Charlize Theron Talks Dior's New Fragrance, Scent Memories, and Her Biggest Beauty Regret

Forget sticking to a signature scent or meticulously building out a fragrance wardrobe. When it comes to wearing fragrance, actor, activist, and Dior beauty ambassador Charlize Theron has but one rule: go with your mood.

"I think there's something fun in just feeling it out and deciding which one gets to become a cloud mist above my head [that] I walk through," Theron tells InStyle over Zoom.

This strategy is what Theron calls a "cloud mist." Her spritzing method allows her to enjoy all the facets of a scent without overwhelming her nose and — most importantly — her skin. "I find direct [contact] on the skin becomes, for me, a little aggressive, and then I miss the subtle tones to it," she says. "Whereas when I do the cloud mist, I feel like I get more of the depth of field. I get a better sense of the other dimensions of the scent, especially since it's constantly changing as your day goes by."



For Theron, scent will always be a gateway to returning to meaningful nostalgic moments. She often searches for scents that remind her of her childhood growing up on the outskirts of Johannesburg in South Africa. "There was always something about rain hitting dust — it creates this smell that's just so unique. I get very excited when I see rain because then I look for some dust, some dirt, and I try to recreate it. I've never been able to. But that is a very nostalgic smell for me," she says. "When I go back and we have our rains in South Africa, it's everywhere. You can smell it everywhere. Man, it just fills my soul. I'm like, 'This is home.'"

Evocative scents continue to play a major role in Theron's life. As the face of Dior's J'adore for nearly two decades, she is back to star in the brand's campaign for its new fragrance launch, L'Or de J'adore. L'Or is a reinvention of the beloved J'adore scent and also marks the first fragrance mastermind Francis Kurkdjian has created for the brand. And rest assured: Kurkrdjian, who is known for his wildly popular scent, Baccarat Rouge 540, has another hit on his hands. With L'Or, he's infused classic J'adore notes of rose, jasmine, and ylang-ylang with orange blossom, lily of the valley, and violet for a rich floral scent that's warm and rounded — perfect for a sweet fall scent. "It's beautiful," says Theron. "The floral tones are just so layered."



Though many actors use fragrance to get into character, Theron tends to do the opposite. She explains that many of her characters live in circumstances where they wouldn't be wearing perfume, so trying to incorporate scent into character building doesn't make sense. "I sometimes go as far as just eliminating even scent in my soap," she says. "Because I am very sensitive to smell, any kind of smell can just really take me out of it. So it's become more about elimination than about adding." Her one exception? Shooting the 2022 Netflix film School for Good and Evil. She kept a bottle of J'adore with her on set. "[Lady Lesso is] definitely a J'adore girl," she says.

A Hollywood beauty icon for nearly three decades, Theron, unsurprisingly, has wisdom to impart. The best piece of advice she's ever received came from her longtime stylist, Leslie Fremar, who empowered her to trust her intuition. "She is one of the first people from that world that came into my life and during fittings would say things like, 'You have to like it.' It was so refreshing," she says. "I was like, 'What? No.' [But Leslie would say], 'You have to like it because if you don't like it, you won't be able to sell it.'"

As for her one beauty regret, it's refreshingly relatable. "Hands down, the thin eyebrows in the '90s," she says. "I'm still recovering from that."

This interview took place before SAG-AFTRA strike activity

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