24 Hours With Gail Federici

The Color Wow founder on her haircare must-haves, her love/hate relationship with TikTok, and collabing with Chris Appleton.

Gail Federici headshot
(Image credit: Gail Federici)

Welcome to Beauty Around the Clock, Marie Claire's weekly peek into the daily lives of some of the most game-changing women in their industries. Ever wonder how they get it all done in a day? Here's your answer.

In the haircare space, Gail Federici is a force to be reckoned with. The founder of Color Wow and Time Bomb skincare and co-founder of John Frieda was named one of Forbes' 50 Over 50 in 2021 for her contributions to the industry. Since its inception in 2013, Color Wow has won a whopping 75 beauty awards thanks to signature products such as the Money Masque and Dream Coat

Not only is Federici incredibly good at what she does—finding a solution for every hair woe—she also knows how to surround herself with the best in the biz. Exhibit A: She tapped none other than celebrity hairstylist Chris Appleton as Global Creative Director for Color Wow. "I work with this same chemist that I've worked with for—oh my God—probably about 30 years, from the Frizz Ease days, and he's just a genius, he really is unbelievable. His name is Dr. Joe Cincotta," Federici tells Marie Claire. Here, the haircare queen dishes on her beauty routine.

Rise and Shine

I wake up between 6:30 and 7. I hit the snooze button, really. I hate mornings. I'm really more of a night person, but probably the first thing I do is decide if I have time to work out or not. I argue with myself every morning. I have a discussion—"Should I stay in bed a little longer? Should I go down to the treadmill? Should I go outside?" After that, I typically look at my phone, and just check quickly if there's anything urgent.

Morning Maintenance

In the mornings I always use a Time Bomb product that we made together with our chemist, and it's a scrub that has microdermabrasion crystals in it. I really need to take off the top layer of my skin, so I do that every morning, and then I use By Terry moisturizer and I always use La Mer.

Power Start

I like to start the day with lemon water and honey, and then I have to have a coffee to get myself motivated to either work out or just get the show on the road. I've been doing intermittent fasting for over a year now, so I usually don't have anything [to eat] until around 1pm. Sometimes I have a banana, if I'm starving, but I usually don't eat until the afternoon. I like [intermittent fasting], I don't find it hard at all. I know some people do, but I don't find it difficult, really. I just need my coffee, and then I'm OK. I'm not that hungry in the morning.

Signature Look

I usually use Nars Radiant Foundation. I use Charlotte Tilbury's Pillow Talk or NYX. I always use a lip liner and blush, because I'm very… blank, like totally blank, so I use Tom Ford's bronzer a lot, and that's pretty much it for skin and makeup. I wear blush and lip color every day, but not foundation. Oh, and concealer, like I load it, I have to, because I look so tired and horrendous, so I use either Huda Beauty or Tarte, or I mix them around, because I just get very dark circles.

I definitely don't wear makeup on the weekend, really, unless I'm going out to dinner or something. I like my skin to breathe, but I really do need the blush and the lip even on the weekends. I don't have tan coloring like my [Italian] father, and I have no pink in my cheeks like my [Irish-German] mother. I've got somewhere in between that's no good, so I need that.

Shop Gail's Favorite Beauty Products

I think the hair products, really my go-tos are the shampoo without question, Money Masque, and the Dream Coat. I always use an SPF, like La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50. I always use that first, because my father had an Italian background and his skin would go tan, but my mother was really Irish-German, and she wound up with melanoma, so I'm really careful about wearing the sunscreen.

Daily Playlist

To be honest, I used to listen to music all the time, and then I went into the music business because I love music. For five years it was great and horrendous at the same time, and it was work. Since then, I don't listen to it as much; I have old songs, like some Bruno Mars, some Aerosmith, I do have some Lady Gaga, Rihanna—I love Rihanna, I have some Dua. [I listen] when I'm walking or something like that. I'm really focused most of the day, and the music distracts me, because I love it, and I would want to get up and move. I listen to some music too sometimes when I'm exercising. The other day, I was exercising with my son-in-law, and he put on this music that literally just pumped me up, and I was like a maniac on the treadmill, which was not good. It was insane! So I do like listening to it, it motivates me.

Fitness Fix

I go out when I can. If the weather's not too brutal, I like to be outside, but the treadmill or—the bike I don't like at all, but I do it. I don't do it enough because the things that you don't like are really I think what you need, and it just kills my legs, so I've been trying to put a little more effort into that. And then I do some apps, and I do just basic with light weights, or I like some TikTok dance routines that I try to do, because I like to inject some fun.

