Winnie Harlow recently committed the ultimate no-no of skin care: She slept with her makeup on. But it was the morning after a friend’s birthday dinner and she was out later than usual. “I always tell people, ‘Do what I say, not what I do,’” she said from her home in California. Her cardinal rule: “Good skin is healthy skin.” And for her, that includes eating “vegan-adjacent,” using aloe vera, an ingredient from her Jamaican roots, and getting eight hours of sleep.
But not always — on that day she woke up around 9 a.m., rolled over to her makeup wipes, and chugged a glass of water. It’s all about balance, okay? Normally she prioritizes rest, which she says is key to her glow: “My pimples literally disappear overnight.” Then she gets ready, puts on sunscreen, and starts her dreaded eight-minute walk to the gym. “I have ADD, so walking is so boring,” she says. (She usually puts on a podcast or takes her dog to make it more interesting.)
Growing up with vitiligo, a skin condition that causes the loss of pigment, Harlow says that kids were mean. Fast-forward a few years and the model and entrepreneur made history when she became the first model with vitiligo to be featured in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Now, at 28, she looks back at photos of herself as a child and can see that her skin was different, but she doesn’t remember knowing the difference at that time. “Other people noticing it made me notice it,” she says. Today, the comments don’t get to her.
Here, Winnie Harlow’s skin-care routine:
She starts with the Image Skincare balancing cleanser, which she describes as “gentle” and includes ingredients like aloe vera and turmeric-root extract: “This texture is so nice, and I feel like it balances out my skin when I wake up.”
After that, she uses an exfoliant with 2 percent BHAs, or salicylic acid, which helps with the texture of her skin. “This is good stuff right here.”
Harlow then moves on to serums, like this cult fave from the Ordinary with 10 percent niacinamide, which is basically a form of vitamin B3. She’s tried a couple of products, but “this one really keeps my skin clear,” she says. “This protects my pores without being too harsh and drying. When I don’t use it, I can see the difference.”
She then moves on to a thicker serum from Alastin. “It leaves my skin feeling super-moisturized,” she says. “I didn’t even realize this was antiaging when I first started using it, but then I realized that’s why I love it so much. It just reboots my skin.”
When Harlow needs more moisture, she turns to this Glossier Futuredew product that includes a blend of four different oils — jojoba, grape seed, evening primrose, and rosehip — as well as squalane. “I only use a little bit of this sometimes because it’s quite heavy,” she says.
When Harlow has a breakout, she turns to these Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare wipes with over seven acids: “These peels are so good. I love using them for hyperpigmentation too.”
In the winter months, she adds another moisturizer. “This is new to my daily regimen, but I am very obsessed with it,” says Harlow of the Farmacy moisturizer. “I’m always looking for a moisturizer that’s not too heavy.” It includes ceramides, which are basically fatty acids that help repair your skin. Pro tip: Harlow also uses it as a primer for her makeup.
And last but not least, she uses her own Cay Skin SPF “to make sure that I’m protected from the sun” because sun exposure can be particularly dangerous for those with vitiligo.
She also adds a lip mask from her brand while she is doing her makeup to ensure an easy glide for lip products.
On the importance of sunscreen for vitiligo:
Harlow launched her sun-care line in March of this year. While she knows vitamin D and fresh air are good for the skin, because of her condition, she needs to protect her skin from harmful UVA/UVB rays.
On her practice of prayer and stretching:
To unwind, Harlow sticks with (her version of) the basics: “Instead of meditation, I’ll pray or get a massage — those things are important to me.” Harlow also grew up with scoliosis, so taking care of her body has been critical. She consistently sees a chiropractor and practices physiotherapy. “We hold a lot of tension in our neck, back, glutes, and all parts of the body,” Harlow shares. “Releasing that can change your entire day.” This is why daily movement, like stretching, has become an essential part of her daily practice. Her goal? To one day do the splits.
On being “vegan-adjacent”:
She’s recently shifted her eating habits to lean more vegan, a diet she’s always been interested in. A conversation with Kellie Bowman, the daughter of world-renowned herbalist healer Dr. Sebi, ignited the change for her to reboot her body after summer — as a Leo, also known as her “turn-up season.” (“I am outside,” Harlow laughs.) The reset came shortly before fashion week, arguably her busiest season of the year. She admits that she doesn’t restrict herself from eating what she wants when she travels. “I enjoy food, and I just like to have fun; it’s a part of my culture,” she says. “Last night, I just had pizza. If I want a cookie, I’m going to eat a cookie.”
On her Jamaican culture:
It was her grandmother who told her to drink a concoction of boiled onion, garlic, ginger, and lemon, and now she makes it for her friends to drink when they’re sick. “Who is drinking that thick, disgusting concoction?” she laughs, remembering how much she despised drinking it when she was younger. Her dad chews raw garlic, which she can’t do: “I boil it.” Harlow grew up on traditional Caribbean skin-care remedies, like sea moss and aloe vera cut straight from the root and rubbed on her mosquito bites or sunburns, ingredients she now uses in her own skin-care brand, Cay Skin.
On being imperfect:
“We’re not meant to be mannequins with porcelain skin,” she says. “I had a little pimple on my face that’s just now starting to go down, but I still have good skin. It doesn’t matter, we’re human; we’re going to have pimples, we’re going to have scars, we’re going to have all of those things. As long as you take care of your skin, you’re good.”