If you grew up reading Cosmo, or now have even the slightest interest in Instagram’s beauty scene, Leigh Campbell needs no introduction. A beauty expert two decades in the making, she has continued to further that passion (just wait until you see the pic of one, yes, just one, of her product stashes) while seriously expanding her professional portfolio. In her post-mag life as media doyenne – that would be Executive Editor of Mamamia – she can be found doing everything from dishing out warm, realistic parenting advice on one of her podcasts, to encouraging dangerous 3pm temptations in her newer, though no less crucial, role of social media ‘snackfluencer’. For all that her professional life has gone from strength to strength, recent years have brought heartache. She documented beautifully her struggles with infertility prior to the birth of son, Alexander, aka The Bug, in 2019, and often writes and posts about her evolving experience of grief since the death of her much-loved Dad this past May. In short, Leigh never shies away from sharing her honest experiences, whether it’s with lipgloss or in life, meaning that, really, all of us who are her longtime readers/listeners/people-who-have-been-influenced-by-her have always wanted to be her best friend. If you don’t know Leigh yet, get ready to join our queue.

“It’s my literal job to trial new beauty products every week so I am constantly chopping and changing. You could definitely say I love (and have a lot of) products. 

In my bathroom I have a marble tray where any items I’m testing that week live. Then in my beauty cabinet, the first shelf is for my frequently used products and is also where I keep a small The Daily Edited bag with my makeup essentials. I often stay at my family’s place on the outskirts of Sydney, so I know I can grab that bag any time and be able to slap on a decent face away from home.

The rest of the cabinet contains two more shelves for face, a shelf for body, and a shelf for hair. I have drawers for my non-makeup bag makeup, and then fragrance is stored in my wardrobe so that it’s out of humid air and sunlight. There’s a sideboard in my baby’s room with products in, too, but let’s not go there.

I’m always testing new products (right now I am trialling The Secret Skincare) but I always come back to a few skincare staples from Beauté Pacifique, Estée Lauder, The Jojoba Company, and Weleda

How much makeup I put on is really just dependant on what I’m doing that day. At a minimum (say, a trip to the post office or park) I’ll do my skincare and SPF, fill my brows in using Anastasia’s Brow Wiz, and pop on some lip balm. If my skin is being a jerk or I want to look a little more done, I’ll use IT Cosmetics CC cream, either on its own or thinned out with a bit of serum, then add a swipe of bronzer on top; I always finish my base with a touch of bronzer because otherwise my features seem too flat. Then I’ll finish off with my eye makeup if I want to make myself look or feel better.

I didn’t think I had a specific beauty look until a few people at work asked me how I did my ‘signature eyeliner’, so I guess I do have one!

I have quite small, round eyes but I prefer them to look more almond-shaped, so I use a black pencil liner to make a line from the pupil outwards, then blend it slightly with an angled brush. I go over that with a liquid eyeliner pen, again only from the pupil outwards, then finish off with mascara. To me, these steps help create a more feminine, elongated shape.

Since I became a mum, I can count on one hand the amount of times I have gone out at night. I’m all about a lunch these days, because you can get over your hangover by 9pm and still get a good night’s sleep.

Even if I’m dressing up less often now, my proper glam always includes false lashes (Ardell Demi Whispies, which I cut down to fit my eye shape), liquid highlighter on my cheekbones, neutral lip liner, and a shiny gloss.

My final step is to pick the right fragrance from my perfume collection. (I don’t wear fragrance daily anymore because I am holding Alexander so much, so it’s only for special occasions now.)

Growing up, I didn’t see myself in media. I studied interiors at Whitehouse Institute of Design and thought I’d do something in that world, but a happy accident landed me in magazines and on this career path, and, 20 years later, I’m so glad it did.

I stayed in magazines for 12 years, and spent eight of those at Cosmopolitan as its beauty editor. When it became apparent that print was on the way out, I jumped ship and joined the launch team of Huffington Post Australia. I cut my teeth in the world of digital media there, and now I’m the executive editor of Mamamia. My work still gives me so much satisfaction and enjoyment.

