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How I Shop (Beauty Edition): Kristen Noel Crawley

The founder of KNC Beauty shares her favorite products from her own brand — and plenty of others! — as well as how she discovers and tests new formulas.

Our "How I Shop" series documents how prominent figures buy clothes. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. The same goes for beauty — and there's a whole lot to unpack in the way we discover, test and purchase hair, skin, makeup, fragrance and wellness products. Now, we're delving into all of it with "How I Shop: Beauty Edition." 

Kristen Noel Crawley is somewhat of a jack of all trades of the beauty industry: In addition to having founded skin-care brand KNC Beauty, she also serves as a contributing editor for Violet Grey and as an influencer and content creation partner for brands like Dior Beauty, Revlon, True Botanicals, Burberry, Tiffany & Co. and more. 

With KNC Beauty racking up product awards, attracting big-name retail partners (Revolve, Violet Grey, Nordstrom, among many others) and building a growing, vocal fan base, Crawley has also set her sights on paying all that success forward of late. In July 2020, her brand partnered with Revlon for KNC School of Beauty, an program that provides mentorship, social media support, product development coaching and networking opportunities — as well as a chance to receive a $10,000 grant — to BIPOC female entrepreneurs in the beauty space. During February, Black History Month, the KNC School of Beauty began its third session, tapping industry names like Chandra Coleman Harris, Brooke DeVard, Karen Young and Olamide Olowe.

Amidst all that she has going on, Crawley took some time to chat about her beauty shopping habits with Fashionista, why it's so important to her to support other founders and brands and how she discovers and tests new formulas. Read on for the highlights.

Where do you typically shop for beauty products? How does your process differ when shopping for beauty items versus shopping for clothing?

I shop for beauty products whenever I'm out and about. I'm always on the search for something I've never seen before, so whether it be Sephora or a small K-beauty shop in L.A., I'm totally down to take a peek. I need to try a product firsthand before I really invest in it, so this process is absolutely crucial. Some of my favorite brands right now are Clé de Peau, U Beauty, La Mer, Sisely, and of course I always am using KNC Beauty.

When it comes to my personal style, I'm very open to contemporary fashion, but I love searching for vintage designs and hidden finds. I have a network of vintage resellers that help me find and source some of the most special pieces in my closet.

How do you go about discovering new brands and products? Do you have a testing process?

I find a lot of undiscovered fashion and beauty brands through platforms like Instagram, but what I really love is to experience new products in person. I love taking a day to explore the city, searching for hidden beauty outlets where I'm sure to find a new serum or mask I've never heard of. I always test everything on myself before really giving it a go. When I'm trying out my own products for the first time, I always share with friends and family to get the most authentic feedback possible. I definitely have to try something a few times and ruminate on it before I settle.

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How would you describe your personal beauty aesthetic? Has it changed or evolved at all in the past year?

My personal beauty aesthetic consists of having fresh, hydrated skin shown through a soft and natural complexion. For me, the details are in the eyes, so I love to do a pop of colored shadow or a fun winged liner. When I was younger I used to cake [makeup] on a lot, but now I know the benefits of less-is-more. I do have my different regimens that have stuck with me, but who doesn't love when they can cut some steps out before bed?

How experimental are you when it comes to beauty? Do you have a signature look?

I like to experiment with beauty at times, which is generally informed by my outfit or the place I'm going. I really like to do something interesting on the eyes while keeping my skin smooth and even. I want my complexion to be bright and open with a little something unexpected to catch the eye.


Walk me through your skin-care routine. 

I usually follow the same regimen which is a double-cleansing, double-moisturizing process. I love to use the Summer Fridays Super Amino Cleanser followed by the Clé de Peau Foam Cleanser. Next step is the Royal Fern toner, then I use a hyaluronic serum by Barbara Sturm and the Dior Capture Totale Cream to hydrate. Lastly, I use the La Mer Genaissance Eye Cream and a bit of [KNC Beauty] Supa Balm in OG Rose on my lips to top it off. 

Every week I like to do a multi-masking process using the KNC Beauty Big Set Mask over the Shooting Star Eye Mask as well as the Lip Mask. This leaves me feeling so refreshed and ready to go.

