Photo: Shana Jade Trajanoska
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Marjon Carlos has a theory: “The first time you buy a product is based on the packaging, and the second time you buy the product is based on effectiveness — I can be easily influenced, but I really try not to be.” So the journalist and host of the Instagram show Your Favorite Auntie constantly finds herself asking, “Am I trying something that’s ‘cool’ or is it actually effective?”
When Carlos wants to cut out the guesswork, she turns to brands like Dr. Barbara Sturm’s eponymous line and Epi.Logic, which was founded by New York–based, board-certified oculofacial plastic surgeon Dr. Chaneve Jeanniton. As she has gotten older, Carlos is no longer necessarily looking to treat conditions like acne but rather to manage her eczema and rosacea, which she only realized she was dealing with in 2019 after her friend (designer Mara Hoffman) suggested she might have it after a trip to Turkey caused a flare-up — an aesthetician later confirmed Hoffman’s suspicions.
“When my esthetician was like, ‘Hey, you have rosacea,’ I was like, ‘What? Black people don’t have rosacea!’ That really flipped my whole lid,” she remembers. “I learned that I burn easily pretty early on cause I’m from Texas. But my idea of rosacea is a ruddy-faced, pale white person — it’s not me, who is a medium-brown complexion. It’s just the imagery that’s put out in culture — all of the information in skin care is targeted toward white people and lighter skin people so you don’t know that, actually, all these issues can affect so many different groups.”
Carlos has now learned through trial-and-error that she should avoid witch hazel. And she admits that, despite fragrances not always mixing well with eczema and rosacea, she loves the experience that scents add to a product. Instead, she tries to strike a balance with the other ingredients in her line-up. Her skin particularly loves niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, and aloe, and her friend Sean Garrette, who is an aesthetician and Fenty Beauty ambassador, also suggested that she add Paula’s Choice Azelaic Acid during flare-ups, which has proven useful when face masks irritated her skin during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ultimately, Carlos says, “I guess I have a more holistic approach to beauty. I know that if I was on a plant-based diet, I would have like the skin of a goddess and hair down to my ass. I get that, but I also love nachos. You know, I put on 20 pounds — I’ve gone up three jean sizes, so my body looks completely different. I am kind of going through my thick Rihanna moment, and I think this is where I’m supposed to be — I don’t think I’m gonna lose this weight. And obviously, this was brought on by COVID, but I just feel like this is the body that got me through a pandemic, so I should just respect it and not beat up on it so much. So if I want to have the nachos, and I’m going through a panny, I’m gonna have the nachos.”
Below, Marjon walks us through her product rotation, what she believes will be the next big thing in skin care, and who she goes to for Botox.
“I was directly influenced by one Saweetie. She was doing her Vogue Beauty Secrets video, and she was like, ‘I love Tatcha,’ and I was like, ‘You know, I’ve heard such great things about it.’ Then I asked my friend Sean, ‘Is this a good product?’ He said, ‘It’s actually amazing.’ And I read really great reviews. My homegirl Pam uses it, too, so I bought it, and I loved it.”
“I’ve been using this cleanser since 2017. It goes on your skin really smoothly and gently. I use it when my skin is going through it: She’s very irritated, she’s very upset because she’s been in the sun. My skin needed a lot of love a couple of weeks ago after I was in L.A., so this was a really good therapeutic, cathartic experience.
I found it because I did an article about Dr. Sturm for Vogue, and she sent me some products. At that point, her blood cream was the topic of the day. Then I went in for a consultation. And, obviously, her work with Angela Bassett probably provoked a lot of women of color to be like, ‘Oh, maybe I should try this,’ which is what I did. I just really love the foam and the feel of this, but do I know the scientific breakdown of it? Not necessarily. I can just tell you this much: People of color, we do have particular skin needs. We have hyperpigmentation — I think that’s one of the most obvious ones that comes to mind — and it just needs to be addressed.”
“I love this toner so much. Dr. Jeanniton, the founder of Epi.Logic, thinks of it as more of an essence. I was using witch hazel before, which was irritating my skin even more. I don’t know why I just didn’t make the connection, but you take one thing out and you put something else in, and you’re like, ‘Okay, this is great.’ This is just a calming but also moisturizing addition to my routine, and it smells great — like a warm day, almost like the sea. Maybe it’s the aloe vera that makes it smell like that but it gives me beachy vibes.
It’s $55, but I use it every single day, and I get sad when it’s coming to a close. There’s a phrase: You get what you pay for, and sometimes I think, Okay, well I have a little witch hazel left, I could try that in a pinch. But it’s like, No, because your skin’s gonna be irritated for a week.”
“Unlike other vitamin C serums, this one doesn’t smell like bacon. It’s super, super fresh. I pat it onto my skin in the morning, and immediately I feel like my skin starts to bounce. I’ve been using it since 2019. I saw almost immediate results, and people noticed it. They were like, ‘Wow, your skin is glowing.’ I’d say a bottle lasts me about a month and a half, whereas my Epi.Logic toner [above] goes quickly because I use it morning and night.”
“This is the next wave in skin care — I think there’s gonna be a lot of focus on collagen. I didn’t understand the importance of collagen growth before I worked with Dr. Jeanniton. It’s all about creating that youthful glow, that elastin feel to your skin.
