Presented by ULTA Beauty
When I was a little girl, my abuela would always warn me to stay out of the sun for fear of my skin getting too dark. It was hugely confusing for me because I was born with dark skin, so suntan or not, I was always going to have the mocha brown skin I was born in. It would drive my mother crazy because ever since I can remember her and my father would stress to me how beautiful my skin was and talk to me about the African heritage that all Puerto Rican’s share. They made it a point to uplift the African aspects of our lineage and would point out writers and musicians who looked like me.
I’m so grateful for all the effort they put in because when I got to school, my mixed race but singular ethnic identity confused the hell out of everyone, myself included. I was always so much darker than all the other Latinos, and was frequently told that I “didn’t look Puerto Rican.” But my African American friends were very quick to point out that I wasn’t Black because I “spoke Spanish.” I fit in exactly nowhere. But because my parents always made such an effort to make sure I was seen and reflected, and also because my father also has dark skin, I was able to feel comfortable in my identity even before I had the words to describe myself as Afro-Latina.
I’ve faced discrimination because of the color of my skin over the years, from being called the “n” word in the first grade, to being denied drinks in a Latin American bar for being too “negra,” but I love myself and my ancestry too much to ever wish I looked any different. I knew I had to take good care of my skin from a young age (Thanks mom!) and was acutely aware that my brown skin would glow if I tended to it. So, I became obsessed with taking good care of it and people noticed as I got older. I’ve literally had other women come up to me, caress my arms, and tell me how gorgeous my skin is. I’m a legit expert these days in all things exfoliation and moisturizing and I’m not ashamed of how much time and effort I’ve dedicated to figuring out what works for my skin because I see it as demonstrating how proud I am of who I am.
My tried and true routine really focuses on the removal of dead skin cells anywhere and everywhere. I normally start with a full body scrub that also has lots of moisturizers so my skin doesn’t get irritated (Shea Moisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Creme Sugar Scrub, $11, ULTA.com). I always make sure to pat dry, rather than rub my skin with a towel before using a body oil to lock in all the moisture I can before I even get out of the bath (Philosophy Pure Grace Satin-Finish Body Oil Mist, $28, ULTA.com). I follow that up with an all-over body cream — preferably shea butter-based — before getting dressed (Tree Hut Shea Body Butter, $8, ULTA.com).
My skincare routine for my face is something I’ve tried to keep mostly organic after realizing how many chemicals can be found in the products we put on our skin. I went down the rabbit hole when I got pregnant and started detoxing our home and to be honest, it was really terrifying. Most people don’t realize that skin is actually the largest organ in our body and we can absorb so many toxins through it. So I use fruit-based acids (First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads, $32, ULTA.com) followed by a physical exfoliator (The Body Shop Seaweed Pore-Cleansing Facial Exfoliator, $18, ULTA.com) 2-3X a week. On my wash-only days, I stick to an emollient cleanser to get all the gunk out of my pores without overdrying (Andalou Naturals Coconut Water Firming Cleanser, $14, ULTA.com) and I follow up with a rose-water based toner to prep my skin for the moisturizers and serums I like to apply. When my skin needs some extra TLC I love the Kakadu C Amethyst Clay Detox Mask, $58. ULTA.com.
When I turned 30, my hormones went nuts and I started breaking out like crazy, which was something I’d never dealt with before! I cycled through so many acne treatment products before realizing I was just making the situation worse by aggravating my skin and drying it out, which just prompted it to make more oil and led to more breakouts. Now, I make sure to really show my skin love and never, ever let it get that tight or dry feeling. I do a more intense cleansing at night and I love a good overnight serum (Kiehls Midnight Recovery Serum, $48, ULTA.com). I seal that in with a facial oil to make sure I’m replenishing moisture (Nyakio Manketti & Mafura Anti-aging Oil, $49, ULTA.com).
In the mornings, I tend to skip another full-on cleanse and just refresh my skin with the toner again before applying a tinted moisturizer (Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream, $39, ULTA.com). That sets the stage for whatever I have to take on that day, whether it’s a birthday party or a board meeting.
My love for my skin is so connected to my love and respect for my family and my homeland that I could never look at myself and see anything but the beauty my ancestors have bestowed upon me. When you think about your skin like that, you’ll want to treat it with the respect it’s due. At the end of the day, loving yourself fiercely is the truest act of resistance and by loving ourselves, we teach our children to love themselves too.