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."
Charlotte Palermino never thought she'd make a career out of skin care. But it was an important part of her life from a young age.
"Basic skin care has always been ingrained in me," she tells Fashionista. "I'm half French, and my mamie and my marraine gave me Nivea Cold Cream as a kid, as I've always had dry and itchy skin."
Palermino always had a personal passion for beauty, but it wasn't until she began writing about health and beauty at Hearst that she became particularly interested in the industry. Learning about how marketing often conflates health with beauty piqued an interest that eventually led her to the skin-care world. Now, she's one of three co-founders of Dieux. She's also become somewhat of an accidental "skinfluencer," sharing product recommendations, debunking myths and generally calling out bullshit for her 155K+ Instagram and 262K+ TikTok followers.
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"In the process of creating Dieux, I was learning so much from my co-founder and formulator, Joyce de Lemos, and it was the antithesis of narratives I was seeing in media," says Palermino of what spurred her to get into the skin-care social media realm. "Marketing, fear and shame are constant themes in beauty, and I wanted to take that out of the beauty buying equation. I never thought I'd be screaming justice for parabens on an app, but here we are!"
Ahead, Palermino drops her routine, her beauty philosophy and her criteria for the products she uses herself (and recommends to her fans).
Where do you typically shop for beauty products? How does your process differ when shopping for beauty items versus shopping for clothing?
Well, having Joyce next door — she's in Brooklyn — I'm constantly testing actives that we're considering.
For me, it's based on a few things; science in the product, price — if your face product is over $100 and you don't have clinicals, I'm confused — and authorized retailers. Counterfeit skin care is a huge problem, as are expirations, so buying direct from a brand is also something I like doing, as I know it'll help the brand and they have the new stock (not always the case, but typically).
I also have a new policy that I don't buy from brands that go on and on about how clean and non-toxic they are. It's just marketing, and it's tired. For clothing, I'm a mostly vintage buyer so... I would never buy used skin care.
How do you go about discovering new brands and products? Do you have a testing process?
I'm fortunate where brands send me a lot of products, but if I see something on Instagram and I like the research, I buy. I try to test something for four to six weeks for an initial reaction; if I really like it, I go 12 weeks — which is sometimes what you need to see results. If it's a sunscreen or a cosmetic, I tend to [judge it based on] just if I do or don't like the formula on application.
You're also an amazing nail artist. Tell me about how you first got into that, how you honed your skills and where you shop for nail products.
I had left my corporate job, loved nail art and realized it would cost me one salon visit to buy the equipment. I didn’t have the money to keep up the habit at salons so I just learned at home! I've always been crafty; this is something I've been doing for years and well before the pandemic started.
How would you describe your personal beauty aesthetic? Has it changed or evolved at all in the past year?
I read once that humans are all in drag, and it's really what you choose to be for the day. For some, that's suits and ties or a Patagonia vest; for me, it's all over the place. I love theatric makeup and outfits. I also like sweats. I hate choosing an aesthetic, but my go-to is probably considered more classic and living in New York you can never go wrong with an all-black outfit and bold lip.
Do you think you have a signature beauty look? How would you describe your overall approach to beauty?
Like a tide, it ebbs and flows. Sometimes, I do a 12-step routine knowing it's completely indulgent, and other times I wash my face, use a serum and moisturizer and cannot be bothered to even look at anything else. I will say, right now is a time in my life to celebrate. I just got my second vaccine dose, New York is picking back up and all I want to do is wear neon eyeliner and scream with joy. The eyeliner will always be a cat-eye — that's one look I live in.
Walk me through your morning and nighttime skin-care routines. What specific products, ingredients and tools do you always come back to?
I use the NuFace or ZIIP every morning. I love microcurrent and feel it's given me a more defined face shape. I don't wash my face in the morning — my skin is quite dry, so after rinsing off the conductive gel [from my microcurrent treatment] I use Dieux's serum, a moisturizer (I change it up, but right now a custom moisturizer from Atolla), a face oil from Jordan Samuel and then SPF. Sunscreens are the only skin-care product I switch around regularly. Right now, I'm back into my Blue Lizard drugstore kick. If I use an eye cream in the morning or am doing eye makeup, I always use Dieux's Forever Eye Mask, after my serum step.
