“A weird, cosmic alignment of things happened for me to be a writer at The Strategist. I’m from LA, but I went to school at Bard in upstate New York. The Hudson Valley hits me like an ex-boyfriend—I miss it so much. I studied written arts, and when I graduated I got a job working a nine-to-five at a corporate company in New York City. I was going through a horrible time with my skin, as a lot of people do post-college, so I got really into skincare. I ended up following a ton of Korean beauty blogs—K-beauty is great because it’s so affordable—and it was a way for me to play around and figure out which ingredients worked. My skin started to look great, and my friends were curious about what I was doing differently, so I created this Google Doc for them. Never in a million years did I think it would be shared with anyone, but it got into the hands of a friend of a friend who was an editor at The Strategist. They published it, and it exploded.
I’ve been writing at The Strategist for almost two years now. Historically, I’d try one thing and I’d stick to it. But now I feel responsible to try things out and tell people whether it’s worth spending their money on. It’s really fun with makeup, but it can be tricky with skincare. I have extremely sensitive skin—I’m breakout-prone, I have horrible eczema, and I’ve definitely experienced times where I’ve tried certain products and my skin has completely erupted.
If I have a special event, I’ll get a facial the week of from Sofie Pavitt. It’s incredibly personalized, and she really explains to you what she's putting on your face. She’s also affordable—like $125, which for a New York facial is insane. Then, the night of, I start with a shower. I have such dry skin, and so many products I’d try for a real K-beauty double cleanse would leave my skin too dry. But I started using the Then I Met You cleansing balm—it’s Charlotte from Soko Glam’s other brand—with the Foaming Cleanser Hydrating Wash from RéVive, and it’s so great. I’ll just use the RéVive in the shower to take my makeup off, and Nécessarie in Plain to wash my body. When I get out, while my body’s still wet, I put on a Lavido tea tree cream for my eczema. Then I might pat a little bit of P50 onto my face, depending on what my skin’s doing. A pro-tip is I’ll put on my P50, and then I’ll brush my teeth, or choose an outfit, so I have a little bit of time in between that and other products. Then, usually I’ll do either Biomagic or Masque Vivant, or a sheet mask—I try a lot of them. Today I did the Biomagic mask and a sheet mask from Tula with probiotics. I’ve been trying this new Tatcha Dewy Cream, and I really like it for going out. It leaves a really nice, supple finish that looks so good under makeup. I’ll piano it into my face until I feel like it’s absorbed, and then I’ll hop into makeup.
Nars Sheer Glow foundation in Light 6 has been my go-to since I was probably 19. However, I just got this Fenty concealer, and—you know that video of Oprah talking about Gayle? That is actually how I feel about this concealer. It’s super full-coverage and really matte, but I love that because I can just target certain areas, and I don’t have to set it. Rihanna apparently has oily skin and formulates all her products to matte it out. Also, since it’s such a good match to my skin tone, spot-concealing looks so natural. I’m 145. I watched a lot of YouTube reviews before I committed to it, and I know some people have had issues with it oxidizing, but I haven’t had those issues.
Then after I do my complexion, I’ll move on to contour. My KKW Contour Stick is actually in Dark, which I thought was not going to work. But because there’s no orange in it, it blends out very nicely. Another product I love for contouring is this one from Fenty in Amber. It’s kind of a crazy color, like a gray, but it gives a really natural shadow in the hollows of my cheeks. If it’s a night out, I warm it up on the back of my hand and add a touch of face oil to it. Then I use the Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Filter as a highlight, or the Kevyn Aucoin highlighter. I love that one because it’s 50-percent sheen, 50-percent gloss—it just gives that really pretty wet look that I love.
Now that my hair is red, I find that I have to add more life back into my skin with blush. Formentera by Charlotte Tilbury is one of my favorites, and Bisou Bisou as well. The pink blush from Make is amazing. And I also love Very Sweet from Tata Harper. Sensuous Rose from Estée Lauder is usually what I wear when I go out at night because it’s a powder and it stays put. I got it when I was looking for a new cream blush at Ulta, but the saleslady convinced me to try the powder blush instead. It’s so fucking good, it’s become my everything.
