Much has happened in our world and culture since the early days of Sex and the City, where the original four characters stomped the streets in Manolo Blahniks, clinked together their Cosmopolitans at Samantha Jones voice fabulous parties, and recounted their sexual exploits over brunch at Cafeteria.
In the show’s new reboot, And Just Like That, three of the show’s original protagonists Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon), and Charlotte York-Goldenblatt (Kristin Davis) have returned and are contending with middle age, from the life challenges that naturally come with a new, more mature phase of life to the physical changes inextricably linked to ageing. “There’s so much misogynist chatter in response to us that would never. Happen. About. A. Man,” Parker told Vogue in her December cover story, speaking of the ageist commentary around the actors daring to embrace their age with greying lengths and fine lines onscreen.
At the same time, there has been an encouraging sea change in Hollywood; one where we’re finally starting to see projects that celebrate and telegraph the real lives of older women, offering both a sense of realism and, in the case of Sex and the City’s latest installment, aspirational style and attitude. Yes, those things can happily coexist, emphasises And Just Like That’s make-up department head Sherri Berman Laurence. “I’m a 53-year-old woman, so I kind of grew up with these women,” says Laurence, “so for a show like this to be celebrating so many women in their fifties, and in a real, yet glamorous way, is really exciting to me.”
To conceptualise the make-up vision for And Just Like That, Laurence sat down with show-runner Michael Patrick King and costume designer Molly Rogers to ensure they were taking a 360-degree approach to their storytelling. “It’s really great working with someone like [King], who actually really cares about the looks—the make-up, the hair, and the costumes,” says Laurence. “They all play off of each other. You can’t have one not work or they all don’t work. Michael Patrick King is such a visionary and he knows exactly [what he wants]. He has a picture in his head and it’s a really interesting process to talk it through with him.”
While the plan for each character was different, there was one through-line. “[King] was very specific about not trying to make them look younger than their age—enhancing the beauty that they have already,” explains Laurence. “We all did our best to accomplish that. And I think we did.”
In simplest terms, she describes the evolution of the original characters and their approaches to beauty as follows: Carrie, “fresh and easy”; Miranda, “a little more done with a new sense of self”; and Charlotte, “expensive and very polished.” Then there’s Che Diaz (Sara Ramírez), the series’s first non-binary character, a standup comedian and podcaster, who “embraces their natural beauty” with custom-designed tattoos; Seema Patel (Sarita Choudhury), a powerhouse real estate broker who appreciates “strong, old Hollywood glamour” with jewel-toned lips and winged liner; Lisa Todd Wexley (Nicole Ari Parker), a documentarian and best dressed list-topper who is “very uptown, pristine” with a flawless, sculpted complexion; and Dr. Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman), a Columbia Law professor who goes for “earthy and natural” vibe with no-make-up make-up characterised by lit-from-within skin and nude lips.
“For most of them, we focused a lot on the skin,” explains Laurence of the universal emphasis on a glowing complexion on set. “With all of these women, we’re not trying to hide age, we’re just enhancing the beauty of who they are. Women at this age are beautiful. And I like the fact that we weren’t trying to make them look 30.”
While Parker, Nixon, and Davis all worked with their own make-up artists, there were a lot of widely-embraced product favourites on set. Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate Soft Radiance Foundation was one such beauty hero. “It’s such a beautiful, creamy illuminating—without looking shiny—foundation,” says Laurence of the moisturising, hyaluronic acid-laced formula, which offers medium- to full-coverage, infused with just the right amount of light-diffusing pigments. “It’s funny because, again, I lived make-up then and I’m living it now too,” she explains.
“There are always new products out there that have shifted the look of things. They’re not as matte and powdery, they’re more illuminating without it being shiny.” In that spirit, sculpting cheeks, whether for a dewy rose or sun-kissed effect, saw a softer, lighter handed approach.“The blush isn’t as heavy as it was, it’s a little more flush,” she explains, name-checking the creamy, melt-right-in formulas that were favoured on set, such as Tom Ford’s contour and blush duos and Patrick Ta’s Major Double-Take formula.
In the same vein, lips were less ’90s and decidedly more 2020s. “The liners back then were a little darker on the lip,” she says. “It was more defined and you could see the liner a little more than you can now. Now it’s more just about an even blend to enhance the natural shape of the lip.” For a juicy wash of colour, Dior’s Addict Stellar lip gloss was a tried-and-true favourite, as were Charlotte Tilbury’s lip liners and lipsticks in your-lips-but-better shades.
To keep gazes looking fresh and wide-eyed, there was an emphasis on creating eyeshadow and eyeliner shapes that make the eyes look bigger and pull attention upwards. “With eyes, what you want to do is create shapes that go up and lift instead of dragging them down,” explains Laurence, adding that matte or satin textures are often the most flattering on mature lids. “Eyeliner is also extending a little more out, rather than following the exact lash line,” she adds. In heavy rotation were natural-looking lashes by way of Lashify’s Control Kit, which supplies small clusters of silky lashes that blend seamlessly into the natural lash line, which were concentrated on the outer corners for length and volume. “It really opens up the eyes,” emphasises Laurence of their universally-flattering appeal.
In terms of skincare, veils of Tatcha’s cult-favourite Dewy Skin cream and Herbivore’s glow-enhancing Orchid face oil, along with de-puffing, blood flow-boosting facial massages by way of the Herbivore face roller or Pause Well Aging’s fascia stimulating tool, helped keep complexions bright and hydrated throughout filming, says Laurence.
As the buzz around And Just Like That’s premiere takes hold in group chats everywhere, one thing’s for certain: There’s much to love and appreciate about each character’s individual—and refreshingly age-embracing—approach to make-up (or lackthereof) as self-expression. “This isn’t something really that common right now… mature women that look glamorous without it looking overdone,” says Laurence. “It’s exciting, and there’s such a need for it. I think it’s going to make women in their fifties feel more beautiful.”