Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Bill Nye's Beauty Routine

We're not going to pretend like this is a remotely normal story.
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Eliza Brooke
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We're not going to pretend like this is a remotely normal story.
Bill Nye. Photo: Nick Graham

Bill Nye. Photo: Nick Graham

Against all odds, we made it to the year 2015 before Bill Nye — the science guy — decided to put out a range of bow ties, the fashion item he's steadfastly championed and, as a result, been most closely associated with since his educational science show first aired in 1993. Have you also been waiting with bated breath for this moment?

To be fair, Nye says he had been approached by two companies about producing some bow ties, but didn't pair up with one until he met Nick Graham, a menswear designer and the founder of Joe Boxer. (They met, naturally, through the British physicist Brian Cox, who has a comedy science television show on the BBC and a historically accurate emo boy haircut.) Cut to last Monday morning, when Nye rolled into Graham's showroom near Bryant Park to show off his new ties. Some are printed with the logo of the Planetary Society, for which Nye serves as CEO. Others bear a checked pattern resembling the periodic table.

This press event was a twofer, though: Nye is also in the midst of promoting his new book on climate change, "Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World." While he considers global warming to be the world's biggest problem, his public stance on it is rather optimistic.

"It's a solvable problem, people! My grandfather went into World War I on a horse. He rode a horse into battle. I mean, dude. Twenty years later, when that conflict was expanded to World War II, nobody went into battle on a horse. Twenty years, everything changed," Nye says. "So we can change everything. Let's not burn coal and gas, let's have wind and solar. A little geothermal, a little tidal energy, and we can power the whole place."

Nye, it turns out, also has a surprising amount to say about fashion and beauty, including his own personal care routine. For that, read on.

You're obviously a style icon. Who are your fashion icons?

Well, I'll tell you. Humphrey Bogart's characters in his movies, Fred Astaire, James Bond. That's it. Whatever they're wearing, I'm in. I will say, when I was coming of age — when I had the money to buy grown-up clothes — I didn't really like the styles. I bought them and wore them, but the baggy [style]... eh. I like it right now, when it's slim. That may change, but I like it.

And how has your style changed over time?

I guess I've gone slimmer. I wear a bow tie, and I don't know if I'm able to achieve this, but my aunt used to describe my father as "crisp." My father was very crisp, and she liked it. I think that's cool. I'd like to be crisp. Guys like Jerry Seinfeld — Seinfeld wears a tie and sport coat when he does stand-up because he says you want to dress better than the audience. For me it's a little more subtle than that: You want to dress that way out of respect for the audience. I've come here, you've paid money to come see me, I'm going to dress up for you.

Do you and Neil deGrasse Tyson talk neckties? He, too, has a distinctive necktie and vest game.

His vest thing. I wear vests in the wintertime to keep warm. I have not yet embraced the super style star pattern thing, but I get it. I tied his bow tie one night in a restaurant, and then he went to a black tie event. Since then he told me he's tied bow ties several times. But we do talk about clothes, Neil and I, often enough, strangely. He told me he goes to a place where they measure him many, many places electronically, and he gets a custom-made suit.

I have one question for you from a very smart friend of mine. She wants your scientific opinion on a particular beauty product that she believes probably does nothing. Rose water spray. They charge you $20 for this.

Is it real rose water? You run water over rose petals?

Something like that.

Rose water, I think — you can look this up — used to be a general term for perfume, writ large. 

You can also get canned Evian spray.

I've had makeup artists use that because they think the pH balance is well suited to suppressing frizzies. That could be. I wouldn't be surprised if almost any spray water did that. But I haven't run those tests. That cosmetic products are sold at an extraordinary markup does not surprise me at all. Both men's and women's. Just know that I have no endorsement in this at all, but I use Pond's.

I was going to ask you about your skin care routine. 

What happened was, when I used to work in the shipyard — and you may not associate shipyards with skin care products — but the girlfriend of a guy I worked closely with started selling Mary Kay. I don't know much about Mary Kay anymore, but in those days they had men's products. It was this new thing. She sold me on eye cream, or eye ointment, or whatever that is. And I just got in the habit. Then when I started working in television regularly, makeup artists take all kinds of time with your eyes. I'm talking about the crow's feet. Anecdotally, just looking at my friends and guys I went to high school with, my skin looks good, and I think it's 'cause I put stuff on my eyes twice every day, once in the morning, once at night. Pond's is an ancient product. My grandmother used Pond's. And so do I.

