When Alicia Keys announced in 2016 that she was ditching makeup, most of us applauded her. After all, seeing a celebrity go bare-faced on the red carpet—and not concealed, contoured and strobed to perfection—felt like a breath of fresh air.
But you have to admit, it's a lot easier to show off your naked complexion when you don't have a blemish nor a dark spot in sight.
So you might be surprised to learn that Alicia's skin wasn't always so flawless.
"It took me forever to get this skin," she explained in an interview with Elle UK. For many years, she struggled with breakouts that were triggered by a combination of heavy makeup and performances under hot lights (which 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."
These days, however, her sensitive and acne-prone skin stays clear and calm with a routine of minimalistic and medical-grade products.
"I've always cared about skincare, but in a way that was very frustrated because I didn't always have good skin," she told Vogue. "[Now,] I've learned some of the secrets and I've also found some products that work for me, 'cause everybody's different. You know, you gotta keep trying and you gotta keep finding what's good for you. And it's cool, sometimes it takes a minute—like for me, it took quite a while."
When she does attend awards shows, Alicia gets a little help from her trusted makeup artist, Dotti, who just so happens to be more passionate about skincare than cosmetics. "Her healthy glow is very much a reflection of how she looks after herself—healthy eating, exercise, facials," Dotti told People. "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."
Read on to find out how Alicia takes care of her skin, and how Dotti enhances it.
Alicia’s Morning Skincare Routine
Osmosis Deep Clean Detox Cleanser: "If I've been sweating 'cause I did my workout or I did my meditation, you have to wash the face. My favourite thing to use right now is Osmosis. My skin requires a little bit more strength when cleansing. I wet my hands, I lather it up, I put it on my face, it gets all lathery and everything, and now it's all about going up on the skin and on the neck. So, boom, I did that, deep cleaned it up, and now I'mma wash it off."
2. Gel Moisturizer
Epicuren Aloe Vera Calming Gel: "I love... this Aloe Vera Calming Gel, which is awesome, as well. I'm always looking for something to calm it all down. I squirt it in my hand.... and then the [Epicuren probiotic] mask... sprinkle it in there, as much or as little as you want, and you rub it together."
3. Face Mask
Epicuren Bulgaricum Probiotic Mask Powder: "Epicuren is one of my favourite brands. So I love this mask. If you smell it, it's almost milky or something. What I like about it is, first of all, it smells like there's food on your face so you wanna eat yourself. And then second of all, it has a little bit of a grainy texture... and something about that feels good sometimes, like an exfoliant but not really. It's still a calming thing. This, I'll actually [leave it on my skin for] five minutes; this morning, maybe I'll make it 20 minutes. [Then I rinse and] dry it off, pat dry again... my skin feels really good."
4. Face Mist
Sacred Rose Water Body Mist & Aromatherapy: "I love this a lot; it's called Sacred Rose Water. Mmm, smells amazing. Oh my gosh, it's so good. So basically, just spray your whole body, like around a thousand times, as much as you need it. And you take it in, you breathe it, you smell it, and what I love about rose is that it's a heart opener. It really does open your heart, and don't we all need that? You just need to open your heart, open yourself, just be ready to receive all the good intentions."
5. Eye Cream
Lancer Legacy Eye Treatment Duo: "And then I'm rounding about the end of my facial morning routine, and I always like a good under-eye something. So this one's really cool, and I like it especially because there's one for day and there's one for night.... I feel like let's start now to get all of these areas going well."
Epicuren X-Treme Cream Propolis Sunscreen SPF 45: "Finally, just a little bit of cream. So this, it really smells quite good and it's also a sunscreen. But for me... my skin is very, very sensitive, so I go very light because cream sometimes can be a little bit heavy. This one is amazing, though. We love sunscreen, we like to make sure our face has sunscreen on it—it's so good for you."