Do you have a favorite KNC Beauty product if you had to name just one?

I love Supa Balm. Honestly, it's just the best. I could never find anything that really worked for me so that's why I developed it. I use it day in and day out. I'm so excited too because we're working to develop more flavors soon.

What does your go-to makeup routine look like? What products do you always come back to?

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I like to keep my complexion pretty natural and soft so I don't use too many products to paint my face. I've worked with Dior for years now and will forever swear by Dior Beauty products, especially their lip colors and eye shadows. The new Dior Rouge is just so divine. I've also totally fallen for Byredo's cosmetics as of recent. Their packaging is so beautiful and unique.

What about hair?

Right now I'm obsessed with Playa's hair-care line. The products are clean and cruelty free, which is super important to me, and they work with all hair types, which is great because my hair can be pretty tricky. The Ritual Hair Oil gives me serious hydration that's been hard to find from other brands. I also use the Healing Hair Masque when I need some legitimate revitalization.

And your self-care or wellness routine? Any favorite rituals, products or tools you use?

I try to drink an antioxidant smoothie everyday to get the morning started and keep my energy up. I love the superfood blends and tea powders from Golde as well that are guaranteed to make me feel as healthy as can be. I try and go for a walk every day to clear my mind as well. My husband and I will take a walk at sunset just to get outside and have some quality time together. Moments like this are just so significant to one’s mental and physical well-being. They've definitely helped to get me through these trying times.

You have your own beauty company, but you seem to always be supporting other companies, whether through initiatives like KNC School of Beauty or just posting about other brands' products on social media. How do you navigate what you choose to promote and why do you think it's important to support other brands?

I always want to show support for those that have supported me. In the beginning I relied so heavily on my personal network to help build awareness surrounding KNC Beauty. Without these supporters I'm not sure I would have been able to build my business into what it is today. If my support, whether it be a repost or a story share on Instagram, can help boost someone to the next level, then why not? If the idea is there, and I myself feel inspired by it, I'll definitely make sure to show my support.

How do you choose which brands you work with in an influencer/content creation capacity? Do you have certain criteria?

I like to work with brands that I've had long standing partnerships with over the years. It's important for me to be loyal to those that have shown me consistent support. I want to invest in opportunities with brands that I feel authentically resonate with me so that the collaboration feels that much more organic. It's important that we share the same values, and I've always stuck by that.


What are some of your favorite smaller as or up-and-coming beauty brands? Any favorite specific products from them you love?

I love Saie's cute purple Eyelash Curler and both the Dew Balm Highlighter and Sunvisor Serum — total game changers. Kosas: My favorite product is 8th Muse Color & Light Palette that's the most heavenly cream blush and highlight duo. It just blends so well, and I can't get enough of it.

Black Girl Sunscreen's SPF 30 I use on both myself and my kids. The formula melts perfectly into your skin and there's absolutely no white residue. Rosen Skincare's cleansers and toners feel clean and mild yet provide serious results. The products are all encompassing and really help to cut steps out of your daily routine.

I also love Golde's Matcha and Turmeric Powder and the new Superwhisk is so efficient and fun to use.

Tell me about KNC School of Beauty. How did the initiative come about and why is it of personal importance to you? Do you hope to inspire other companies in the beauty industry to take on similar projects?

I launched the KNC School of Beauty in direct response to the Black Lives Matter movement. I wanted to create a space where leading Black female entrepreneurs could come together and share their stories of both success and failure. It was important for me to use my influence to provide aspiring businesswomen with real-life examples for them to strive toward. I wanted to develop a platform where likeminded women can connect, share information and support one another on their entrepreneurial journeys. 

I was so grateful to my partner Revlon as well for providing their generous support and standing in solidarity with our cause. I hope that other businesses and corporations, especially those with a large impact, use their influence to enact change in our communities.

What are you most proud of having accomplished with KNC Beauty so far?

It was such a huge accomplishment for me in the beginning when Violet Grey picked up my brand. It had been a dream of mine for so long, and it really helped to encourage me that I was on the right path. Every time I release a new product I’m just so proud because all the time and effort it took to get there has finally paid off. Truly though, I'm so excited for this new year as we have some super amazing projects in the works that I can't wait to see come to fruition.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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