kate somerville

‘Tis the season for mulled wine, cozy slippers, long books and drying out like a prune. Even in our native Northwest with all its recent rain, we can’t get away from the skin irritation, dryness and breakouts that come like clockwork with December. So when we heard Kate Somerville, skincare expert for more than 20 years and industry pioneer, was going to be in Seattle, we couldn’t let her leave without asking a few survival questions and gleaning year-round skin-saving insight.

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Winter is here and with it holiday travels. For those of us traveling to (or stuck for good in) harsher climates, how can we defend our skin?
Airplanes are so brutal. They just suck every bit of hydration out of you. Try not to wear makeup if it’s a long flight. I really recommend taking the Dermal Quench on your flight, along with the moisturizer that’s right for your skin. If you have a lot of oils, you’ll want to go oil-free. If you have normal skin, use our Age Arrest. Nordstrom is also launching our KateCeuticals line soon, which is really geared for dry skin and mature skin. The moisturizer is Multi-Active Revive. When you get back from wherever you’re going, steam your face. Take a wet washcloth as hot as you can handle and place it over your skin for about five minutes. Or put it over your face in the bath and really allow your skin to steam.



Kate Fannin, our beauty trend editor, knows how much we all covet a terrific tan during the summer. Here, she explains how to get that beach babe bronze without the harmful side effects.

Me soaking up the rays during my swim team days.

Remember when you were on the neighborhood swim team and were more concerned about your cheesy one-piece than the long-term effects of the sun? (See my 15-year-old self above for reference.) What I wouldn’t give to have that perfect tan shade again, albeit in a much SAFER way. Good news—you totally can, and with no chlorine or kickboard required. Here are some quick steps and picks for achieving the perfect “swim team” tan without risking serious sun damage:

1. Get Ready: Use a great body exfoliator or soap in the shower to prep the skin (shaving also helps). Some good options include Kate Somerville ‘ExfoliKate® Body’ Intensive Exfoliating Treatment or Fresh Seaberry Exfoliating Soap.

2. Get Set: Use a lotion or cream around areas that are susceptible to absorbing too much product (i.e., the often-dry parts) like heels, ankles, knees and elbows. A few of my faves are Estée Lauder ‘Nutritious’ Energy Lotion, L’Occitane Almond Milk Concentrate and Clinique Deep Comfort Body Moisture.

3. Tan!: With so many new formulas available, there’s definitely one for everybody—and every body! (Or face!) Check out Xen-Tan ‘Absolute Luxe’ Dark Lotion. It’s non-greasy and has no icky self-tanner odor—it even has Scent Secure technology to make sure. Also, St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse is a good bet—you can’t argue with an Allure “Best of Beauty” winner AND 5-star customer ratings!

One last tan tidbit…

If you’re in a hurry or traveling, try one of my “hall of fame” self-tanning favorites: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pads—travel-friendly towelettes that exfoliate AND give a gorgeous tan all in one! Use at night (after shower and before bed), and by morning, you’re gorgeously tanned and guaranteed to score compliments about your glowing skin! Best of all, they come in both face and body options.

And that’s my (tan) take!


Whether we’re seeking out the sun or not, UV exposure is pretty much a given during the summer. We all know the risks of overexposure—from premature aging to sunspots and worse—but most of us still don’t apply protection every single day. Newsflash or not, the experts agree that everyday sunscreen is a must! Read on for their tips and recommendations.

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Hi, lovelies! My name is Sarah Zaret, and every day, I’m tasked with the duty of guiding women through the glamorous world of makeup as a Nordstrom Beauty Stylist at the Mission Viejo store in the O.C. of California. I’ve been working in the cosmetics and skincare industries for more than 15 years, 11 of them with Nordstrom.

I graduated from the Studio Makeup Academy of Hollywood, and while training there, I developed a passion for old Hollywood, vintage-inspired looks.

Cover Girl: Ricki VanDusen, photographed by Irving Penn for Vogue, March 1948

My great-aunt, Ricki VanDusen, was a supermodel in the ’40s and ’50s and appeared on several covers for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar magazines. Isn’t she flawless? Her skin was perfection! Mastering the art of timeless beauty is not only my passion; it’s also part of my DNA.

For seven years, I performed facials as an Instructrice de Beauté for Clarins, where I learned that importance of cleansing the skin every morning and evening, the benefits of exfoliation and the best tips to hydrate the skin from the inside out. Right now, I can’t live without Kate Somerville’s ‘DermalQuench Liquid Lift’ Advanced Wrinkle Treatment. One of the key ingredients is hyaluronic acid, which deeply hydrates the skin to improve elasticity, firmness and texture.

Movie Magic: Gene Kornman snaps Marilyn Monroe’s publicity photo for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953

Since I was a little girl, photos and women that exuded radiant beauty have surrounded me. My great-grandfather, Gene Kornman, was a famous still glamour photographer from the 1930s to the ’50s, and he captured some of the most iconic images of Marilyn Monroe for films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Niagara.

Timeless Glamour: My great-grandfather took this photo of Marilyn for the 1953 film Niagara. Here’s my best pinup girl-inspired style (right), photographed by Laura Byrnes.

