Pamela Anderson on Her Makeup-Free Looks: ‘I’m Doing It for Myself’

Pamela Anderson is well aware of her beauty icon status.

It’s the reason she teamed up with Smashbox Cosmetics for the brand’s Isn’t It Iconic campaign, which celebrates the equally iconic Photo Finish Primer. Shot by Davis Factor, photographer and founder of Smashbox Cosmetics, the imagery brings together two ’90s beauty legends: the Photo Finish Primer (the first makeup primer to hit the market) and Anderson (actor, author, and bonafide beauty chameleon).

“Doing Smashbox was fun for me because it was kind of a wink to the past,” Anderson tells Glamour. “Let’s just do something fun, like a link to the past, to the '90s, kind of when both of us kind of came alive and grew next to each other.”

It turns out, Anderson and Smashbox go way back. “I’ve known Davis Factor for a long time,” she says. “He was one of the first photographers outside of Playboy that I shot with. I love history and that connection. There’s always a personal story behind every decision that I make, and I always feel like that’s where the stars align.”

Although Anderson is glammed up in the campaign’s photos, she’s worn a much more natural look in recent months. In September 2023 the actor made headlines when she attended Paris Fashion Week with a completely bare face. Anderson isn’t done with makeup completely (more on that later) but insists that going without is a part of her new beauty philosophy.

“It’s not taking myself so seriously,” she says. “There’s obviously this campaign, and with my own skin care line—I'm really embracing self-acceptance. Makeup is a form of self-expression, and I love it all. But I think we need to remember who we are underneath it all.”

As for the Pam-aissance that has occurred in recent years, Anderson remains mostly unfazed by the reignited attention. However, she can’t help but feel a tiny bit amused.

“This was something that people have been asking me to do across the board, to talk about those old ’90s looks,” she says. “And I thought, ‘Geez, in the moment, they weren’t cool.’ I was probably the last person that Glamour wanted to talk to back in the ’90s. It’s really funny. So I’m kind of chuckling to myself, thinking, If you wait long enough, it just all comes around. It’s been a real fun experience for me to be in this position right now, and to be able to experience all the things I get to.”

Ahead, Anderson shares her own personal beauty icons, what her relationship with makeup is like now, and why she believes antiaging is a lie.

You’re a beauty icon for so many. Does that make you aware of how you look, or do you try not to let it affect you too much?

I didn’t put a lot of thought into not wearing makeup for Paris Fashion Week. It was just something I wanted to do. I’ve experienced this entire journey from a very “small-town girl” point of view. I had nothing to lose. Just being more self-accepting and embracing who I am right now is very healthy, and it’s opened the floodgates and been such a breath of fresh air. Maybe the relatability, because I’m in the public eye, it’s important to make more thoughtful choices. But when I look back, I was doing the best I could in the moment that I was in. It’s nice to see people respond to those moments, even if it’s a Halloween costume. It’s a compliment.

My sons have girlfriends, and some of my ex-husbands have daughters. I was a young, impressionable girl once, and am still impressionable. But I do take it more seriously, and I do want to be a better example. In this industry you can get carried away and forget who you are underneath it all. That’s why I wanted to peel everything back. I don’t know what my next look or incarnation is going to be. I feel like I’m a little bit of an experiment, but I’m doing it for myself. And lucky for me, I get to be somewhat inspirational when I’m living my life authentically.

Who are your beauty icons?

I’ve aways been obsessed with the Jean-Luc Godard films and Fellini, so I always loved the beauty in those films and the women of those films. It was a different time. It wasn’t digital, so makeup has changed over the years too. It was much more forgiving in black-and-white and on film. I got caught in the perfect storm where film went from basically paparazzi on film to paparazzi on digital. You’re still wearing the same makeup, but you look like a clown or a scary person. People were like, “She’s aging so terribly,” in my late 20s or 30s, when really, there were a lot of elements to it. It’s always important to remember how people see you in person—that’s the key. But then, people have all their social media and their filters. So I feel like a bare face is almost the safest bet.

