'I was born in Cairo, Egypt, but my parents are Sudanese. We moved to Paris when I was very young, and then to Jordan, and then Cyprus for a year, and we came back to Paris when I was twelve. We moved around a lot, so I speak four languages: Arabic is my mother tongue and then English, French, and Italian. It’s useful in the fashion industry—I assisted [French Vogue editor and stylist] Anastasia Barbieri for around four-and-a-half years and now I’m a fashion editor at Vogue Hommes International, which is a men’s fashion magazine. It’s great, because I wear a lot of menswear, and I did when I was younger; I always like to mix a men’s shirt or sweater in my wardrobe.
In terms of my skin, I think it really comes down to genetics—my mother. I was really lucky because my father had bad skin when he was younger, and one of my brothers and I got my mom’s genes, and then my sister and my other brother got my dad’s genes. But basically, I just try to hydrate it. I use the RéVive Cellular Repair Cream SPF 15 on my face every morning. The texture is really thick, but it penetrates really fast. What I’ve noticed with RéVive is if you use two of their products with each other, it doesn’t work. I have their serum that you’re supposed to put on before the cream and when I do that, the cream doesn’t stay on your skin anymore. So, what I've learned to do is use the Lancôme Visionnaire Advanced Skin Corrector first as a base and then I put on the RéVive. I also have the RéVive cream for the neck: the Fermitif Neck Renewal Cream SPF 15… I know, it’s ridiculous and I’m thirty-one, but the thing is you have to start early. You can’t go back in time.
Before going to bed, I clean my face with an oil and I put on the RéVive Moisturizing Renewal Cream. I've tried all these creams for eyes, because my under-eyes are so dark, but I feel like nothing really works for dark circles. If I feel like they’re really puffy and dark, I'll use sliced cucumbers from the freezer—they take the puffiness away. I keep them on until the slices start to melt.
I don't have a shower in my apartment; I can only take baths. But I like that, it makes you relax, even for five minutes. Kiehl’s Washable Cleansing Milk is my favorite body wash. I think it’s supposed to be for your face, but when I bought it, it felt really dry and horrible to use on my face, so I kept it for my body and it works. And this is something that my chiropractor told me: I was really tense and she said that you run a bath and put two caps full of Weleda Arnica Massage Oil and stay in for twenty minutes and it relaxes you. Also, when you come out, the oil stays on your skin so you’re already hydrated. For more moisture, I use this amazing cream, TopiCrem Ultra-Moisturizing Body Milk. It’s thick and it doesn’t really have a scent. If I do want to smell, I mix it with a little bit with Dr. Hauschka Rose Body Milk. I do two pumps of TopiCrem for one pump of the Dr. Hauschka.
For makeup, I prefer an everyday, easy look. Sometimes, I don’t want to wear anything—I don’t feel like it—but at the same time, if you don’t wear any makeup at all, people feel like you’re not really ready or awake… Just curling your lashes with the MAC Full Lash Curler helps a lot. And I put on MAC Smolder Eye Kohl as well, every day. Other kohls I’ve tried will smudge, and lately, I’ve only been putting it on the top lash line, not on the bottom; I just felt like changing. They all smudge a little bit, but this one stays controlled and gives that sexy-eye kind of thing. I put a little bit more on the outside and I smudge it bit, so it’s not a hard, hard line.
When I go out, I usually do my eyes, and once in a while, I do my lips, though for a long time I never did my lips because I thought they were too big and I thought that it made my mustache show. You know, we all have these weird things, ‘cause now I’m totally into lipstick. But anyway, I also use the Sisley Phyto-Ombre Eye Shadow in Black. I’m really into shadow—I picked it up from a Stevie Nicks interview I saw. They did an interview with her right before a Fleetwood Mac concert and she was doing her makeup in a mirror during the interview, and she does this thing where she puts the black on the crease and then smudges it. After I’ve done the black with the Sisley shadow, I add some of the MAC Cream Color Base in Dusk Rose in the middle of the eyelid, right above my pupil and smudge. Also, the mascara I’m using right now, Lancôme Hypnôse, is really, really good. I used to use it a long time ago, but I switched to something else because, you know, you get samples to try, but I came back to it.
