What is your skincare philosophy?
I truly believe that my best skin is yet to be unlocked. Like anything else in life, the more I understand myself and the more I try to move with the world instead of against it, everything gets better and levels up. It’s been consistently true from year to year.
As I’ve made my way through my 30’s, I’ve realized more and more through experience that the effort I put into addressing imbalances elsewhere in my body are equally as important as taking care of the skin on my face from the outside in. So, when I do see blemishes or areas of stress in my skin, I no longer immediately look for the quickest topical solution for that problem, I look to the other areas of my wellbeing that might have sent that blemish or that dry patch as an SOS.
But also, my adult skincare is my personal repair for how terrible I was to myself when I was young.
I am a child of the 80s and 90s, which means the depth of my early relationship with skincare was that Clinique 3-step package with the Irving Penn ads, remember those? I did not have beauty guidance at home, and everything about my appearance - but particularly my face - was just an abhorrent problem to me. I am biracial and spent a lot of time in primarily white spaces, and I was constantly, loudly made fun of for the way I looked. All I wanted as a small child was to just disappear, and everything about my relationship to beauty in my early years was about trying to become invisible. I saved up and bought the 3-step skincare. I bought books with instructions on how to use makeup to minimize my facial features. I exfoliated to the point that my skin was rough. I just hated myself, because so much of the messaging I received from the outside world - both from advertising as well as from people I interacted with in person - was that I was ugly.
So now, as an adult I use skincare to create a relationship to myself of loving care, of listening, of forgiveness, and especially nurturing the parts of myself that I tried so hard to stamp out. I am fiercely protective of my freckles. I try to look upon new wrinkles without disdain. My skincare is so important to me because, as a very busy adult who wants to be engaged in the world during the day, it remains the bookends to my day where I look in the mirror and just appreciate myself, touch my skin with love, show care to a part of myself that for so long I had thought of as a problem.
So for me, skincare is a spiritual process.
How do you start your day?
I am the first person awake in my family every day, and I’m not gonna lie - after I wash my face there is little-to-no time for me for the first two hours of any day. I am walking the dog, making and packing the lunch boxes, getting people who are decidedly not morning people in and out of the shower, and then getting my daughter to school. The first thing I do each morning is slowly wash my face and brush my teeth and scrape my tongue, then after that I let the chaos wash over me like a wave, because fighting it is useless.
But then, after that, I do have some rituals to ground my day. If I can, I try to get out for a 3 mile run, which is my version of meditation. I start on my 2-3L of water intake per day when I get home, and I love a strong cup of coffee first thing. Then I take my Mary Ruth Organics liquid multivitamin, one serving of Moon Juice magnesium powder, one resveratrol and one ginkgo supplement. I also try to up my vitamin C game with Lypho-spheric Vitamin C when it feels necessary, but not every day (MRO is packed with C!).
I try my best at Intermittent Fasting, which means I try to hold off on my first meal until closer to midday, but often I find myself in need of a fruit or granola (hello CAPnola!) snack mid-morning. But as a rule, I try not to eat a traditional “breakfast”.
Then it’s into the shower for body care, which is a whole ritual in itself. After that, one of my favorite things to do, first thing before I start my workday, is sit down with my notebook and write out my goals and priorities for the day, ground myself in an affirmation of how grateful I am for this day before me, and remind myself why I am here.
What is your skincare routine?
It’s winter in New York right now, and it’s one of the driest winters I have ever lived through, so I am really prioritizing moisturizing in all its forms. In the morning I wash my face with a gentle cleanser from Osea, or Monastery Cleansing Oil. After I turn off the shower but before I step out, I cover my whole body in oil (I love Monastery Lapiz Oil, and now I am also trying Mount Sapo), or sometimes I use shea butter that is literally in a tub that my boyfriend’s sister brought him from Ghana (where he is from). Someone once told me that moisturizing before drying off locks in more moisture, and that might be a total lie but I’m too afraid to test it to find out.
