Rachel Bilson on The O.C. Fashion and Shani Darden on the Best Skincare Regimen

Welcome to our new podcast, Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr. Think of it as your direct line to the designers, stylists, beauty experts, editors, and tastemakers who are shaping the fashion and beauty world. Subscribe to Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

This week, Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr brings you two icons who have been making waves in the entertainment industry since our childhoods.

First up is Summer Roberts’s real-life alter ego, Rachel Bilson. You may recognize her from The O.C., Hart of Dixie, and The Last Kiss, to name a few. She recently launched the podcast Welcome to the OC, Bitches! alongside her former co-star Melinda Clarke (aka Julie Cooper). In honor of her new venture, we chatted with Bilson about her time on the show, what cameos we can expect on her podcast, and what purchases she’s been influenced to buy during the pandemic.

Our following guest is just as influential in the beauty realm. Shandi Darden is an esthetician to the stars with a client roster that includes Jessica Alba, Shay Mitchell, and many more. True followers will also know that her model stint in the ’90s included moonlighting as a backup for music videos for artists such as Destiny’s Child and LL Cool J. Since then, she’s become a registered skincare professional and has launched her own brand. She dishes on all of her best skincare tips (including how to combat maskne) and explains why retinol is the best weapon your vanity can have.

Hillary Kerr: You have a podcast of your own coming out this month, and the name alone is sparking serious joy for me because it’s called Welcome to the OC, Bitches! Can you tell our listeners a little bit about the show and what they can expect to hear from it?

Rachel Bilson: Yes, I’m so happy you like the title! We were talking about it, and no, it’s a take from the show, and it’s not like we’re really bitches—is that okay? The fact that you were laughing, I’m happy. 

HK: I mean, it’s probably the most iconic line from the show.

RB: I feel like if people know the show, they’ll know what it means. Let’s hope. We’re gonna do an O.C. rewatch podcast, myself and Melinda Clarke, who played Julie Cooper, Mischa [Barton’s] mom. We were the OG bitches of The O.C., so it is fitting. And she’s just so awesome and so fun. We’re just going to go over the show and relive our youth, so to speak, which is terrifying.

HK: You guys are gonna have a lot of guests on the show. Can you give us a sneak peek of who we can expect to hear from?

RB: We definitely have a lot of the cast joining, which will be super fun. Some will be surprised, but a lot of people have said yes, so we’re happy about that. But we’re going to have a lot of musicians and people behind the scenes. Nicole Chavez you know very well. That’s where we met, and she was a costumer on the show, and now, she’s a stylist. I’m leaking that one. It’s going to be super fun to look at early 2000s fashion, especially with her. It’s gonna be hilarious.

HK: Your character Summer Roberts was the height of 2000s fashion. There were tracksuits and spaghetti straps and minidresses, and the looks were highly imitated in mainstream culture. You obviously knew how massive of a hit the show was, but were you aware in that moment of how influential the fashion from the show was?

RB: Then? No. It was a very specific time for fashion I’ll say. We were just living it because it was a contemporary show. It’s actually a little scary that that was what fashion was. But I’ll tell you, all the bikini tops and bottoms, that doesn’t fly. And looking back at how much we were in bathing suits is pretty insane.

HK: There is a huge resurgence of 2000s and Y2K fashion and style right now, and I am curious about your thoughts on the matter and, very specifically, if you’ve saved anything from those days that you would actually rewear now.

RB: You know what’s so funny? Juicy Couture suits are coming back, but everyone’s been wearing matching tracksuits, jumpsuits, whatever as the pandemic has gone on. And they’re comfortable, you know?  Let’s go for it. I know there’s been some sort of updated versions and other brands and stuff that I definitely have. I don’t have any of my original Juicy stuff, which is kind of a bummer. I think my mom does. I probably gave it to my mom, and she still has it and wears it, which is great. But I don’t have a lot from the show. The one thing I have from the show is a pair of Uggs that I wore in between takes that Adam Brody and Samaire Armstrong both drew on, and I still have them. They’re somewhere. They’re pretty funny. I should find them.

HK: You’ve obviously played a million other roles throughout your career, including another one of my favorites, which was Dr. Zoe Hart. I think I’ve seen every episode of Hart of Dixie. I enjoyed that show tremendously. If you had to pick, whose wardrobe would you rather raid, Summer Roberts’s or Zoey Hart’s?

RB: Zoey Hart’s, hands down.

HK: Were there any pieces that you really loved from her wardrobe that you still think about?

RB: Yeah, I have some of Zoe’s wardrobe. That was more stuff that I personally would wear. She wore a lot of short shorts. I wouldn’t want to wear them now, but I have them. There was a Chanel jacket that I got to keep. That was fun. But other than that, her clothes were just so contemporary and cool that I tried to take as much as I could.

HK: Your personal style has always resonated with people. Certainly, the Who What Wear audience has been very devoted over the years—but the world at large as well. Why do you think your personal style connects with people in such a powerful way? Why do people care about what you’re wearing?

RB: Gosh, no pressure. I think I really like to be comfortable. I’m gonna put that out there. That comes first for me always. So I feel like when I put something together, even if it looks like something you wouldn’t normally think of, it’s always going to be accessible because it’s always comfortable. So maybe it’s accessible? This is just me spitballing here, but I love clothes, and I love to be comfortable, and I like doing things that are a little unexpected at times. 

