When Alicia Keys announced that she was ditching makeup, a lot of people (including me) thought it was wonderful—but also easier to do when you have skin that flawless.
So you'll probably be as surprised as I was to learn that it wasn't always that way.
"It took me forever to get this skin," Alicia recently told ELLE UK. For many years she struggled with acne, triggered by a combination of heavy makeup and hot lights that made her sweat for hours. "I know how it feels to have a face full of bumps and pimples. I lived through that in the public eye."
But now, her skin is clear and radiant, thanks to diet and lifestyle changes, a natural routine and her trusted makeup artist, Dotti... who happens to be more passionate about skincare than cosmetics.
"I am very, very much behind women stripping back and, embracing their beauty and wearing their skin front and centre," Dotti told People. "Don't get me wrong: I am a makeup artist so I can do from the lightest to the heaviest look. But it's my belief that we don’t need to paint ourselves to make ourselves beautiful. Her healthy glow is very much a reflection of how she looks after herself—healthy eating, exercise, facials. And basically all I do is bring the beauty she delivers to me and look after it to make sure the skin is in great condition."
Amen to that! Here's what's behind Alicia's glowing no-makeup look:
Alicia's Skincare Routine
MV Organic Skincare 9 Oil Cleansing Tonic: "People get freaked out about oils. They think if they've got oily skin they don't want oil. But yes you do! MV has always been a staple in my kit." — Dotti
Ingredients: Camellia (Camellia Oleifera) Oil*, Avocado (Persea Gratissima) Oil*, Infused Centella (Centella Asiatica Extract) Oil, Orange Bitter (Citrus Aurantium) Oil, Lavender (Lavender Officinalis) Oil, Geranium (Pelargonium Graveolens) Oil, Sandalwood (Santalum Album) Oil, Rosewood (Aniba Rosaeodora) Oil, Vitamin E non GM (Tocopherol), Carrot Seed (Daucus Carota) Oil, Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis)*. *Organic Ingredient
2. Face Mask:
Éminence Organics Clear Skin Probiotic Masque: "To start, we might do a mask to get some moisture in the skin." — Dotti
Ingredients: Cucumber Juice, Corn Germ Oil, Shea Butter, Marigold Oil, Yogurt, Vegetable Glycerin, Kaolin Clay, Stonecrop Juice, Tea Tree Oil, Cyclodextrin, Glycine Soja Oil, Zea Mays (corn ) Starch Oil, Xanthan Gum, Vegetable Squalane, Ubiquinone, Tocopepheryl Acetate (vitamin E), Ascorbyl Palmitate (vitamin C Ester).
Éminence Organics Rosehip Exfoliating Masque: "Éminence also has a nice rosehip mask that she'll do." — Dotti
Ingredients: Rosehip, Rosehip Juice, Corn Extract, Zinc Oxide, Corn Germ Oil, Bioflavonoids, Honey, Corn Granules, Natural Moisturizing Factor, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Natural Cream Base, Biocomplex (Vitamin A, Vitamin C Ester, Vitamin E, Coenzyme Q10, Alpha Lipoic Acid), Salicylic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Lemon Oil, Mint Oil, Glycerin, Glycine Derivative.
SK-II Facial Treatment Mask: "You look like a lunatic, but your skin feels amazing. [They] are ideal for a flight as they instantly hydrate skin, but I usually forget to use one and fall asleep." — Alicia
Ingredients: Water, Saccharomycopsis Ferment Filtrate*, Butylene Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Salicylate, Methylparaben, Disodium EDTA. *Pitera.
3. Lip Treatment:
Éminence Organics Lip Trio Kit: "We do this lip treatment as well from Éminence—it's three steps, so it's nice to do if we have time. Alicia has the most incredible lips, so I just use a really great treatment on them." — Dotti
Lip Exfoliator Ingredients: Orange Peel, Lemon Peel, Pectin, Walnut Powder, Papain (Papaya), Bromelain (Pineapple), Glycolic Acid, Citric Acid, Lemon Oil, Peppermint Oil, Lemon Balm Extract, Vegetable Glycerine, Sorbitol, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Salicylic Acid, Riboflavin. // Plumping Masque Ingredients: Shea Butter Fruit, Avocado Oil, Lemon Oil, Lemongrass Oil, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Green Tea Extract, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Sunflower Seed Extract, Aloe Vera Gel, Soy Lecithin, Soy Peptides, Lemon Balm Extract, Phytocollagen (Yeast Extract), Hawthorn. // Lip Balm Ingredients: Sunflower Seed Oil, Sorbitol, Shea Butter, Beeswax, Stearic Acid, Natural Peptides, Citrus Oil, Lemon Balm, Hawthorn Berry, Lemon Grass Oil, Peppermint Oil, Papain (Papaya) Bromelain (Pineapple), Paprika, Salicylic Acid.
