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How I Shop (Beauty Edition): Crown Affair's Dianna Cohen

The beauty founder shares her hair-care-as-self-care philosophy and where she turns for product recommendations.
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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."

When your whole career is in the consumer goods space, you're bound to become someone who knows how to suss out the very best products on the market. 

Dianna Cohen got her start in beauty as an intern and in editorial production at Into The Gloss in 2012. "That experience opened my eyes to the power of beauty to connect us in a deeper way online," she tells Fashionista. Her subsequent career path is studded with marquee brand names, particularly in the high-growth consumer startup space — Away, Outdoor Voices, Harry's, Spring and Tamara Mellon — before eventually deciding to start her own hair-care business, Crown Affair

It's not surprising, then, that Cohen's personal beauty routine is one that's extensive but also highly curated, intentional and rife with labels known for their branding and marketing prowess. Of course, hair care is central to her own regimen — and it's a topic that has deep... roots (sorry) for her. 

"I've always been the go-to friend for hair advice. Growing up, I found self-assurance through caring for my hair, which sparked a life-long obsession with everyday rituals we all use to care for ourselves and connect with one another," she says. "The only thing I enjoyed more than testing new products and routines was talking to other people about what worked for them. I began sharing a Google doc filled with all the knowledge I'd obtained through word-of-mouth and research. From learning how to care for different hair types and textures, to the ways that hair reflects our culture and our identities, hair became a hobby and a new point of connection."

Ahead, Cohen shares how she shops for beauty products, her hair-care-as-self-care philosophy and how CeraVe face wash partly inspired her brand's soon-to-launch shampoo.

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 primarily through word-of-mouth and personal recommendations. Whether it's through a friend, an editor or digital influencer, if someone shares a personal transformation that resulted from using a tool or product, I'm open to trying it out. The most powerful thing to convert me is knowing that someone I respect, like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley or the teams at Violet Grey or Goop, have tried and tested a product and they genuinely recommend it. They see so many products and brands and understand the quality behind the formula and design, so I often try new things through their recommendations.

When it comes to clothing, I take a much more visual and personal approach. Every year I update a mood board of references and art direction for clothing and design. It's a great way to channel a mood or vibe and find silhouettes or colorways I'm most into. I shop mostly online on The RealReal, Net-a-Porter and The Outnet, and I have go-to spots like Acne, Outdoor Voices and Birkenstock, where I refresh in-person at their store every year.

How do you go about discovering new brands and products? Do you have a testing process or any sort of criteria products should meet?

I often discover new products or brands through friends or via social channels. There are a few people who I deeply admire for their taste and perspective. My dear friend Juliana Salazar is someone I look to for inspiration. I also actively use Pinterest to organize references, and I always find something new there I wouldn't have discovered otherwise.

When it comes to testing a new product, I look for brands and products that are intentional with the quality and sourcing of their ingredients [and with] design and function. I believe in making cleaner, better products that are an improvement upon what's out there. I look for brands who are doing the same at the intersection of performance and mindfulness.

Do you have a signature beauty look? How would you describe your beauty aesthetic? Has it evolved or changed at all in the past year or so?

My beauty aesthetic is all about taking what makes me me and enhancing it in subtle ways. The no-makeup makeup vibe appeals to all areas of my life. When I holistically care for myself — hydrate, sleep, stretch, journal — that's when I feel most self-assured and beautiful.

I've always kept my makeup simple: a tinted moisturizer, blush, highlighter, eyeliner, mascara and brows brushed up. I aim to look like a more fresh, rosy and glow-y version of myself.

While I keep my makeup simple, my hair is the part of my look that has the power to transform the way I feel and move through the world. Sure, I enjoy a blow out or styled moment as much as the next person, but I prefer hair that isn't too 'done,' a natural enhancement of my texture. Easy, soft, touchable hair that's healthy and strong.

How often do you try a new beauty product, and how often do you actually end up adopting a new one into your routine permanently?

I keep my beauty routine simple, so when it comes to trying new products it depends on the role that product plays in my ritual. It's easy, for example, to integrate a treatment or serum into my routine, but I keep my cleansers (face cleanser, shampoo) simple as I rely on them to consistently work and care for me.

Walk me through your skin-care routine. 

I have very active skin, so I work closely with my dermatologist and keep my ritual simple. I wash with CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser. I love a cleanser that's gentle, removes dirt and debris, but doesn't overly strip. I've been working on a similar cleanser for hair — too many shampoos (even ones without sulfates) over-lather and strip the hair of healthy natural oils.

After cleansing, I pat dry with a tissue. A facialist taught me to blot and be gentle on my skin post-cleanse. Then I use a dermatologist-prescribed lotion both morning and night to curb acne and breakouts. I'm a believer in seeing a dermatologist or tricologist for skin and scalp issues, respectively. Finding a doctor to be a partner on your journey can be transformative for understanding the root issue.

Next, I apply Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream. I love this simple moisturizer. My skin just drinks it up. I also use Drunk Elephant C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream — the verdict is still out for me if eye creams really work, but if any of them do, this one does it the best.

