Gabrielle Union Shares Her Favorite Beauty Secrets

Gabrielle Union is one of those women you want to hate-that skin, that hair, that megawatt smile!-but simply can't, because she's so damn down to earth and genuine. In other words: someone we'd want to actually hang out with, and not just admire from afar. We sat down and chatted with the former Neutrogena Ambassador about a project she worked on with the brand, the Buy 1 + Donate 1 initiative, which helps families in need use proper sun protection. “Coming from a depressed part of the country where we weren't born with silver spoons in our mouths, I can relate and empathize with being without necessities,” Union says. “Plus, with all the recent research, we now know that everyone of all different skin types runs the risk of cancer without proper sun protection.”

And while we had her, we also made sure to askВ her for herВ best beauty tricks, can't-live-without hair products, and how she keeps her skin looking so amazing (hint: it involves ice).

You have such beautiful skin-tell us your secret.

Union: Well, I live in Miami and Los Angeles, and work in Atlanta-it's almost always hot! So my skin routine is geared towards what's happening with my hormones. For example, acne isn't just for teens. I like using a facial cleanser with salicylic acid in it to help combat breakouts before they start. When I'm shooting, I usually use Neutrogena's grapefruit cleanser. After shooting, when I'm in the car heading home, I'll immediately take off all my makeup with makeup wipes.

Oh, I also drink a gallon of water a day.

Wow! That's crazy. And amazing.

Union: It really does wonders for your skin, hair, nails, weight loss goals… everything! Sometimes, if I'm really dead to the world, I'll submerge my face in ice water. Not only does it wake you up, but it'll also tighten your pores and make your skin feel smooth.

We love that-we actually did a story about the beauty benefits of ice recently, too. Other than ice water, what's the best hair or makeup trick you've ever picked up?

Union: I don't know if it's considered a trick-it's old as time. But basically, I've perfected the art of the topknot. I can take it from day to night, rock a headband with it… you name it. It's totally idiot-proof, and everyone thinks you're so chic and sophisticated. Or, you can mess it up a bit for a beachy look. Plus, it'll keep your neck cool in hot temperatures. Topknots are your friends.

We're on board with them. Would you describe your beauty style as more laidback, then?

Union: Well, at work, my beauty style is whatever the character is. So at home, I pretty much keep things super simple. I put a lot into my skincare routine so I have even, clear skin. Then, I'll just do a pop of mascara, so I look awake, add a lip balm that has a bit of a sheen, or a medicated gloss. On days I have breakouts, I'll use a concealer. I don't like to look too glammed up every day, it feels a bit extreme.

What about beauty DIYs-do you have any that you like to do?

Union: As a matter of fact, yes! I recently started making a lip scrub with olive oil and brown sugar. I use it to scrub the dead skin off my lips-it leaves them feeling so smooth and plump!В

Let's talk hair-what's the one product you can't live without?

Union: I am obsessed with It's A 10's Leave-In SprayВ ($19). It's as addictive as drugs-I don't know what miracle is in it, but it makes my hair feel instantly smooth and shiny. Every one of my friends, every race and age, is obsessed, too. This leave-in conditioner is everything. There's one that has keratins now, and one for blondes-it's really a movement.

Amazing. What else do you do to take care of your hair?

Union: I don't wash my hair every day. It takes a lot to straighten it, and too much heat really damages it. Ladies with weaves and extensions, here's my advice: you have to take care of them like they're your real hair, like they're growing out of your head. I love Pureology's Super Smooth ($40) shampoo when I do shampoo-it's for color-treated hair. I like to maintain the coverage of my grays!В

Last question-what's the one product you can't live without?

Union: There's this great bronzer that Neutrogena has-I use it, then try to add some highlights sparingly. A lot of people overuse bronzer! One little trick I've learned is to sweep some bronzer on your shoulders, knees, calves, and right down the middle of your thigh-it picks up your muscles and defines them. Or at least creates the illusion of muscles!