My gramps knew how to bring out a woman’s natural beauty, and he certainly passed down those skills to me. While working as a makeup artist for Laura Mercier, I truly adapted her philosophy on creating a “naturally flawless face.” Make a shimmering statement and snag the Laura Mercier ‘Enchanted’ Color Collection, which is a Nordstrom exclusive ($89 value).

If you’re looking for new look or just a simple revamp of products in your makeup bag, let me help you bring out your own unique star quality.

Nordstrom Beauty Stylists are professionally trained across all our beauty, fragrance and men’s grooming brands to handpick the perfect products for you. If you’re in the O.C. area, stop by and say hi to Sarah (and get some of her beauty expertise!) at our Mission Viejo store. You can also Live Chat with an online Beauty Stylist now, or call 1.800.7beauty to schedule an appointment in store.


Introducing Beauty Connections, our new series of on-the-spot, open conversations with the amazing—and very real—people behind the world’s top beauty brands.


This month we connect with skincare guru Kate Somerville, who talks about female friendships, celebrity hang-ups, a preteen son, and being called ‘bitchy.’

BEAUTY 24/7: You seem like true cheerleader for women.
KATE SOMERVILLE: I’ve actually been thinking a lot about that lately. My mom was an alcoholic who left when I was 9, and what my business has given me, more than anything, is a lot of moms—that kind of feminine love and connection I didn’t have growing up. All of the women I treat, who really share their lives with me… yes, maybe I’m giving them the gift of youth, but they give me just as much. I have to remember where it all started: connecting with and helping other women.

You’re known for touching a lot of famous faces—you probably make all your clients feel like stars.
KATE: I think it goes both ways: I also make celebrities feel like they’re accepted for the people they are on the inside. If you knew some of them—they’re so like us, they just happen to be actors. They have the same kinds of struggles as we do: kids, husbands, weight loss, weight gain, illnesses—everything!

Many of your competitors are men (Drs. Gross, Perricone, Brandt)—is it hard being a woman, even in the beauty business?
KATE: Back when I first started out—I’ll never forget this–and I was going to be acquired by a big company, at our first meeting, they asked what my goal was. I told them I wanted to be in all markets—I want an infomercial, I want to be at Nordstrom, I want to be on QVC. The man sitting next to me—who’s a genius but who comes from the old school—patted me on the knee and said, “Oh, honey, that’s just not going to happen.” Well, I loved that, because when someone says to me, “You can’t,” I say, “Watch me.”

So in other words, hop on or hop out of the way?
KATE: Since the beginning, I’ve had a vision, and I’ve stuck with that vision. It’s interesting what happens as you grow—a lot of people I meet will say, “Oh, you’re so personable and friendly,” but my staff will tell you that I can get really bitchy. I understand now how people can get the reputation of being a diva, because when you have a vision and people try to change your vision, you’re like, no, sorry—I’m not going to move off of this. And at the end of the day, if the product isn’t great, we don’t get paid!

Your business just went global [Kate recently opened her first international clinic in South Korea]; how do you maintain that personal connection with your customers?
KATE: It’s something I’m constantly aware of—I really have to rely on my staff now. Obviously, things are still “born” from me, but we have a panel of women at the clinic who have been with me for eight years. They know the culture, and they know skin—probably even better than I do now!

But more importantly, I also have an 11-year-old son, who is the best part of my life. When he was younger and I was just starting out, my husband was great about being there as a parent, which I am so grateful for. But now, the older my son gets, the more I see how much he needs his mom too—and I need him, because he fills my heart more than anything. I’m trying to balance being with him more, plus staying connected to my clients and the business. It’s definitely a lot to juggle.

Being a busy working mother must help you understand your clients’ lives on a very personal level.
KATE: That’s why my products need to WORK—quickly! I’ve always been all about that: no nonsense, cut to the chase. That’s why my packaging is the way it is. If it’s not easy—something you can throw in a bag and go—then forget it. Plus, with the clinic, we get to try everything out on the clients, talk to them about the experience. If they don’t get it, if it’s not working for them, then we don’t release it. We’re literally right there at the point of impact. We’ve had so many flops, but we just keep tweaking until we get things right.

I also get that women don’t have time for downtime or delayed healing when their skin looks weird. That’s why my products are a mix of the optimum level of active ingredients balanced with botanicals like lavender oil, apricot, almond oil and aloe. Take ExfoliKate®—there’s no other exfoliator like it out there. It will change your skin in two minutes. It’s a cult favorite for sure.

And then there’s RetAsphere™, our first retinol product. For a long time, I resisted doing a retinol product because of the irritation. But RetAsphere™ is very emollient, with pure, stable retinol encapsulated in a lipid shell. Your skin is made of lipids, so when you put the product on, it melts like butter—really getting to the root of the wrinkle.

Can you talk a little about your relationship with Nordstrom?
KATE: Oh, Nordstrom is just amazing. I chose to launch my brand with Nordstrom out of all the companies that approached me. It’s just such a perfect partnership because the Nordstrom customer is my customer—she’s fun, she’s chic, she reads the magazines. Nordstrom makes it all accessible; it’s where I shop, where I go to get my designers, but it’s still young, hip and easy.

Inspired to try Kate Somerville’s wonder products? Shop her full skincare and makeup collection at Nordstrom. And stay tuned for our next post, when we connect with Anastasia “The Brow Expert” Soare.

—Stefanie Frank