The Craft: Erin Lukas on Breaking Into the Beauty Industry, How to Pitch, and Healing Crystals
Happy Tuesday, everyone! The holidays are literally around the corner (finally!) and we’re feeling the joy in the air. Welcome to The Craft, Novella’s monthly series where we talk to women like you and do our favorite thing: geek out about writing. This month, we spoke with Erin Lukas, a Canadian beauty writer with a fresh voice and a love for all things beauty.
Interviewed by Sandy Sanchez
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TUESDAY, DECEMBER 18
The Craft: Erin Lukas
What’s your name and what do you do?
My name is Erin Lukas. I’m a beauty writer from Windsor, Ontario, Canada who currently calls New York home.
I’m the associate beauty editor at InStyle, where I cover all things hair, makeup, and skincare, plus health and wellness for our website. This includes writing celebrity-based beauty news, the latest industry trends, and service-based stories.
Offline, I write stream of consciousness thoughts in journals that no one will ever see, but will probably turn into future work. My goal for the new year is to get back into writing for myself.
Aside from InStyle, you’ve written for publications like TeenVOGUE.com, NYLON.com, and Into the Gloss. How have these experiences shaped you into the writer you are and helped you find your voice?
I did my bachelor’s in creative writing, so I think learning to take my personality and experiences and turn them into poetry and prose really helped me find my point of view as a writer in general.
I always think of how I would talk to my friends about the topic I’m writing. It’s cliché, but true. Writing for all of these different publications helped me figure out how to take my voice and make it fit into each brand and its point of view. It’s kind of like the brand is a school uniform and your voice is the equivalent of customizing the uniform by rolling up your shirt sleeves or adding some pins on the collar. Your voice/perspective is also what’s going to make writing about a topic that’s been covered to death feel fresh.
Writing different beats like beauty, fashion, and pop culture for various publications also helped me figure out what I liked writing about the most. I always wrote beauty stories, but quickly figured out that it’s what comes most naturally to me and what I find the most interesting. Once I had that down, the rest eventually came.
As a beauty editor, what does a typical day look like for you?
One of the many things I like about my job is that no day is exactly alike, which is great because I’m an Aries that easily gets bored.
Typically, I wake up around 7am, make coffee, and scroll the internet for any beauty news our brand should be covering. The senior digital beauty editor and I discuss any potential stories via Slack, and then I commute into the office.
The majority of my day is spent writing. Depending on what’s happening, I sometimes write three to five stories a day. Working in digital means that all of my stories have a quick turnaround and I work with daily deadlines. In between writing, there’s digital team meetings to discuss the site’s traffic and strategize future content. I’m also constantly doing research for future stories I’m working on, whether it’s sourcing products or interviewing experts like dermatologists or makeup artists.
A big part of my job is keeping up with the newest products on the market, so some days I’m running around the city to events before or after I’m at the office, or sometimes in the middle of the day. This is where brands get face time with editors and writers, and educate us on their next launches. A lot of story ideas come from attending these, too. Depending on the time of year, there’s some weeks where I have a breakfast or after-work event (or both) every single day.
Do you have any advice for writers wanting to break into the beauty writing space?
Don’t be afraid to reach out to editors at websites or publications that you like. The worst that can happen is that they say no but rejection is a huge part of being a writer. Before I was at InStyle, I got most of my freelance work by cold emailing editors. That’s how I started writing fashion stories for Teen Vogue. I looked at the masthead to find out the appropriate editor to email and then sent them a personalized message about myself with a few of my writing samples and a brief paragraph about why I wanted to write for them. Adding a personalized touch goes a long way because it shows that you actually read the site and aren’t just copying and pasting the same email to everyone.
When you are pitching, do your homework! Really look to see what kinds of stories the publication runs and what they’ve recently covered. If a beauty site just posted a handful of stories on CBD oil, chances are they aren’t looking for more content on that topic.
With social media it’s never been easier to keep up with what’s trending in the beauty industry along with who the key players are. There’s also tons of resources online to look up ingredients and really which ones are effective and what’s just marketing. Knowledge of all these things is going to help you formulate and pitch stories with factual information in them.
And be nice! The beauty and publishing industries are so small and people move around from job to job often. A good attitude is just as important as your writing because people will remember if working with you is pleasant.
Do you have an object you keep by your side to inspire you while writing?
I have at least five healing crystals on my desk at all times. I have them arranged in a certain way and I would know if anyone has touched them. They give my desk a tranquil, calming vibe in an otherwise corporate-looking office. I also need to be doing something with my hands at all times so I hold onto one when I get stuck on writing a paragraph and I’m trying to think it through. I’m fully aware how millennial this sounds.
Where do you like to write?
I mostly write at my desk at work. My apartment is too small to have an at-home desk/workspace -- I barely have room for all of the beauty products I hoard. But, my ideal workspace would be a cafe with lots of natural light and maybe some plants.
Alternatively, I like writing in my bed. Luckily, my room has a ton of light, which can be rare in New York. When it’s not freezing out, my apartment building’s roof is great, too. It has a killer view of the East River and the city skyline. I read up there a lot.
Do you have any favorite writing supplies you can’t live without?
My Macbook! Since I work on the internet, my job would be impossible without it.
When I’m writing the old-fashioned way, I typically use Moleskines and only black pen. I don’t have a favorite pen brand. Instead, I like using branded ones from different restaurants. My favorites are from Dimes because their color combos are great. I always take the pen the server leaves with the bill every time I eat there.
‘Tis the season for wintertime skincare routines. What’s yours at the moment?
My biggest skincare concern is my hormonal acne so during the winter the goal is treat any breakouts without further dehydrating out my seasonally-dry skin.
I cleanse with Bioderma micellar water because it doesn’t strip your skin of its natural oils. Next, I tap Kiehl’s brightening Youth Dose Eye Treatment on my under-eye area. I starting using Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Hyaluronic Acid Serum since it started getting cold out. It’s a humectant that binds moisture into the skin so it’s perfect for this time of year. After, I use Drunk Elephant’s Protini Polypeptide Cream. It’s a moisturizer that has peptides in it to help minimize fine lines and wrinkles. I dab on Allies of Skin Promise Keeper acne mask on any pimples. It’s one of the only acne treatments that works without drying my skin out.
I’m obsessed with face masks and the Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask has been my go-to this winter. It’s super hydrating and I wear it as an overnight mask when my skin is dry as hell.
What’s your favorite/dream holiday activity?
There used to be this bar in Windsor (where I grew up) called The Loop. It was a total scene and they always played the best music. My friends and I were regulars when we still lived at home. The day after Christmas was the best night of the year because everyone would be home and go to The Loop. The bar closed four years ago, so my dream holiday activity would be having my usual Christmas dinner with my family and then going to The Loop the next night on December 26th.