'I just did a DNA kit from Ancestry.com, and basically, I'm pretty mixed-up. My mom is half-Japanese, but her mother is mixed [race], too. And my dad—both of his parents are mixed. So we found out that it’s, at least with my DNA, I'm 28% Asian, 33% African, and 34% European. But it's a little different for each of my siblings. No one in my family, my cousins or anything, really look the same. My grandmother was Japanese and my mom told us that she would wash her face with rice water, and something in the rice water helped her skin stay young. I haven’t tried it yet, but I always think of that. And my dad has a lot of Native American blood, supposedly, so he uses a lot of oils. His skin is very moisturized all the time. He’s in his 70s and everyone thinks he’s in his 40s or 50s. So I think your background can really affect what you use on your body.
Honestly, I only got serious about skincare about three years ago. Before that, the cycle would be, I’d have a pimple and I’d need to get rid of it now. So I would just pick at it and then put toothpaste on it and do stuff like that. I thought I was serious about it because I wanted it to be off of my face. But then I started realizing it’s a process—you have to be disciplined with washing your face every night and day, and you have to eat right. Having to take pictures and stuff like that reminds you how important it is to be consistent. I wouldn’t get serious about being consistent until like two days before I had to do a photoshoot or something, and my skin would not look great. But that’s not how it works! You’ve been going to sleep with makeup on all week, doing stuff like that, and now you expect to put on a mask and the next day you’re going to look flawless…? Like, no. So I’ve been learning that I have to actually care about my skincare.
So, my skin is combination, and it really always depends on what my diet is and if I’m travelling a lot or if I’m getting enough sleep. So I literally have two drawers full of things that I go back and forth with. Circ-Cell ABO Face Rejuvenation Serum is something that was introduced to me by an esthetician in New York—I’ve really noticed it improving my skin. It supposedly—and I believe them—has more oxygen than human blood. I use that after I wash my face with a SkinCeuticals LHA Cleansing Gel with the Clarisonic and tone with the SkinCeuticals LHA Solution. Sometimes I’ll layer on Rodial Pink Diamond Instant Lifting Serum that really does lift. I also just got a NuFace that sends microcurrents into the skin—it works! I get my facials at Equinox with the stronger version, but this one you can slightly feel, too. So you run it along your jaw, under your eye, and then your forehead.
In the morning, I use Rodial Glamtox Cleansing Balm. At first I was using this cleanser with the Clarisonic too, but then my aesthetician told me that for the daytime, you don’t want to stimulate your skin too much because it’s going to react to all the stuff you do in a day. So I wash without it, tone, and then I do this Eminence Organics Stone Crop Hydrating Gel, which keeps you matte, since I can get, like, real oily in the sun. And then once a week, I use the Eminence Organics Eight Greens Phyto Masque and Stone Crop Masque. And this is really good for hormonal breakouts. When I’m PMS-ing, I do this mask.
My mom went to Hawaii for college, all four years. And she would always tell us about her sunspots. She’s like, ‘This is what happens when you lay out in the sun and try to get brown.’ And I didn’t listen for a long time, because I was a kid, and I was like, what do you know, Mom, who’s lived 30 years longer than me…? But as I got older, I started realizing that my skin was drying out, because as a teenager I would put tanning oil on and lay out for hours, and in LA especially, that’s what you do in the summertime! So once I started seeing the signs of premature aging, I was like, oh, okay. I still like the nice little tan glow, but I definitely can tell once I’ve gotten past the point of burning—it’s like, this doesn’t feel good now. That stuck with me, because she did warn us.
I don’t go out a lot, but when I do go out, I love makeup—my own makeup. And I want to make sure I have all the tools I need. I’m always asking makeup artists I work with, ‘What kind of brush is that? What kind of lipstick is that?’ The first time I went on tour, I was 14 years old. I couldn’t take a makeup artist with me, so I sat down with the makeup artist I had been seeing, and she showed me step-by-step-by-step the basics of makeup. My sister also had Kevyn Aucoin’s book and I would study the art of it. Now, I’m very picky about my makeup because I’ve been doing it myself for so long.
My eyebrows have always been really thick, and in the '90s, my sisters would dye theirs a lighter brown and make them pencil thin. And I just remember trying to do that myself. I had a unibrow, so I took a razor and shaved a little in elementary school. Now I wish I had those full eyebrows so I didn’t have to fill them in here and there. My daughter has beautiful eyebrows—they’re just like mine when I was younger. Thick. And I always tell her, don’t touch them! I have to use my Anastasia Brow Wiz because I used to overpluck, so I have spaces where it just doesn’t grow anymore. So I’ll just look crazy if I don’t fill in those spots. I literally have like three of these Brow Wiz’ on me at any given time.
