Sarah Paulson Says She Feels Her Best Without Makeup: 'I Recognize That Lady in the Mirror'

The actress posed barefaced for PEOPLE's 2020 Beautiful Issue and opens up about feeling powerful with - and without - makeup

It took some time for Sarah Paulson to become comfortable in her own skin, but now that she is, she feels confident baring it all, sans makeup.

"It sounds cliched, but I do feel best without it, because I recognize that lady in the mirror," Paulson, 45, tells PEOPLE for the 2020 Beautiful Issue where she posed makeup-free alongside other stars including Gwyneth Paltrow, Salma Hayek and Rita Wilson.

"When I was younger all I wanted to do was change my look — dyeing my hair jet-black, copying the looks of all the beautiful girls in class — I never considered the idea, that the face and body I was born with, was perfectly lovely as it was," the American Horror Story star says.

sarah paulson
Courtesy Sarah Paulson

But even though Paulson prefers a barefaced look, that doesn't mean she's completely opposed to having fun with cosmetics once and a while.

"When I do wear it, that choice feels personal and powerful," she says. "I choose to wear it if I do, or if I don't, it's always up to me. I'm down with that."

The actress, now starring in Hulu's Mrs. America, first learned how powerful makeup could be as a teenager when she attended a performing arts high school in New York City. "We had classes in applying makeup for the stage. I think that's where I first discovered [it] as a tool for transformation," Paulson tells PEOPLE.

Watch the full episode of The Beautiful Issue: Barefaced Beauties streaming now on, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

One of her first memorable beauty purchases was an iconic '90s brown-nude Revlon lipstick — which you can still buy today from Target!


"I discovered Revlon's 'Toast Of New York' lipstick around my freshman year of high school, the same time I discovered their 'Blackberry' color," Paulson says. "I wore them all the time, much to my mother's chagrin."

Now, Paulson swears by her EltaMD SPF 46 Sunscreen and cherry Chapstick, but says lately, while social distancing amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, she hasn't put on a drop of makeup.

"I've just been focused on being as available as possible to the people I love and to exercise gratitude more than I exercise my ass," the star jokingly says of how she's been doing during the crisis.

She also shared that some of the most beautiful moments she's seen during this time have been while watching The Rachel Maddow Show.

"I watch Rachel Maddow every evening, and I am always moved by the beauty of her heart," she says of the MSNBC host. "She is, as we all are, profoundly affected by the day-to-day, minute-by-minute heroism of our frontline healthcare workers. She hasn't been shying away from revealing how this crisis is making her feel. I find that kind of transparency of feeling truly beautiful."

Related Articles