Jennifer Garner on Skincare, Self-Confidence, and Passing Down the “Garner Girl Aesthetic" to Her Daughters

“You don’t want to look at yourself in the mirror and be shocked at what you see because you’re so used to masking it.”

Jennifer Garner
(Image credit: David Livingston/Getty)

“Big time magazine editor” Jenna Rink’s spiky bun and frosted eyeshadow had a chokehold on the early 2000s beauty aesthetic in the same way that Alias’ Sydney Bristow made a turquoise blue bob seem attainable. Let’s call it the Jennifer Garner effect. Something about seeing her, rather her characters, made beauty—be it bold wigs or the bathroom drawer of a really, really cool 30-something—feel transformative. Off-screen however, Garner prefers more stripped down approach to beauty. 

“It’s important to be in love with how you look without any makeup on and with your hair in a bun,” the Neutrogena ambassador exclusively tells Marie Claire. “When you get ready and look fabulous—celebrate all of that. When you spend a little more time on yourself, you can feel like, Today, this is great. I needed this. But you don’t want to look at yourself in the mirror and be shocked at what you see because you’re so used to masking it.” 

The Garner girl aesthetic was very clean cut.

This unabashed comfort with her natural appearance—which exists both behind her closed, Los Angeles doors, but also in front of her millions of Instagram followers via her #PretendCookingShow—has been years and years in the making. The actress chalks up her present day self-confidence to the “Garner Girl Aesthetic,” a natural, no-fuss beauty outlook instilled in her by her parents. She wasn’t allowed to wear makeup, didn’t get her ears pierced until the age of 48, and even when painting her nails a deep shade ahead of our interview thought, Oh my gosh, I wonder if my dad would be ok with this [color]? “It was very proper. The Garner girl aesthetic was very clean cut.”

jennifer garner

(Image credit: Jim Spellman/Getty)

Cut to her role as a mom, and her beauty ethos has stayed on par. Even though Garner emphasizes exploration to her children, she admits that her two daughters, Violet, 16, and Seraphina, 13, have taken up a similar attitude towards superfluous beauty. “They see what I value. When they were super little and I would come home from work the first thing they would say is, ‘Go wash your face! Your eyebrows are too dark,’” she jokes. “They want me looking like their mom who is in glasses and sweats and slippers and cooking them food.” 

Despite a pared down, traditionally makeup-free appearance, Garner is very much a beauty girl at heart. She’s a skincare devotee, working with Neutrogena for the past 15 years. “I know their stuff backwards and forwards. I drank their kool-aid a really long time ago and believe in it with my whole heart,” she says. The Golden Globe winner also has some hair hacks up her sleeve, dating back to the onset of her acting career. And, some very wise, booty-centric advice everyone should listen to. Here, Garner shares her top beauty tips, tricks, and hacks. 

Don’t Sleep on Retinol 

“You just get to a certain point where your skin stops turning over new cells as quickly as it does when you're younger and you have to give it a little hug. You need to give it a little boost—and that's just what retinol does. But there are different kinds of retinol. You can buy retinol from a doctor's office that costs a hundred thousand dollars, or you can buy it at the drugstore. The [Neutrogena Retinol Pro Plus] has a super gentle formulation. So it definitely doesn’t burn your face off. It’s my boo. What I love about it is it’s from the drugstore, so you can be lavish with it. You really want to use this serum on your face, you wanna use it on your neck, on décolletage—you want to treat the whole area.” 

Eye Cream Is Essential 

“The Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream does the same thing that you want from retinol—it gives you a fresher, brighter, more plump looking skin and it really does reduce fine wrinkles and lines. I had always been nervous about using retinol by my eyes, but they are such geniuses at Neutrogena. I always trust their science because I know that they have tested this stuff up one side and down the other…It’s super important to do anything you can to help your eye area as you enter new, wonderful decades.” 

Keep Heat Styling to a Minimum

“I never dry my hair all the way. I put it up in a pin or in a scrunchie. When I get to where I'm going, I take it down and it has some volume. When I was living in New York and auditioning, I'm sure I went to half of my auditions with wet hair like this. It would give it some natural zhuzh.” 

“Work on Your Biscuit” 

“I think one of the best gifts you can give yourself beauty wise is to work on your biscuit and do what you need to do to build muscle on your backside. You want a little something there, you don't want it flat. It takes a lot of work—especially as you get older. It takes a lot of work to keep your lady looking high and tight. I guess you could get an injectable, but really there's no shortcut. Just build that muscle. I do The Limit with Beth Nicely. I’ve been doing it with some of my friends and I noticed that all of their jeans were looking different. Then I noticed my jeans were fitting differently. And at first I was like, Oh my gosh, my jeans are tight. And then I like, Wait a minute…my jeans are tight. It’s a good mood booster.” 

Samantha Holender
Beauty Editor

Samantha Holender is the Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she reports on the best new launches, dives into the science behind skincare, and keeps up with the latest trends in the beauty space. She has previously written for Us Weekly, Popsugar,,, and Philadelphia Wedding. Follow her on Instagram @samholender.