Austin Butler was over the moon when he found out he’d be collaborating with Titane director Julia Ducournau and the cinematographer Benoît Debie. “She’s one of my favorite directors of photography, and I’ve been such an admirer of his for many years,” the actor tells me over the phone from Los Angeles on an afternoon in June. But this particular project wouldn’t be like, say, Butler’s Oscar-nominated performance in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. Instead, this was a major campaign with YSL Beauté celebrating MYSLF, the first new men’s fragrance launch from the maison since 2017. The short film Ducournau and Butler created for this cologne (which contains notes of citrus, orange blossom, and a woody amber and comes in a refillable, recyclable bottle) is meant to capture the myriad sides of one’s personality—in this case, Butler himself. The actor, who shot the spot in Mexico City earlier this year, is seen in the ads dancing, shadow-boxing, grinning into camera one moment, then taking on a defiant look the next.
Below, Butler discusses his first campaign with the fashion house, why meditation is crucial for his mental health, and why he’ll never spike his hair again.
How did this partnership with YSL Beauty come about?
It really just started with a conversation. They had this idea, so my agent called me and said, “Hey, do you want to talk with them?” We did, and I got along very well with the team—they’re all such kind, wonderful people. I’ve been a fan of YSL for many years, and in the past couple years, I’ve done more research into Yves Saint Laurent himself. I love the way his mind works, so I feel privileged to now be a part of his heritage.
What kind of research were you doing into Yves Saint Laurent?
Everything from reading about his life, to reading his words and his quotes, to going through a bunch of images—which, I think, is where it all started for me: being inspired by how he personally dressed and how he carried himself.
Let’s get into the Beauty Notes questions. What is the first thing that you do in the morning, beauty-wise?
I take a shower, first thing. It makes me feel awake and refreshed.
Have you ever tried a eucalyptus shower?
[Laughs] That would be nice.
What’s your favorite form of self-care?
Last night I went for a walk with my dog, and I loved that. I love to meditate first thing in the morning as the sun’s rising. Anytime I’m physically active in some way, whether that’s swimming or going on a hike or going to the gym, my mind feels better.
Is the meditation routine new for you?
No, I started when I was about 22, so I’ve done it for nine or 10 years. I’ve done different kinds, and it ebbs and flows sometimes—I’ll go a period of time without it. But I do I feel more grounded when there’s at least a short time of the day where I can focus on being aware of what is going on in my mind, and have time for being as present as I can in my body, attuned to the sounds around me. It also helps with realizing how thoughts come and go on their own volition sometimes. You can watch your own thoughts dissolve and realize, Oh, I’m not that thought. That’s really a comforting thing to experience.
You can quiet the negative thoughts if you’re having them.
Yeah. Those don’t define me.
Are you a spa person?
You know, I do love it. I don’t do it very often, but usually when I’m filming, I’ll try to find a time to go. The first time I remember doing that, I was filming in Vancouver and there was an amazing spa in the place I was living at that time. I did it in Australia, too. And Baz had a guy that did physical therapy, so I ended up working with him out [while filming Elvis]. That was really helpful, just to keep my body from breaking. [laughs]. You need that!
What is your nightly bedtime beauty routine?
I was gonna say, I don’t keep my phone in my bedroom, but that’s not really a beauty thing.
I think that counts.
I’ve been doing that for a little while now, and I feel a lot better when, at least for the last hour of the day, I don’t look at my phone at all. And same goes for the first hour of the day: I just don’t look at my phone. I have an old-school alarm clock in the bedroom. It seems so simple, but it made such a huge difference for me.
What is your go-to skincare product?
Most of the face products I’ve used have been the result of working with a certain makeup artist team on a film—they’ll give me something to put on my skin when I go home, that sort of thing. I feel like the biggest thing is remembering to drink a lot of water.
Is there a beauty trend that you participated in when you were younger that you look back on now and you’re like, oh my god, what was I thinking?
When I was in elementary school, I used to spike my hair—but, like, all of my hair. It looked like a flame coming out of the top of my head. For about a year, I did my hair like that because all the skater kids were doing it. And I was big into skateboarding at that time. It was just the look. It was the Nineties.
Do you have any summer vacation plans?
I have been traveling so much that just being home sounds relaxing. I’ve spent a lot of time away from family and friends over the last couple years. So I’m really appreciating getting to spend time at home with my loved ones, just cooking and chilling. And walking my dog.