What Works: Nyakio Kamoche Grieco
One benefit of working in the beauty industry for so many years is that I've encountered dozens of smart, savvy professionals (beauty company CEOs, product development VPs, power publicists, colorists, stylists, makeup artists, etc.) who've tried thousands of products and treatments, and, thus, have uber-informed beauty regimens. I've certainly swiped tips and recs from them—and now so can you. As part of a regular series, I’ll be asking inspiring, in-the-know women (all 40+, of course) to share their best tips and favorite products. The point? As always, to find out what works.
Today’s Insider: Nyakio (pronounced Neh-Kay-Oh) Kamoche Grieco, 44, founder of the Nyakio skincare line
I was first introduced to Nyakio—and her line of skincare products—when I was the beauty director at More. At that point in my career, I’d encountered a slew of French, German, British, Japanese and Korean skincare brands, but Nyakio’s was the first I'd seen that drew inspiration from Africa.
Nyakio, a first-generation American of Kenyan descent, started her career in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, but had always harbored an interest in beauty. Although she was raised in Oklahoma by college professor parents, she'd spent ample time with relatives in Africa, learning about the exfoliating properties of coffee beans and sugarcane from her Kenyan grandmother, a coffee farmer. Her grandfather, a medicine man, also passed on how to use natural oils to heal. Thus, when she decided to leave the entertainment world and create her own skincare line, she honored her African heritage by including a Coffee Lip Scrub sourced from Kenya and a Lip Balm with Baobab oil from Mali. She also sourced ingredients from Zambia, South Africa, Mali, Ghana and Egypt.
In the four+ years since I first met her, Nyakio edited her line and relaunched it exclusively at Ulta. Her collection now focuses primarily on facial skincare (she had body products in the first go-around) and has expanded to include active ingredients from several countries outside of Africa, including Spain, Brazil and Peru. But the original goal, to use natural, cruelty-free, ethically and sustainably-sourced ingredients, is still the mission. Nyakio herself also embraces a natural approach to beauty, relying on good skincare and a healthy lifestyle, as opposed to needles or scalpels, to feel confident as she ages. Here, for Nyakio, what works:
Her skincare favorites (but don’t tell the others) “Having my own skincare line is like having a bunch of babies; I love all sixteen products we’ve created! But I do have a few daily go-tos that I wouldn’t want to live without. The Sweet Almond Cleansing Oil Balm melts off impurities and my makeup. It is also deeply hydrating. Gen Xers grew up thinking clean skin had to be squeaky, and we spent years stripping our skin of natural oils. Now, of course, we know that’s not true, especially with aging skin, so I was adamant that my line’s cleanser was gentle and hydrating. I also love the Quinoa Depuffing and Firming Eye Cream, and the Maracuja and Yangu Soothing Oil. My skin has a tendency toward redness, and this oil helps to calm it.
Blowout-feigning trick “I travel so much that I rarely have time for salon blowouts. But I’ve mastered the at-home blow-dry, thanks to Drybar’s Buttercup Travel Blowdryer. It is surprisingly good at smoothing my hair and making it look like I went to a professional. I only wash my hair once a week, so after that I will blow it dry with the Buttercup, then extend the style the rest of the week with Drybar’s Detox Dry Shampoo and Dry Conditioner. Unlike some dry shampoos, Drybar’s does not leave white residue on my dark hair.”
Keep-it-clean strategy “I don’t use any synthetic oils or fragrances, but I love perfume oils. I’m currently wearing Leila Lou Perfume Oil, a mix of pear, jasmine, fresh cut grass. It’s so good. It also comes in a candle, which I burn in my bedroom.”
Best sun protection for women of color “Creating a natural sunscreen is challenging, so I’ve yet to add one to the Nyakio line. Until I do, I am wearing Coola Sunscreen SPF 30, which doesn't make my skin look ashy or purple like other sunscreens.”
How she indulges her inner 22-year-old “I love glittery nail polish and statement colors like blues and purples. My favorite lacquer is from Smith & Cult, a non-toxic collection with gorgeous shades that last. With as much as I wash my hands, I need polish that doesn’t chip easily. Shattered Souls, a glittery gold, is my current obsession.”
Finding the-right-for-you hue “My skin has a red tone, and I have a hard time finding foundations that match. So, I’ve started to mix my own. I will either just combine Cover Fx Custom Cover Drops to create my own blend or add a few drops to a sheer BB Cream.”
The ultimate hair moisturizer “Before I do my weekly shampoo, if I have time, I’ll apply unrefined organic coconut oil to my hair for fifteen to twenty minutes. To intensify this moisturizing treatment, sometimes I also wear a plug-in plastic cap to warm up the oil. Then I just wash it out."
Don’t neglect your lips “Eyes get all the attention, but the mouth is also among the first areas to show age. I regularly exfoliate my lips with my Kenyan Coffee Lip Polish, then apply Red Ginseng Smoothing Eye and Lip Cream, which works wonders on lip lines.”
In-flight skin secret “Plane travel can be so drying so I've started applying my Chamomile Soothing Sleep Mask when I'm flying. It goes on clear, is not sticky, and gives my skin a much-needed burst of hydration. Lately, I’ve also been using it overnight at home three times a week.”
Her skincare indulgence “I never used to get facials and just relied on good at-home skincare. But around 41, I realized my skin needed extra help. So, I now see esthetician Shani Darden every six weeks. She is magic. A treatment with her makes a dramatic difference in my skin; it's like she hits a reset button. I come out like a light bulb—glowing.”
Why you won’t catch her eating fat-free foods “My days of eating a pizza at midnight are over. But I'm also not someone to diet. I focus on eating clean and green but I don’t count calories. I will happily eat yummy cheese and wine without sulfates. I cook with real butter; I use whole milk. I believe our bodies know how to break down what is real.”
The importance of a cat nap “I never napped when I was younger. My thinking was, you’ve got the night to sleep. But since I started traveling so much, I’ve been incorporating a 20-minute meditation or cat nap into my day, back at the hotel. It helps me maintain energy.”
The surprising upside of aging “As you get older, you realize it's true that beauty comes from the inside out. With each passing year—even those that were filled with lots of ups and downs—I feel more confident and grateful, more comfortable in my own skin. And this, I believe, has positively impacted the way I look.”