what i cant live without

What Julie Bowen Can’t Live Without

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo: Bettina Niedermann

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair but the hair spray and the electric toothbrush. We asked actress Julie Bowen — who recently launched JB Skrub, a skin-care line for tween boys — about her favorite non-burning retinol serum, the folk-art site she stalks, and the detox spray her kids call “the good smell.”

I moved into a new house a little over a year ago. In my entryway, I had a beautiful antique wool rug that my dog started using — unbeknownst to me — as her pee area. I finally was like, I have to save this poor rug. I’ve used Ruggables in my laundry room and bathrooms, but those have all been neutral. When I found this rug from the Jonathan Adler collection, I wanted to put it front and center because it’s more than just a mop-up rug. It’s such a game changer that I can chuck it in the wash. I guess I need a dog trainer as well.

My former assistant is from Carmel, California, and I guess this salad dressing is a local phenomenon there. She would bring it to me after every vacation, and it was so good. With my production company, Bowen & Sons, I work out of my house, so there are four women here all day every day. We always make a salad for lunch. This stuff is delicious, and you can order it by the case, which we do now. It’s not super-garlicky or oniony, which are my big beefs. I don’t like to taste my dressing four hours later, and I don’t want to be burping it back up. I’ve also given it as a gift, and everyone thinks it’s wine because it looks like it comes in a wine bottle. It’s better than wine. Some people have wine racks, and I have a rack of French Poodle Dressing.

The smells I get with my three boys are epic, so I keep a big spray bottle of this at home and a little one in the car. It has a lot of eucalyptus in it, which reminds me of the spa. When my boys were little, they called it “the good smell” because I would spray it in each of their rooms. Anybody who knows me knows I’m constantly pulling this out and spritzing the air.

I became interested in outsider art or folk art through my friend Rachel Zabar, who’s a vintage-clothing reseller. She turned me on to Slotin, this auction site that features artists without professional training or who have experienced marginalization in the art community. I was an Italian Renaissance studies major, and I’m very familiar with many classically taught artists, but to see what these artists are coming up with always blows my mind. I love to stalk the site and find pieces that are truly one of a kind.

Early in the pandemic, I was going through a stressful time and decided to try Calm. It contains magnesium, so a little goes a long way. Too much can really upset your stomach. I’ll drink it with water before bed or as a cocktail mixer, which is my personal addition. It’s got a citrusy fizz that goes well with a little tequila and soda. Why not?

I will not use retinol products that make my skin itchy or burn. I use this in conjunction with the nighttime lotion, and it tingles but not uncomfortably. I started with three times a week, but now I’ve worked up to where I’m applying it every night. I’m not a bragger, but people tell me my skin looks phenomenal. Full disclosure: A friend of mine works there, and I was in on some of the early product testing. She would bring me things like, “What do you think?” And then when the line came out, she sent me some, and I was like, “I love this. I really genuinely love this.”

Certain perfumes remind me of certain times in my life, and sometimes I realize it’s time to leave that scent behind. I was all about Jo Malone Orange Blossom for a long time, but then I was ready for something new. Back in the days of Barneys (R.I.P.), Frédéric Malle had a counter there, and that’s how I found Portrait of a Lady. Most people spray perfume on their neck, but after I shower, I put it right on the center of my naked body. Then during the day, as I warm up, the smell releases slowly. Everyone says “That’s the Julie smell” or “Julie was here.” I might have had too heavy of a hand with it, but I don’t care. It’s delicious.

Alli Webb, who founded Drybar, had a holiday boutique event at her house, and I decided to stop over. I went crazy for these cashmere sweaters, so my business partner bought me two. They’re just the perfect combination of soft and cozy without being ridiculously expensive. This cream one has a chicly deconstructed look. It reminds me of the sweater Chris Evans’s character is wearing in the first Knives Out with all the holes in it.

Jill Biren and I wanted to make a product for tweens who are about to hit puberty and who maybe aren’t letting their moms into the bathroom anymore. We created JB Skrub with our boys in mind, but it’s for anyone who identifies with boyhood. The body wash, which is our hero, is designed to pump two times only because if you give a kid a normal bottle to squeeze, they will use 90 percent of it in one shower. It also has a fresh orange-peel smell that doesn’t stay around for a long time like some chemically scented men’s-grooming products. Under the directions, it also says “PNB,” which I originally wanted to call the product. It stands for “pits, nuts, and butts,” in that order.

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What Julie Bowen Can’t Live Without