October 14, 2021
Hello, natural beauties!
We hope you’ve been enjoying going back to school this month and chatting all things S-K-I-N. For this month’s GOOD Talks installment, we sat down with Kimberlee Alexandria-Day, Ode to Self skincare founder and maker (found on very own shelves!).
Keep reading for our interview with Kimberlee on all things skincare, self care and more…
SG: Could you tell us a bit about yourself + your journey to creating the beautiful line that is Ode to Self?
Kimberlee: Yes! I grew up with a finite love for beauty and fashion. My desire was to be a fashion designer, as I grew up watching the Hills, I aspired to attend FIDM or Parsons. But, the older I got, the more interested in body and health I became. Then, I tried to start practicing yoga in my early teens back when Direct TV had those lifestyle channels that aired fashion shows and holistic wellness and meditation channels. I’d be in the spare room of our home trying to meditate.
As I became more interested in wellness and beauty, I started using Microsoft Publisher to make logos of my would-be skincare brand that would be a part of a little organization named the Sweetheart Foundation. I had this vision to create something to help others feel good, start a small café that would be part lounge, part studio, part shop. I’ve always been creative in terms of graphics, design, and art. But, at the core, I wanted to connect my natural talents of creating things and use that to take care of others. It’s the southern hospitality in me.
In 2013, I completed my first year of college. But, I was genuinely unhappy. After some contemplating and out of defiance and wanting to do what I wanted to do, I enrolled myself into the Aveda Institute to initially learn how to do makeup because I saw it was a lucrative hustle at the time in 2013-2014 and YouTube was just now really starting to blow up a little with make-up artists. Instead, once I got into the esthetics program and saw the curriculum, I was mesmerized by the wellness connection to the holistic side of skincare. Taking into account that healthy skin is a combination of the way you take care of your mental and physical well being, the foods you eat based on your chakras, and the right products for your skin type/concerns. This propelled a search for how to create a skincare brand for about 6 years before I was fully able to do so on my own.
The name “Ode to Self” came after a break-up in 2017 that was pretty upsetting at the time. But, it was that event that set off a lightbulb in my head and brought attention to how I pushed aside my wants and needs to satisfy others. I essentially wanted to create a brand that incorporated the holistic aspect of things I learned from a minimalist perspective, but served as a reminder to prioritize myself irregardless of what others wanted for me because serving my purpose and fulfilling my dreams mattered, too.
SG: What is your skin philosophy?
Kimberlee: The more simple, the better. I’ve noticed the less products I put on my face, the better my face responds and the clearest/healthiest it is. Especially when you use products that work specifically for your needs and not general concepts.
SG: What is your biggest complaint about the current climate of the skincare industry and what would you love to see changed in the future?
Kimberlee: Right now, my biggest complaint is everyone not really serving a specific niche and still overlooking the needs of Black women and men. That’s another part of what led me to create this brand because I wanted to serve people who looked like me, Black people, who dealt with the occasional breakout, textured and uneven skin, and just wanted something that didn’t cause more breakouts or irritation since our skin is definitely sensitive. Another complaint is the amount of misinformation and fear-mongering that’s still happening. We hear “no synthetics” and “all-natural”, but that doesn’t mean anything at all. To me, it matters if the materials and ingredients used are biodegradable, recyclable, or can be made into renewable energy and––if it works. Because synthetics aren’t bad. All natural or organic doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily good. So, I’d like to see more education from brands as consumers are demanding to know more to actually understand why an ingredient exists and its functionality for skin and the formula.
SG: What piece of skin advice would you have given to your younger self?Kimberlee: Stop using Neutrogena. You don’t have acne. You just needed to moisturize. That pink grapefruit was drying your skin out more than it was helping.
SG: Can you walk us through your AM and PM skin rituals?
Kimberlee: It’s super simple. I usually do my routine during the day and at night if I’ve worked out for the day. In the morning, I keep it simple with our Savant Cream Cleanser, De Palma Facial Oil, and sunscreen. At night, I take it a little slower with Bask, our cleansing balm, with Wave Toning Essence, and this new moisturizer I’m currently testing out the formula for. I mix that with De Palma and it mixes so well together for a nice boost of moisture. When I wake up, my skin looks super dewy and radiant. For my body, after the shower, I opt for Moroccan Oil’s Night Body Serum. I love the consistency and the smell. It’s really sexy and locks in that hydration after the shower.
SG: Can you share a bit about the perception of self care and wellness in the Black community and then the reality of it? How does rest and taking care of yourself play into the realities Black women and men face when it comes to self care and mental health?
Kimberlee: Wellness for the Black community, when I was growing up around older generations, was really just church. You feel sick? Pray about it. You feel sad? Pray about it. You want to get your life back on track and just need a moment to yourself? Come to church and surround yourself with hundreds of people, because you don’t need to be alone and you need to cry out to God for help.
The reality of that is, it’s crippled the way our community is able to really communicate their feelings properly or recognize that their feelings are valid and sometimes, it’s okay to just be without worry of speculation or condemnation. The Black community didn’t realize mental health is also a “health” issue and a part of taking care of yourself. Mental health was something that wasn’t really discussed in my family or church home because it was seen as a disgrace and swept under the rug a lot. That thinking created generations of trauma because we don’t know, or didn’t have the tools to know, what was actually happening.
Black men and women, especially women, have long held the belief that they need to be strong and do everything, smile while doing so, and not talk about their feelings. It’s because we were never given safe spaces to do so and we don’t give ourselves enough grace. It’s so important for us to rest and take a step back because as Black women, we definitely try to be superheroes to everyone in our lives. But we have to be our own superhero first before we can try to save others. That really starts with creating more safe spaces that allow us to be emotionally vulnerable in the home, in our workspaces, with our friends, and coming to an understanding that it’s okay to just take a timeout and step away for a second to focus on yourself.
SG: Who is someone that inspires you?
Kimberlee: Several people. I don’t have just one specific person. When I hear different stories or follow someone’s journey, I feel an “aha” moment and draw inspiration to continue to push forward.
SG: What’s next for Ode to Self?
Kimberlee: Diving more into our wellness leg of our company as I’m excited to start formulating our first wellness drink, but it won’t be our typical drink. Of course, dedicated to help calm anxiety and stress, but without your typical adaptogens. We have a collaboration product coming out soon and I can’t wait to debut that. My focus is completing the product line as we continue to grow to be able to offer a complete holistic system that stay in the range of multifunctional/multipurpose and clean. Our goal is start on that cafe idea I’ve been dying to do since 15. 🙂 Stay tuned.
SG: Just for fun, what’s your can’t-live-without #1 desert island skincare product?
Kimberlee: I’d say soap. I have to wash properly. Rinsing off in the ocean just won’t do!
It was such an honor to feature Kimberlee for this month’s ‘GOOD Talks’.
And for more convos on #skinschool, pop over to the Shop Good IG, where we’ll be talking all month long about how to *really* get to know and support your skin!