Aja Naomi King’s Most Expensive Skincare Product Is Only $30

“I’m so budget-friendly.”

aja naomi king on a calendar with beauty products
(Image credit: Future)

Welcome to Beauty Around the Clock, Marie Claire's weekly peek into the daily lives of some of the most game-changing men and women in their industries. Ever wonder how they get it all done in a day? Here's your answer.


Skincare keeps getting more complicated, climbing up to 12 steps and thousands of dollars. So I can respect that Aja Naomi King starts and stops her routine with the basics. It’s three steps max—and the priciest product she owns is from the drugstore. “I’m so budget-friendly, and I love simplicity,” the actress exclusively tells Marie Claire while discussing L’Oréal Paris’ Stand Up Against Street Harassment campaign.

Her pared-down routine might be basic, but it’s effective. It keeps her adult acne under control and her skin so clear that she barely wore any foundation for the entirety of Lessons in Chemistry. “My acne turned me into a skincare person,” she jokes. Despite her no-frills at-home regimen, the How to Get Away With Murder star will invest in a good chemical peel or microneedling treatment.

Read ahead to get the breakdown on King’s entire routine and shop her favorite products.

morning skincare routine

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I was so lucky when I was younger because I didn’t have acne. I thought, oh, so my skin is perfect. I didn’t think I had to do anything, and I never thought about skincare. But as I got older, the acne started. Everyone else was done with it, and I was just beginning the joys of acne. Then, working in the industry, all this makeup gets put on your face—layers and layers. Skincare became so essential for me because I didn’t want to see acne on camera or look like I had bad skin.

aja naomi king in paris against cobblestone

King at the Miu Miu Womenswear show in France last Fall.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

My morning skincare routine is all about hydration. It’s very simple because I like things to be easy. I’m a huge fan of L’Oreal’s Revitalift cleanser—it’s worked really well for my skin and I’ve seen such a difference. I’ve been using that for years. I use a hyaluronic acid serum and Bright Reveal; both are lightweight and not greasy. To top it off, I use SPF.

signature look

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I am really low-maintenance. I’ll do mascara, my brows, and, of course, apply SPF. I was even wearing low-maintenance makeup like this on Lessons of Chemistry. The lead makeup artist was really big on seeing skin. The '50s can be very stylized makeup-wise, but we were going more for women who were doing so much out in the world that their makeup was very minimal.

self care ritual

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I use the Calm app and do breathing work. I like to sit still with myself and really try to cleanse my mind and aura.

aja naomi king on purple background

King is low-maintenance with her makeup routine, but is serious about applying SPF.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

We get so bogged down by our thoughts sometimes—we try to save the world inside of our brains, and that can be overwhelming. I like trying to be present. What I did is done. Whatever I haven’t done is not going to happen until tomorrow. So I just let it all go.

signature scent

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If I have five minutes to bring myself back to Zen, I will find an essential oil—eucalyptus oil or a scent that really resonates with me. I will put that on my fingertips, smell it, and meditate for five minutes.

products in the shower

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I try not to manipulate my hair too much with any kind of excess pulling, tugging, or touching. Everyone’s hair is different, but I keep it as low-maintenance as possible. If I’m going to put heat on my hair though, I’m using the Elvive moisture serum. I also really like their shampoo and conditioner.

haircare routine

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I'm consistent with sleeping in a silk scarf. It helps prevent breakage or damage from rubbing your hair on a cotton sheet or pillow. It’s also so nice to keep your hair off your face. I also clean my pillowcases and sheets regularly.

aja naomi king with hair in a ponytail on a white background

King at the L'Oréal Paris Women Of Worth Celebration in Los Angeles.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

most expensive beauty item

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I tried to get into all of those LED masks and stuff like that, but I can’t keep up with it. My most expensive product is probably like 30 bucks.

drugstore beauty staple

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I'm a ridiculous human being, and I constantly buy the L’Oreal Telescopic Mascara. I just always put it in my cart even though I have some. It’s a compulsion. I have to have it. I don’t even know why or understand myself.

favorite beauty treatment

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I love to get a beta-chemical peel. I’m really into that. It helps me get all the dead skin off and start fresh. I go to Facile Skin.

only wear makeup on one area of your face

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These days, if I’m not doing anything or meeting anyone, it’s going to be a brow and mascara day—especially if I’m just getting up, working out, and running some errands.

aja naomi king in a pink dress with her hair in a ponytail

The actress is a big fan of brow and mascara days.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

best beauty advice

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The best beauty advice I've ever received is caring for my skin. Every makeup artist that I work with has always noted how my skin looks so great. It makes it easier for them to do makeup and, I end up feeling really great because then my makeup isn’t about trying to hide something. It becomes about enhancing what’s already there.

craziest beauty treatment

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I want to preface this by saying that I did like my results. But, I would never do it again. I tried microneedling and it sounded like someone taking a hammer and banging it against a wall every second. For me, it was really intense and I did not enjoy it. I actually found it traumatizing. I didn’t feel anything—I was totally fine—but the sound made me jump.

I also didn’t know that your blood is on your face, so that was really shocking. I did absolutely no research.

biggest beauty regret

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I once bleached my hair. I was going for this blonde-ish look, which I hated. I didn’t try to do it myself—I’m not that crazy. I went to a colorist and she was great, but I just hated it. It made me realize how much I love my dark hair.

daily playlist

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Right now I’m obsessed with Beyonce’s Cowboy Carter. I’m listening nonstop. It’s just so good. I cannot wait for her to do a concert.

makeup application you have yet to master

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I cannot apply an individual lash to save my life. My hand trembles. It’s really hard and it seems like it shouldn’t be. I also cannot get behind the magnetic lashes. I can’t do it. I hear the word magnet and I just feel like it should not be near my eye.

aja naomi king on blue background

King posing in Santa Monica, California.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

who do you trust for beauty advice

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My guiding beauty lights are definitely my makeup artists. I trust them all [Vincent Oquendo, Diana Shin, Joanna Simkin] and they’re brilliant.

beauty trend you'll never get behind

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The bleached brow look. I think it looks cool on other people, but I will never do it to myself. I’ll love it on you from afar.

evening skincare routine

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It’s very quick and simple. I cleanse my face, apply my Revitalist serum and top it off with moisturizer and retinol. Then I just tie my hair up in a scarf and go to bed.

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Beauty Editor

Samantha Holender is the Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she reports on the best new launches, dives into the science behind skincare, and shares the breakdown on the latest and greatest trends in the beauty space. She's studied up on every ingredient you'll find on INCI list and is constantly in search of the world's glowiest makeup products. Prior to joining the team, she worked as Us Weekly’s Beauty and Style Editor, where she stayed on the pulse of pop culture and broke down celebrity beauty routines, hair transformations, and red carpet looks. Her words have also appeared on Popsugar, Makeup.com, Skincare.com, Delish.com, and Philadelphia Wedding. Samantha also serves as a board member for the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME). She first joined the organization in 2018, when she worked as an editorial intern at Food Network Magazine and Pioneer Woman Magazine. Samantha has a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. While at GWU, she was a founding member of the school’s HerCampus chapter and served as its President for four years. When she’s not deep in the beauty closet or swatching eyeshadows, you can find her obsessing over Real Housewives and all things Bravo. Keep up with her on Instagram @samholender.