The #ITGTopShelfie interview series focuses on the beauty routines of Into The Gloss' lovely, accomplished, and loyal community of readers. Submit your own on Instagram—post your Top Shelfie (tag us @intothegloss! and include the hashtag #ITGTopShelfie for a chance to be featured on ITG.
“Hi! I’m Raina (@quakerraina). I was a barista and a college student before the pandemic but now I’m… nothing. Well, I am a comedy writer, so mostly nothing. I am currently living at my mom’s house in Portland, Oregon, where I tweet all day as if someone’s paying me. (To be clear, no one is paying me.) I also do the occasional virtual comedy show and spend a good amount of time begging people to invite me onto their podcasts. But mostly I wander around my mom’s house like a beautiful ghost. It’s important that I’m pretty just in case people don’t think I’m funny.
I think beauty should feel good. My earliest and fondest beauty memories are when my mom would braid my hair at the kitchen table every Sunday morning. I loved the feeling of her carefully washing, detangling, parting, and braiding my hair for hours, but the most exciting part was when she would let me pick out a colorful hair tie for each braid and then twirl the ends into perfect little ringlets. It was all so lavish. She did that for the first ten years of my life. In high school and middle school I put relaxer in my hair and flat ironed it every single morning, which obviously destroyed my curl pattern. I was putting all of this time and effort into my hair and I still hated it! In hindsight I realized it was because it didn’t make me feel good, and that lesson has guided my beauty decisions since. If a makeup product feels heavy or dry or sticky, I don’t think it’s worth it—even if it looks good. And I’m always inspired by people who look like they feel good, whether they’re bare-faced or in drag. You can always tell when someone feels good in their look.
I haven’t really been wearing makeup for the past few months because I barely leave the house. (Sometimes I do go on long walks around my neighborhood while reading a book, which forces me to get some exercise while also making me feel like Rory Gilmore.) But when I have a particularly exciting Zoom call, I am absolutely loyal to the L'Oréal Voluminous Superstar mascara in Red Carpet Black. I tell everyone about it. It has a white primer on one end and black mascara on the other end, and it is amazing. In March I kept seeing videos of hot people shaving the tail ends of their eyebrows off so I did it—I shaved the ends of my brows off. It did not look good at all. I spent a month with short boxy eyebrows, which was fine because I only horrified my mom. Now that they’re back I gel them every day. I refuse to buy brow gel because I think it’s a scam, so I just use Olive Oil Edge Gel from the beauty supply store and a spoolie brush. I add Burt’s Bees chapstick and… I guess that’s it? I haven’t pulled a look since winter.
Since I haven’t been wearing makeup, I’ve gone kind of crazy with the skincare. A year ago I didn’t even own face wash—I would just wipe down my whole face with a makeup remover towelette, maybe slap some coconut oil on my face, and go to sleep. Now I am aware that is insane. I learned from the aesthetician Nayamka Roberts-Smith on YouTube that you should always wash your face for an entire 60 seconds, and now I stick to that religiously. In the morning, I use the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Cleansing Gel which is very gentle (and unscented for all the sensitive sweeties out there). I usually put some eye cream under my eyes, and right now that’s A Perfect World from Origins, which has SPF 20 and green tea to help with puffiness. I apply The Ordinary’s hyaluronic acid serum and Natural Moisturizing Factors cream, which I won’t pretend to know anything more than the obvious about. And then I top it all off with some Black Girl Sunscreen. It’s the best sunscreen ever because it doesn’t leave brown skin looking ashy and weird.
Before bed I use the Origins Checks and Balances Foaming Face Wash, which is a bit thicker than the Neutrogena and feels really soothing on my skin. Then I put on the hyaluronic acid serum again, some squalane oil, and if I spent the day in the sun I add the Youth to the People Superberry Hydrate and Glow Dream Mask on top of all that. I’ll occasionally use a clay mask on my nose, chin, and cheeks—all the areas where my pores get clogged. I’ve recently been using the Formula 10.0.6 Pores Be Pure strawberry and yarrow mud mask, which leaves my skin looking absolutely luminous when I take it off. I haven’t tried anything else from the brand but I’ll definitely be buying this again.
I haven’t had access to a braider since the pandemic started so I’ve had to wear a wash and go pretty much every day. My hair routine is pretty simple: I only shampoo once every three weeks, and about once a week I condition with Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla conditioner and detangle with a paddle brush. After my shower, I divide my hair into sections and rake in a generous amount of Miss Jessie’s Multicultural Curls Styling Lotion and the argan oil Eco Styler gel. I feel like I saw somewhere that Eco Styler is actually bad for hair, but it works for me! I usually try to air dry in front of a fan because I avoid using heat on my hair, and then I sleep with it in a loose top knot to keep my curls from shrinking. I know Black women already know this, but wrapping your hair in silk while you sleep will make your style last much longer and prevent breakage. It usually takes a whole day for my hair to dry completely, and when it’s finally there, I use a pick at my roots to create shape and volume. I would love to be amazing at installing lace front wigs—I just want to be Arnell Armon so bad. To be able to switch up my hair without damaging it would be so powerful.
I like to watch videos of people doing peaceful things like baking bread or putting on makeup. Jackie Aina is sort of my Bob Ross, though Bob Ross is also my Bob Ross. My mom is a painter so I’ve always appreciated painting as a creative outlet. Honestly, I feel like I’ve lost all sense of style these past few months? What I do know is: wash your pillowcase if you’re having a breakout, replace your toothbrush frequently because bacteria is probably thriving on it, and remember to floss every day. I love experimenting with trends and trying new things, but I’ll always have dewy skin, mascara, big brows—and even bigger hair.”
—as told to ITG
Photos via the author