How would you describe your relationship with makeup now?

Makeup is expression. Words are the worst form of communication. It takes body language, how you hold yourself, your clothes and makeup—it’s a way to communicate. I’m definitely not opposed to makeup, but I really don’t know what I’m going to wear next. Probably less is more, but we’ll see. That’s the fun about being an actress. I just did a big film, and I was covered in glitter. I ate glitter for breakfast. So I haven’t forgotten about makeup. But as I age, I am embracing the funny things that are happening to me. If it’s losing elasticity or some freckles are starting to join together, I have to be amused by it.

Otherwise it’s bad. Antiaging is a lie. We’re getting older no matter what. Things change, and if you can find a sense of humor in it, it’s better. It’s hard too—coming from not a beauty background—to be looked at as a certain way, objectified in some ways. It’s good to have a sense of self and to be able to be your own best friend.

Pamela Anderson at Paris Fashion Week in 2023

Celebrity Sightings - Paris Fashion Week - Womenswear Spring/Summer - Day Three

Pamela Anderson at Paris Fashion Week in 2023
Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images

Your makeup-free looks have made headlines. What are your thoughts on all this attention?

Some people have said, “I think that it’s a publicity stunt.” That’s just giving me too much credit. These are all personal-survival beauty tips. Not for any other reason than just being self-accepting. I was pretty insecure as a kid, and I found ways to manage that insecurity by wearing a lot of makeup and inhabiting these characters. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve peeled back the layers and I’ve gotten closer to myself and remember what my original thoughts and feelings are.

You’re not trying to be the prettiest girl in the room. I’m not trying to compete with the clothes. I just want to come from a place of being like that 5-year-old little girl, or that 16-year-old little girl that is so fortunate to be in this position. It’s important to me to speak from the heart. My mom is horrified that I’m not wearing makeup right now, or that I’m wearing dresses that don’t show off my figure. Mom, let it go. Let it go.

What’s one beauty rule you swear by?

My biggest beauty tip is to put things where you will use them, like your rose hydration spray in the fridge, anywhere where you open up a door. I’m not really a big regimen person where I’m sitting over the sink and applying all these different steps. I like to keep things in my purse or my lip balm here or think where I’m going to use it, because we do have to take care of our skin, but we can make it easier. That’s my philosophy with that.

And just be you. I don’t mean to say cliches or things that are overused, but it really is the hardest job in the world, to just remember who you are and what you want to present to the world. Wearing the perfect eyeliner isn’t going to make somebody like you more than the next person who doesn’t have it on. I was sitting at these fashion shows, I thought, Am I going to sit in a makeup chair for three hours? Are they going to like me more? What am I looking for? And it just hit me. These epiphanies have happened across my lifetime. I went, No one’s even going to notice.

Do you have a favorite past beauty look you’ve worn?

On Baywatch I insisted on wearing eyelashes, and luckily they were waterproof and didn’t come off underwater. Even with Barb Wire, I remember I fought for Alexis Fogel, my dear friend, who I lost to breast cancer, but she was the best makeup artist. And I fought for her to be on Barb Wire because they wanted someone, this guy named Kevyn Aucoin, to do my makeup. And I was like, “I don't know who that is.” I mean, now I know who that is, but I like to work with friends and family.

Anderson in Baywatch.
Anderson in Baywatch.
Alamy Stock Photo

There's always something that I’ve had to hit a wall with, and those are the looks that are most memorable. The ones with no stylist, nothing. A stylist wouldn’t let me walk out the door in half of those looks. I was digging through things, putting on some of my husband’s clothes, letting my husband do my makeup, and walking out like that. So, just fearless in those moments are the ones people remember.

Ariana Yaptangco is the senior beauty editor at Glamour. Follow her @arianayap.

Originally Appeared on Glamour