Editor’s note: Welcome to Well Said, a new series in which we interview industry leaders about the ways they take care of themselves.
The shiny new headquarters of Santa Monica-based goop are what one might expect of the lifestyle and wellness brand: airy, bright, open, dotted with exquisite furniture, filled with beautiful smiling people (founder Gwyneth Paltrow among them). Down the hall from the picturesque lobby, with its focal-point curving pink couch, sits the office of Erin Cotter: the company’s senior vice-president of beauty.
It’s a modest room, with glass walls that look out onto the main open-plan workspace. Inside, a series of shelves along one wall play host to what some might call Cotter’s professional pride and joy: goop’s beauty and skincare products. Her job is to oversee the company’s entire beauty offering, after all—from dreaming up goop-label products; to vetting the clean, effective brands worthy of being sold through ecommerce and in stores; to working with the editorial team to tell important and relevant stories.
“This is my dream job,” says Cotter, whose CV includes former positions at Estee Lauder and Johnson & Johnson, along with running her own beauty line called Passport. “I’m at the point in my life where I want to do something that I really believe in. I’m super driven and hard-working, and the values and principles of goop are really aligned with my own. Health and wellness, and how we approach those things and really think about those things very holistically, really aligns with how I was brought up. My mom was always very into wellness—from when I was a kid in the ‘70s, having to stir the peanut butter during a time when everyone was eating Jif.”
Cotter sat down with us to discuss what personal wellness means to her today.
“When I think about beauty, to me, it is rooted back in wellness and in self-care. So I’m pretty conscious about what I eat. Not in a militant way, because obviously you want to enjoy food and enjoy life, but for the most part I take pretty particular care around eating well. I eat mostly plant-based and I feel so much better when I do eat that way. But, if I’m going to go on vacation to Turkey, I’m going to make sure I eat all the Turkish food.
I eat a lot of chickpeas and lentils, a lot of legumes, I think just in terms of trying to get more protein. Nutrition Stripped has a really good recipe with turmeric rice and chickpea curry, so I make lots of different variations on that. Gwyneth’s cookbook is amazing, she has these Szechuan green beans in It’s All Easy which I think I make at least once a week. And then I just started making, from her last cookbook The Clean Plate—it’s in the breakfast section although I don’t eat it for breakfast—a chickpea pancake, and it’s got turmeric, cauliflower, and peas. This thing is delish.
There’s also a chickpea salad from Nutrition Stripped that’s got lemon and parsley in it, and it’s delicious. I also make a smoothie every morning, that’s my other big thing: with different fruit, some kind of green (spinach, kale, or chard sometimes), and then I add ashwagandha, and I need to get my omegas (flax seeds, hemp seeds), amla to give me my super antioxidants, protein powder, and some cinnamon.”
“I’m really, really into exfoliating. Each person has to decide how much they can do, so with my skin type being more combination I can, I think, handle it more than most. I have a whole exfoliating plan. Basically, every other day I use the goopglow Microderm Instant Glow Exfoliator, because it literally gives you the most incredible physical exfoliation and makes my skin instantly smooth. It helps clear out my pores, and then I feel comfortable not wearing makeup. And then once a week I’ll use a 15% glycolic acid peel, so it’s more like a chemical exfoliation; and because you wear it overnight (you’re basically leaving a high percentage of acids on your skin for up to eight hours, however long you sleep), you are giving the product a longer time to be beneficial on your skin. And then in between those days, I use the Dr. Barbara Sturm Enzyme Cleanser: it’s a powdered cleanser that you mix with water, so it gives you a more gentle exfoliation while also cleaning your skin. Those are the things I use religiously.”
On body care
“I run most mornings by the beach. One, for the actual exercise—and two, just for meditative aspect and clearing my mind and being outside.
I also do acupuncture, which I started only in the last six months; I was so, to be honest, surprised at how quickly it addressed some of the challenges I was having. So I do that every other week, which is fantastic.”
“It’s really around trying to maintain a positive outlook. And not in a self-delusional type of way, but I think it’s important to try to have positivity in your life, whether that’s with yourself or in your relationships with other people.
I think a lot of it has to do with self-awareness and trying to then catch yourself. I was just reading something recently about just taking a breath or space before you respond or react to something. Because it’s so easy, and I’ve definitely been in places in my life—particularly in [previous] work where it’s been a really intense, somewhat negative work environment—and something happens to you, and it’s so strong and overpowering that you just react immediately. And then you basically spread that negativity to other people. So part of it is having done it and seeing how ugly that is and thinking, ‘I don’t want to be that way.’ So I think it comes with awareness and just taking that pause before responding.”
Taking a breath—be it literal or metaphorical—is advice we can certainly all use.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Update, April 2021: Erin Cotter is now the chief marketing officer at OSEA.