I have used Vintner’s Daughter serum for years, it’s honestly incredible. When she introduced the Essence as a pre-treatment to pair with the serum, I was definitely a little nervous to add another product to the mix… they are big investments! But now I cannot imagine using just one. They are so incredibly effective together, my skin loves them. After those two, I use a thin layer of Monastery’s Attar balm to protect my skin from the winter weather, and I make sure to rub any excess into my hands. Attar is manna from heaven.
I wear makeup every day to help me feel most confident, but I really prefer a “no-makeup-makeup” look. I would hate to go through everything I just described and then ruin all of that loving care with poisonous makeup products, so I only use clean and sustainably-oriented skincare. My go-to brand is Saie, they have really perfected the kind of glowy, even tone I look for, and I love their ethos and marketing, which is directed at all ages and skin tones.
At night, my routine looks very much the same, except I use a stronger cleanser, one that works very well for my skin by Dermalogica, and then before I layer on Attar I use F. Miller’s eye oil. I also love Lesse’s Bioactive Face Mask, which is meant for nighttime, so I’ll do that every few days too. I also just started using a new top secret retinol product that’s launching soon, so I’ll let you know how that goes. ;)
At night I also just started incorporating 5 minutes with a microcurrent wand into my routine, which I wish I had started doing earlier, just for my skin’s sake. It’s not an instant gratification tool - the effects are meant to be seen in the long term - but it’s a loving warm buzzy stick to pass around my face, which I am certainly not mad at.
What other practices do you have that support you feeling your best?
A few years ago I started working with my beloved friend and health coach Daphne Javitch, and this has been the most life-changing thing I’ve done for my body, brain, gut and skin in terms of establishing maintenance routines. Receiving such loving and practical guidance took away so much of the shame or fear I had around the wellness world, which frankly can feel like such an exclusionary, gate-keepy space. Daphne helped me address my digestion issues, which set off a wave of improvements across all of the literal lifelong issues I have been dealing with; endometriosis, eczema, chronic migraines, fatigue, insomnia and more.
When I started following her protocol, I had my first menstruation cycle without debilitating cramps in 20 years. I cried from relief that day, I still remember it.
Having this hand to hold allowed me the support that I needed to feel empowered in my ability to better listen to my body, and how to love it stronger. So some of the things she taught me, like food combining, order of eating and more, have absolutely changed my life, and I try to utilize them as tools each day to feel my best (and to better understand the days when I don’t feel my best at all, which is ok, too).
The other thing that I love about Daphne’s guidance is her encouragement to truly enjoy food, including food that falls outside her usual protocol. So if I’m traveling and on vacation, or if I’m out to dinner with my friend and I want to indulge in french fries and wine or whatever food that could potentially help create a fuller, more joyful experience, she encourages it. This to me is so important, because if we are just looking at our wellbeing as something to maintain and optimize like a machine so that we can be our most productive and the most acceptable to the world’s gaze, what is the point? With all of those expectations on us every day, shouldn’t joy be the absolute most important element to feeling our best?
Do you have a favorite ritual?
My favorite ritual is not for myself but for my daughter. I have an 8-year old with very, very curly hair, and teaching her the rhythms and the practices necessary to take good care of her hair is a daily and weekly commitment. We sit together after she leaves the shower, apply conditioner, part it, comb it through, and it’s a time that we are physically and emotionally very close to each other. Without teaching her to obsess over her looks, I hope my touch and teaching can help her understand the honor and power that is attached to these rituals of care, and particularly for women, reclaiming rituals of beauty as a means of self-celebration rather than a means of making ourselves more acceptable to the world.
What do you always keep on your nightstand?
The stack of five books that I am somehow reading at the same time, and that’s it. Absolutely nothing else.
Please share a favorite way to unwind.
So this is sort of a stupid little thing, but I have a super difficult time unwinding, so any little unwind counts! Last winter we moved into our current apartment, which has a fireplace. I have never had an apartment with a fireplace before, so this winter I had to learn how to build a fire. It’s actually very hard! I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s the way our fireplace is designed or something, but it requires a lot of effort.
