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Issa Rae shares her beauty secrets and how she keeps her hair healthy

No matter what’s going on in her world, it’s always “me season” for Issa Rae. The 39-year-old actor, writer, and producer began her career as a self-proclaimed awkward Black girl, but Rae has since spun that awkwardness into a laidback confidence that shines through all her projects — including Sienna Naturals, the hair care brand her sister-in-law, Hannah Diop, founded in 2012.

Rae started out as a “guinea pig” for the brand. “Then, over time, I really just fell in love with the vision and the products,” says Rae. “As a very self-proclaimed dry bitch, they really added the moisture I needed for my hair so when the opportunity came to be an evangelist for the product, I was like, ‘sign me up.’” She joined the Sienna Naturals team officially in 2020 and assisted with a total rebrand; her current title is “Co-founder and Muse.”

Rae says that being involved with the brand and using the products have increased her “understanding of hair health” which has helped her maintain healthy hair despite the many elegant, often subtly intricate, hairstyles she pulls off for red carpets and photoshoots.

Allure: Not to be creepy or anything, but what do you smell like right now?

Issa Rae: I'm so glad you asked actually. There's this Chloé perfume that I got at fashion week that I always get complimented on. It's Atelier des Fleurs — I smell like a mix of Palmer's cocoa butter and that.

Allure: What’s the weirdest part of your beauty routine?

Rae: Slathering aloe vera on my face at night. I look like a big grease ball. I like the way that it dries on my skin when I wake up. It’s something that my grandmother told me to do. Maybe once or twice a week and I'll do that and no other products.

Allure: The most important beauty tip you’ve ever received is…

Rae: Honestly, this is something that everyone knows, but just as a lazy person, not sleeping in makeup and not flying with makeup on. Joanna Simkin, my makeup artist, does a ‘Bare in the Air’ campaign just to make sure that people know how unhealthy it is to fly with makeup on your face. I don't always follow the rules, but I know that it's bad for you.

[Editor’s note: Bare in the Air is an unofficial social campaign that Simkin started “to make sure everybody was taking proper care of their skin while traveling,” according to Simkin. The makeup artist adds that she is “working on some TSA-approved goodies people can pack in their carry-ons to continue to love their skin in flight.”

Allure: How have you kept your hair so healthy all these years?

Rae: I was not taking care of my hair for a while because I didn't know how to. Getting involved with Sienna Naturals and understanding the root of hair health has helped me. Working with [hair stylist] Felicia Leatherwood has helped too — she has very close, intimate access to my scalp.

It's just letting my hair rest a lot, too, when I can. Sometimes, that means I'm not seeing anybody. Sometimes, that means I am camera off on Zoom so that I can make sure that my hair is out and free and moisturized without having to coif it or put it in a tight ponytail or bun.

Allure: What’s your favorite part of getting ready?

Rae: Doing my face. I like to keep a clean face with lip, mascara, and tinting my eyebrows, and glasses. That is my uniform. It makes me happy to be barefaced.

Allure: What’s your least favorite part of getting ready?

Rae: Sometimes doing my hair, because I'm so meticulous. It's a process.

Allure: How would you describe the signature Issa Rae look?

Rae: In addition to a bare face and glasses, a high bun, T-shirt, jeans, and Chucks.

Allure: What’s your favorite part of your face?

Rae: That's so funny, I've never thought about that but… smile.

Allure: Tell me about the most embarrassing haircut you’ve ever had.

Rae: I actually mocked it on Insecure but it wasn't as bad even as it looked [in real life]. I used to do these twists when I had shorter hair in college — trying to mimic some of the girls that wear their hair naturally. But my hair wasn't long enough. Sometimes, the twists would be like Hellraiser, all over the place. There was no hang time. My little brother constantly makes fun of that period in my life.

Allure: What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

Rae: Work out.

Allure: And the last thing you do before falling asleep?

Rae: The last thing I do before I go to sleep is my skin-care routine which usually takes me five minutes. I use the Dr. Barbara Sturm Cleanser, Mario Badescu Aloe Vera Toner, Dr. Sturm For Darker Skin Tones Hyaluronic Serum, Cosmedix Revive and Renew Serum, Tata Harper Nutrient Face Oil, Ole Henriksen Dewtopia Retexturizing Night Serum, and the Cosmedix Humidify Deep Moisture & Firming Hydrator.

Once every other week I'll do an extensive Nighttime routine with all Ole Henriksen products and that takes me like 20-25 minutes. Then I set my alarm.

Allure: What was your happiest hair moment?

Rae: I'm going to choose two. I loved the hairstyle at my wedding and I want to say my first NAACP Awards. [For the award ceremony,] I got a hairstyle from Felicia [Leatherwood] that I really liked a lot.

Allure: What’s a beauty trend you wish would go away?

Rae: I hate the pressure to pump your face with a bunch of things to make sure you feel you look young. No judgment but I hate the pressure around it. I've even found that in conversations people are like, "Oh, just do this, this, this." I'm like, this is just the way my face is moving right now. I just let it rock.

Allure: The beauty professionals I owe it all to are…

Rae: Felicia Leatherwood, my hairstylist; Joanna Simkin, my longtime makeup artist; and Erin Ishizu on nails.

Allure: What's the beauty tip you find yourself giving most?

Rae: I love seeing people's natural hair. I will always compliment that. I'm less of a tip person and more of a complimenter.

The original article can be found on Allure US.

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