The Biotech Scientist With Extra Haircare In Her Suitcase


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“Hi! Dunni Odumosu (@theedunnio) here in Philadelphia. I consider myself to be a career-preneur—I have a full-time career in the biotech industry, a business that helps independent beauty brands looking to enter Africa called House of Arewa, and a podcast called Beauty Needs Me. My background is in chemistry. When I was younger I thought I was going to be a doctor—but when I found out that you can be a cosmetic formulator with a chemistry degree, I was sold. I started my career as a cosmetic chemist at L’Oréal. But after a while I realized I didn’t want to work in a lab for my entire career. I went to grad school, unsure of what else I could do in the beauty world if I wasn’t a formulator. It all clicked for me in 2011, when I went on a long trip to visit family in Nigeria. My hair is natural, and I knew that I wouldn’t find the products I needed to style it there. You can’t just walk into a CVS or a Target in Africa—a lot of US-based brands don’t consider Africa a viable beauty market or make their products available there. My aunts and cousins take dedicated trips outside of Nigeria, to London or America, just to shop for these things. Frankly, that made me angry—women in Africa would pay for La Mer, or MAC, or Clinique if they were just accessible.

On my podcast, my co-host Taleah and I shed light on the African beauty market and Black beauty, topics rarely highlighted in the Western world. The whole idea behind the name is that we wanted to show people that there’s space in the beauty industry for everyone, regardless of your color, culture, and where you live. I really struggle with merging my two worlds, because when you’re engrossed in science, beauty is considered very frivolous. I’m working on owning whatever I have going on—like the fact that I might have blonde braids today, long, straight, black hair tomorrow, and a curly afro on Friday. And I’m focusing on beauty as a function of overall wellness. How do I feel? Do I feel good? What makes me feel good? If I feel good, then I look good, which motivates me to maybe spend a little more time caring about my appearance.

I try to go to Sonya Savage Skin Care in Philadelphia every other month. I’ve always been into getting facials, and the thing I like about Sonya is that she doesn’t push anything onto me. I’m always really excited to tell her about the new skincare products I’m using, and she’s like, ‘You have to stop it! You don’t need 10 products!’ I appreciate how real she is with me. I tend to gravitate towards medical grade skincare because of course I believe in science. There is a real misunderstanding about what a chemical is. Chemicals are in everything! Even natural things are chemicals—if you’re a DIY guru, whatever ingredients you’re using are chemicals. Not all natural chemicals are good for you, and not all man made chemicals are bad. It’s like when people villainize the pharma industry—are there some side effects? Yes, there are side effects. But there are also undeniable benefits that people receive from taking drugs. I wish that people would understand that applies to beauty as well.

I love my complexion, and I feel like I have great skin—I’m not going to be humble about that. But there are some spots I’m trying to even out. In the morning I use the Urban Skin Rx Even Tone Cleansing Bar, which has kojic acid and azelaic acid. My skincare Batman and Robin are Biologique Recherche’s P50 1970 and Skinceuticals’ C E Ferulic. I love them so much, and they’re both holy grails for me. My moisturizer is next, and I’ve been loving the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer and Bolden’s Brightening Moisturizer with SPF 30. If I use the Kiehl’s I also put on Supergoop’s Unseen Sunscreen, which never leaves a cast. I struggle with finding a mineral sunscreen, even though Kinship’s is my favorite of what I’ve tried.

I don’t wear makeup on a daily basis, but I try to invest in treatments that will last. Instead of filling in my brows every day, I got ombré eyebrows at Juna Beauty Spa in Philly. It’s a form of brow tattooing different from microblading—it gives your brows more of a tint. I get lash extensions at Bella Vista Lash Lounge to give my eyes an extra pop. I always ask for a hybrid doll style, because I like volume in the middle. And then if I am wearing any makeup, nine times out of ten it’s lipstick. I’m a dark skinned woman, and I love how bright blue-red looks on my complexion. Some of my favorite reds include the Lip Bar Liquid Matte in Bawse Lady and Nars Dragon Girl, while Coloured Raine Safari Raine Lipstick in Huntress is my favorite nude. I’m heavy into mattes.

My hair is natural, and I would describe my natural texture as 4C. I have very tight, soft, gorgeous curls. When I have braids in, they last for about six to eight weeks. I go to an African braiding shop in Philly called Queen Bee Hair Salon for that, but I do my own hair a lot too. I like the Briogeo Scalp Revival scrub, and I use Innersense shampoo and conditioner. Then I’ll twist it myself, or straighten it and put in clip-ins. I’m my main hairdresser for sure. For styling, I’m into As I Am’s styling pomades and Doublebutter Cream Rich Daily Moisturizer.

I dry brush once or twice a week, and I use a body scrub once or twice a week. I’m really into dry brushing lately. The one I’m using now I just got on Amazon, but I have one coming from Gilded Body that I’m really excited about. The scrubs I like are R&R Luxury’s Shea Sugar Scrub and Frank Body’s Coffee Scrub. I wash with the Love Beauty and Planet shower gel from Target or Olay—pretty basic. And then I get more into the body oils and moisturizers. When I get out of the shower I immediately put on The Established’s Elixa Bath and Body Serum and then layer their body cream on top. If I’m in a warmer climate, or it’s summer, I love R&R Luxury’s Shea Oil. Shea butter is hard, and you have to warm it up in your hands before you can use it. With shea oil, all you have to do is press the pump. It’s phenomenal. I started using this stuff last year—their US distributor is in Maryland, but it’s actually manufactured in Ghana.

When I’m really stressed out, I swap the shower for a bath. A good bath never fails—it’s one of the only things that really helps me calm down. I’ll put in my Elixa oil, bath salts, or a bath bomb in it, but honestly, I’m totally fine with just hot water. I just need to soak. Then I’ll put on a TV show I don’t have to think about—I’m a Bravo and E! addict. I’ll binge watch anything, so don’t tell me about a series unless I have a few days to finish it.”

—as told to ITG

Photos via the author