There’s like the first ten minutes where you have to get the fire going and then sit in front of it and sort of babysit it a little bit. Which means watching the flame, paying attention to what’s catching and what’s not, throwing kindling in at the right time, etc. And then you have to maintain it - put in more wood, turn the logs, stoke the flame…. for as long as you want a fire you have to do all that.
Almost everything I do is so long-term. Building businesses. Raising children. Nurturing relationships. This is like each of those, but… distilled. Like just a couple of hours of starting something, taking care of it and then managing its safe extinguishing when it’s done.
Also it smells amazing.
Here is our firewood supplier. They have the best smelling wood.
How do you end your day?
I love ending the day reading in bed. I try to reserve time for this, even if it’s just 20 minutes or so, and even if I’m not in the mood. And it has to be a paper book, not like news on my iphone or anything like that. Remember when we used to read things on paper all the time?? I don’t want my brain to lose that skill. Your brain should be able to take you away to somewhere without opening an app.
What are your favorite products from CAP?
I have so many favorite products!! CAP always has my favorite round up of all essentials, and everything is so considered. I also truly feel that it is so amazing to be able to buy these products from a woman-owned small business, and that almost everything is the product of the loving, passionate hard work of another woman-led small business. I would rather buy from someone whose hands and heart touched the product than from some faceless conglomerate whose all-male executive board are just interested in making more money so they can upgrade their Hamptons houses. My favorite products are:
Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum - and the essence to match, whenever possible. This brand has exploded of late (and deservedly-so!), and I see celebs everywhere calling it their skin savior, but take it from someone who has an actual real life, no handler, and never has time for a facial: this serum is the real deal magic.
Wonder Valley Olive Oil - one of my favorite CAP women, Alexis Rothenberg, sent this to me as a gift one glorious day many years ago, and I fell in love. What a beautiful, delicate flavor, perfect for dressing any salad or even bread snack. I also love following along on the founder, Alison Carroll’s adventures and her beautiful life on both coasts.
Plant Paper - I discovered this chemical-free bamboo toilet tissue when my friend signed me up for a year’s subscription. There is an enormous movement of people rethinking our essentials from the ground up and designing for a better future, and I love supporting these efforts by small makers. Plus, can you think of a more sensitive area that you’d like to keep chemical-free.
The O’Clocks 4 O’Clock - I love coffee so much and will never give it up, but cutting it out of my afternoon routine has really been a game-changer for my sleep quality. I find the 4 O’Clock gives me my second wind in an even, smooth delivery without burning me out later in the evening.
Monastery Attar Floral Repair Concentrate - My everything. I have been using this for years now and it is honest to goodness perfection. It protects my skin against the elements during the day, it restores my overall tone and texture overnight. It’s the perfect invisible base under makeup without creating too much shine. I love you Athena, thank you for this gift!
Lesse Bioactive Face Mask - My favorite nighttime mask by one of my favorite independent skincare lines. I am acne-prone, particularly when I am wearing a face mask a lot during the day. Grateful for this loving boost before I fall asleep to set things right.
Noto Rooted Oil - I have used this so much over the past few years as a midday pickup. I love the scent, it’s mellow and natural and soothing, it’s a mainstay on my dresser.
CAP Beauty The CAPtivator Love Bath - I love baths! If I had my choice in the matter I’d take a bath every day. This formula is just such a great scent for relaxation, self-love and deep breaths. I love everything CAP makes, each product is always so thoughtful and loving.
Monastery Rose Cleansing Oil - I just started using this cleanser a few weeks ago and am loving the results. I am in the middle of a super harsh winter in New York, and so I have to be so careful with cleansers that overstrip or are too harsh on my skin. But like everything else Monastery makes, this is gentle, effective, and smells wonderful.
There’s a ton of other stuff I want to try from CAP this year, which I’m including below. Skincare is expensive! I prioritize it in my budget because it is important to me, but I also only fold in new things when I really believe in them, and do so carefully and slowly. Less is often more when it comes to what we put on our bodies. Taking it slowly has shown me the best results, as far as I can tell.