Jennifer Garner on the Skincare Ingredient She Never Skips (& the Advice She'd Give Her 30-Year-Old Self)

Plus, the one thing she wants to do before the year ends

jennifer garner interview: a red carpet photo of actress jennifer garner
Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Jennifer Garner has been a part of our lives for as long as we can remember. From her iconic roles in Alias and 13 Going on 30 (and later, as the warm matriarch in Love, Simon), her good-natured charm shines through all of her projects. PureWow recently had the chance to speak with Garner, as part of her partnership with Neutrogena, about everything from her love of hyaluronic acid to the advice she'd pass along to her younger self.

PureWow: We're here in part to celebrate National Healthy Skin Month. What are some things that you do regularly to keep your skin healthy?

Garner: I really do wear sunscreen every day—it's so important. And I wash my face every night. You have to go to bed with clean skin, so your skincare can work for you while you sleep. I regularly use retinol to regenerate skin cells, and I use a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid in it, so I wake up looking more hydrated and quenched.

PureWow: Do you use the retinol every night?

Garner: I use it every couple of nights. If I know I'm going to be exposed to more sun than I usually am just walking around, then I will skip it the night before since it can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, but I try to use it several times a week.

PureWow: Over the years, you've worked with so many different beauty experts. What is something you’ve learned from them?

Jennifer Garner Skincare Tips: a photo of actress Jennifer Garner
Michael Tran/Getty Images

Garner: I've learned more and more that what you show up with has so much more to do with the outcome than who’s working on you—no matter how fancy or skilled they are. You’ve got to take care of what you have and know that your needs can change over time. Something I learned recently was that we all naturally have hyaluronic acid in our skin that diminishes as we age.

After entering my 40s, I kept noticing that I’d wake up and feel like my skin was still thirsty. So, I would use heavier moisturizers, thinking that's what I needed, but it wasn't. I needed to use something that replenished the hyaluronic acid that was missing, so I started using Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Water Cream and haven't stopped using it since. When I say it just disappears into your skin. It actually disappears into your skin and makes it look dewy.

PureWow: Has there ever been a total beauty flop for you?

Garner: When I was in college, I would go from theater to theater with my little box of makeup. And in there was pancake makeup, which I started using for ballet recitals when I was young. And it's not like I was buying new stuff. I probably had this thing of pancake makeup for 15 years, and it didn't match my skin tone at all. I used to just walk around in college with a circle of pancake makeup on my face. It was so bad. There are no pictures of me from that time that are usable because I look crazy.

I was never skilled with makeup when I was younger, but I will say that I feel better and better about the way I handle beauty now. The older I get, the more comfortable I feel in my own skin.

PureWow: That segues really nicely into the next question, which is how has your idea of beauty changed throughout the years?

Garner: You know, I'm not a gutsy person. I love people who take chances and put gems on their face and wear bright colors. I think that it's so cool to express yourself that way. But for me, personally, it’s not my thing unless I'm working. I don't wear makeup when I'm out in the world. Like this morning, I took my son to school. I'm photographed every day on the way in. I'm photographed every day on the way out. I am not going to stop and put makeup on just for that photograph. I don't have the time. I can't make lunch, get breakfast done, finish my work and get out the door. I can't do everything and put makeup on. I’m okay with that. This is what I look like.

PureWow: Many of our readers are millennials who are in their 30s and 40s. What would you tell your 30-something-year-old self?

Garner: I would tell her that the journey isn't supposed to be perfect. It's not going to be, and it's not supposed to be, and that really is okay.

PureWow: Ah, taking that one to heart. One last question for you, Jennifer. As we head into the final stretch of the year, what is one thing you want to prioritize before 2023 ends?

Garner: Oh my gosh. It’s been such a busy year of doing, so for the last months of the year…hmm, there are a couple of friends I haven't seen that I need to track down and spend some time with. Yeah, that’s it. I want to end the year by spending quality time with quality people in my life.

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Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...