7. Skin Tints
Vita Liberata Self Tanning Anti Age Serum: "Instead of foundation, we do a skin tint. There's this Vita Liberata Self Tanning Anti Age Serum and 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
Kosas Tinted Face Oil: "If I want to warm the skin up, I think about how am I going to do it so it doesn't look like it has anything on it, yet it looks finessed and polished. These tinted oils are amazing. They do refine the skin and it does cover, but it doesn't weigh the skin down and you don't see it on the skin. It has a semi-satin finish and it comes in beautiful shades. It does set quickly, so you've got to work with it really fast." — Dotti
Burt's Bees Goodness Glows Liquid Makeup in Walnut and Deep Maple: "I like to break down foundation by mixing it with face oil until it literally becomes translucent." — Dotti
8. Cheek Tint
Hush + Dotti Organic Lip Cheek Tint: "If I decide to do a cheek, it's all very see-through, transparent, and as close to the yellows and pinks that our skin naturally produces. It's just to highlight that youthfulness. Blush really helps bring a glow that people don't realize is a little bit of makeup. What you're left with is the look of blood coming up to the skin like right after you've been exercising." — Dotti
9. Freckle Pen
Anastasia Beverly Hills Micro-Stroking Detailing 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... that helps bring them out in a very natural-looking way." — Dotti
Rae Morris Invisible Mattifier Invisible Face Powder: "This is called a powder, but it doesn't feel like a heavy powder on the skin. It has more of a rubbery, silicone feel. It's great for taking the shine off and for sensitive skin. It doesn't clog, make you look dry, or capture creases—it just molds and moves as you move, which I love." — Dotti
11. Lip Balms
Lucas' Papaw Ointment: "And then you have to have a good lip ointment, okay? Y'all can't be around here with the dry lips. Not gonna be a good thing. So I love this one... mmm, feels good."
3LAB Healthy Glow Lip Balm: "When we're done, I do her lips with balms from 3LAB or Lanolips." — Dotti
Lanolips 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm: I like both [3LAB and Lanolips] a lot because it's the hardest thing to keep the lips hydrated and protected and they both work so well." — Dotti
Kjaer Weis Lip Tint: "If I decide I want a tint on the lip without really doing a lipstick, I use something that has a lip balm quality. I love the beautiful, organic formula of this lip tint." — Dotti
Alicia’s Nighttime Skincare Routine
1. Face Wipes
Face wipes: "You need face wipes; you gotta get the day off. If you don't have face wipes, you can just use hot water and a washcloth—you're good."
Osmosis Deep Clean Detox Cleanser: "And then I actually go for my face cleanser. My face is very prone to breakouts, so I'm a fanatic about my face wash. I can't just use everything; I can't just use anything. I gotta use things that are either really strong and have a lot of almost like medical-grade ingredients in it, or I gotta use things that are very super-simple and don't have almost anything in them. It's one or the other. This one leans more towards the medical-grade. I like it; it's called Osmosis. It's called Deep Clean. It's really strong. Boom!"
LIV by Knutek KLAR Therapeutic Toner: "Then I mix things, so then this one is more like a therapeutic toner, a little more organic. This definitely has tea tee oil, it has honey. It is definitely anti-fungal, anti-microbial, because again, my skin wants to cause me trouble and break out so I always have to be thinking about that. And it smells good, mmm! I actually like tea tree oil, it's a little bit of an astringent smell, but this one with the honey, I think it makes it a little sweeter. You can also take this and put it on a cotton pad and just wipe if you need to wipe it down. But if you just need a little refresher, I really like using my fingers on my face. I think the contact is really important and I always am going in an upward motion because we want this to be up, you know what I mean? And your neck, up."
4. Spot Treatment
Advanced SkinCare Advanced Anti-Blemish Lotion with Sulfur: "So then, my favourite little trick. Like I told you, we all struggle with keeping our skin clear and I am very familiar with that struggle. So my favourite trick is this crazy thing called the Advanced Anti-Blemish Lotion with Sulfur. Sulfur, if you've ever gone to places that have sulfur, it's like when you're driving down the highway and you smell that egg smell, and everybody in the car is like, 'Oh, who farted?' That's sulfur. It smells like a fart. But whatever the case, sulfur is the bomb. So you take a little Q-tip... and you stir it up in there and then you take it out... and actually put that thing right there. It don't matter, you've got 10 of those dots on your face. Bang, bang, bang, bang... put it on there and go to bed. And if you're sleeping with somebody, you can apologize. It's not a fart. It's by Advanced SkinCare; they're dope. They've got a lot of good products."
