Walda Laurenceau, Acupuncturist


“My family is from Haiti, but I was born in Atlantic City—and I grew up mostly in the Bronx. When you grow up in a Caribbean household, you think that you have to become a lawyer or a doctor or an engineer. So, after I finished school at Rutgers, I thought I’d become a lawyer. I went through the whole process of preparing for the LSATs, and then… I failed them. I was so confused because there was all this momentum I had built emotionally towards the idea of becoming an attorney. But then something clicked and I turned to writing—I ended up creating a small lifestyle magazine called Everything Goes and made three quarterly issues. I enjoyed it so much that I went back to school and got a master’s degree in publishing at Pace University.

I’m 46, but I only started to pay attention to my body when I was around 24. That’s when I was diagnosed with fibroids, which are like non-cancerous growths that happen in the uterus—for some reason I had them very young. It made me think about what I was putting into my body, so I cut beef and chicken from my diet. I researched herbs and nutrition, and then I got into more things like energy medicine, working with chakras, and the idea of reiki. While this was all happening I was freelancing for a living in publishing, but by age 34 I wanted a stable job. My father knew that I was into herbs and healthy things, and he mentioned there was a school nearby where I could learn more about that stuff. I was against it at first, but then one day I met an acupuncturist on the bus. We connected and she gave me my first acupuncture session. During the treatment, I remember that I fell into this space between being awake and being asleep, and I just saw a blue sky. After that I was like, ‘Let me revisit this acupuncture school thing.’

It took me eight years to finish the acupuncture program at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine because I was going part time. During that period I decided to start a tea company called TeaFèy. ‘Fèy’ in my parents’ native Creole means medicine. Plant medicine. I connected with the owner of a community clinic—Bed Stuy Acupuncture and Massage—so I could talk with her patients about herbs and my tea. That’s actually how I got my current full-time job. After I graduated in 2017 I started working there. I’ve been doing it ever since.

So, I do both private and community acupuncture at the clinic. Acupuncture is not cheap if you’re going privately. Community acupuncture, where the treatment time is only about 15 minutes, is a lot more affordable. People come in for various things—depression, anxiety, insomnia, back pain, trying to get pregnant, not getting their period, or having really heavy periods. It just depends. I always feel like they’re my children, and I have to make sure all my kids are good. A lot of the time when people come in with any type of pain, it’s usually connected to some emotional component—they’re not happy at work, or they’re not happy in another situation. It’s a trust thing—people come to you with their issues, and they trust that you know what you’re doing. It’s a big responsibility.

We’ve been taught to take pills instead of learning how to boost our body’s own healing capability. That’s not to say we should avoid medicine, but if we can give our bodies that opportunity, then we can actually be put in a better direction. Milk thistle is really good for the liver and I use that regularly—I take a tincture every night before bed. When your liver is working properly, your skin looks better. Red raspberry leaf is one of my favorite herbs, and that’s just a good one for women in general. Dandelion root and burdock root are good for the liver, too, but they’re also good blood cleansers. Oat straw is a really good one because it helps to nourish the central nervous system. It’s a very calming herb for me. You know how people say, ‘I’m burning at both ends’? This herb in particular helps to stop that feeling—it takes a while to work, but it’s very good. Don’t sleep on herbs because they’re plants—you have to treat them like any other medicine. But also… read! Before you buy something and use it, research it and read about the side effects. Speak with someone who has some experience—a naturopath possibly, or an herbalist. A good place to go would be Kamwo, in Chinatown—it’s like a Chinese pharmacy of herbs. It’s beautiful when you walk in there, and they have a clinic in the back called Grand Meridian. They do acupuncture and herbs—Dr. Shi is the best, I worked under him as an intern.

