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“Hello! My name is Shani Hillian (@shanihillian), and I'm a holistic esthetician and freelance writer. My family is from Jamaica, and herbs and other healing plants were always at our disposal—growing up, I’d apply aloe to my face to hydrate and calm inflammation, then drink a cup of beet juice my grandmother made fresh. Those memories are what inspire my career. But when I went to beauty school, I actually wanted to become a hairstylist. I thought hair was my passion, until we got to the aesthetics [skincare] curriculum... I loved it so much more. But I didn’t even pursue either for a while, because when I moved to New York, I got signed to a modeling agency. It wasn’t until I started showing friends my skincare routine and the herbs I grew up using that I started thinking about aesthetics again. I stopped modeling full time, took extra classes to further educate myself about skin and plant medicine, and voilà! Everything happened naturally after that. It’s been eight years and I love my job. My latest gig is being a mama to my nine month old daughter, Anaïs. We live in Brooklyn, and my favorite thing to do with her is go for a walk in Prospect Park. It’s only a few short blocks from our place, and allows us to experience a bit of nature.
I closed my facial studio in 2021 due to Covid, but while I was seeing clients for treatments, my ultimate goal was to achieve balance and keep products at a minimum. Diet, emotions, stress levels, and hormones are all major factors in your skin’s health. And the goal is not perfection! I am firmly against the K-beauty 10 step regimen. Less is best for me, and I truly believe that, with proper guidance, it works for most folks. The way misinformation and beauty gimmicks pick up steam all over social media is so frustrating. It’s doing more harm than good! I’ve heard so many crazy skincare myths from clients, but one that’s particularly stubborn is that if you have oily or acne-prone skin, you should stay away from oil. All you have to do is choose the correct oil for your skin—something non-comedogenic, like hemp, safflower, sunflower, or grapeseed oil is great. This method is actually amazing for oily skin as it dissolves excess oil, removes bacteria and sweat, and helps keep the acid mantle intact. Not everything your favorite influencer says is true! I always get my info from credible sites like heathline.com, board certified dermatologists, and licensed aestheticians like myself.
As you probably guessed, I'm a huge fan of oil cleansing. I’ve done it for years and my skin is as happy as can be. I use Taïla’s Mukha Botanical Oil when my skin feels drier than normal and needs a bit more TLC. But usually I use Living Libations Sea Buckthorn Oil. It’s super gentle, for all skin types, and smells delicious. Plus it can double as a moisturizer—multi-use products are a win for me. The best multi-use product (that’s probably already in your pantry) is honey. I love Activist Manuka Honey in my teas, as a face cleanser, and added to masks. Manuka honey is higher in antibacterial properties than regular honey, and it acts like a mild exfoliating peel. I try to mask or cleanse with honey a few times a month. Then, I follow up with Heritage Store Rosewater. The OG classic. I’ve been loving Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum to keep my skin even toned, as I suffered from melasma when pregnant. Melasma is a darkening of the skin, and unfortunately you can’t do much about it because it’s hormonal. I also experienced crazy rashes (which I soothed with aloe) and keratosis pilaris (which I treated with Paula’s Choice BHA body lotion). Drinking lots of water, eating healthy, and taking chasteberry helped balance my hormones naturally. Plus, everything runs its course.
I exfoliate once a week at night, using rosehip beads or the Paula's Choice 2% BHA liquid exfoliant. I also love to mask with Tata Harper’s Clarifying Mask when I’ve been working out more and my pores feel clogged. The weather has gotten a bit chillier as we’re approaching winter, so I’ve been pairing my oil with a water-based moisturizer to add more hydration. I use Cerave’s PM Lotion even in the AM, but always top it off with my favorite EltaMD UV Clear. I finish off with eye care—I love Glossier Bubblewrap, but since that’s discontinued I love Dermalogica’s and Vichy’s too. If I need more moisture, I’ll take it back to my childhood with a good ol’ aloe leaf mask. Cutting it and applying the cool jelly to my skin is nostalgic.
I don’t wear foundation at all—if I’m wearing makeup, it’s brows and lips. I start with Boy Brow in Brown then top it off with Anastasia Brow Freeze to keep my hairs in place. Ami Colé’s Lip Treatment Oil is the best lip gloss I’ve tried in years. I seriously don’t leave home without it, and Anaïs loves it as well! My hair is most often slicked back into a low bun with a side part. I’ve been loving Pattern Beauty curl gel for that. I also use Aveda’s Damage Remedy line to shampoo and condition it, and as a leave-in treatment. Le Labo Santal 33 is my scent of choice, and once that’s on we’re ready for the day.
Sundays are my days to do what I want and indulge. They’re my favorite. I always cook at home, but on Sundays I order out from my favorite restaurant, Risbo, in Prospect Lefferts Garden. Their vegan Whatever Bowl uses whatever seasonal organic ingredients they have from the local farmers market, so I’m always in for a super fresh and delicious surprise. After I’ve put my daughter to sleep, I like to write in my journal about what I’m grateful for. It’s so small, but I enjoy it and it keeps me in a positive mindset. It’s part of how I’m trying to manifest the life I want and deserve. I do my PM skincare routine at least two hours before going to sleep. This allows products to properly absorb into skin rather than on my pillow. And when my food arrives, I make a cup of chamomile or calendula tea, light a candle, play some oldies music and live my best life. All moms can relate to the blissful feeling of having ME time after the baby goes down for the night. It’s just you and you.”
—as told to ITG
Photo via the author