Every morning, I put on the Eminence Organics Sun Defense Minerals in Calendula Spice. I’ll use Peaches and Cream depending on if it’s summer or winter, or I’ll mix them sometimes. It evens out your skin tone and it protects you from the sun, and that’s pretty much what I need every day. For lips, I like just a regular balm. Right now I have a Burt’s Bees Hibiscus Tinted Lip Balm. So it has like a slight color, but for the most part, I don’t like a lot of gloss. I like to put mascara just on the corner to give my eyes a wing sort of effect. My bottom lashes are as long as my top lashes, so I can’t put a lot on or it’ll just look like spiders. But I do like mascara and I learned how to apply it awhile ago…One time I got my makeup done, and the makeup artist layered on so much mascara that it looked like I had on false eyelashes.
If I'm really doing my makeup, I'll use Nars Sheer Glow Foundation—it feels like lotion on your face, but it gives really good coverage. I don't use too much—it's sheer anyway—because I like my skin to breathe. Then I like to use the Laura Mercier Contour Kit. It comes with little cards that tell you where to use each section, but I don't really need them anymore. I like it personally for me, because it matches my skin tone really well. And it’s got a light consistency, too. I feel like a lot of the time people use really thick things to do contour but this is very, very light. Also, Kevyn Aucoin's concealer! I just have a tester of it, because one day I was in Barneys, and I was like, “This looks like it would be really good and really creamy!” And they gave me a really big sample, and it’s lasted me for a long time. That's what I use at a photoshoot—it's too glamorous for every day.
I also really like the OCC line because it's all vegan. A couple years ago, I went vegan for six months because I hadn't been feeling well and ended up in the hospital. Changing my diet like that made me feel like I had so much more energy. But it's a lot of work to live like that. At one point, I was going to a place that’s really far from my house to get all-vegan everything. One day I went and got everything I would need—makeup, all of that, and then when I ran out, I thought, am I going to really do this every month? My goal is to totally be completely vegan and only use vegan products, but I’m human and I have to work on it daily.
When I’m traveling, I like the bath because at the end of the day I want to come to the hotel room and soak. Also I’m usually doing interviews and photoshoots all day so I like to get my makeup done and then sit in the bath and still have that glow before I take it off. Especially if I have my hair styled, I don’t want to put a shower cap over it or get it wet. But when I’m home, I like to take showers. Especially since my daughter likes taking baths, she’s usually hogging up the bath anyway. I love all of Dr. Bronner’s soaps, but the lavender is my favorite one. Sometimes I even wash my face with that when I’m in the shower. I’ll just like do a tiny bit in my hands and then rinse off whatever happened when I was asleep, sweat or whatever. And then I use Nutiva Coconut Oil all over my body. But you have to be careful that you don’t put on your clothes right away because you will have coconut streaks all on your clothes. I tell myself that all the time, but I always am impatient and I put on leggings and then there’s coconut everywhere. But I really like how it treats my skin, and there’s a slight scent, but it’s good.
I am in the natural days of my life right now. My hair’s naturally very curly, but sometimes I like it slicked back. I don’t have to do anything but just take a brush to it to get a look like this. I’ve been going between curly, and French braids, and then slick with a bun. But for each of those styles, I don’t have to put heat on my hair. And the real goal is to not even have to brush my hair because it does something weird to my curl pattern. The DevaCurl line is what I’ve been using. The No-Poo is sulfate-free and it doesn’t suds up, so it helps you keep your natural oils and your curls really nice. And it’s something that I use even if I’m not going to wear my hair out and curly. And then the DevaCurl SuperCream is what I use when I’m wearing my hair out and curly—I comb that through wet hair with my fingers to hold all the curls together and help with frizz and humidity.
The Nature's Answer Sambucus Black Elderberry Extract Spray is something I found while I was on tour and now I use it daily. It's just good for your immune system—you spray it directly into the back of your throat, which is good for me because I'm a singer. And then I love Tom’s deodorant and toothpaste. The toothpaste is fluoride-free, and the deodorant is aluminum-free. Those things are bad for you! So I like Tom’s.
When I go out, I like Chanel Coco Mademoiselle because I really like how it smells when it wears off. I'll spray a jacket with it and the next day, it smells perfect. Then there's this little gem called Essential Faith. I only know two places that have it. One is on Abbot Kinney near Venice Beach. And it’s such a subtle thing that mixes well with any type of actual perfume. It's one of those scents that will mix with my smell and I'll get a whiff of it that's just the best. Because you know, sometimes you can get a perfume that you thought smelled good…but when you wear it, it's different. My friend and I bought the same perfume once—we were in the store like, “This smells good, let’s both get a bottle!” And it smells so much better on her. On me it just smelled like an old lady. I had to give her my new bottle! It was clearly her fragrance!”
—as told to ITG
Jhené Aiko photographed by Emily Knecht in Los Angeles on December 8, 2015. Interview by Jane Helpern.