Plus, all of Akilah Releford's other beauty essentials.
Welcome to I Swear By This, an interview series where we chat with our favorite fashion and beauty insiders about the beauty products they use down to the last drop. This week, we asked Akilah Releford, the founder of beauty brand Mary Louise Cosmetics, to share all the products she's loving right now.
For Akilah Releford, beauty is all about discovery. "I know a lot of people who are like, 'Oh, I hate this product because it didn't work for me the way it worked for this other person,'" she tells me over Zoom. "But it's not supposed to work for everybody, right? Playing around and experimenting with products is the fun of beauty anyway." It's a beauty ethos that's very fitting for the founder of Mary Louise Cosmetics. Releford never set out to start a beauty company; she was mixing together oils and butters on the floor of her Howard University dorm room, creating organic products that she used herself and shared with her floormates.
Today, Mary Louise Cosmetics is a bonafide brand with cult-favorite products, like the dark spot–fading Miracle Serum (Akilah uses this every AM and PM) and the soothing Mississippi Mud Mask ("it's ideal for dry skin types"), and it's available to purchase through retailers like Thirteen Lune and Macy's.
Below, Akilah shares the hair-care, skin-care, and makeup products that she has on auto-refill.
"This is by far one of the best CBD skin-care products I've tried, just because the smell is a lot more pleasant than other products I've used. CBD is also known to calm inflammation, which is great if dryness is a concern for you."
"This foundation is formulated specifically for eczema-prone skin, so I kind of think of it as a skin-care-makeup hybrid product. I get dry patches around my eyes and my nose, so I need a hydrating foundation that's soothing yet still long-lasting."
"I am absolutely obsessed with this product. I've never experienced a silk press at home as good as the one I gave myself after using this mask. I mix it with Olaplex Number 7 oil and then I sit under a detachable hooded dryer for about 40 minutes. I'll comb through my hair afterward and there's no breakage; it's unmatched for anyone with textured hair or if you use a ton of heat."
"I use this about once a month because I don't want to go overboard with exfoliating my scalp, but it really does help to get rid of build-up, especially after wearing a protective style."
"You can get this at any drugstore and you spray it on damp hair before you flat iron, and you'll get the smoothest press. I've been using it since middle school, and it's still the best to me."
"It took me forever to find the perfect combination of hair products to beat the humidity in L.A., but this product definitely lives up to its name. If I have a weave installed, I'll spritz this onto my leave-out to keep it sleek."
"This is a hair lotion that I use whenever my hair's pressed. It keeps my hair moisturized without weighing it down. Then, afterward, I'll use an oil to lock in the moisture and try not to use a ton of heat. That, for me, has helped grow my hair so much."
"For my brows, I first take a regular spoolie just to groom them, and then I go in with this brow gel to raise them up. I love the look of thick, full brows, so after I let the gel dry, I go back in with a dark brown pencil and fill in any gaps."
"This concealer is legit—you cannot see anything underneath it. It blends so well with my foundation, and it gives you that no-makeup makeup look even if you've swiped several layers on to hide the fact that you were drinking the night before."
"I've become obsessed with Velcro rollers, thanks to TikTok. So, on damp hair, I'll take a section and spritz on a shine spray. While holding my hair taut, I'll turn my blow-dryer on low, run it over that section, then take a Velcro roller and roll it straight up that section of hair. I'll repeat this until I'm done with my entire head and let the rollers sit while I'm doing my makeup. When you take them out, you get this voluminous blowout look without having to use a ton of heat on your hair."
Photo: Courtesy of Instagram/@akilahreleford
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