4. Face Oil:
MV Organic Skincare Pure Jojoba: "It's so close to the natural sebum we produce in our skin." — Dotti
Ingredients: Jojoba (Simmondsia Chinesis) Seed Oil*. *Organically Grown - 100% Organic
MV Organic Skincare Instant Revival Booster: "There's a beautiful brand called MV Organic Skincare and they make beautiful oils and rosewater. Sometimes I use the Instant Revival with the rose mist as a treatment. That alone makes her look really glowy and beautiful." — Dotti
Ingredients: Camellia (Camellia Sinensis) Oil*, Avocado (Persea Gratissima) Oil*, Rosehip (Rosa Canina) Fruit Oil*, Jojoba (Simmondsia Chinesis)*, Centella (Centella Asiatica Extract) Oil, Lavender (Angustifolia) Oil, Sandalwood (Santalum Album) Indian Oil, Orange (Citrus Aurantium Amara) Bitter Oil, Geranium (Pelagonium Graveolens) Oil, Rosewood (Aniba Rosaeodora) Oil, Neroli (Citrus Aurantium Amara) Oil, Carrot Seed (Daucus Carota Sativa) Oil, Vitamin E non GM (Tocopherol), Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis) Extract*. *Organically Grown - 85% Organic
5. Face Mist:
Ingredients: Water, Rose (Rosa Centifolia) Oil, Polysorbate, Potassium Sorbate.
6. Eye Cream:
Valmont Prime Contour: "I love trying different under-eye creams, one of the best is Valmont Prime Contour." — Alicia
Ingredients: Water(Aqua), C12-20 Acid PEG-9 Ester, Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum), Petrolatum, Butylene Glycol, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Sodium DNA, Urea, Magnesium DNA, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Calcium DNA, Lecithin, Gynostemma Pentaphyllum Extract, Tocopherol, RN, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Ascorbic Acid, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polyacrylamide, Carbomer, Glyceryl Stearate, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Sodium Hydroxide, Disodium EDTA, Laureth-7, Sodium Carboxymethyl BETA-Glucan, PEG-8, Sodium Lactate, Coco-Glucoside, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Citric Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylparaben, Methylparaben, Chlorhexidine Digluconate, Fragrance (Parfum), Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Limonene, Citronellol, Linalool, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Eugenol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Citral, Benzyl Benzoate
Vita Liberata Self Tanning Anti Age Serum: "It's great when you love your skin but you want to add that hue of life to it. It just makes the skin look more alive—it gives a tan, but in a very natural way. A very golden hue." — Dotti
Ingredients: Water, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Neopentyl Glycol Diheptanoate, Dihydroxyacetone***, Glycerin*, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Chloride, Rose Extract** Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Extract*, Sodium benzoate, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide – Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Potassium Sorbate. *Organic. **Natural. ***Ecocert.
8. Freckle Pen
Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Pen: "When she does come to me for makeup, I always work on bringing the texture of her skin to the front. And also with her freckles! I just enhance what she brings to me. I have a thing for freckles. I'm obsessed with them. There's this great felt pen by Anastasia in Universal Light and Universal Dark that helps bring them out in a very natural-looking way." — Dotti
9. Cheek Stain:
Tarte Cheek Stain: "If I bring any colour to the cheeks, it's just to highlight that youthfulness. Blush really helps bring a glow that people don't realize is a little bit of makeup. The products I use change around a lot, but I do recommend Tarte's stain. What you're left with is the look of blood coming up to the skin like right after you've been exercising." — Dotti
10. Lip Balm:
3LAB Healthy Glow Lip Balm: "When we're done, I do her lips with balms from 3LAB or Lanolips. I like both of those a lot because it's the hardest thing to keep the lips hydrated and protected and they both work so well." — Dotti
Ingredients: Dimer Dilinoleyl Dimer Dilinoleate, Diisostearyl Malate, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Bis-Behenyl/Isostearyl/Phytosteryl/ Dimer Dilinoleyl Dimer Dilinoleate, Tricaprin, Beeswax (Cera Alba), Jojoba Esters, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Camellia Japonica Seed Oil, Rhus Verniciflua Peel Wax (Rhus Verniciflua Peel Cera), Rhus Succedanea Fruit Wax (Rhus Succedanea Fruit Cera), Alaria Esculenta Extract, Ascorbyl Palmitate , Sea Whip Extract, Moringa Oleifera Seed Oil, Eclipta Prostrata Extract, Melia Azadirachta Leaf Extract, Salicornia Herbacea Extract, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Phytosteryl/Octyldodecyl Lauroyl Glutamate, Sorbitan Isostearate, Tribehenin, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Peel Oil, Tocopherol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Red 27.