My daily vitamin regimen includes a prenatal—right now I’m taking one from Thorne. I also like Pelvic Decongest from Snow Lotus. What I’ll do is, I’ll put it around my belly button, in my belly button and below my belly button when I know I’m getting my period. I have Charlotte’s Web CBD Oil and I take an iron supplement called Floravital, which is a liquid iron supplement. I love it—I tend to get anemic because I don’t eat a lot of red meat. So, I do my liquid iron, biotin for hair, skin and nails, and vitamin D drops. I’m also taking a green powder called Amazing Grass Alkalize and Detox—I do that at least once a day. I’ll do herbal cleanses every few months, and recently I did a 20-day one. It’s pretty intense. It’s called Dherbs, and you’re supposed to eat mainly raw foods, but I cooked some of mine. It works on cardiovascular, gallbladder, liver, spleen, respiratory, and blood health—it’s a really good one. They have a 10-day one also. You get it online.

I don’t go to exercise classes, I just go to the gym—Blink—and I do weights. Zuzka Light on YouTube is great for workout inspiration. She’s all about quick workouts—no more than 15 minutes. I also like HIIT exercises—I run for 20 minutes on the treadmill at different speeds, and I find that that’s the best workout for me. Then I’ll do a little bit of squats and strength training. [When I work out] I feel mentally better—it gives me more energy, and I feel better in my body. I just want to feel strong and healthy.

The first thing I do after I wake up is clean my face with Milky Jelly—I freakin’ love it. I like to hold onto the moisture from night, so I’ll just wipe it off with a washcloth instead of washing it off with water. I’ve noticed that the texture of my skin and my pores are tighter. Sometimes I’ll just cleanse with Garnier Micellar Water in the morning—it doesn’t take too much moisture out. At night is when I’ll do a deeper cleanse with jojoba oil. So, what I do is, I first steam my skin with a washcloth for a good five minutes, and then I massage five or so drops of jojoba oil on my skin. After that I’ll gently exfoliate with the washcloth—I tend to get whiteheads, and I find that the jojoba oil with a good steam and gentle washcloth gets rid of the whiteheads no problem. Then I’ll follow that with Thayer’s Witch Hazel or Solution. I use Bragg’s apple cider vinegar with a little bit of water just about every day. Then I’ll use a serum. I found this vitamin C serum at TJ Maxx and I love it—it’s Advanced Clinicals. I don’t use that every night, I switch up my serums. Sometimes I’ll use the Glossier one with hyaluronic acid, Super Bounce. If I feel like my period is coming, I’ll use Super Pure. I move between three moisturizers—right now I’m using Priming Moisturizer Rich, but I love Crème de la Mer. It’s really expensive! Years ago, I was getting these crazy patches of dry skin. I was buying everything to get rid of them, but nothing was working. I ended up getting a sample of La Mer and that sample cleared up my skin in two days—I bought a full size one when I finally had enough extra money. On the lower end, Neutrogena works great on my skin. I use the gel moisturizer in the blue tub.

There’s a mask that I love from Alba, the Papaya Enzyme Mask. It’s exfoliating—it really helps to remove the top layer of skin. As far as moisturizing masks, I use the Moon Mask from Glossier. One more thing that I do regularly is facial cupping and facial rejuvenation acupuncture. The latter is a form of acupuncture that helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and it boosts collagen in the skin. It combines acupuncture with a scraping technique using a gua sha roller. The gua sha is basically a tool that you run across your face, and it helps to tone and contour the muscles. With facial cupping, what you’re doing is really just trying to circulate the excess blood that sometimes creates puffiness and inflammation. I’ll do the cupping twice a week, and the gua sha nightly. As for SPF, I like the Glossier one. What I love about it is that it’s clear and I can’t feel it on my skin once I put in on. I just need to remember to do it, because it’s not something I’m used to.