Do you use a specific eye cream?

I move it around. I do not embrace the super expensive. Olay was real good, but the Art of Shaving — not everything there is worth it, but the Art of Shaving face cream is pretty good. I just stumbled on it the other day. They had a good salesman. Their prices for razor blades are okay. I have an Art of Shaving razor stand, which I bought myself, when I finished the book last year. That was my gift to myself, a symbol of finishing this. It's definitely an extraordinarily first-world thing, to be able to have a stand plated with nickel to hold one's razor, but it's very handsome. The blades stay a little sharper longer because they dry out. And so it's good. It looks good. I shave with a brush. It doesn't take that much longer, and the bar soap lasts forever.

But this product, changing the subject, I haven't tried it, but there's a company selling single blade razors. I'm open-minded, but very skeptical of that. 

Why skeptical?

Because I lived through the transition from single to multiple. Multiple gives you a much closer shave, are you high?! [Laughing] And I know a lot of people use electric razors, but it just doesn't get as close a shave.

But I do like being clean shaven. I don't have any tattoos. I can't imagine what extraordinary circumstance would lead me to get a tattoo, because I'm old. We just don't do that, people of my age. I do shave every day, which I admit is just as weird. I grew up with that, and I like being clean shaven. When I rode my bike one time from northern California to San Francisco, I was on the road for 10 days, I didn't shave, and I had a beard. And, eh, it's just not me. I did attract a different style of woman for a while. A beard-loving woman.

So, you know, don't go to Brooklyn.

It's also one more reason I'm not a major league relief pitcher. I have no beard. There are some other reasons, but that's one more.

So no man buns for you.

What's that?

Like, guys growing their hair out...

Oh, into a top knot. Not my thing. Knock yourselves out, but not my thing. So along those lines, last year I was on Seth Meyers, and the haircutter woman parted my hair on the opposite side from the last 30 years. Just 'cause she thought it looked better. And everybody goes, "Wow, your hair looks great!" This went on for a few months; everyone's used to it now. Or maybe I'm only remembering the two times somebody said something, but it changed my life. Now I part my hair on the other side, this way, and I still go to see her every few weeks.

Why do you think it looks better?

You'd have to ask her. Maybe it's the shape of my head. I cut my eyebrow real badly playing softball once, and I think it does something for that, the scar over there. I'm playing the hand I was dealt. And for whatever reason I cannot explain, I still have hair on my head, and I suppose that'll change one day, but it's good. I do wash my hair every day.

What products do you use for that?

I go to Duane Reade, and there are certain regular off-the-shelf shampoos that I use. I can only tell you the shape of the bottle.

What's the shape?

It's round, not cylindrical. 

Is it squat and round?

Yeah, yeah, and it's brightly colored. 

The Moroccan Oil one maybe?

I haven't tried that yet. I'm so excited because another friend of mine, a neuroscientist who has fabulous hair — she's a woman, fabulous hair — she goes on about the Moroccan Oil stuff. So I'm going to try this next time. And the haircutter, Cara Sullivan, who's an Emmy-winning haircutter...

You can win for that?

Yeah, 'cause she does the wigs on "Saturday Night Live," and the hair on that is really important to the comedy. She recommended this stuff called 24-7, and I love that. I'm seeking another bottle. But I haven't put in the hours to go find that. 

If I publish this, they might send you some.

Okay, but I don't use hair gel, I'm not into all that stuff. I don't spend days on it. Shampoo and conditioner, that's all I need, I think.

Do you air dry it?

I air dry it, with a towel. Have you seen that technology? It's a cotton cloth that you rub on your hair.

Is that a special towel, or...

No, got it at Macy's. And another thing in fashion right now is that you'll get a towel as swag, with somebody's logo on it.

So you have a linen closet full of those.

Well, not full, but a couple. So bear in mind, everybody, that a conventional hair dryer uses about fifteen hundred watts. That's over a horsepower. So an Olympic cyclist, a guy or a gal at the top of his game, cannot, at 100 percent efficiency, pedal hard enough to drive your hair dryer. If you want to save energy, if you want to do something for the environment, think about that.