"I was born in Paris and then my parents took jobs abroad in a country called Gabon, in Africa. It’s beautiful, by the way. We stayed there for about six years and then we went back to France. I did everything through University—studied stuff, stuff, stuff…then became a makeup artist. I started out working with artists and musicians. I knew I wanted to have more of a creative job, and I’ve always loved cosmetics and beauty. So I was working at Laura Mercier and I had this client who was working a lot in the cinema. She was always coming to me and buying her stuff, and for some reason she really liked me. One day she asked me to work on a movie with her. And I think this is how it started. One of my first real encounters with fashion—with really high fashion—was at this big anniversary Dior show with Pat McGrath. I started to work on the shows in Paris with Pat, and just discovering. And I think that was my real makeup school.
I think when I first arrived in New York I didn’t realize if I had any value or anything...I don’t know if it makes sense, but I didn’t really realize that people like to see your work. Here in New York, there’s less to boo about. So it helped me, actually, to help place myself on a scale. I think, now, if I have to describe my work, the first word that comes to my mind is that there’s a sense of reality in what I do. That’s coming from this big skincare-loving affair which is, I guess, super important in makeup. And I don’t really think trends really exist. I think every face deserves new makeup every day. Every person that I work with inspires me or pushes me to different directions. Sometimes, you don’t have to do a lot of makeup to have the picture looking good, or sometimes I’ll just have to step up and be like, ‘We need something’. Also—it’s just makeup. You can do everything! You can try, at least. Overall, I think I have this kind of light touch that keeps it real.
In the morning, I just rinse with water, and then I tone with any face mist—I have a few in rotation, depending if my skin feels more oily or more dry. I use a lot of this rose water from Cocokind, it’s a really cool brand. I think the product that I’ve been the most loyal to, I’ve probably been using this for 10 years or so—it’s a serum called Flavo-C. And I would do Kiehl’s Rosa Artica Eye Cream. Then a moisturizer—I used to use Dr. Hauschka Rose Day Cream, but I always have Embryolisse.
I do most of my skincare at night, because I have more time to analyze and think, ‘What do I need? How is my skin feeling today?’ I have this chlorophyll mask from Cocokind that I love. Sometimes you need a little scrub, so for that I would do Exfolikate. To remove makeup, I like Clinique Take The Day Off, the oil. Or I use Clarins Cleansing Milk, that just dissolves whatever makeup and impurities. I’ll rinse that, and then use John Masters Organics Foaming Face Wash. After that, I would either do a little La Roche Posay Serozinc spray, or one of the Cocokind toners. And then I like this Caudalie Vinoperfect for hyperpigmentation. But every night I use a face oil. I found this Flores Boticario No. 2 Night Repair Oil. I love it. Or I would do prickly pear oil I brought back from Morocco.
Sometimes, I get this thing called Hydro Facial at this place called Tranquility Spa, and I see Ellen. I will do this when I want to get pampered, just ‘cause I love it. Or, if I have more money and if I want to have a Biologique Recherche moment, I will go to Karine Kazarian's Spa on West 8th. She is great.
In high school, just like any other teenager, I probably tried bold colors, lip gloss… I remember this little roll-on with different flavors from this brand I don’t think you guys had in the states, called Debbie. But nowadays, I actually try to not wear too much makeup, and I’ll explain why. First of all, I would never show up to work with too much makeup, because I go to work to take care of someone’s face, so I want to look real in a way. I want people to trust me. I think this is really important. People look at me when I’m doing their makeup, so I just want to show them that, you know, makeup is also optional. Of course, I don’t just go barefaced. I’ll do a bit of concealer—I used to really like the MAC concealer palette. But I discovered the Glossier Stretch Concealer, and the texture is just perfect. I’ll wear it under eyes mostly. Then my eyebrows are a thing I always do. I think Glossier Boy Brow was the only product that I suddenly was like, ‘Hmm, this makes a difference.’ I have this Chanel Crayon Sourcils, or I love the one from MAC. I never use black though. Always something softer. My mascara is Too Faced Better Than Sex. I buy it in mini, it’s just so cute!