Another thing I always use is the MAC Strobe Cream, which is a pearly cream you put on and it brings out the highlights and attracts light; it’s incredible. You put little drops wherever you want to highlight—and if you’re not wearing eye shadow, you could put a little bit in the middle of your lid and then let it sink in and it just gives a tiny bit of shine. It makes you glow. If I’m going out and my shirt is open, I even put it on my collarbone. I don’t wear foundation or concealer—I feel like that opens up a whole new window. I’d rather live with these bags than hide them. And I know that even if I did wear concealer, you can still see them, so I just don’t care about it.
When I put lipstick on, I have two that I really like: the red Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet Luminous Matte in Fatale and then a dark brown YSL Rouge Pur Couture The Mats 205. The Chanel, I usually wear if I’m going out when I’m really strict and my hair is pulled back and I just have this red mouth… I tried for a while to wear it just with regular clothes, but it’s just not really my thing—also, you have to be careful with what you eat and all of that. And then the YSL one was my new discovery; it’s kind of gothic. For a moment, I started wearing it with these silver hoop earrings, for a kind of ‘Nineties-goth-Sade’ look.
Lately, I’m feeling more matte [makeup], in general, which is why the matte YSL and the Chanel are my favorite lipsticks of the moment. Also, I had been looking for a nude for a long time—they’re either too pale or too dark—and I recently found the Clinique Chubby Stick in Whole Lotta Honey. It’s really good. And when I’m feeling glossier, I like Lanolips Lip Ointment in Dark Honey. It’s an Australian brand and they make the best glosses—it’s just so rich and thick, it’s amazing. It goes with the stash of standby things that I use sometimes, or that I get as a gift but am not sure I like it. In my secret stash there is also this Chanel lacquer gloss, Rouge Allure Extrait de Gloss in 60 Excés, that I love but it’s just so full-on. I actually bought it for Carine Roitfeld’s first Bal. It’s like paint. I still haven’t found an occasion to wear it again, but I love it.
I keep my nail polishes in the refrigerator because someone told me they last longer... I don’t know if I believe them. It is a little bit thick when you take it out, but I still think it lasts longer, and I have more space in my fridge than I do in my bathroom! [Laughs] Lately, I’ve been feeling like it’s more chic to not wear nail polish. I’ve also wanted to feel healthier, so that may have something to do with it—I feel like it’s more chic to be able to take care of your nails and for them to be clean and not hide them behind something. But that said, the polishes I gravitate towards are Essie Little Brown Dress or the Chanel Diabolic color. When I do my nails, I tend to stay in this gray-neutral range.
I don’t really like strong perfumes. It really bothers me, so I feel like I don’t want to do that to other people. I feel like perfume’s an intimate thing. So instead of sprays, I do oils. I mix Kiehl’s Original Musk Oil with this Love Perfume Oil from MCMC, which is like a musky-rose made by a small company in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I put a little but behind my ears and on my neck—the mix of the two just works.
For hair…I think hair is difficult for black people—we’re always trying different products. Now, I have a Dominican hairdresser in Paris who is amazing. I always tried to go to a fancy hairdresser, but the ones I would go to would freak out when a black person would come in, probably because they were scared because they didn't know how to do my hair…but you just don’t feel so good going in there and trying to come out beautiful when you actually feel like crap because they didn’t know how to handle your hair. My new hairdresser’s place is called Maria Dolores Institute and she’s Maria Dolores and she is fantastic. She will make your day because she puts Latino radio on all day, so she’s dancing and singing to Dominican hits. I go there as often as I can, at least every three months to do a mild relaxing. Otherwise, I wash wash my hair once a week with Klorane Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, ‘cause with all the chemicals I use, my scalp gets really dry. For conditioner, I use the Lovea Nourishing Mask with Shea Butter—I leave it in for a long time, brush it, and then wash it out. And then occasionally, I’ll spray Chanel No. 5 in my hair. Not everyday, but sometimes. I just like the smell of it in my hair.”
—as told to ITG
Azza Yousif photographed by Emily Weiss in Paris on January 27th, 2013.