Ingredients: Lanolin, Lanolin Oil.
Alicia's Skincare Treatments
Ling Skincare Jade Roller: "Right now, we're doing a lot of ice work to tighten skin, bring the blood to the surface. To basically give it the pop that you need. I stick a jade roller in ice, so it's basically freezing when I roll it over her skin. I really, really work into all those areas where I want blood and water and energy brought to the surface. It brings her skin to life, it practically makes her skin say, 'Hi. I love you.'" — Dotti
"On some days, I'll look at her skin and say, 'You need cucumber today,' so I'll grate a full cucumber, then place the pulp no higher than her brow bone and no lower than her under-eye bone, not going near sensitive parts of the eye. If we've got time, I'll put the pulp all over her face until it draws the heat out of the skin and brings the blood to the top. That's what most of the cooling agents do." — Dotti
Nichola Joss: "Alicia gets regular facials." — Dotti
Alicia's Diet, Exercise and Lifestyle
"When I first got pregnant, I started to eliminate dairy from my diet and drank a lot more water, which made a huge difference to my skin." — Alicia
"I don't eat meat, so I stick mainly to fish, vegetables and grains, but I think everyone should have a treat once in a while. My favourite is pound cake; it's really rich and so much butter is used to make it. So, no, I am not strict to the point where it's not fun, it should always be fun." — Alicia
"Alicia isn't raw or vegan or anything, but she looks after her diet and eats in a very balanced way." — Dotti
"I exercise three or four times a week. I do different things each time: boxing, kickboxing, yoga, weight training, running, swimming. I keep it varied so I don't get bored." — Alicia
Massage and Acupuncture:
"Massages are my favourite indulgence, and acupuncture helps me to balance energy in my body and unwind." — Alicia
In case you're wondering, Alicia is 36 years old. "People don't realize how young she still is!" Dotti told Into the Gloss. "People forget because she's been around for ages, but taking the makeup away reminds people of how young she is for some reason. She's always had incredible eyes and freckles and things like that, but we get to relish in that now."
No doubt because of Dotti's approach, which she told W Magazine she is always tweaking. "Even when she wore makeup, I would shift her [regimen] up. I would shift her look, I would shift her base, shift her skincare. I shift everything because that keeps it moving. That's super important to me because I need to see where the skin is going, and to breathe into its direction."
I love that idea, of always paying attention to what your skin is telling you, and having a wardrobe of products to deliver exactly what it needs! I think Alicia is doing so many things right: oil cleansing; masking and misting; gentle exfoliation; and moisturizing with jojoba oil (one of my favourite safe oils). I'm also HIGHLY intrigued by the cold jade roller trick and shall be trying that out myself!
There's not much I'd change about this routine, but I'd definitely add a sunscreen. I'd also be more cautious with the oxidation-prone oils like rosehip, which interact with UV light to cause pigmentation and cellular damage (although some of those freckles are faux!).
I'd also like to point out that drinking more water has little effect on your skin, and dairy doesn't necessarily cause acne. The relationship between breakouts and dairy products is more indirect. As I explained here, dairy is such a potent metabolism booster that it actually increases your skin's nutritional requirements. If you're not getting enough vitamin A, the result can be acne. Instead of taking the drastic step of eliminating an entire food group to get clear skin, I suggest boosting vitamin A intake instead.
All in all, I find Alicia's approach and message so powerful. Even though she has an enviable complexion now, she insists that choosing to go makeup-free is not about perfection.
"I am all about a woman's right to choose," she explained to Allure. "I'm not a slave to makeup. I'm not a slave to not wearing makeup either. I get to choose at [any] given moment. What I am not down for is this ridiculously high, unrealistic expectation about appearance that we as women are held to."
I think we can all agree on that!
What do you think of Alicia's skincare routine?
Have you tried any of the products she uses?