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A Rising Star in Paris on Acne, Cheese, and Skin Positivity

Photo: Courtesy of Alexandra Shipp

Actress Alexandra Shipp is ready to get out of dodge this summer. After filming her roles as Storm in the newest iteration of X-Men and Abby in Love, Simon, Shipp is in the process of figuring out which job she wants to take next. To kick off her summer vacation, she attended Dior’s cruise 2019 show in Paris, and it turned out to be a rainy, tulle-oriented festive night.

Shipp worked with hairstylist Rio Sreedharan and makeup artist Tobi Henney to create a navy smoky eye paired with cornrows for the night. Henney used the darkest shade of the Dior 5 Couleurs palette in Cool Wave to smoke out the eye, and the lightest shade for the inner corner. The Cut talked to Shipp about why it’s getting easier to talk about hormonal acne, her homeopathic approach to blemishes, and her loving attitude toward life.

How do you think about beauty?
I think about makeup and skin-care products that enhance your natural beauty rather than cover it up. For example, the lip I’m wearing right now is the Dior Lip Glow in Coral, and can I tell you? I’m addicted to this. It’s so natural-looking. I like products that allow your beauty to shine through. You don’t have to show up with makeup caked on.

I’m obsessed with a few beauty products right now like Skin Jelly by Hapbee. It’s a plant-based jelly that is super hydrating. It’s great to make your lid a little glossy, but I pile it on at night to really even out my skin tone. I have really bad cystic acne so I get hyperpigmentation from acne scars. With cystic, it’s under your skin, and changes the texture and color without ever coming to the surface. I have naturally oily skin — I don’t really need highlighter, let’s put it that way. I’m catching the sun whether I want to or not.

Photo: Courtesy of Alexandra Shipp

There’s been a movement toward acne positivity.
A lot of times, people don’t think you have acne because they can’t necessarily feel it. They don’t understand how painful it is. I’m always getting my makeup done, and it can be really painful when people touch it. You don’t want to be a diva and be like, Ow. But especially if it’s that that time of the month, if I’m in my moon, queen, I’m tender all over. My face, my boobs, my feet, my face hurts.

You don’t ever want to leave the house. It hurts to put on makeup. Then I want to clear it up so I don’t want to put on makeup. What do I do? How do I face the world?

Photo: Courtesy of Alexandra Shipp

So what are your tips and tricks?
If I’m having a really good skin day, I’ll allow my skin to show through. If I’m not, I’ll do my hair cute — it’s all about tricking the eye. When you aren’t feeling your best face, it’s nice to put on a nice outfit and curl your hair. It’s like, my face might be red and puffy right now, but at least I’m killing it in all these other places.

Everyone gets acne, whether it’s a little bit or it’s cystic. This world is filled with so many different types, we have to celebrate our differences. Acne is my thumbprint. It’s 100 percent me. It’s my genetic code. I have too much testosterone and that in turn creates cystic acne. When you fall prey to it, you have to know about it.

With cystic acne, you can feel good and then wake up looking like you had spider bites across your face. To counteract the testosterone, I try to eat things with a lot of estrogen. I eat soy. I’m vegan so that balances it too. We are what we eat. I had to figure that out. I was working so much and my skin was so bad. I only felt pretty when I was wearing makeup. My blemishes are part of me but don’t define me.

Photo: Courtesy of Alexandra Shipp

People often talk about confidence as the emotional panacea to acne, but it’s not quite that simple. What was it like for you?

It was a lot of self-hate then that turned. I realized it wouldn’t serve me. I can’t hide away. I have too much love to show the world. So I thought, If I can’t do it one way, let me figure out another way.

I don’t have it with me today but I’m also usually carrying around different types of essential oils. I have lavender or tea tree. If I feel something coming on, I can knock it off right at the head.

As a mixed girl, there are things to think about. For example, I can’t use Retin-A. My mom, she’s white and uses it for her rosacea but it doesn’t work for me. I also get nervous taking hormone blockers. My dermatologist told me about it but I am trying to do it the homeopathic way.

What’s really cleared it up in the past three weeks is just being happy. When you are happy, it permeates. Your skin clears up. I’m not really that stressed. I am hanging out with my girls, in Paris. It all really comes down to stress levels too.

Photo: Courtesy of Alexandra Shipp

Okay, now a few questions about your favorite things. What do you have on your iPhone lock screen?
I have a picture of my dog. I have a blue-nose pit bull named Layla, she’s the sassiest thing. She’s two, which means she’s 14 in dog years. I adopted her and rescued her. She’s the funniest dog. She’s been sleeping in bed with me. She sleeps like a human and will wake up giving me a massive paw to the face like, Morning, Mom. She smells weird sometimes, but I’m in love with her.

What are some of your favorite tattoos?
Everyone has their own movie they’re obsessed with when they’re little – mine was Pinocchio. I got a tattoo of the cricket, surrounded by, “Always let your conscience be your guide,” in my brother’s handwriting. He’s the smart, technical brain. He’s the left, I’m the right. We match each other so perfectly.

Photo: Courtesy of Alexandra Shipp

What do you love for your hair?
I love Mixed Chicks, it works really well with my hair. I also like putting coconut oil in my hair and letting it air dry. It keeps it super moisturized. I’m not afraid of it getting in my skin and making me break out. Both my parents have curly hair so I have a mixture of all their different kinks. No curl is the same.

What is your favorite food?
I follow a lot of food Instagram accounts, like Tasty U.K. and Tasty Japan, which is the best. I love pasta. I went to Milan a couple months ago for Fashion Week. I ate my weight in pasta and truffles. I didn’t feel guilty. That’s how I feel being in Paris now. I’ve been eating right and working out. But now that I’m here, I’m going to let my foodie freak flag fly.

I am vegan, so I have to understand that if I’m indulging in bread, cheese, and cream, it’s going to hurt my stomach. I want to treat myself to eggs Benedict all the time. I’m always blown away by the eggs in Europe — I never understood why people ate eggs with a soft yolk and then I have a decent one with a bright orange yolk. Then I was like, I want to dip everything in this. We just don’t eat like that in the U.S.

Even though I am vegan, I want to give myself things I want. I do think about it because I think about my body being my temple, my skin, and the environment. If I want it, I’m going to grab it and go for it, even if it hurts my tummy.

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A Rising Star in Paris on Acne, Cheese, Skin Positivity