"Why aren't you smiling? Life can get wild when you're caught in the whirlwind / Lost in the world when you're chasing the win / You gotta understand / There's really no end, there's really no beginning / There's really no real, there's really no pretending / There's really no fail, there's really no winning / Cause nothing really is, and everything really isn't... That's why I keep going."
Those are the self-assuring lyrics from Jhené Aiko's 2014 album "Souled Out" that rang in my headphones just before my conversation with the grammy-nominated songstress. The vulnerability of this verse exemplifies the story Aiko's lyrics have told throughout her career: raw honesty and love, in all forms. Aiko is widely recognized for the healing power of her music, a reflection of the way in which she lives her life. The 31-year-old is intentional about practicing mindfulness and embracing the "freedom to just be"—which is how she finishes the sentence, "To me, beauty is..." during our interview. Below, Aiko gets candid about her insecurities, her skincare secrets, and the one absolutely free thing she does for self-care.
On How She Gets That Gorgeous Glow
Aiko, a healer at heart, is just as invested in curing the world as she is uplifting her fans with her soul-baring melodies. So much so that she traveled to Fiji for La Mer’s Blue Heart Oceans Fund, a decade-long initiative from the brand focused on ocean conservation. "I’ve always been inspired by the ocean. I’m a water sign, a Pisces, so I draw a lot of my inspiration from the ocean. I was really impressed by the work that La Mer does with ocean conservation," Aiko tells me. Part of that commitment is the annual release of the limited-edition Blue Heart Crème de la Mer. (This year, for every public social media post including the product and using the hashtags #LaMerBlueHeart #LaMerDonation together, the company will make a donation of $25 to the fund.) The moisturizer is a staple in Aiko's beauty arsenal. "I love the consistency of the creme, and how it’s ultra-hydrating but it doesn’t feel greasy," she says. "Sometimes creams can feel too heavy on my combination skin."
She adds that "drinking water and staying hydrated helps with my glow. I also love sheet masks—The La Mer Sheet mask does amazing things for my glow. Washing my face at night is so important and packing in all of my serums and moisturizers before bed so that I wake up with supple skin."
On the Importance of Deep Breathing
"I’ve worked conscious deep breathing into my skincare and self-care routine throughout the day," Aiko shares. "When I was younger and got my first facial, the aesthetician asked me did I breathe. She’s the one that actually told me you should do breathing exercises throughout the day because so many breakouts are caused from stress."
"A lot of people ask me if I meditate, and to me meditation isn’t taking five minutes out of the day to sit by yourself in solitary. I’ve found that it’s really a state of being. It’s more about mindful living and making sure that you’re constantly checking up on breath and breathing deeply."
On Her Skincare Routine
"After [breath work], I start my routine. I use a gentle cleanser, exfoliating scrub, and then I do a water-based cleanser to balance the moisture in my skin. Next, I use my La Mer Toner and The Concentrate, followed by the Crème de la Mer. Lastly, I put on sunscreen. I can’t go anywhere without Alastin Sunscreen—it’s tinted. It has such light coverage that my freckles still show but gives me more of an even complexion."
On DIY Skincare
"Since my first breakout when I was 12, I have tried different products. As I get older and realize the importance of conservation and taking care of the planet, I do look for more natural things because I've realized less is more. This is whyI love to make my own concoctions with neem oil, diluted lavender oil, calendula oil, and chamomile oil," Aiko explains. "One time, I had a rash and I soaked up some chamomile tea and added that into my moisturizer. I like to experiment especially with natural products and mix them together and test them out on myself."
On Self-Care and Mindfulness
The artist shares four priorities for taking care of herself emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Connecting With Nature
"I love to sit outside in silence, breathe, focus on a flower or look at the sky," Aiko says. "These are things that I’ve done since I was a child because I was home-schooled and had a lot of time to sit and think before even realizing that was a form of meditation."
Unplugging From Her Phone
"I've been taking time to put my phone down and focus on where I’m at and who I’m with at the moment," she reveals. "With my phone, it’s constant work and communication when there’s already things in front of me that need my attention and care in that moment. It’s as simple as allotting a certain amount of time away from your phone. Like, for one hour per day I’m going to leave my phone in another room, and give it a break."
Practicing Sound Therapy
"Right now, I’m studying sound healing," the singer says. "I have crystal bowls made of precious gems, and I'm building my collection. My in-house studio is now filled with all these bowls. They all work with your chakra system, which is healing on a cellular level. If I have a headache, I’ll go in my studio and play my bowl in a certain key, which represents the 'crown chakra,' and it’ll start to resonate in my head, and actually helps my headaches go away."
"I also have color therapy light bulbs because sound therapy goes hand-in-hand with color therapy and aromatherapy. I’ll light certain candles that are a part of the practice and create my own healing sanctuary when I’m home. When I’m not home, I bring certain candles and gemstones to make sure I have tools with me to help when I do feel anxious, scared, or angry."
"I like to do mirror meditations where I just look at myself, and instead of focusing on what I think is really cute or ugly I just look at myself directly in the eyes," Aiko explains. "You let your pupils in the very back of your eyes meet in the mirror. When you stare at yourself like this, it feels kind of trippy. But everything goes black and you see who you really are, and that is everything and nothing at the same time. You see that it’s so much bigger than you, and you don’t judge yourself, you’re content with just being. This is something I practice when I get overwhelmed by any type of feeling or thing that has to do with the ego. Feeling insecure or overly confident is the ego egging you on or criticizing you."
On Beauty as an Inside-Out Job
"I’ve had to go to the hospital a few times for my liver, galbladder, and kidney problems," Aiko reveals. "All of those things were because of my diet. I was eating a lot of fried foods, and not exercising or taking care of myself. This was all showing on my skin. I realized I needed to take better care of myself from the inside-out, so I can have more energy and feel better. Taking care of your skin is a great way to show that you love and care for yourself. I believe in 'being the message' and when you see someone taking care of themselves and loving themselves, it’ll inspire you to do the same.
"This is the reason I’ve been more natural nowadays, not only with the products I use on my face but with the things that I eat and my lifestyle choices. When I was younger, I wouldn’t want to go outside because I felt like I looked that bad. It feels good to go out into the world with a fresh face and not feel like I have to hide—that in itself is a healing experience."
On Dealing With Insecurities
"I still deal with not feeling as confident all the time," she admits. "I’m a 31-year-old, and feel like I’ll probably always deal with it. I don’t see it as a negative thing, I just feel like it’s a human thing. Some days, I’m not really feeling myself and don’t think I’m good enough, but it also helps me work harder and stay humble. It’s a part of who I am so I don’t shun the feeling or judge myself because of it. Instead, I do things that make me feel happy and good. I don’t like to feel insecure, or super-confident because that can turn into arrogance. I like to keep it balanced. I appreciate both ends of the spectrum: when I’m feeling super-sure and confident, and when I’m feeling insecure."
"My advice for women who are feeling insecure is to get off of social media and stop comparing yourself. That’s the one thing that definitely affects everyone. We’re always comparing ourselves and being told that one type of beauty is the best type of beauty. Comparison is the thief of joy, and this is where a lot of insecurities come from. What makes you beautiful is your uniqueness. Take a break from the media and sit with yourself. You have to realize that you are everything and more just on your own without having to compete or compare."
For more stories like this, including celebrity news, beauty and fashion advice, savvy political commentary, and fascinating features, sign up for the Marie Claire newsletter.