The connection between skin and mental health has never been clearer — and, in times of stress and uncertainty, a skin-care routine can be as much of a daily grounding practice as exercise or meditation. In our Shelf Care series, we’re exploring how taking care of your skin and yourself is one and the same.
Actress and comedian Nicole Byer stays booked and busy: Presenting Netflix’s Nailed It! (for which she was the first Black woman to be nominated for a Emmy in the reality host category) and TBS’s Wipeout alongside John Cena and Camille Kostek, hosting more podcasts than one can count, including Why Won’t You Date Me? and Best Friends with Nicole Byer and Sasheer Zamata alongside IRL BFF Sasheer Zamata. Currently you can catch Byer on NBC’s Grand Crew, as well as her Netflix comedy special, Nicole Byer: BBW (Big Beautiful Weirdo). As a TV host and comedian, Byer’s beauty and fashion styles have become notable, and she spoke to Refinery29 two days after having her wisdom teeth removed and a root canal about her daily skin-care routine, the gross habit she’s trying to kill, and getting into The Office 16 years after everyone else did. The following interview was told to Amanda Mitchell and edited for length and clarity.
In 2020, I was going, going, going, going, going. The weekend before LA kind of locked down, I was in Arlington, Texas doing shows, and there were whispers of COVID. And I was like, “I don't know what the fuck this is, but I have to do these meet and greets that y'all can't stand anywhere close to me.” My opener was my friend Christie [Chiello] and she's got this really funny voice, and she was like, “No touching!”
And then I flew home and I recorded a podcast for the Monday before they were like, stay home, everything's done except for the grocery store. I don't know, like two weeks in, I lost my mind and I was like, I can't do this. Just wake up every day and go to my living room, this is awful! I was fortunate enough to not have to go work — I had savings, I have a podcast that I was able to make money doing, so I feel very fortunate in that way. I had a roommate at the time, my dear friend John Milhiser, who's really wonderful, and we just spent a lot of time watching movies and we would do karaoke in the house. I have a pole at my house, so I'd have a pole dance.
It was just a lot of like finding shit to do outside and it was nice that it was springtime so it was kind of warm. Just being with people in a mask outside was really therapeutic. Last summer, I had a skate gang. Wait, was it last summer? Oh my God. No, that was 2020. 2021, I couldn't roller skate because I dislocated my ankle, but I'm going to try to get back into roller-skating because that brought me a lot of joy. Pole dancing brings me joy. I love my dog. Eating good food brings me joy.
I recently started watching The Office, that's brought me joy. It's very funny. Now I get the hype from 15 years ago, except now I have no one to talk about it with, but it's fine — It's my journey.
I guess when I'm feeling a little sad, I'll tell myself that it's time to maybe wash your face and put on some moisturizer. And then if I have to go somewhere, maybe I'll put on some lashes, maybe I'll put on some eyeliner. Sometimes dolling yourself up personally makes me feel better.
My sister, she's all into skincare. She's got really nice skin, she's got nice hair. She's real pretty and she's thriving. She told me about this Korean beauty brand she loves. I was like, okay, fine, I'll try it. And then it really changed my skin. So I've been pretty religious with it and then when I ran out, I was like, oh, I guess that's okay, but then my skin got bad again. So, that's my routine. I use their moisturizer and their clarifying astringent.
But sometimes, I also just need to look like trash.
But I've grown to be like, oh, you don't look like trash when you're not wearing makeup, that's just what you look like, that's what people look like. My appearance isn't really tied to my sadness or anything.
I haven't worn as much makeup as I used to wear pre-quarantine, which I think is good for my skin. I switched makeup brands — I think I wore the same MAC foundation for about 15 years, and then they changed the formula up on me. And it just fucked up my skin, it was just breaking out constantly. So now I wear a mixture of Juvia's Place [Foundation] and Gucci, and it just works with my skin a little bit better. Come on, Gucci!
This is gross, but I discovered I would reuse my eyelashes too much. I would forget the last time I opened a box and was like, oh, maybe my eyes are irritated because I need to throw them away more often, so I've just been cleaner. My friend got me a little holder for using them, so I now only really rewear them two to three times.
For nails, I wear acrylics. I haven't gotten into Gel-X or whatever. I'm just old school, love my acrylics. I guess I'm due — I should get them done soon, they're getting a little raggedy. I get them done every two, three weeks. Sometimes four weeks, however long I can stretch it.
In 2020, I was wearing a lot of wigs and then I was like, oh, I'm tired of looking at my natural hair, because it was pretty unhealthy. I didn't really take care of it. I thought, looking at this broken hair is not fun, so maybe I'll shave the sides of it! So then... I shaved the sides of it, and had a mohawk for a little bit. And then I was like, oh, let me just braid the middle, so then I braided the middle. And then I was like, oh, let me bleach my hair, and then I bleached my hair.
But after that my hair was dead-dead — because I bleached it eight times to get it white — so I shaved it. Well, I had dreads for a little bit, a mohawk of dreads — and then shaved my head in December 2020.
Wait, no — March, maybe March. No... maybe April?
When I wake up in the morning and I get out of the shower, I'm like, okay, you got to put a little bit of something in your hair before you put a wig on. Sometimes I don't wear a wig, sometimes I wear it natural. She's bopping around, she's trying to grow it out, she's trying to get it cute.
Yes, April of 2021: I shaved it all off. Almost bald, solo. And then I was going to bleach it. And I thought that was pointless, so now I'm growing it out. The two hair women on Grand Crew, the show that I'm on on NBC, they really took care of my hair underneath the wig and would give me scalp massages and put coils in it, which is really, really nice.