"Touring fucked my skin up on a whole 'nother level," SZA says (or, rather, shouts) to me backstage at a noisy NYFW party for the launch of Proenza Schouler's Arizona fragrance. In between cracking jokes with her crew and puffing on a blunt, the performer describes how the damage was done. "200 meet-and-greets a day. Cheek to cheek. Sweating, hair on my face, mic on my face..."
In a world where media-trained celebrities usually keep things buttoned up (and credit everything to a steady diet of bottled water), SZA is refreshingly candid — especially when it comes to her beauty routine. What most people don't know is that before all of the accolades and album sales, Solána Rowe was your neighborhood skin consultant at Sephora. And when you ask her about beauty, you forget you're talking to an award-winning recording artist. Instead, it's like you're asking advice from your savvy homegirl with a Jersey accent posted up at her 9-to-5 in the mall.
Ahead, SZA spills her unfiltered knowledge (and a little tea) about her curls, her five-minute face, and how she's prepping her skin for the end of the world.
Her Down-To-Earth Acne Routine
"I have this weird feeling that the apocalypse is upon us, so I have to choose products that I can find in nature. I have cystic acne, so I use a Manuka honey mask to combat it and hemp oil to smooth out the surface of my skin. I also use a Vitamin C serum and black soap, and that's it. If I go to the dermatologist and get a peel, she prescribes me shit after, but I don't use it. My skin goes crazy, and I break out."
How She Reached Skin Zen
"I used to work in the skin-care department [at Sephora], so I know for a fact that everyone's skin is different. Consistency and simplification is key. I can't try a whole bunch of different shit that I've seen, like Huda Beauty doing six experiments in a week — imma look crazy. Her skin is invincible. I don't have that gene pool, so I do what I know. Every now and again, if I see something really cool, I'll be like, 'let me try this little turmeric mask.'"
Her 4C Chronicles
"I don’t fuck with the Internet, because the Internet will steer you somewhere crazy. The Internet had me fucking with coconut oil, which honestly dries my hair out. Castor oil is the only thing that gets me right. I have 4c hair, so my shit is porous. As long as you put on some type of water-based cream and lock it in with an oil, it honestly doesn’t matter what you use.
"If I have to shampoo, I do it twice. And then I️ condition hard as fuck for the rest of the day. Protein leaves my hair hella dry, so egg is my weird thing to do. I use a lot of Manuka honey on my hair, too. And I put [hemp oil] and castor oil on my scalp any time I do a protective style."
Inside Her Makeup Bag
"I wear a gang of lip gloss. I love MAC. Pat McGrath? Come on, son. She’s Black and killing it. She’s never lost once. For foundation, I like Hourglass. It’s vegan and cruelty free, and it works for Black skin. I️t vanishes everything, and it’s buildable. I sleep in this shit, and I got bad skin."
Her Best Beauty Advice
"Don't get discouraged with your skin when it doesn't do what you want it to do and you feel like, fuck this product. Give it some time. Some of that shit takes a month to break through. And calm down and relax your face. I spent so much time screwing my face into mad different shapes because I was nervous to take a picture as is. I would make all these weird ass faces to where I wouldn't even recognize myself. I've learned to just sit still and be in yourself. That's the only way to get to know yourself."