Actress A.J. Cook Shares Her Beauty Secrets

The 'Criminal Minds' star on her must-have beauty products, best makeup tricks and how she deals with breakouts under Hollywood's spotlight.
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The 'Criminal Minds' star on her must-have beauty products, best makeup tricks and how she deals with breakouts under Hollywood's spotlight.
AJ Cook beauty tips

An acne outbreak is usually no picnic for any of us—but when you're a celebrity under constant scrutiny, it's a full-on nightmare.

A.J. Cook knows what that's like. The Oshawa, Ont., native, who currently stars as special agent Jennifer "JJ" Jareau on Criminal Minds and who made her big-screen debut in The Virgin Suicides, has battled with her share of skin issues. Now a spokesperson for Proactiv, the California-based actor chatted with me about zits, beauty tricks, her favourite products and how she keeps her skin under control.

What’s your beauty philosophy?

For me, beauty is something that comes from the inside out. I think that when I feel good, I look good, and that confidence really shines through.

Has being in Hollywood affected your beauty routine?

I feel like as Canadians, we like to look pretty natural and rarely get really done up, which I love. I’ve tried to take that mentality with me to Hollywood along with the concept of "less is more." Also, now that I live on the beach [South Bay, California], I would kind of look like a crazy person if I showed up with a full face of makeup.

Have you picked up any beauty tips from the makeup artists you've worked with?

I think the biggest trick is to get your base right. I’ve learned that blending and really working the makeup into your skin will make it look more natural. I like to use my fingertips because I feel like you don't get the same effect when you use a brush or a sponge.

I’m really into eyes and have had many makeup artists show me how putting a highlighter on the inner corners of my eyes will really make them pop.

Benefit Girl Meets Pearl

Also, I really love lining the inside of my upper and lower lash line. A lot of people do the bottom, but lining the top really makes a big difference. It feels really weird when you're putting it on, but the look is so natural and has tons of impact.

Who does your hair and makeup for events?

I’m not super-fussy, so most of the time I do my own hair and makeup. Also, I live kinda far in South Bay, so I always feel bad making people trek out to my place—the Canadian in me is always apologizing! That said, when I have a big event or a photo shoot, I call in my team from Celestine Agency, Michael Kanyon and Anthony Merante. They're a lot of fun, so we end up spending most of the time laughing and gossiping.

What's it like getting ready for a big event?

There’s always a lot of music involved. When I’m alone, I usually hang out in my bathroom singing along to Beyoncé like a nerd, but when my guys come, we get down to business. If we're in a pinch for time, they'll work on me at the same time, but otherwise we'll do hair, then makeup. The whole process is pretty quick. I get bored if I have to sit for too long and because I like more of a natural look, it never usually takes more than an hour.

What’s your day-to-day makeup routine?

Oh man, these days I’m usually running around trying to get my son ready for school with my hair up in a ponytail and zit cream on my face! Otherwise, I’m a sunscreen, mascara and blush kind of girl. Because I live by the beach and the vibe is really laid-back, I feel like it would be weird to make more effort than I do.

What’s in your beauty bag?

Chanel Joues Contraste Powder Blushes: They’re not overpowering and look really natural.

Chanel Joues Contraste Powder Blush

Dior Diorshow Mascara: It’s my favourite mascara.

Dior Diorshow Mascara in Black 090

Dior 5-Colour Eyeshadow Palettes: The colour combos are so pretty and have good staying power.

Dior 5-Colour Eyeshadow Palette

Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation: This is my go-to, even for events, because it’s just really natural-looking. It’s got an SPF 30 and is great for evening out your skin tone.

Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation

Benefit Dallas: This is really good for contouring and warms up the colour of my skin.

Benefit Dallas

Lucas’ Papaw Ointment: I put it on my lips or anywhere that is dry or chapped.

Lucas' Papaw Ointment

Colorescience: This is a really great mineral makeup that has a powder SPF good for 80 minutes. I put this on if I’m going out for a run or if I will be outside all day. Because it's made of minerals, it doesn't clog your pores.

Colorescience Pressed Mineral Foundation Compact

Kevyn Aucoin Eyelash Curler: I have big eyes and this is the only curler that actually fits all of my lashes.

Kevyn Aucoin Eyelash Curler

Do you have a signature scent?

I’ve never really been into perfumes because I have bad allergies, so strong smells tend to bother me. My husband wears Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue and I’ve been known to spray that on once in a while because it’s such a light scent and has that "barely there" quality to it.

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Pour Homme

Can you tell us about working with Proactiv and your struggle with acne?

I was in high school when I first started to break out. I consider myself a "Proactiv pioneer" because the product was just launching in Canada and I swear, I was one of the first people to call in and use it. It really helped my skin when I was a teenager, so when they came out with Proactiv+, it was a perfect way to deal with my adult acne.

Proactiv Plus

The new formula is more luxurious and has extra moisturizers that help with the signs of aging. I thought I would be worrying more about fine lines than zits at my age, but at least this line works for both.

[Note: Proactiv+ is currently only available in the U.S. In Canada, try the Renewing Cleanser, Revitalizing Toner and Repairing Treatment for similar results.]

Which are your favourite Proactiv products?

I really like the Proactiv+ Pore Targeting Treatment, which is a serum that cleans your pores without drying your skin. I try to use this multiple times during the day, if possible! I’m also a fan of the Complexion Perfecting Hydrator, which comes in a pot—like those expensive creams you get at department stores—and has a really creamy texture that moisturizes without clogging your pores.

Proactiv Plus Complexion Perfecting Hydrator

What’s your daily skincare regimen?

With my job, I have to put on a lot of makeup each day, which feels like it’s cooking into my skin under the hot lights. I’m a big fan of exfoliating to get down deep into my pores, and then following up with a good moisturizing lotion. I also never leave the house without sunscreen on. I try to stick with products that won't clog my pores. 

Do you have any other favourite skin products?

On set, they use Chantecaille Future Skin Foundation on my face, which is a light, whipped makeup that helps cover up fine lines.

Chantecaille Future Skin Foundation

Murad makes a light lotion that has an SPF that is perfect for when I’m running around town. I feel like I’m killing two birds with one stone because it's moisturizing and protects my skin against the sun.

Murad Balancing Moisturizer SPF 15

Have you ever had any total beauty disasters?

I feel like bangs always seem like a good idea until you get them. I’ve had them a few times and I feel like they’re really awesome for a few months, and then you’re over them and get stuck with that awkward growing-out stage.

Do you have any exciting projects coming up?

We’re in our ninth season of Criminal Minds right now, so I’m pretty busy with that. We just had our 200th episode, which was huge for my character, so it’s been a real whirlwind. [Spoiler alert: We finally find out what happened when JJ was working with the State Department!] Otherwise, I’ve just been working hard on my collaboration with Proactiv.

Do you have any advice for aspiring Canadian actors?

Keep plugging ahead! If you really want to be an actor, then you just have to go for it. You can’t expect things to happen overnight because trust me, that never happens. If someone says you can’t do it, then try somewhere else. I really believe that there is a role out there for everyone and it’s just a matter of time before you find it.

Thanks A.J.! Find more from her on Twitter at @ajcookofficial.

Shop the story

ProActiv products are available at GetProactiv.ca, GetProactiv.com and The Shopping Channel. Find a list of U.S. retail locations here. Shop the rest of the products A.J. mentioned here:

Have your say

How do you feel about A.J.'s approach to beauty?
Have you tried any of her favourite beauty products?
If you, too, struggle with acne, which products work best for you? Have you tried ProActiv?