Self-Care Ritual

The only thing that I've done that's a little bit different is every Sunday, I talk to a monk in Thailand, and that started maybe a couple months into the pandemic. Work-wise, we lost a third of our business because it was in the trade, and we really had to think about how we were going to make this up, and just even finding out how to work remotely was difficult. It was a lot of pressure, and also the worry, the anxiety over COVID, particularly in the beginning before there were any vaccines. It was just an intense period.

I read Ryan Holiday's newsletter and his book, The Daily Stoic, every day. Before I go to bed, I will read the next day's page for a good mindset, and that's why I went to the monk. I had met him probably 15 years ago, and I just thought he was a special person. I had two sessions with him, that was it. Hadn't talked to him, didn't know if I could reach him for the past 15 years, and I found an email for him, and I reached out, and now I have an hour with him every Sunday. It was really good because he helped me to meditate, which I don't do every day, but if I'm anxious, it's the breathing techniques that he gave me, and just talking to him. He sort of laughs after every sentence, and he's so refreshing and calm, and that has been really good for me during this period.

Hair Help

I take a shower and always use our shampoo. I have really difficult hair, it's frizzy and it takes a long time to blow-dry, so I also use Money Masque, which is a Chris Appleton collaboration that I just find—whether you have fine hair or whatever hair type—it just gives you that sleek finish, and I really need that, and I really use both religiously. I wash my hair probably every three days, because it's very, very dry, and on the days that I wash it, I Dream Coat it, always, I couldn't live without Dream Coating it. That and the Money Masque really make it quicker for me to blow-dry and it's smoother.

I never use dry shampoo. I just don't think it's that good for you, I think it's better to shampoo. I don't think it creates healthy scalp conditions at all, so the styling products that I use really, it's just the Dream Coat, but my key go-to in between is One-Minute Transformation. With my hair type, when I wake up in the morning, it does not look smooth like this. When I wake up, it gets very bent, because my hair is wiry, and it will get frizzy if it's hot in my room and it gets wet a little bit, so what I use is this One-Minute Transformation, and it is for anybody that has puffy hair or it frizzes out if you're working out or it's humid, all I do is pull it through my hair, and if it's really bent, I just take a round brush and a blowdryer and I don't have to rewash my whole hair and spend another 45 minutes. It's like a quick fix, and I religiously use that. 

I really like Trademark Beauty's Easy Blo. It's a big, oval-shaped brush, and it's just so easy to blow your hair dry with it. I don't use it when I Dream Coat my hair, because I need a round brush, but I need to put a lot of tension on it, but in between, I always use that. It's super quick to dry your hair. I have a lot of hair—it just takes me probably 10, 15 minutes less when I use the Easy Blo.

Signature Scent

I tend to just use Chanel Chance.

Beauty Icon

Totally Audrey Hepburn. Without question. Love her. I think she's just perfect.

Backup Career

I probably don't think it as much [these days], but I've always thought I'd like to be behind the scenes in politics and run somebody's campaign, and just be involved with the strategic thinking of government. But lately I don't know if… especially here, I mean the politics and just the whole situation is just not pretty.

P.M. Routine

In the evening, I always use the Vanity face cleanser, and I use it with Indie Lee, it's a brightening cleanser, and I use that brush to make sure I get my skin super, super clean. I still use La Mer at night, and sometimes I use this Caudalie Vinoperfect as well. It's a moisturizer, but it has a lot of hyaluronic acid in it. I layer it on, I kind of switch things up a little bit. One of my daughters is obsessed with skincare, so I have a million different products, and I'm not always sure what I'm using. I've got my own little products that I like, but I do tend to switch in and out when she recommends something. She's brilliant.

Evening Wind-Down

My wind-down routine is reading, really. I read that one page out of The Daily Stoic every night, and then I tend to read a little bit of a nonfiction book—right now, I'm reading Atomic Habits—and then I will take one of those gummies that is supposed to help you sleep, a CBD gummy. It's called Soul. I saw it on TikTok or Insta. You know Amanda Kloots? And her sister Anna Kloots? And I really think they help. I'm trying not to make TikTok [a part of my day], especially at night, because I just get so sucked into it, and I could be up until literally 2 in the morning. Once I get in, I'm in.

Lights Out

I try to be sleeping by 11:30pm or 12am. 

Iris Goldsztajn
Morning Editor

Iris Goldsztajn is a London-based journalist, editor and author. She is the morning editor at Marie Claire, and her work has appeared in the likes of British Vogue, InStyle, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29 and SELF. Iris writes about everything from celebrity news and relationship advice to the pitfalls of diet culture and the joys of exercise. She has many opinions on Harry Styles, and can typically be found eating her body weight in cheap chocolate.