I have a lip balm problem. I go from MAC to Nyx lip balm to Lucas Pawpaw. I had my phase with the Addict Lip Glow from Dior, and I love Glossier Balm Dotcom, the coconut one. I also love this old school classic French pharmacy called Amilab. I just have lip balms everywhere! But I recently decided I like wearing lipstick too, and I actually found some that are like my lip but better. I have this one from Nars called Barbarella. And I know it doesn’t really look like I’m wearing something, but people ask me what’s on my lips, so I think that’s a good sign. I also use a lip liner from Urban Decay just over the top sometimes. There is also this gem I found at the drugstore from this brand called Jordana. It’s a highlighter, and I just do a little bit on my cheekbones. It’s called Glow n' Go. So no, I’m wearing not so much color, but I still want to have something going on, just to look alive and fresh.
On my skin as a base, I would probably do either the tinted moisturizer from NARS, or I use the Laura Mercier powder. They had this translucent powder for ages, and they came out with a dark version recently that’s actually perfect—it’s quite sheer, matte and just warms up my tone. Or I will do some Chanel Les Beiges, which is a compact. For more of a look, I would do maybe a liner with Benefit They’re Real! Push-Up Eyeliner. Or I would do red lips—Chanel No. 2 Rouge Allure Velvet is my favorite. I think it’s limited edition though, it just came out. I also love the Sephora Cream Lip Stain 01. It’s like a liquid lipstick, but it’s not too liquid-y. It stays forever, it’s really red, I love it. Nobody should underestimate Sephora’s quality, or even a good drugstore find. You should be able to afford makeup—it shouldn’t be only for people who have money.
For a long time I would relax my hair, until I met this hairstylist in Paris that I love. I mean, she’s in Paris, but I think she’s a great person to see—her name is Nicole Pembrook. She’s American, actually, and she was like, ‘Wait—why do you relax your hair?’ The texture is really curly and fine naturally, so I started to stop relaxing my hair, with what people call transitioning—basically letting it grow. My priority is to grow it in a healthy way, not relaxing it, a lot of hydration and a lot of care. Hopefully by this summer I’ll reach a new phase.
The conditioner I like to buy is this little pack of Organic Roots. I would do this like maybe every 3 weeks, like a deep condition, you know, leaving it on. My shampoo is Jane Carter or Phillip Kinglsey. My scalp has been acting crazy here [in New York], I think I have to be careful with the ingredients that I use and stuff. This is obviously not natural at all, but the Olive Oil Replenishing Pack from ORS helps. And this Nourish And Shine treatment from Jane Carter is probably like a deep condition treatment you would do in a salon.
I love any scent that is tropical or coconut. Coqui Coqui is great. But the thing I found in the states that I actually love is Curel Hydra Therapy. I put it on when the skin is still wet, and it’s the only cheap, affordable body cream that helped me get rid of my ultra dry skin. So I will do this when I get out of the shower, for sure every morning, and then sometimes I will do a little body oil if I feel like it. I love this argan and amber one I brought back from Morocco. I have some classic shea butter too—some good old African shea butter from my dad’s country.
In the morning I mix frankincense with jojoba oil and put it on the adrenal glands. It helps reduce the cortisol levels and stress. At night, I do sweet marjoram on the chest. I love this from Kneipp’s—it’s like an old school german brand—Red Poppy and Hemp bath salts. I don’t feel like I have really found my signature [scent], but I used to be a big Diptyque fan. I loved L’Ombre dans l’Eau. I like the Chanel 1932, or Coromandel, more for winter. I like anything a little bit oriental, warm, amber, musk. And then this Maison Louis Marie No. 3 L'Etang Noir I carry in my purse, so maybe it’s the one I would say I always wear, because it’s always in there. I feel like I love it more and more. But...I might buy a new perfume tomorrow."
—as told to ITG
Yacine Diallo photographed by Tom Newton in her home in New York on December 7, 2017.