Welcome to You Look Moist, a column in which Man Repeller asks cool people with glowing visages how they achieved their supreme hydration (amongst other things). Today’s installment features Aurora James, the founder of Brother Vellies and 15 Percent Pledge.
How would you describe your skin?
My skin and I have had a volatile but passionate relationship for as long as I can remember. I spent much of my earlier years largely ignoring it–only to be faced with a backlash in my twenties, which led to a string of overcorrections. For the past five or so years, we have not only been at peace but in a very committed and healthy relationship. I think part of this shift was acknowledging that the conditions I provide for my skin change, and as such I need to adapt what I give it. Traveling so frequently in the past made for a lot of dry moments in my otherwise pretty stable moisture balance. I tend to get breakouts right before my period as well.
How would you describe your skincare approach in general?
I feel like it’s high maintenance, but then I read other people’s routines and realize it’s super low. I went through a stage last year where I wanted to strip back as much as possible. My mom has great skin and does almost nothing to it, so I wanted to join her squad. During quarantine I think I’ve been more aware of my skin in its natural state–essentially uninterrupted. I haven’t been wearing makeup most days, which is a big deal. I’m drinking a minimal amount, maybe one or two mezcals a week, and obviously travel is out of the equation. Without those variables, my skin has really been thriving. I keep fantasizing about doing a mask, but that still hasn’t happened.
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Which skincare products are integral to your routine for achieving your ideal, glowing, well-moisturized complexion, and how/when do you use each of them?
I’m very lip-balm obsessed–nothing makes me feel worse than when my lips don’t feel wonderful. I’ve been mixing my own lip balm for the past couple of years. After a lot of experimenting and testing, I think I have the right formula now. Because I use lip balm all the time and it’s on my mouth, I became really invested in knowing all of the ingredients I was applying. If I was stranded on an island and could only have one product, it would be this homemade lip balm.
To know me is to know I am big on oils, always have been, always will be. I apply Rodin’s Jasmine and Neroli face oil right out of the shower. I am also a big lover of fragrance, it affects my mood tremendously. I love how this oil smells, so putting it on my face is akin to a meditative experience. I think we don’t realize how much our state of mind is reflected on our face. If you’re feeling calm, you look calm. I am more concerned these days with the feelings my face communicates to people, as opposed to what age it is perceived to be.
I use Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Face Cream Rich in the cooler months and their regular cream in the summer. She has a Darker Skin Tones line that I love. There has been a lot of talk suggesting cream should potentially go before oil. I’ve tried that, but personally I prefer putting oil on first–for now. But this is a great debate amongst American and French women.
What about makeup products?
I use Rodin’s Luxury Illuminating Eye Cream, which I love. I have been ferociously consuming books on love and poetry at night, which means I haven’t been getting as much sleep as I’d like. The eye cream is a savior for me on Zoom calls, so that is a daily practice. Otherwise I only wear makeup on Fridays which has become “date night” for me since quarantine began. I get fully dressed up–heels, dress, lingerie, the whole bit. My go-to product is Diorshow Liquid Eyeliner in black, even though I am having withdrawal from some of the colored eyeliners makeup artist Bob Scott and I test-drove together in Paris.
What’s the cheapest product you use regularly and love?
Tea tree oil! Anytime I get the slightest hint of a pimple, I apply a tiny dab of it at night. I honestly feel like it’s a miracle for me. It’s insane. I don’t understand why people aren’t more loyal to it.
Is there anything you try to avoid, skincare- or makeup-wise?
I don’t use a toner, toners have never done well for me. I feel like they’re an overcorrection when it comes to my skin. I also try to avoid foundation whenever possible. Even when I’m going to a major event, I will try to mix a touch of foundation into my moisturizer and apply it that way.
Any next-level tips, tricks, or services that you swear by to help you look “lit from within”?
Well, I wake up every morning and drink 800ml of water before I get out of bed. And I mean EVERY. MORNING. If I don’t have my water in the morning, I feel like a wilting flower. It’s sad. I also take fish oil, which I think is super helpful for my skin and nails. I get a lot of questions about my nails. They grow incredibly quickly and almost never break or crack. I think that’s due to my diet and the supplements I take.
Glow Drops from Barbara Sturm also help me replicate a dewy summer glow, as does my regular pilates practice. If I could have one beauty device only while here at home, I would choose a pilates reformer. I think that level of activity is great for my skin. Unfortunately, I am without.
What’s your go-to product or trick for fixing a skin disaster?
If I’m having a skin disaster, it’s likely because there is a disaster somewhere else in my life–whether it’s binging on sweets, or not being active enough, or flying a few too many times. So my first step is recognizing the root of the problem, and not beating myself up about it. Then, I lay off of makeup, wash my silk pillowcase, and start again fresh.
Do you do anything differently skincare-wise when you travel?
If I’m on vacation, I’m dedicated to wearing sunscreen. I like Supergoop, I think it does well on my skin. A lot of sunscreens leave this weird white tone that is very annoying for women of color, but the Supergoop products don’t do that. I make a major point to not touch my face while traveling, and oftentimes while onboard a plane or after I land I’ll use a rose quartz gua sha, which helps with circulation and makes my face less puffy. But in general, I really try to layer up on moisturizing before, after, and during travel.
What’s something you wish your teenage self knew about taking care of your skin?
I wish I knew the importance of creating routine and observing my skin carefully over longer periods of time. We tend to react and pivot based on micro issues without taking a step back and looking at the overall health and wellness of our skin. Also, less is more. Because I wear very little makeup and focus on skincare, I require far fewer products to cleanse my face. If I’m at home all day with no makeup on, I will only use a washcloth and water on my face at the end of the day, and that’s more than enough. I am really in the “less is more” camp when it comes to skincare.