives downtown: She has the most gorgeous assortment of unusual blooms. Definitely not your average deli flowers (but all New Yorkers can work magic with a deli or grocery store bouquet—all you need is a great vase! And good taste!).
Botox + filler fix: Laura Dyer at Dr. Amy Wechsler’s office on 85th & Park. Laura is the master injector behind basically everyone’s Instagram-ready faces. (She is a Violet Grey Committee member, naturally.)
Best brows: Jimena Garcia at The Broome. (Another VG Committee member, of course. Also on Chanel’s speed dial as their in-house pro. Jimena is amazing and does everyone, trust me.)
Pre-event tune-up: Face Gym on Bond Street. Give them an hour and they will sculpt, tighten and lift the hell out of you.
Best dentist: Marc Lowenberg. He is like your gossipy uncle who loves you the most, making a trip to the dentist almost fun. It doesn’t hurt that the waiting room has one of my favorite Helmut Newton photographs. Also, be prepared: You are at the dentist, but you will very likely run into someone you know. And probably a celebrity.
Hair cut & color: Oscar Blandi & Kyle White at the Oscar Blandi Salon on 55th & Madison. Oscar has been cutting my hair for a millennium. We created my signature cut together years ago. I literally credit him with helping to give me an identity. He is brilliant and his personality is the equivalent of sunshine. Kyle does the best blonde in the city. His sense of color is genius. It’s perfect every time. And super-sweet Stephen Thomas gives the best, most deluxe blow-dry, period. (Also a great secret weapon for men’s cuts.)
Fitness: Honestly, I mostly play tennis and swim upstate on the weekends, but I have made a mental note to get back into a strict Pilates practice (I swore by Power Pilates for years and miss it) and need to get back to Mary Helen Bower’s Ballet Beautiful studio. My current city fitness regimen is simply that I walk everywhere. Really, everywhere.
High tea at the Palm Court: My three-year-old niece is newly obsessed with Eloise, so an afternoon at the Plaza is on our list this fall. This is an essential NY thing to do. It doesn’t matter if it’s touristy. My mom would take me when we were in the mood for a grown-up, ladylike treat when I was a kid and we weren’t tourists, we just lived downtown!
What does a typical Sunday in the city look like for you?
Well, during racing season, Sunday generally begins with an early morning Formula 1 race! My husband and I make a big, luxurious breakfast (croissant egg sandwiches with super crispy bacon are my favorite) and watch the race with my brother and father on text. Thanks to my brother, the entire family is properly obsessed. Our favorite thing to do in the fall is to go poke around the Met for a few hours, then walk around Central Park, and once we are tired and kind of cold, end up at Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle for a cocktail.
How would you say New York has changed during your time here?
I grew up in the SoHo art world of the eighties, where my mom had an art gallery. We lived in a huge loft with no walls (until we put some up), when SoHo was an artist’s neighborhood and the gallery district, and the only stores were Comme des Garçons, Charivari, the wine store, the book store on Spring Street and our little grocery store then on Prince (Dean & Deluca). Balthazar didn’t exist at the beginning, but Fanneli’s and Jerry’s did. It was a real neighborhood—everyone knew each other.
The nature of New York is that it changes, and I think it is certainly in transition right now. I was speaking to Norma Kamali (idol, friend) recently—talk about an iconic New Yorker who has seen it all—and she was saying how out of New York’s most challenging times have come the most creative renaissances, so that is what I am looking forward to most.
What I love most about the city is its pace. I find it totally energizing, and the thing one truly cannot find anywhere else. I love weird signs taped to lampposts. I love walking down the street and hearing a dozen different languages. That’s why everyone claims it: This is truly a city for everyone; you don’t have to be a native New Yorker to be a New Yorker.
How do you find balance while living in the city?
I think balance, generally, is about boundaries and being brave enough to set them—with yourself, with work, with family and with friends. It’s about doing what you need to do for yourself, and not apologizing for it. The thing I need to work on is making more plans. I am very good at keeping a business schedule, not as good at keeping a personal schedule, so I need to start filling my book with personal things—more theatre, ballet, concerts, dinners, and dinner parties—and shutting off my work self when the day is over.
But finding balance, living in the city? Sometimes that is about leaving the city—for a weekend, a long weekend, or now that we can work from anywhere, sometimes even a week.
You recently launched the Doctor Rogers for VIOLET GREY Skin Recovery 101 kit. Why is Dr. Heather Rogers the perfect partner for this project?
This is a magic box—everything you need after a derm procedure. It’s a super streamlined regimen that takes the guesswork out of how to treat compromised, healing, and just ultra-sensitive, reactive skin (so it’s also great for dehydrated winter skin). Dr. Rogers, a Seattle-based dermatologist came to us with the brilliant idea of putting everything one needs in one mistake-proof kit, and adding a fabulous booklet that details what to expect after specific procedures and how to treat skin day by day as it heals.
photo by Emily Soto
The kit helps heal skin after treatments such as lasering, pulsed-light procedures, peels, microdermabrasion and micro-needling. What NYC providers do you recommend for these treatments?
Oh, it’s the best list! Among my NYC derm favorites, who I am lucky to have on speed dial:
Photography by: uncaptioned photos courtesy of Violet Grey