Big Beauty Questions

Gemma Chan Believes Beauty Rules Should Be Broken 

The actor and L'Oreal Paris ambassador shares her beauty philosophy and the women inspiring her right now. 
gemma chan
Getty Images

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It's only fitting that Gemma Chan got to play a superhero this year. The actor may have flexed her superhuman powers in Marvel's The Eternals, but Chan has been a big screen hero since starring in 2018's Crazy Rich Asians, a movie that put Asian and Asian-American actors firmly in the spotlight and catapulted Chan into stardom. 

Chan's visibility and success is a superpower she has utilized for good. Earlier this year, she used her platform to speak out against an uptick in anti-Asian hate, and she's now teamed up with L'Oreal Paris for the brand's Women of Worth campaign, which honors ten everyday women who are tackling society’s most pressing issues through philanthropic efforts and non-profit organizations. During a TV special airing tonight, December 16 on NBC at 8 p.m. EST, Chan will be interviewing Michelle Tran, co-founder of Soar Over Hate, which combats anti-Asian hate and xenophobia, and Briana Daniel, founder of  Street Team Movement, Inc, which provides laundry and remedial aid to people without homes. 

“These ten incredible women have been doing work at a grassroots level in their communities,” Chan tells Glamour. “Briana started a nonprofit that focuses on hygiene and laundry services which seems so simple, but actually it's intrinsically tied to a person's sense of self worth and their human dignity. I also spoke to Michelle Tran, who is a co-founder of Soar Over Hate, which was founded in response to the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes that we saw earlier this year and provides grassroots support to the community, personal safety devices, and culturally specific counseling and support.”

With this televised special, Chan hopes viewers will be able to see the beauty in helping others. “It's kind of an onslaught of bad news these days, and it can be easy to feel a bit hopeless about things. But there are so many people like these amazing women who are trying to help. I find that incredibly uplifting and inspiring.”  

So where else does Chan find beauty inspiration? Read on for her best beauty advice, self-care tips, and the products she can't live without in another round of Glamour's Big Beauty Questions

Glamour: What's one beauty trend you’re obsessed with right now?

Gemma Chan: I work with a couple amazing manicurists. Betina Goldstein in Los Angeles and Michelle Class in London. I've become a bit obsessed with nail art recently. We did a recent festive manicure using Swarovski crystals that complimented a look that we were doing. I'm all into that at the moment. My nails at the Met Gala were incredible too. It was a tribute to Anna May Wong; she used to have these pointed talons, but I didn't want an extension, so we echoed the shape with the jewelry we put on the nail. I loved that. 

What's one beauty rule you swear by?

Well, my mom always said to me, "Don't over pluck your eyebrows." I didn't listen to her. I over plucked them. Took years to grow back. So I to want to say that my mom is right. Leave your brows alone. Don't overdo it. And always—well, I don't always stick to this—but I try to always take off my makeup before I pass out or fall asleep.

What's one beauty rule you think is BS?

That you can't do a lip and an eye. Sometimes more is more and it's okay. Don't worry too much about what other people think. What you wear should be fun and should make you feel great. And if that's a lip and an eye, so be it.

You can only use three products for the rest of your life. What are they and why?

Oh my gosh. Only three? L'Oreal Paris does an amazing Hyaluronic Acid Serum, so I would have to have that in there. I think they're all going to be skincare. Vaseline Intensive Care Cocoa Glow Body Lotion works for me. Third one, maybe Davines Hair Texture Spray. It smells amazing. It gives just the right amount of grip and grit without being too heavy.

L'Oreal Hyaluronic Acid Serum


Vaseline Intensive Care Cocoa Glow Body Lotion


Davines Texture Spray


What's your go-to getting ready music?

Old school hip hop.

What's your favorite way to take a moment for yourself?

Light a scented candle, take some deep breaths. Maybe try to meditate, though I don't do it all the time. Have a snack. Does that count? I definitely go for the snacks more than I meditate. I snack on anything, everything. Sweet, savory. I don't think you have them in America, but we have Maltesers here. Chocolate with the honeycomb center. They're pretty good.

What's your power perfume and why?

There's a Burberry fragrance called My Burberry, which I've been wearing for a while and it reminds me of home. It reminds me of London. It's not too sweet.

My Burberry

Saks Fifth Avenue

If you could change one thing about beauty perceptions, either on social media or in Hollywood, what would that be?

Beauty for me is as much about the inside as the outside. Social media in general can be very focused on the exterior and the superficiality of things. When you feel great on the inside, you look better on the outside. It's all intrinsically linked.

Ariana Yaptangco is the senior beauty editor at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @arianayap.