If I have a breakout, I'll use a Hero Mighty Patch. Occasionally I'll add in a serum if I'm looking to brighten my skin. I love Isla's Storm Serum. Once a week I might use Biologique Recherche P50 Lotion as a chemical exfoliator. I see an immediate difference, but it can be harsh, so I keep it to once a week max or I'll alternate it with Moon Juice's Acid Potion. I'll also use Biologique Recherche Mask Vivant once a week. The smell is intense, but the results are worth it.

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What about body-care products or tools?

I moisturize my body and use a lymphatic draining tool from De La Heart after every shower. I’ll switch between Embryolisse and Necessaire's Body Lotion. Sometimes I'll apply jojoba oil all over, and I love Fur Oil as well. I use a Flamingo razor for shaving in-shower and I love their shave gel.

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Do you have a favorite product from Crown Affair, if you had to pick just one?

This is impossible to choose because I don't put anything into the world I wouldn't personally use or recommend — but The Renewal Mask is magic. It can transform the health of your hair, and from a styling perspective, it changes how your hair dries. Once you try it, you get it.

Okay, I couldn't choose one. For a non in-shower product, The Dry Shampoo has also become my hero product this summer. I wash my hair about two times a week, so I reach for this on my in-between days. The persimmon powder gently absorbs oil and nourishes your strands, and our signature Crown Affair fragrance always brings me a moment of zen. Plus, the volume it adds to my crown makes my strands look as incredible as they do on wash day.

What does your go-to makeup routine look like?

I like to keep my makeup light. I use Drunk Elephant Sunscreen Tint with It Cosmetics CC You But Better Tint. I've actually used Benefit's Dandelion Blush since high school. It's such a nice shade. I'll layer it with Merit's cream blush in Cheeky

For eyes, I love Maybelline Line Stiletto Lash for a liquid eyeliner flick at the corner of the eyes. I really like Saie's Mascara. I'll follow that with Merit's highlighter in Cava, which gives a sophisticated glow. I finish with brows — I like Merit's Brow 1980 to fill and brush up, layered with Make's clear brow gel to give direction and fluff.

I'll refresh with Caudalie Beauty Elixir Mist during the day and wipe with Bioderma at night before cleansing and moisturizing.

What about nails?

I keep my nails filed, clean and bare half of the time. I love what Barehands is doing in this space. The other half of the time, I get a gel manicure with a pale or neutral color. I always use Olive & June Cuticle Serum to keep my nails hydrated and healthy.

What about fragrance — do you have a signature scent?

I love fragrances that add a bit of vibe and mystery. My favorites are Byredo's Gypsy Water, which I've been wearing for nine years, DS & Durga's I Don’t Know What and Oramie Toi Toi Toi.

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Now for hair, which I'm assuming is the most involved routine for you: Walk me through your daily or weekly routines, favorite products and any tools you might use.

My approach to hair-care is rooted in ritual: consistent actions that transform you overtime. I have a thoughtful post-wash and non-wash day rituals that carry me through and have empowered my relationship to my natural wave.

On wash days (my favorite days), I always brush my hair before getting into the shower to move the natural, healthy oils from scalp to strand. In-shower, I use our soon-to-launch shampoo and conditioner duo. They're my dream gentle, effective cleanser and moisturizer for scalp and strands.

Once a week, I'll use The Renewal Mask and leave it in for 20 minutes or more to let the tsubaki seed oil deeply penetrate my hair. I always rinse with cold water to seal the hair cuticle and add shine. While rinsing, I use The Comb No. 002 (which has a handle) to detangle strands. I'll get out of the shower, do a gentle comb one more time, and wrap my hair in The Towel. I leave The Towel in for 20 to 30 minutes and it absorbs all the heavy dampness from my strands, which prevents breakage and frizz. I'll unwrap the towel, gently comb again, followed by two droppers of The Oil. The Oil is a powerful serum that strengthens hair and doesn't weigh it down. It adds shine and gives such nice texture.

I'll usually air-dry from there, and on day two or three, I'll begin my non-wash day ritual: I treat my strands like I would a nice piece of silk. I'm gentle and kind to how I touch or hold them (always with a silk scrunchie). In the evening before bed, I'll brush my hair with The Brush No. 001. The concept of brushing for health is essential to my ritual. Regular brushing with a dual bristle brush helps distribute your hair's natural oil, giving you healthier strands and a cleaner clean when you wash.

On non-wash days when I need to refresh, I love The Dry Shampoo. It gently absorbs oils and enriches the scalp, leaving hair voluminous, silky soft and clean-feeling. It adds beautiful texture and blends seamlessly into scalp.

What are some of your favorite smaller or up-and-coming beauty brands right now?

Isla, Tower28, Superegg, Dieux.

Do you have a "self-care" or wellness routine? 

I believe that if you take the time to take care of yourself— be it with activity, nutrition, skin care, hair care — your body and mind will align and a feeling of empowerment and self-assurance will fall into place. Taking time to consistently care for yourself and listen to your body is how I approach all beauty. Our bodies are reflections of our wellbeing. If your skin is inflamed or your hair is shedding more than normal — it's an incredible sign to get quiet and understand what it might be. With that, I'm drawn to formulas and tools that celebrate wellbeing and are better for you and the planet.

One of our core values at Crown Affair is 'Take your Time,' so rituals are very important to us. I've found that wearing my robe, reading and journaling all keep me grounded and allow me to reflect on my day. I write in my Five Minute Journal every morning and night, drink lots of water and create space for me to be present.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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