Mamamia has afforded me the chance to broaden my skills into podcasting. We are the world’s biggest podcast network for women, and I host two of the shows in our stable. One is You Beauty, a weekly show all about beauty problems and solutions, and chatting through the best or newest products. The second is This Glorious Mess Little Kids, a podcast for and focused on people who have young kids (my son just turned one, and I’m about to return to work more fully after having some time away with him). I love that the two avenues of content I explore each week, beauty and parenting, are both my passions and also really reflect the life stage I am in right now.

My own childhood was quite charmed, and as an adult I now understand what a privilege that was.

We grew up on acreage and rode motorbikes and go-karts, had flying foxes, and swam all summer. It was the best. My brother and sister are eight and 10 years older than me, respectively, so I basically always had at least one of four big people (including Mum and Dad) to play with. My parents opened a rollerskating rink when I was 10, so that added an element where I basically lived every kid’s dream, including having my very own red slurpee machine.

One of my favourite things to do was play in Mum and Dad’s room when they were getting ready for a night out. I always thought my mum was so glamorous.

Her signature scent back then was Estee Lauder’s Youth-Dew, and if I ever happen to smell it now I am instantly eight again and helping Mum pick out a pair of earrings. Once I got a little older I grew to like makeup, but I wasn’t obsessed – I was more into colouring my hair pink and purple, which was probably more a form of expression than it was showcasing a love of beauty. That came later!

I’ll never forget when my friend Erin and I discovered a sample pouch of Revlon Colorstay foundation in one of the magazines we were reading. We both put it all over our faces, and thought we were just killing it. It was about three shades too dark and we didn’t even attempt to blend it but hey, we were feeling ourselves. After that foray I moved onto an Innoxa foundation after borrowing a friend’s. I used it for years! My kit back then also consisted of Maybelline Great Lash and The Body Shop lip balm, as I think every Australian teen girl’s did!

I’m the first to admit that some of the beauty content in magazines back in the day did nothing for women’s self-esteem.

Covers that promised smooth hair in 30 seconds or a secret trick to get rid of cellulite sold plenty of copies each month, but they also set unrealistic expectations, because often the particular look or objective just wasn’t obtainable. We still have a long way to go in that respect.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though – there really is so much to like about the beauty industry.

Talking about the real side of beauty is why I love our podcast You Beauty so much. We discuss skin conditions and mistakes and mishaps – what actually happens when you’re trying to create a certain look or trying to improve your skin. I created a Facebook group for the ‘Youbies’, our podcast listeners, and it’s a community of 40,000 women (and a few men!) who know they can ask for help or advice in a safe, judgement-free space.

I don’t think I have one single person who has influenced me in terms of my approach to beauty, but I love to keep learning and be inspired. For example, my friend Erin always experiments with amazing looks and colours on her eyes, which makes me want to step out of my comfort zone of the same old black and brown shades. Another friend, Lisa, is a huge advocate for sunscreen, so whenever I’m reading her posts I feel extra passionate about helping to spread the message of sun safety.

I have no idea how to describe my personal style now, because I’m currently in that what-do-I-wear-now-that-I’m-a-mum fashion crisis!

Before I went on maternity leave, I was mostly about neutral staples with some structure, which I would mix and match for work. Since being home more I’ve definitely relaxed my silhouettes and fabrics – I need to be able to bend and crawl. I wear jeans a lot, often with a sweater or maybe a shirt if I’m making a bit of an effort. I shop online at Marks and Spencer for the baby because the quality is so good for the price, and while I’m there I often grab a few things for myself. I love Sundays The Label’s tracksuits this season because they are fleecy inside and so so warm (how perfectly timed was COVID with the sweats trend?). Cotton On has awesome affordable denim. For bags and shoes, I try to invest in well-made items, and often get a steal through my friend’s consignment store, Hock Your Frocks.

I let my hair air dry 90% of the time, purely because I’m lazy.