The Mario Badescu Rosewater is my favorite. I’ll spritz it on at night on top of my moisturizer or, depending on the day, I’ll put it on over my makeup. Right now I have on the Bobbi Brown foundation stick in Cool Walnut and a Sephora concealer on my face. I also love using the Stretch ConcealerKatie Jane Hughes taught me how to blend it all out. On lighter days, I like to use the Stretch Concealer and the Perfecting Skin Tint. Sometimes I like to mix Perfecting Skin Tint with Bobbi Brown’s cushion foundation, which gives it a slightly thicker consistency overall. I’m also a fan of Bare Minerals—sometimes if I don’t want to put any of those other things on, I will just powder myself with that. There’s a makeup artist I like to follow called Jackie Aina, and she’s so funny and gorgeous. I bought this Laura Mercier setting powder because she talks about it a lot. What I like is that it sets the concealer better, but she has this trick that I tried where you put it on before your foundation—it helps the foundation stick and it’s also smoother looking. I have a cheapo-brand color corrector to use under my eyes to warm it up—it’s orange, and it’s called Ruby Kisses. I just got it at one of those neighborhood stores where they sell everything. Recently, I got into Skin Food from Weleda—I use it as a highlighter. It really just gives you this, ‘Oh, your skin is poppin!’

As far as eyes, Lidstar in Herb is my color, and I love the Laura Mercier Caviar Sticks. I usually do my lashes with Lash Slick, and then I also love Boy Brow. For blush—I like Haze, and I also use Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge in Chocolate Cherry. Oh, and I wear red lips often—usually MAC Red. From Fenty, I have Uncensored and Gloss Bomb. I like to use Jam like it’s a stain, and then put the Fenty gloss around it. Then I have Haloscope. That’s what’s always in my rotation.

When I was 24 I started turning gray. I think it’s genetic, but I think my grays were also stimulated by an ex-boyfriend. [Laughs] When the grays came I just said, ‘You know what? I’m just going to accept what’s happening here.’ The gray hair is so different from the rest of my hair—it’s more wiry and drier. I sometimes like to use real food on my hair, like aloe, avocado, olive oil—heavy moisture. My go-to leave-in conditioner is Shea Moisture and I like their Restorative Raw Shea Butter as a regular conditioner. As far as shampoos, I’ll use any kind that clarifies so I can get my roots. I like to use rhassoul clay in my hair—it’s messy, don’t get me wrong. What I’ll do is I’ll get aloe vera juice, mix in the rhassoul clay, and I’ll add oils that I like—jojoba, avocado oil, and maybe a little castor oil. This is kind of like my shampoo and conditioner in one. I’ll section my hair and go through each section from the roots. It helps my hair not shed as much.

There are two places where I get my hair braided—one in Lefferts Gardens called Awa, and one on Nostrand called Soween. When it’s not in braids, I’ll twist up my own hair. If I’m not blowing it out, it’s always in a protective style—it’s either twisted or braided. Constantly messing with my hair just damages it. I wash it once a week, even with the braids—I just put a little cleanser in between them and rinse. But my hair likes moisture—not just oils, but water. It needs it. I’ll put some Jamaican castor oil on my brows, on my lashes, and on my lips. I have two— pure Haitian Black Castor Oil from a brand called Kreyol Essence, and Tropic Isle Living Jamaican Black Castor Oil.

I’m a fan of Dove soap. I love Nivea, and Body Hero Oil Body Wash as well. I have eczema too, so every once in a while I’ll use a cortisone cream. Every day I exfoliate with gloves—that’s my thing. I also dry brush. If I don’t use lotion, sometimes I’ll just mix my own oils and add a little essential oil into it.

When it comes to perfumes, I’ve gotten to a place where I want to stick to one. This is my go-to fragrance right now—L’Occitane Arlesienne. It has saffron and rose, and it’s so nice. I like Dior’s Hypnotic Poison, but I wear that more in the wintertime. I also like a classic one called Trésor. And then there is something I make for myself with essential oils and tea—it’s very subtle, and it’s very botanical."

—as told to ITG

Walda Laurenceau photographed by Tom Newton in New York on July 5, 2018.