HK: Do you feel pressure because you are established as someone whose personal style people are very interested in? Have you felt, historically or currently, pressure of like, “Oh, if I’m going to be outside, I have to look a certain way, or something is expected of me, or I need to be a little put-together”?

RB: I will say, especially now, you get to a point where you’re just like, “I don’t care.” I have always been that way. There was probably a point in time when I was younger, maybe there were more paparazzi moments and before Instagram, you might be like, “Oh, I’m gonna go out in this?” But even that didn’t sway me. I thought, “Whatever, this is you,” and I’ve always really stayed true to that. You don’t have to put anything on or be a certain way. It is what it is. And I think that’s a more healthy mentality, at least for me. I look at people that are always so put-together, and I’m just like, how? How do you do that? And especially now, as a mom, forget it. I mean, you’re lucky to get out the door with underwear on.

HK: I’m curious about a recent fashion or beauty product purchase that you have really liked.

RB: I just now was like, “Okay, I’m going to try some beauty products from Goop because if Gwyneth is standing behind it, I’m gonna try it.” So I got a cream that I am really liking. Accessory-wise, I have decorated my ears with these earrings from Gjenmi. [Jennifer Sung] has this little shop in Highland Park. She’s awesome, Jenny herself. I have a necklace. It’s a happy face with black diamond eyes, which I’m obsessed with. This was my present to myself for the new year.

HK: Anything else? 

RB: I mean, you know, the sweatsuits and my fuzzy Crocs that are also my house slippers that I never take off.

Hillary Kerr: The last year has been highly stressful, to say the least. How are you seeing that manifest in skin, and what can you do to combat that stress?

Shani Darden: I would say a lot of breakouts. It’s a hard thing, what we just went through. I mean, we just all went through it. But I will say that I have recently seen some people for facials, and even people that didn’t have bad skin, I felt like the facial was two hours. People are just really, really broken out. I could tell you a million things to do. Go on a walk, exercise, all of those things. But take care of your skin as best as you can and make sure you’re using the right products.

HK: Let’s talk about maskne. What are your recommendations for all of those pesky little pimples that keep popping up in those covered areas? And do you think it’s mostly surface-level comedone stuff, or is it like deeper cystic stuff? Or is it both?

SD: I’ve seen both, and I would say the most important thing is if you cannot not wear makeup under your mask—I’d say no makeup—keep it clean. And when you take off your mask, use a micellar water, whatever you can, to wipe that area. It makes a big difference.

HK: You have made some really incredible products over the years for a variety of different skin concerns. I would like to talk about your retinol products because there are a lot of retinol myths out there. Your products—folks, this is not paid; this is just my own personal opinion—are literally the best ones out there. Can you explain who should use a retinol and what you should look for depending on your skin type?

SD: I’m obsessed with retinol, and that’s why I developed my first product, which was Retinol Reform. I think that everyone should use a retinol. There are people who can’t: pregnant, breastfeeding, or someone with super-sensitive skin or someone that has eczema on their skin. But it boosts collagen in the skin, decreases fine lines and wrinkles, helps with pigmentation and acne. It’s like an all-around powerhouse ingredient that everyone should use. I think the biggest myths and the fear around retinol is that, when we first started using retinol, we were using prescription strength like Retin-A. It was for people with acne, and you know, you peel, you’re red, you’re irritated, and nobody wants to go through that. So people assume that that’s the same with an over-the-counter retinol, which it is not at all. And the other thing is, I think a lot of people that are prescribed retinols, even prescription, they say to use this every day. Then, you kind of freak out because you go through the redness. But with a retinol, always start slowly. Start with once a week and see how your skin does and build up slowly. And then, you’ll know how often you can use it. You’ll see how often your skin can tolerate it. Retinols are not scary. It’s what keeps you young—I promise you. There’s nothing to fear about a retinol at all other than being young forever. That’s what I’m doing, so you need to use one.

HK: You have a new at-home tool that came out in December, but it just launched at Sephora yesterday, the Sculpting Wand. I have gotten a lot of questions from people because I have been using it on my social, but I would rather hear the answer from you, the expert. How do you use it, and what are the benefits?

SD: It’s vibration therapy, and it uses acoustic sound waves, which you can see and hear. It penetrates deep into the skin, 2.4 inches below the surface of the skin, so it really gets down deep to work on any of the deep wrinkles. It’s pretty amazing. For me, it’s not new. I’ve been using vibration therapy. I was introduced to it 16 years ago. I’ve been using it in my facials forever. So it’s something I really wanted to make for everyone, and the reason why is that there’s a lot of them out there that can be harder to use, and I am lazy. I want to be able to use something while I’m on the phone. I want to use it right here while I’m talking to you and not think about every movement that I’ve made. So it’s great. It’s easy. It comes with my Hydra Prep Gel, which I made specifically to go with it because you have to have something that makes it so you’re not tugging at your skin, and it’s noncomedogenic. However, you can use your own product with it. There’s no conducting gel or anything, so it’s something that everyone can use. And all of the benefits are sculpting and tightening and fine lines and wrinkles, all the things that we need. I’m really proud of it.

These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity. Next up, check out our second episode, featuring Meredith Koop and Who What Wear’s own Katherine Power.

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