On Beauty: Adut Akech

On the politics of hair

I started off [in the modelling industry] with a flat top that I grew into an afro. When it got to a certain length, everyone started messing around with it, [using] so much heat on it that it got really damaged; so I cut it off. You have to learn to stick up for yourself. I get that everyone has their job and they’re doing what they’ve been told, but as a model, you need to know when to say “this is my hair – if I don’t want any heat in it, there’s a reason why”. My hair texture is not the same as Caucasian hair texture; it’s very fragile. I think it’s sad that in 2019, a lot of hairdressers don’t know how to work with afro hair.

On keeping her hair healthy

For my natural afro hair I use hair food and certain shampoos and conditioners. Any sort of natural product that is oil [based]. Olive oil is amazing. When I want to grow my hair out, I’ll use this because it takes a long time, so you have to put a lot of care and love into it.

On taking flights

I don’t have much of a flight routine but I’m going to start, because I’ve realised how filthy planes are. When you think about it, it’s like, someone was just sitting here – maybe for 15 hours – and now I’m about to. I know they don’t sanitise the seats. I’m really good at sleeping on planes and actually think I sleep more on planes than in my daily life… I can sleep from [leaving] New York until I land in London. I try to drink as much water as possible and I like to do my skin routine before I take off. I’ll cleanse at home, then when I get to the airport add more moisturiser and eye cream. Then I put on a whole lot of face mist, and then more when I wake up.

On make-up for all skin tones

I’ve had so many people do my make-up before, and I know when I look good and when I don’t – sometimes I look too ashy. I had to go through a lot of make-up artists to know which ones knew what to do with my skin and the right products to use. It’s quite insane – I have had to carry my own foundation and powder brush because quite often they use the same one on 30 other girls. Even if you dip a brush in a dark powder, you’ll still have a light powder on it. Make-up artists shouldn’t have to use a concealer as a foundation [on dark skin]. They’re heavy on the skin and they’re not meant to be used on your entire face – all make-up artists should have a foundation for my skin colour. Any brand that has a shade for my colour is my friend; I like NARS, Too Faced’s Born This Way and Maybelline, plus Pat’s [McGrath] new foundation – I have one that was made specifically for me.

On the skincare brand she swears by

I don’t care how tired I am, I never sleep with my make-up on. Ever. I’ve learnt to stick to one product that I know works for my skin because it’s super sensitive. The minute anything goes on my face, I react. I’ve come a long way [in terms of] knowing what works on my skin and what doesn’t. Less is more. I’ve cut down – now I do a simple three-step skin routine which is working better for me. I use a cleanser, then every two to three days I’ll use a scrub. I’ll do a mask but not every day. Even eye cream I don’t use every day because I have young skin and I don’t want to damage it by putting too much on it. A moisturiser is a must – I can’t live without it – and there’s nothing worse than having dry skin. All the skincare products I use are from Dr Barbara Sturm’s darker skin tones range. It’s pretty awesome and they go well with my skin so I’m sticking with it. I have all the products, from the Enzyme Cleanser to the Hyaluronic Acid Serum.

On make-up to go out in

I’m a very simple girl. You know what’s interesting? Growing up I loved make-up – I couldn’t go to school without my eyebrows done or some sort of make-up on. But when I started modelling, I realised I didn’t have time. I don’t wear it on a daily basis in my personal life. If I have a special occasion – if my skin is doing really good – I won’t wear foundation. I’ll fix my eyebrows and throw on a lip colour. I love a bold colour like red or maroon; or sometimes a simple gloss or lip balm does it for me.

On team sports

When I travel, it’s very hard to work out. I don’t work out to lose weight or gain muscle but to feel good on the inside – it’s not always about what you look like on the outside. I don’t do intense workouts or classes, but I have a gym in my building in New York and I do a lot of cardio. I did athletics when I was younger, so cardio is mounted into my system and I love running. I played netball too; when I say that in America, people don’t know what it is and think I’m crazy. I also played basketball. It’s hard to believe now how unfit I am now when I walk up the stairs. I also want to teach myself yoga and pilates.

On her signature scent

My favourite scent is my Valentino Born in Roma fragrance. Every now and then I like to mix fragrances together – they’re all sweet because I can’t do intense smells. I spray it everywhere and love it on my clothes. I like to smell amazing all the time.