Beauty Interviews Makeup

Saving Lions, Cause-metics and Skin Care Secrets with World Traveler Alex Chantecaille

Last year about this time, we chatted with Alex Chantecaille, vice president of sales and promotions for Chantecaille, about her company’s work to protect the wolves of Yellowstone National Park and her travels to Istanbul. It’s been another busy year for Alex.

We spent some time learning about Chantecaille’s newest endeavor to support conservation and hearing about her favorite places from her extensive, enviable travel calendar. Catch up with Alex, pick up a few new beauty secrets and learn more about the new Protect the Lions Collection, from which 5% of proceeds will be donated to Lion Guardians in Africa.

Can you tell us more about your brand’s commitment to using natural botanicals as well as your drive to bring awareness to conservation causes?

We feel strongly that naturals are better for you and the planet—a delightful base of flower waxes, plant stem cells and essential oils nourish the skin and can make you feel uplifted and healed. It’s always made sense to us to use naturals. That led to an organic segue to supporting and celebrating natural causes—highlighting the fragile beauty of migratory monarch butterflies, for example, as well as coral reefs affected by warming seas. The more we learned, the more we felt we had to do something, say something. So we used the power of beauty to educate and empower others to act. The palettes are not only works of art in their own right, but they tell a story. A key impetus for my mother in creating the company was a strong desire to establish a platform with the power to make a difference.

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Alex with her mother, Sylvie, in Africa

Speaking of, having a mom who started three beauty companies and became vice president of one must mean you’ve learned an insider secret or two. What are three things that first come to mind that you’ve learned about beauty and skin care?

1. It’s good to be blond, and we all need some Vitamin C. Haha! (Read: we don’t shy from the sun but ensure we’re always protected with hats and plenty of SPF!)

2. Natural beauty is fine, but always brush your hair and put on some mascara.

3. A good swoop of mascara and liner can do wonders to make you suddenly look very feminine.

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We love your term “cause-metics” and that giving back is foundational to your company. Tell us more about the cause you’re focusing on this fall, Lion Guardians, and what they do.

Thanks! This is our 10th year (and 18th palette!) of supporting conservation causes dedicated to endangered species, plants and/or places in the world. We’re proud to #BetheVoiceofChange, to effectively give a voice to those who don’t have one but have just as much right to live on this planet as we do.

The Lion Guardians is such a cool organization, as it really addresses animal conservation in a very real and logical manner. Basically in understanding that the local Maasai tribes were contributing to a 50 percent decline in the lion population in Kenya over the past 50 years, these two women dug into the “why” of this reality. They learned that trained lion killers, the Morans, would hunt and kill lions in retaliation for the lions attacking the Maasai’s cattle. This wasn’t really solving anything, and the tension between local communities and lions just kept growing.

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These two women set up camp and lived amongst the Maasai and taught them that these lions were their lions, not anyone else’s, and if they wanted to save them, they would help them do it. They taught the lion killers—who were extremely skilled at tracking lions by reading their paw prints—to also track them with GPS. This allows them to know the whereabouts of the lions at any time, and, by radioing to the herders, they can preemptively move the cattle out of the way. Effectively, technology is empowering them to be proactive rather than reactive.

Since 2007, Lion Guardians have taught them how to speak Swahili (not just their own Maasai dialect) as well as English and paid them a salary, which allows them to feed and educate their own families. With this approach of empowerment, education and payment, they’ve motivated local people to work with and live alongside wildlife.

They’ve tripled the amount of lions in Kenya since they’ve started their program (a little under 10 years ago) and worked with 70 communities across four countries. Last year alone they rescued 100 percent of the lost children herders and three million dollars worth of cattle. These are real numbers that positively affect these communities in direct contact with lions.

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What inspired the colors for the Protect the Lions Palette and Pride Cheek Shade?

The landscape of the lion’s home in Africa, specifically in Kenya, where the Lion Guardians project is based. The area at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, Amboseli, names the red-earth-like shade, while the lighter caramel shade, African Topaz, is a natural mineral found in the rockscape. The illuminating Sand shade represents the highly reflective white sands of the super-arid prairies in the bush. And lastly Rock is, well, a rock … from Africa ☺, but it also has that matte finish that a rock has. Really, the whole palette evokes the warm honey-colored mane of the lion at sunset.

What are your favorite ways to incorporate the shades in a full look?

It’s such a versatile palette, allowing you to use the darker shades as liners (simply wet your brush first) or in the crease. As I’m rather blond and tan right now, the Sand lightly brushed all over lightens the base allowing for the African Topaz to contrast nicely on just the eyelid. I warm up the crease a bit further with Amboseli, which I also brush lightly just at the base of my bottom outer corner lashes, with a small pinhead-like brush. Then a swift line of Amethyst on the top lash line: it’s a fierce feline look!