5. Neck Cream
Scottish Fine Soaps Au Lait Body Butter: "After I put the sulfur on my face and it smells a little funky, admittedly... I use this lotion. It's called Au Lait and it's body butter. It smells unbelievable. I wish y'all could smell this right now. After I put on something that's a little funky, I take a little bit of this... and then I don't feel like I smell so much like sulfur."
6. Face Mist
Sacred Rose Water: "So after I wash my face, I tone my face, I put on whatever product I need for my situation at the time—I showed you my breakout secret, which is amazing—then I start going more into things that make me feel good. I do cool things like this gorgeous Sacred Rose Water. It's not really for my face, it's not really for my body, it's just for everything. You know, rose is to open your heart."
Modern Mystic Shop Third Eye Essential Oil Roll-On: "I have this beautiful thing, this is by Modern Mystic who is really, really cool. This has ylang ylang in it, it has frankincense in it, it has sage which is a lot about clearing. And each one has a different essential oil and a different purpose. So this one is for third eye, it's really about bringing out your intuition, bringing out your inner voice. And I will literally put it on my third eye because I am trying to be the most in-tune, in-touch individual, period. So I like little things that just remind me to think about that. So Modern Mystic, this one is for third eye but there's a lot of different flavours."
Epicuren X-Treme Cream Propolis Sunscreen SPF 45: "And if I need some extra moisturizer, I love this company, Epicuren. They're really beautiful, and this has propolis from bees and you can just put a little bit on. It smells good. You know, anything with honey in it, fire. Amazing. So I just put a little bit of that on before I go to sleep, 'cause we want the skin to be moisturized while I'm dreaming up my dreams with my third eye and my creams and my pimple removers."
9. Eye Cream
Valmont Prime Contour: "I love trying different under-eye creams; one of the best is Valmont Prime Contour."
10. Lip Balm
Rosebud Perfume Co. Smith's Rosebud Salve: "That's it, then I get ready to get out. You need your lip balm. Don't have some dry lips, it's not cute. So I love this Rosebud Salve, I've used it for a long time. It just feels good, it's easy, it's simple, I love that."
Alicia’s Skincare Treatments
SK-II Facial Treatment Mask: "You look like a lunatic, but your skin feels amazing. SK-II Facial Treatment Masks are ideal for a flight as they instantly hydrate skin, but I usually forget to use one and fall asleep."
Éminence Clear Skin Probiotic Masque: "To start, we might do a mask to get some moisture in the skin." — Dotti
Éminence Rosehip & Maize Exfoliating Masque: "Éminence also has a nice rosehip mask that she'll do." — Dotti
MV Skintheapy Instant Revival Booster: "Sometimes I use the Instant Revival with the Rose Mist as a treatment." — Dotti
MV Skintherapy Rose Hydrating Mist: "That alone makes her look really glowy and beautiful." — Dotti
Éminence Lip Trio: "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
"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.' [It also] helps makeup sink into your skin for a more natural glow. I think makeup looks best an hour or two after it's settled onto your face—this does that instantly. You'll get makeup on your roller, sure, but that's fine. It actually helps remove any excess." — 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. [So] I've cut out dairy, and believe it or not, getting rid of the breads. Let me tell you, I'm the first person... I am a bread-aholic. And then obviously, the fried foods, the oil and all that in the skin is never really good. 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. So, no, I am not strict to the point where it's not fun, it should always be fun."
S'well Teakwood Roamer: "One of the secrets that I definitely picked up was water. But for real, for me, I didn't really drink enough water and I didn't even think about water to be a part of my skincare regimen. Water! Out of a big ass jug like this!"
"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."
Massage and Acupuncture
"Massages are my favourite indulgence, and acupuncture helps me to balance energy in my body and unwind."
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