The Master Plan goes on really smoothly. I put it on at night. It’s clear, and it has no smell, so it’s not irritating or in any way, shape, or form. I have got to get my hands on another bottle because they sell out so quickly, that’s the thing. But since I’m only putting it on at night, I would say a bottle lasts two to three months.
I think the cost is worth it. At first, I didn’t even really take advantage of the product. I got the products from Dr. Jeanniton, and I wasn’t using it, and then I was like, Wait, I should really try this out. I would take a few pumps every night and my skin was super-clear and bouncy. It just smooths everything out.”
“This is such an old-school product. I wasn’t finding the moisturizer that hit, and I still am on the search for that. So I went back to the basics this winter — I was having really dry skin, and I actually changed my cleanser to the Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser because I needed something a bit creamier to negate the bad weather, and so I went back to the Kiehl’s, too — it was actually my first entry into premium skin care. It smells like an apothecary. ”
“I’m an older lady now [Laughs]. I’m in my late 30s, so I got an eye cream. I dab a few dots every night before I go to bed, and it’s becoming a part of my routine just as much as … Okay, you got to wear SPF every day. Obviously, I’m stressed out like most people, and I think it has been helpful in working in tandem with my fillers to make sure I’m looking my best. It’s especially effective with my dark circles and fine lines, as they call them.”
“I met Neada Deters, Lesse’s founder, through Vogue. She sent me some Lesse when the brand launched, and I immediately saw a difference when I put this on. I had some bumps, and it just cleared them up right away. I think it’s really effective during the summertime. It goes on beautifully, and it really does my skin justice. I’ve never combined my oil with my moisturizer; I usually do the facial moisturizer in the morning and then the oil at night. It smells amazing, too — warm and honey-ish.”
“This was the thing about the Nécessaire body wash: I was like, ‘Damn, it needs a smell.’ And I do use that, but I love the smell of a faint rose — I guess what I’m trying to do with my smells is layer them and really come out smelling a bit more unique, and I think that starting off with a really faint rose is a great scent to add on to.
The lather is really rich. It’s like $50, and the bottle’s pretty big. I yell at my boyfriend all the time. I’m like, ‘Can you please stop with that? Like, this is not Dial soap, this is something that costs a little bit more!’ So keep your partner away from it. But it’s just a great thing to wake me up in the morning. It’s really nourishing for the body and helps layer all those senses together.”
“I actually went to school with Nick Axelrod, who is one of the co-founders. I was always like, ‘That’s so great that he went on to do all this entrepreneurial work in beauty.’ Then his team reached out, and they were like, ‘Do you want to try some of the products?’ I had been meaning to buy them because I do think that they’re a really good price point for what they are. And they sent me the whole shebang.
As you know, it’s fragrance-free. I was a little turned off by that because I kind of believe that like your lotion should have a little scent. For so long, I used to wear cocoa butter — I think there’s something to really luxuriating and putting on lotion and having those smells waft in. So that was the only thing I was kind of unsure about. But I love the texture. As a Black woman, I’m definitely trying to see if a lotion is going to keep me from being ashy. I think that’s a big factor. And so I was actually really surprised that it didn’t add to my ashiness, and I say that because I’ve always found that when I’m gonna find something that’s really great for my skin, I have to go a bit thicker — I would always go with more of a Black-owned brand like Nubian Heritage. But I was surprised and impressed.
And the thing about this is that the packaging is really great. I have so many products with the worst fucking packaging ever. If it gets stuck at the bottom, I’m like, ‘I know I have a good few more uses, but I can’t use it.’ If I squeeze too hard, I kind of break the bottle in a sense. With Nécessaire, everything’s smooth and slick, and I find that that kind of stuff I really like.”
“This smells fresh and floral. You can actually add this to the bath — I’m a big bath taker. It’s Black-owned, which I love. I just put it on my chest — I don’t put it all over my body. I remember once I went to get a COVID test, and I just put it on, and I put it in my hair, and the guy giving me the test was like, ‘You smell great.’”
“I had done treatments before lockdown. I got filler in my temples — no one noticed except me. [Laughs] And like most people after a year inside, I decided I wanted to try undereye fillers and Botox along my eyebrows. I went to Dr. Jeanniton. She’s incredible. It was a really harmless process — I think it took about 45 minutes. Dr. Jeanniton’s not someone who wants to super pump you up either. Actually, she’s very conservative, and she wants you to look like yourself, but just a better version of yourself.
I didn’t feel like I was ‘cheating.’ I didn’t feel any type of way about it really. To be honest, I felt like, ‘Yeah, I look like shit, because I’ve been a recluse and I survived a pandemic. I survived a Capitol insurrection. I’ve survived the onslaught of violence against people that look like me, and I have a lot of trauma over it, and it wears on you.’ So I didn’t really see any problem in going to get some treatments done, and I’m gonna do it again.
And then with the Botox, I was like, ‘Oh, I want an eyebrow lift,’ and Dr. Jeanniton was like, ‘Well, you kind of have a larger forehead, and what happens with that is that a lift will widen the forehead. Why don’t we just do Botox along your eyebrows?’ After you get it done, you have to be really careful about how you sleep. Your skin is just so precious, and you don’t want the filler to settle in the wrong place. I would say everything settled and coalesced a week in, and I remember putting on makeup and being like, ‘Well, damn.’ The effect is so different because you look vibrant. You look sharp and awake.”