At night, I wash my face with Cetaphil using the Gentle Cleanser to remove makeup; I don't use water, I just wipe it off. Then, I go in with their Foam Cleanser. I also am a huge fan of the Dr. Loretta Gentle Cleanser, Krave Matcha Cleanser and Then I Met You Cleansing Balm.
I double-cleanse because I wear a lot of sunscreen every day. I then go back in with Dieux's serum (it has peptides, which work best with twice a day use). Every other day I use prescription tretinoin, my Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Moisturizer and on non-tretinoin nights, a baby amount of a balm on my face; Aquaphor, Vaseline and Chemist Confessions have ones I like.
Tell me about the new Dieux serum — how is it different from what's on the market and what gap does it fill in your own skin-care routine?
We've done some of the first studies on dosing of cannabinoids, so we have excellent data on why we chose our active percent and why encapsulating and stabilizing ingredients like cannabinoids matter. For me, it's my base serum, something I use everyday no matter what. It calms my skin, helps with wrinkle depth, strengthens my barrier and is reliable. It's a multitasking serum that doesn't use resurfacing ingredients because those products, while highly effective, aren't for everyone. I've found anecdotally this product has helped me tolerate ingredients I had a harder time to use, so I like to call it my serum that feels like a hug for my face.
It's not simply the products which are honest about what they will and will not do, but the transparency on pricing. Joyce is an expert formulator and we worked together to use ingredients you typically find in $120 serums and added them in ours for a much more transparent price.
Do you have a favorite Dieux product?
Our serum and hand sanitizer. Now that I'm outside, I'm using so much hand sanitizer. It makes me really proud when someone stops me and asks what hand sanitizer I'm using because it looks cool or smells good.
What does your go-to makeup routine look like? What products do you always come back to?
Black winged eye and a tinted lip color (not full lipstick because I'm messy when I eat). Benefit's Real Roller Lash Mascara and Uoma Beauty's brow product are just incredible, and I've bought so many at this point.
What about hair?
I've been really into heatless curls and have been using a headband to get ringlets. I've also been into Briogeo lately. While I'm not a fan of the 'clean' language, which pushes all my panic buttons, it's a beautiful hair product and works and smells divine. Crown Affair also makes me feel like I'm in "Bridgerton," brushing my hair like I'm fancy.
Do you have a "self-care" or wellness routine?
Sleep is my favorite self-care, but also slapping on Dieux Forever Eye Masks, getting a cup of coffee and reading a book when it's warm outside. We have a backyard so I like puttering around out there.
What are some of the best beauty products you've discovered because of social media?
Obsessed with Cheekbone Beauty — I have Instagram to thank for that!
How do you decide which products you want to recommend to your followers and fans on Instagram and TikTok? What criteria do they have to meet?
Does it work? What research has gone into the product? Does the price reflect that? Is the packaging living up to what they say?
With smaller brands I look to founders. Are they cool? Are they experts in skin care? Did they start a brand because it's trendy or because they're trying to solve or shift issues? Is the brand pandering to fear or really dated standards of beauty?
What are some of your favorite smaller or up-and-coming beauty brands?
I really want Eadem to launch as well — no idea what the products are, but the branding, vulnerability and authenticity is exactly what's needed in beauty. Beauty is complicated and rife with so many social ills, it's on beauty to disentangle and correct the harm that's been done, and I'm thrilled to see brands talk about it. That's a beautiful thing.
What are you most proud of having accomplished with Dieux so far?
I'm so lucky to be building this with my co-founders, Marta Freedman and Joyce de Lemos. It's really an honor to get to work with people who are so good at what they do and approach everything with empathy and hard work. When we sold our first eye mask and realized our idea was finally coming into the world, something shifted. I'm so proud and humbled every day to have our community that believes in us and has bought our products.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
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