If you see Brie Larson strolling the streets in a face mask, she’s likely sporting a shade of red lipstick underneath. It’s not visible to anyone else—but that’s precisely the point, she tells ELLE.com. “I like the idea that no one sees it. It’s like this little extra step that I’m taking for me that no one else can know about,” Larson explains.

In some ways, her covert lipstick symbolizes how far she’s come in the beauty space. According to Larson, getting glam wasn’t always a source of comfort. “I just struggled for so long with feeling ugly and embarrassed,” she recalls. “I had a tough time stepping into the ownership of wearing makeup and doing my hair, five or six years ago. I had gone so far in the other direction where I’d show up to events with wet hair and no makeup on.”

But all that changed with the Captain Marvel press tour—an international trip that opened Larson up to experimentation. “I felt like I was able to step into enjoying the fun of getting to play different characters, explore who I am, and have fun with it,” she remembers.