A Mother’s Secrets With Mother’s Day around the corner we visited Alexandra Tolstoy and her family in her beautiful home in Chelsea to talk beauty secrets, motherhood and her favourite spots in London. WHAT IS YOUR MORNING BEAUTY ROUTINE? I have to be quick in the morning because I have three children and need to get them ready and make breakfast, before we scoot two miles to their school. The routine starts with Creme de la Mer moisturiser, which is prohibitively expensive but nothing else works for me. I have dry and sensitive skin and any other moisturiser seems to inflame it, so I stock up when I’m passing through duty free. After this, I use Giorgio Armani’s Maestro Glow foundation, which tragically is being discontinued! It is dewy and light, and gives the perfect natural finish, but now I have to search for an alternative… Finally, I use a little MAC bronzer powder on my cheeks, a slick of their black waterproof mascara and Charlotte Tilbury’s Pillow Talk lipstick. WHAT DOES YOUR SKINCARE ROUTINE LOOK LIKE? I clean my face in the evening with the cheapest of foaming face washes – the latest one I found in a chemist in Moscow airport last summer and it cost all of a few dollars. Every few months I have a facial with the most wonderful Polish lady called Danuta. She cleanses all the pores and I come out feeling squeaky clean and glowing. Very occasionally I will be good and remember to use my Eve Lom face mask that Danuta advocates using a lot more often. WHAT SKINCARE ROUTINE DO YOU KEEP UP WHEN YOU’RE TRAVELLING? I always carry moisturiser and cleanser with me. When I’m going to be in the sun I take Natura Bisse tinted moisturiser. It has an SPF of 15 and lasts forever as you use it so sparingly – I’ve had the pot I’ve got now for five years! HOW DO YOU GET READY IN 5 MINUTES? Brush my hair, touch up my bronzer and lipstick and apply a very light setting powder with Giorgio Armani with a big brush. DESCRIBE YOUR BEAUTY LOOK FOR EVENING For the evening look I often wear brown eyeshadow as I think it accentuates blue eyes. I have deep set eyes so I can’t do very exciting eye make up but I think the eyeshadow adds a bit of glamour for evening! I also add a bit of Giorgio Armani liquid highlighter on my cheek bones, and sometimes red lipstick, depending on my outfit. WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO LOOK FRESH AFTER A LATE NIGHT? Cold water on the face, moisturiser and light foundation. There’s nothing worse than thick, heavy foundation to my mind; it is ageing and looks dirty! TALK US THROUGH YOUR FAMOUS PLAITS. WHAT INSPIRES THEM? I use a lot of folk influences and my Russian heritage in the way I dress, and I think the plaits fit with that aesthetic. I suppose they wouldn’t suit everybody but somehow they work really well for me and have become my signature! I’m not good at doing them myself so I always use Secret Spa who can do them in under half an hour. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR HAIR JOURNEY? When I was little I had very thick hair but during my teenage years it thinned out a lot so I am always trying to create more volume. I used to spend much more time in the sun that I do now and my hair would go blond naturally, but now I go once a year to Aldo Coppola to get shatush; a soft and unstructured way of colouring the hair which grows out naturally. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE NAIL COLOUR? Nowadays I always have a Shellac colour called Studio White – actually more cream than white. It is the colour which seems to work with every outfit and in every situation – city or country, day or evening – and I try and make it last two weeks each time. AND YOUR FAVOURITE LIPSTICK? Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk or Mac Russian Red for the evening. WHAT ABOUT SCENT? I very rarely wear it but if I do – Jo Malone Lime and Basil DO YOU HAVE A BEAUTY OBSESSION? Hmm, not really… just my Creme de la Mer and Giorgio Armani Maestro Glow… WHAT IS ALWAYS IN YOUR HANDBAG? Lipstick and often my touché éclat by Yves Saint Laurent to touch up any mascara smudging, which I seem to suffer from a lot. WHAT DO YOU DO TO UNWIND? See friends, watch television, read books but probably the most relaxing are weekends in my tiny cottage in Oxfordshire where we go for long bicycle rides and I bake endless cakes. WHAT ALWAYS PROMPTS A COMPLIMENT? Probably my braids, thanks to you! WHO IS YOUR BEAUTY ICON? I adore Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, but also Claudia Schiffer. They all have amazing bone structure and are feminine, elegant and classic. I’m not into the modern look of the Kardashians! WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO SECRET SPA TREATMENT? Definitely the braids! I’ve also started wearing incredible head pieces by Jane Taylor and Secret Spa always help me to put my hair up for them. HOW HAS MOTHERHOOD CHANGED YOU? Obviously it has enriched my life hugely but it has also made me more responsible and think a lot about psychology and behaviour. WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU? What hard work it is! And how difficult it is to be the mother you want to be; we all have visions before children of what it will be like but these fall by the wayside quickly! WHAT DOES QUALITY TIME WITH YOUR CHILDREN CONSIST OF? Reading to them, talking to them, playing games, going on bicycle rides during term time. In the holidays I have started taking them on horse riding adventures to Kyrgyzstan, which is the ultimate quality time. Cut off from the rest of the world I can fully focus on them in the most incredible scenery which is therapy! WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT FROM MARIA? She is very similar to me in looks and character so I can learn a lot about myself from her! WHAT BEAUTY SECRETS DID YOUR MOTHER PASS DOWN TO YOU? Probably to look natural and fresh. AND WHAT TIPS AND TRICKS WILL YOU PASS DOWN YOURSELF? The same – to look natural, fresh and healthy. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE RESTAURANT IN LONDON? I mostly go to restaurants with my children nowadays and our favourites are La Famiglia and La Delizia in Chelsea – both cosy, old-school and with delicious food of course! WHERE DO YOU GO FOR SOME GREENERY IN LONDON? Because we go to the countryside most weekends we tend to enjoy London as a city when we are there but we often go to Battersea Park – I took the children for years to the zoo there and they love the playground and have found the perfect tree to climb. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY OUT IN LONDON I don’t get many chances nowadays for that as I work every day, but in a dream life I suppose it would be in early summer to go for breakfast somewhere near home – maybe the garden at The Ivy in Chelsea – followed by a walk, browsing in antique shops on the Pimlico Road, and visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum. I love 5 Hertford Street – the best interiors in London – for dinner with girlfriends and somewhere in the day I’d fit in a massage.