To deepen the contrast, I’ll sweep Rock (this great neutralizing grey matte shade) on my lids before layering the African Topaz shade. I like to mix and layer shades—the formulas from our shadows are so refined that they layer so smoothly. You can get really creative making a new, unique color by layering them.

The matte grey shade of Rock is great to use as a mattifying base all over and gives a bit of depth to the eye. Next I sweep a light wash of Sand, then I warm up the crease with African Topaz.

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Apart from the Protect the Lions Collection, what Chantecaille products are topping your list right now and why?

Rosewater always, but especially now in the humidity of late summer. It also works really nicely to spritz off saltwater at the beach. And just bare skin with Happy cheek or liquid lumière makes for such a simple and effortless “natural” makeup look, letting a bit of summertime tan shine through while evening out any redness.

You have such beautiful skin. Tell us exactly what you do to keep it that way!

I wash it every night and morning with foaming cleanser and exfoliate one to two times a week with the bamboo exfoliating cream or fruit and flower acids mask. I love moisture, so the bio lifting serum every morning and the Rose de Mai face oil every night under my bio lifting cream + is key.

Last year I noticed the delicate skin on my neck was announcing to the world I was older than I thought I was (it was giving me a complex à la Nora Ephron!). So, I diligently began to pour gallons of the bio lifting neck cream on, and it has worked! I may be frosted up like a cupcake each night before bed, but it’s so gel-like and refreshing. It feels great, and I am seeing results; my skin feels and (more importantly) looks more firm and smooth!

Lastly I wear ultra sun SPF every day, in the city under foundation or at the beach under a hat. But I always have a few tubes in my suitcase—they’re also the best hostess gift when visiting for summer holidays. That and lip potion. It’s my favorite product to gift to friends as it’s an unexpected little pouf of love for the pucker. It makes everyone go, “ahhhh that feels sooo nice!”

We hear you were recently in France. What were your must-dos and favorite things/places you saw/visited?

Yes, I popped down to Paris from London to see my cousin and friends for a weekend. It inadvertently turned into a 1½-day art spree. I love art. I studied art history in college, which felt like I had cheated the system somehow—getting to look at amazing paintings, sculptures and buildings for hours and learning what they mean to the people who built them, to the souls who struggled to perfect them. I remember my grandfather saying art history is not a real study as a young person, that it’s for enjoyment later in life. He was probably right—but I feel like I got to enjoy retirement pleasures early in life. Haha! 🙂

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Via Fondation Louis Vuitton

We went to the Louis Vuitton Foundation in the Bois de Boulogne, which was lovely, like a super-inspiring gallery. The panes of glass were colored as part of an installation making them appear like massive butterfly wings. The Chinese video art was very inspiring. I love to read, watch and learn as much as I can from different sources. I find it very motivating to try to better understand the connection in the world between science, art, philosophy, music and architecture. As Leonardo da Vinci said: “Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”

Then I gorged myself on every room in the Musée d’Orsay. I realized that although I must have been there when I was younger, I really hadn’t been as an adult. It’s simply amazing to see these major beautiful paintings that reside in this beautifully restored train station. They had live music that evening. With Chick Corea being played by a jazz quartet next to a Goya and snake-charming rhythms performed in the Orientalist Room. It gave new meaning to a 3D experience.

There is something exhilarating in knowing all of those Monets, Manets, Pissarros, Courbets are resting in that monolithic building as you pass by that massive clock along the Seine. Paris is my mother’s hometown, so I’m always very nostalgic when I go there. It’s super sad what’s going on there now, and you can feel it—the streets are very quiet at night. No one’s going out. But the beauty and the art are so lovely (not to mention the food and the shopping) that I hope people won’t stay away for long.

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Aerial view of Formentera

What destination is next on your travel calendar, and what can’t you wait to see there?

Ibiza over Labor Day with a gaggle of great friends. I’m looking forward to laughing a lot.

I am also psyched for the clear turquoise water off the white-sand shores of Formentera—I haven’t been in five years! And there’s this out-of-this-world grilled lobster and saffron-soaked fish stew in this little family-owned restaurant you climb up to in a cliff overlooking Es Vedrà. For the third course, you scrape the squid-ink-blackened rice off the iron skillet it’s cooked in with this flat type of spoon specifically designed for the task. For the last course … you suck the fish cheeks! I love Spanish food and tasting all the housemade aioli in the different restaurants! One of our friends is from there, and his best friend owns a few (of the best) restaurants in town. We have the distinct honor of them seating us in the best spot on the terrace and bringing out the best dishes without ordering. I hadn’t realized how a good paella is really meant to be more like a soupy stew until I went to Ibiza. I love the Hamptons where I grew up, but I think every summer needs some Europe in it. 😉

Oh, and Burma this Christmas—Bagan city in Myanmar. The Buddhist towers in the mist seem like a fairy-tale landscape. I’m really excited for the food and the people.

SHOP: Protect the Lions Collectionall Chantecaille

—Jeff Powell