If I’m going to something special, I like to wear a dress and an accent liner. I love the Line Art Matte liner from LA Girl, and they also have these Shockwave liners—I wear so many LA Girl colors. Otherwise I’ll just do a bold eyeshadow, 501s, and a t-shirt. I am in love with the Ohii palettes more than anything, and today I used Treasure and Magic Hour together. But I have a ton of them—I love the Maryam Nassir Zadeh for Make palette, and this holographic one from Milk. I dip into this tiny palette of browns I got in Japan like every day, and it’s also on Amazon. I have the Marc Jacobs Steeletto palette and the liner, which is super creamy and doesn’t budge. I also love this product from Fenty, the Afternoon Snack/Mo’ Hunny Kilawatt duo, which is a highlighter, but I use it as eyeshadow. If I’m going out and I’m in a rush, I’ll just put that on my eyes and I’ll feel cute.
I get my brows done at Robin Evans in Soho, and I usually use Boy Brow in Clear or do 'soap brows' on them. I wear Lash Slick, but only when I’m wearing eyeshadow and going out. I get them lifted and tinted by Jasmine Imani—getting your lashes done can be a scary thing, but she’s great. I always tell her I want to look like the dragon from Shrek.
As are many people, I’m obsessed with the Laneige lip mask. And Shayna [Goldberg] put me on to the Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask in Smashed. It has a little bit of a red tint, and it’s a really soft, bitten color. I sprinted to buy it, and I’ve worn it every day ever since. I also love Glossier Gen G in Jam, and these Milk Makeup tinted Kush lip balms. If you see me out, I’m wearing Fenty Mattemoiselle in Thicc. I also love doing a dark lip liner and a lighter gloss. I use Lip Cheat liners from Charlotte Tilbury, Iconic Nude or Pillow Talk, and on top, either Kevyn Aucoin Glass Glow, which is super reflective, or Gloss Bomb.
I could honestly spend all day talking about Emaly and Shelby at Suite Caroline. Shelby cuts my hair and—let's just say that it’s really easy to leave a haircut and feel like Lord Farquad when you have a bob. Oh my God, all these Shrek references. I’m obsessed with Shrek. But she always keeps it 'French, and fun, and sexy,’—her words—and I leave feeling that way. In the past year I’ve been a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead. Crazy. My natural hair color is super dark brown, and I got to a point where I just wanted to try going platinum. It felt like this really bold accessory, but it was difficult to maintain. We were slowly transitioning back to my natural color when Emaly said, ‘If you want to do red, now would be a good time.’
All things considered, my hair is in really good shape. The purple Christophe Robin treatment mask was my go-to when I was blonde, and now I use it in Copper. I mask every time I wash my hair, which is usually once a week. I've tried a bunch of different reparative shampoos to help. The Sachajuan Hair Repair shampoo I loved, and the Ouai one I liked fine. I also use the Sachajuan leave-in conditioner every time I wash as well. I love the Gisou hair oil, and the Ouai Wave Spray is good when I’m going out. I don’t love to use hot tools, but I’ll use them if I have to—desperate times. Then, I put the Sachajuan Hair Perfume all over and let it do its thing.
Before a night out, if I know I’m going to be drinking a little bit, I love to make myself a really tasty, sexy pasta. You know how people say that if you want to learn a language, you should just go live there? That’s kind of what I did with cooking. I was an OK cook—I had a go-to stir fry recipe, a go-to eggs recipe. But I forced myself to learn how to cook by not eating out for a whole month, and now I do it almost every night. When I cook I listen to bossa nova, because that’s what my mom always plays when she cooks. Then I make myself a cocktail—Palomas are my go-to—and the music gets crazier and louder as I get tipsy.
I don’t do any of my acne stuff before I go out. When I get home, I cleanse, use P50, and spot treat with Great White Shark Sauce [ed note: discontinued]. A beauty blogger called Fifty Shades of Snail told me about the OG Sauce—it has vitamin C, on top of all the other ingredients inside. I put it on my blemishes after they've 'flattened' to brighten them—if I do it before my blemishes will just get irritated. After that, I’ve been going in with AC Rescue from Manyo Factory, which is an all-natural blemish treatment. I know it has centella in it, which really tackles redness and inflammation enough to where I notice a change. It’s great for someone with dry, acne-prone skin. This snail mucin essence is so good, but it’s really thick, so I apply it at the end. It’s so hydrating, reparative, and is so good for brightening, too. After that I put on my eye cream, which is the Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Eye Crème. I love it so much. Then I put on the sleeping pack from Sulwhasoo, and go to sleep.”
—as told to ITG
Rio Viera-Newton photographed by Tom Newton in New York on April 10, 2019.