Stella McCartney Talks Her Clean Skincare Line and Beauty Lessons From Her Parents


By definition, Stella McCartney is a minimalist. She’s known for her vegan and animal-free leather and simple yet elevated classic silhouettes, and she’s raised the bar for sustainable fashion. Now, the designer is giving the same treatment to the beauty world by introducing her simple skincare line, STELLA, which embodies her eco-conscious philosophy.

“I want to offer uncompromising products that stand side by side with all other products that don’t take the same [sustainability] measures that we are,” said McCartney

In partnership with LVMH, McCartney launched three products: Reset Cleanser, Alter-Care Serum and Restore Cream. The formulas, featuring a refill system, come in reusable, recyclable glass bottles that look chic on a bathroom shelf.

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stella by stella mccartney

Stella by Stella McCartney

But the luxury doesn’t stop there. McCartney enlisted the help of master perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, whose eponymous brand Maison Francis Kurkdjian is an industry favorite, to create a custom scent for the line.

We sat down with the designer-turned-skincare entrepreneur to discuss the evolution of her original line to the current line, her desire for a better cleanser, and why her parents — yes, the iconic Paul McCartney — would give up deodorant.

How has your own approach to skincare changed in the 14 years since launching your first skincare brand? Do it does the experience impact the management of STELLA?

That hasn’t changed too much – I’ve always loved skincare and wanted to start my own line. I feel so privileged and lucky to be able to come back to the charge. When I did it before, it was way ahead of its time and people didn’t understand what I was doing. Creating your own skincare line was unheard of and my whole career, up to the last two years, I had to fight, push and challenge. It’s only now that I feel like I’ve landed at a place where I feel comfortable asking questions like what is the source of that ingredient or fabric. I don’t want to interact with someone who won’t ask themselves or the industry these questions. It’s been a crazy journey, but the way I approached skincare is the same way I approached fashion; They come from the same place, but also couldn’t be more different. My core value system comes from living in harmony with nature and challenging sustainability. Cut to now, 14 years later, it was a completely different experience. I have more ingredients and sources to play with and a lot more information.

What product did you decide to create from the start?

I have a problem with the cleaners that exist. I think this is a hard product to find. Personally, if I want to clean my skin after putting on makeup, I never want to have to invest in a makeup remover. I find it redundant and it brings tears to my eyes for hours. And I don’t like one-way cleansers. I also found the cream cleansers to be too creamy and needed a cotton ball to remove. So I made this one a perfect blend of [foamy] and creamy. It leaves the skin feeling immaculately clean, but not tight and devoid of natural oils.

Why did you choose not to have a separate eye cream? Did you want to multitask or was the effectiveness of the serum around the eyes a happy surprise?

It’s so interesting. I start my work from an instinctive place and I’m not a spring chicken. I have a 15 year old daughter and I think this product crosses all genders and generations because it is so simple and effective. I didn’t want to add the extra step of using eye cream and patting it on. I want to have something that I could put everywhere, and that doesn’t sting my eyes or feel sticky and greasy. I’m pretty picky about my skincare.

stella by stella mccartney

Stella by Stella McCartney

Why did you decide to include a fragrance in the line, and was there a conversation about the sustainability of this component?

Yeah, we had the conversation about it openly, and the fragrance element was a bit tenuous. I kept saying no perfume, no perfume, no perfume. It’s old and French. To my team’s credit, they were like okay, we hear you. They showed me the fragrance-free products. And when I smelled the base, it was such a buzzkill. It is not a desirable scent. The cleanser was a bit soapy. There was no way to change the base formula, as we had arrived at the best of the best. Then I said, we can add any flavor. We’ve included the most minimal amount, but it’s the most natural scent with the fewest ingredients that I’ve fought tooth and nail for the lightest scent possible. We loved the challenge of finding a beautiful fragrance without falling into the trap of classic perfumery. When we came to see Francis Kurkdjian, we gave him a long list of things he couldn’t use, and he came back to us with a super essential perfume. It contains only 12 ingredients.

I love that you collaborated with him. Have you had a relationship before?

No, and I was so excited to work with him. I love perfumes, you know. I just want to make the best and cleanest product. My approach is if I can do it and then I will. If I can’t do it properly, and it’s damaging, I won’t touch it. The scent isn’t the cleanest. I mean, Greta Thunberg probably doesn’t wear perfume and I respect that. I even explored oils, but that made the products greasy. But being able to work with Francis has been such an amazing experience. The way I saw and smelled the fragrance was so honest and pure. It brought back so many personal experiences and memories. My 11 year old thinks it’s addictive. And Francis said it changed the way he made perfume.

This is not an easy task. Can you recall an old memory related to caring for your skin?

My mom and dad didn’t really use much. They were very pure and radical and pioneers in that sense. They weren’t wearing deodorant. They never smelled, but were just very clean and still in nature. My mother [Linda McCartney] wore very little makeup and she was probably the most beautiful woman in the world. You should see her, she’s super cool. But her skincare routine was non-existent, really. I know she used products, but it was as clean as can be. She made her own oils from our roses and stuff in our garden. I remember when I was about 13, my mom gave me a cleanser and I was like, what is this? It will always remain an important memory for me. It was never a household filled with clutter and products. It’s funny because my eldest daughter loves all of this, and I leaned in and became more like my mom as I got older. I’m kinda sad because I feel so bad and like a terrible mother like I should take her beauty shopping. I can’t deliver that to him, but I can deliver this skincare line to him.

Stella by Stella McCartney will be available for sale in early September at


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