I’m lucky that it has a pretty good texture naturally with a super slight bend. If I want to feel more pulled together I’ll use a straightener to add a few extra waves around the front. I don’t care about the back because I can’t see it.  I colour my roots every three weeks at home because I am entirely grey, and I go to the salon for a cut and colour probably once every six months. I see Barney at Barney Martin Hair, and have done for close to 15 years. He’s great for a cut and a good chat.

I see Carina and Belameres for a facial once a month. She has literally changed my life and the life of everyone I send to her and her team.

At each appointment I have a mild peel, laser, and any extractions if I need them, though it’s rare that I do now because she’s got my skin in great condition.

I’ve been a patient of his for over a decade – he’s super cautious with what he does and will often turn people away who want more done than he is willing to do. He doesn’t want people walking around looking completely frozen, because that’s not good advertising for his approach to his work.

Every three weeks, I religiously get myself to Kristin Fisher Eyebrows for a brow shape and tint. They are the best in Australia, hands down, and totally transform my face each time I go. I have my brows waxed if I haven’t been using active skin products, or threaded if I have, to minimise the risk of irritation.

I’m not great at relaxing – I get bored pretty quickly. But my safe place is the bath, I have one most nights after the baby goes down. I only need 15 minutes in a hot bath (with a slurp of body oil) to process the day and try and wind down in preparation for the next one.  

To Wonderland Spa is one of my favourite spas – they’re very holistic, and even though I’m not into any woo-woo stuff I always leave there feeling very zen. I also love SpaQ at the QT. They have a hammam which I like to use before a massage. It’s one of the rare times I don’t have my phone on me, so I am forced to be alone with my thoughts (I know, scary, but always really good).

I feel like after so many years of not loving exercise I have finally found something I enjoy while I’m doing it and that makes me feel strong when I’m not, and that’s Pilates.

I go to Peaches Pilates in Bondi. Tori is my guru when it comes to all things health and posture (my neck and back have been ruined by carrying the baby). They have an amazing online program, so I try to do a few of those a week plus one private in-person class on a Friday to work on correcting my poses and strengthening my back. It honestly keeps me sane.

I could definitely improve my diet. What goes in my mouth between breakfast and dinner can be a free for all.

I have two cups of instant coffee as soon as I wake – I’ve had plenty of fancy coffee machines in my life but always go back to good old instant. I don’t eat until mid-morning because eating first thing makes me feel sick, so most days that first ‘meal’ is a shake, both because it’s easy and because I feel like that way I get in some guaranteed nutrients, just in case the rest of the day is de-railed. In it I have either The Beauty Chef Glow or Vida Glow powders, protein powder, chia seeds, cacao, a banana, some spinach, water, and ice. I’ll also chuck in any mangled avocado or leftover yogurt the baby didn’t finish. The rest of the day is usually grazing, often on chips or chocolate, or I’ll grab a cheeseburger at McDonald’s when I walk up to check my P.O. Box. I really love snacks. Dinner is always healthy though – I order all our fresh produce from Delish Deliveries or try out different meal delivery services, so most nights we have something along the lines of grilled fish and salad, meat and roast veggies, or some wholegrain pasta.

The tough times I have experienced recently in my life have helped shape me, because I feel as though I learnt to move through adversity with grace.

The infertility I experienced for a few years before having my son was hard, and then earlier this year I lost my dad to brain cancer. There wasn’t anything I could do about that was happening in those situations – especially with Dad dying – but I could choose to handle it in a way that reflected who I am and what I value. He died two months ago and since then I really don’t give two shits about what brands I (or other people) wear, about new shoes, or trivial material things. It taught me to value the ‘who’ in my life, not the ‘what’.

I think with age we learn we are more than the sum of our parts, and that in itself helps you stop scrutinising your own image. 

For example, when I was in my twenties I’d like one body part but dislike another, whereas now, in my late thirties, I don’t see them as separate parts – it’s all me, and I’m pretty happy with the package. And in terms of how I feel about seeing signs of ageing… it’s definitely better than the alternative!

I’m happy with getting older, but I just wish time would slow down a little. I feel like the years are whizzing by and I find I have to remind myself to stop and enjoy the lovely moments along the way.”

Story by Zoe Briggs, photography by Alice Mahran.

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