Beauty Around the Clock: Kerry Washington

The actress on how SPF is self-care and why Diahann Carroll and Cicely Tyson are the ultimate beauty icons.

kerry washington beauty routine
(Image credit: Future)

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.

One of the first things you notice about Kerry Washington is her radiant complexion. Her velvety matte skin is smooth in almost every photo. Her makeup is subtle yet powerful. And she’s seemingly mastered the art of reducing fine lines and texture. How does she do it?

We like to think that “handled” is the best word to describe the actor—whether that's referencing her strategic skincare routine (she’s been a Neutrogena ambassador since 2013; she gets it) or her storied career that doesn’t seem to be slowing down. In fact, her plate is fuller than ever. Washington is set to co-star with Charlize Theron in the upcoming Netflix series The School for Good and Evil. And she’s filming action-thriller Shadow Force and an eight-episode series called Unprisoned. Again, how does she do it?

Yet, as she commits herself to rising to the top, one thing is certain: the Bronx native finds time to relax and practice self-care. Here, she breaks down her rituals and name-checks the products that help her get through her days on- and off-screen.

Rise & Shine 

I start my day with movement and hydration. I love to exercise first thing in the morning, like pilates, yoga, or weight training, and then drink at least a liter of water with either lemon juice or LMNT supplement powder. Sometimes I can drink four to six liters a day.

Morning Maintenance

For me, cleansing is the most important thing in my morning routine. And right now, I've been using the Neutrogena Deep Clean Facial Cleanser. But I do find that I change cleansers depending on the time of year. I like to keep different products around based on what my skin needs. But, I really always lean into a multitasking serum that has SPF.

Power Start

I love taking baths. I’m a Neutrogena Rain bath shower and gel girl. I'm not going to lie. And I love epsom salt. Especially if I'm working out or training a lot, epsom salt and Rain bath are really helpful.

Fitness Fix

Working out is really big for me. I regularly participate in pilates, swimming, hiking, yoga, and weight training. 

Signature Look

As an actor, I'm always thinking about how the character looks when it comes to makeup. When I'm not playing a character, I try to be as simple as possible. But I tend to lean toward concealer in the places that I need it, although, if I'm using an under eye serum, I need a lot less concealer than usual, which I'm very grateful for.

My typical daytime look doesn’t include loads of foundation because I like for my skin to breathe. I really try to keep my skin as clean as possible when I'm not filming because, when I’m on set, I load up on makeup and then bake under the lights for 16 hours. 

I usually apply mascara, maybe a blended eyeliner, and then a neutral lip. But on a date night or a fun moment, I love a pop of color on my lip. On fun nights, I’ll try a purple, orange, or classic red color. 

But, really, to me, mascara is such a game changer. It really opens up my eyes. 

Self-Care Ritual

Drinking water is huge for me. That's one of the reasons why I'm so drawn to products with hyaluronic acid. I really believe in the power of hydration from the inside out, but also from the outside in. So drinking water is big for me.

I think a lot about how skin cancer is entirely preventable and that many of us don't take the daily actions to prevent it. So for me, knowing that I'm taking care of myself by putting SPF on is big for me. When you mitigate the impact of UV rays, you are doing a tremendous service to yourself. And that’s self-care. 

I also always have my nails done. I didn’t grow up with a ton of money, but my mom got her nails done every single week. That was the accessible, attainable, affordable approach to luxury and glamor that she had in her life. I admired that. I also have really short fingers, so I feel more like a grown up when they are done. I like getting them done every two weeks. 

Signature Scent 

I love to wear a variety of Young Living essential oils.

Beauty Icon

Not to bring us down, but I lost two of my beauty icons—Miss Cicely Tyson and Miss Diahann Carroll—in the last three years. Those women were such role models for me, they taught me to walk through the world and celebrate my beauty. And, they were both flawless to the end. Just gorgeous inside and out. I loved those Black women so dearly.

Daily Playlist

I often put my friends in charge of the playlist. I'm really curious about what other people love to listen to, and I love to get into the headspace of who I'm around when it comes to playlists. Outside of that, I tend to be more of a podcast girl. I like to just listen and learn things when I'm getting ready in the morning. I love The Daily podcast from The New York Times, I love both of Brené Brown's podcasts. I also really enjoy the We Can Do Hard Things podcast, and I like the Fresh Air NPR podcast.

P.M. Routine

Taking care of my skin before bed helps me to wind down from the day. I like to double cleanse by removing my makeup with the Neutrogena Makeup Remover Wipes followed by washing my face and then applying the Neutrogena Retinol Serum. 

Shop Kerry's Favorite Beauty Products 

Deena Campbell
Beauty Director

Deena Campbell is the Beauty Director of Marie Claire where she oversees beauty and health content on all platforms. Deena joined Marie Claire after a decade-long career as an editor in print and digital media. Before joining the brand, she managed editorial content for L’Oréal owned and In 2015, she launched’s hair channel where she received Time Inc.'s Henry R. Luce Award, shortly before joining’s staff as Senior Beauty Editor. Along with her editorial positions, she also consulted on content and marketing strategies for beauty companies including DevaCurl and Dove, and has appeared at various speaking events and live television segments.