“I started modeling at 16 years old. I signed with the agency that was one of the bigger agencies at the time in New York, which was Wilhelmina. My parents had always told me that I couldn’t model forever, and I would have to choose a career path, and I should start looking at that.
By 20, I had saved enough money to open up a medical spa. So I was always very interested in skincare, beauty, and medical-grade procedures like lasers and things like that. I went to esthetician school and got my esthetics license, so I’d know a little about it. We had everything from facials and microdermabrasion and chemical peels, LED lights, and things like that, to laser hair removal, laser vein removal, non-surgical facelifts, and laser pigmentation removal. I just fell in love with it. I opened it up in Texas and decided I would never really live in Texas full-time again.
I ended up selling it about three or four years later and stayed in New York. I came up with an idea, and I pitched it to a production company called « Inside Fashion, » where we’d be behind the scenes at different runway shows, talking to makeup artists, hair stylists, and designers, and it aired on E!. So it was a twisted path where I went from modeling to medspa owner and back into that side of things.
Years later, I was pregnant with my first child, and I started thinking about stretch marks because I already had them and didn’t want more of them. So I started making products. I’ve always been great with ingredient lists; I can look at the back of almost any product like a chemist. I was doing that with different body creams that say they prevent stretch marks. I’d find out what their marketing ingredient was and wonder why it was always the thirteenth [on the list] or why they had to use this kind of preservative when there are so many cleaner preservatives out there?’ So I decided to make my own, and I went down this rabbit hole of becoming obsessed with ingredients. But not just obsessed with ingredients—obsessed with which ingredient does what thing. I ended up with an Excel sheet balancing fatty acids, omegas, and retinoic acid versus linoleic. When I felt that I had that balance, I started ordering and asking for raw ingredients from large manufacturers, and they would not want to sell me the amount they’d make for one person. So I had to buy, at the minimum, a five-gallon bucket. My kitchen ended up being an at-home little lab. I made many versions—probably a hundred in a couple of years or more. I always had so much excess inventory. I would send it out to friends in LA or New York and different pregnant people, and they’d always come back with success stories and then ask for it for their friends.
That’s how our body butter was born. It was truly just a product I was making in my kitchen, for myself, for a very selfish reason. That became the go-to for so many people. I’d be away and people would still be asking for it. At one point, I was like, ‘I have to put this in a lab because I’m worried about what ingredients I’m out of at-home.’ I felt like if I didn’t get this made and send it to them within two weeks, the stretch marks would be my fault, in a way, because I had all of these pregnant friends. Eventually, it became a brand, and Mutha was born with our first product, the body butter. Then, we had our body oil, which was all about the skin’s elasticity. From there, we have about ten SKUs from body care to skincare, with a core technology developed by a chemist from MIT. When we did skincare, we knew we had to go in, so there’s no way I could do it in my kitchen. I was in treatment rooms myself as an esthetician, and I feel like that probably influenced the product development side the most because you want products that give results and do what they say they’re going to do. There’s just no way that I could have that credibility because when someone puts something on their body, they want the science behind it more than anything else. It’s no longer about making a pregnancy cream that was all about hydration. It turned into a real skin project and having MIT involved was very important.
I just wrote a book about pregnancy called Your Body is Magic, which is everything I learned [during my preganacies]. I started with an OB/GYN, and in the first 20 weeks, I started doing a lot of reading. I said, ‘I’m going to try this midwife path. I want to interview one.’ It was a two-and-a-half-hour conversation during my first consultation. I learned much more about my body in that interview. At that point, I just went down this whole natural home birth path, what vitamins to take and why you don’t take one prenatal vitamin. I came up with an entire nutrition plan, and we have many contributors, from a doula to a midwife.
I’m a big fan of double cleansing. Whenever I wear SPF or makeup, I have to remove it with a double cleanse. The order in which I do it is either I’ll use a gel and then oil, or oil and then a gel, depending on the humidity. I’ll finish with a gel if I’m somewhere more humid, and if my skin is drier, I’ll finish with an oil cleanser. I like the La Mer Cleansing Gel and the Tata Harper Nourishing Oil Cleanser.
If it’s morning, I love a morning cleanse with more of a cream cleanser or an oil—something very hydrating. I’ll use Augustinus Bader’s Cleansing Cream because it doesn’t strip the skin, and I’m only removing skincare products, oil, and stuff from sleeping. So that’s a single cleanse. My next step, whether morning or night, is to use the Mutha Cell Rejuvenating Essence, and then I go to the Mutha No. 1 Serum. I sometimes end there and go straight to sunscreen. It’s a very lazy, fast skincare routine, but that’s the reality of some mornings with four kids. If I’m going to use sunscreen, I’ll use Elta MD. If I want a glowy finish, like when I have a lot of video calls that day and I’m doing a no-makeup look, I’ll do the Supergoop Glow Screen.
I’ve always been great with ingredient lists; I can look at the back of almost any product like a chemist. I was doing that with different body creams that say they prevent stretch marks.
If I’m doing a longer routine or if it is nighttime, I might have a face mask after I cleanse. I’m currently using a product we will launch later this year. At night, I also use P50. I love our Mutha Cream or the Cream Extreme at night; I can choose depending on if I’m in Colorado or Palm Beach. I use the Cream Extreme in a colder environment, and then in lighter, more humid environments, I’ll choose the Cream. I always do Up All Night Eye Cream in the morning and night because it has this glow. It’s so great. I go all the way around the eye and do the eyelid also. Once a week on a Sunday, I’ll do the Skin 111 Face Mask. I like their sheet masks a lot, and they have great under-eye patches. I also like the Peter Thomas Roth gel pads that are light blue. I incorporate those depending on what I have going on or what my skin is doing that week.
For makeup, I love to have the No. 1 Serum underneath my makeup every time. I think it’s a great hydrator, and I can tell the difference between when I don’t use it and when I do. Your makeup goes into eye wrinkles, or you have the parentheses around the mouth, and that doesn’t happen because the No. 1 Serum is so hydrating. I use a bunch of different foundations, but I’ve been liking the Lawless Clean AF Foundation. It doesn’t get cakey, it doesn’t get in the smile or eye lines, so it’s a very lightweight and impressive formula. I love, love, love the Gucci Westman blush sticks, and I love her brushes too. I use that blush in Petal, and she also has a contouring bronzer in stick form that I love. For eyeshadow, I think that Pat McGrath has the best eyeshadows because they’re super, super pigmented. I love Makeup by Mario Eyeliner, it’s super, super pigmented, and it’s one stroke. You don’t have to go over it, you can’t see through it, and you have total control because of the applicator.
I love Victoria Beckham’s No. 4 Lip Liner. Then, there’s this Chanel product called Liquid Powder, but it’s for your lips. It leaves this matte, velvety, soft finish, so it’s like, ‘Is she wearing something or is she not?’ It gives a really good glow without being so much. For highlighters, I think that the Sephora brand makes really good highlighters. They have a bunch of them that are called Sunrise, Sunset. They’re pigmented. Too Faced makes a great translucent powder, and it smells like peaches. I always set that with what I think is the best setting spray: Anastasia Beverly Hills Setting Spray. It has this gold, glittery package, but there’s no shine or anything. After spraying it, you’re a little dewy, and everything sets in. I love Victoria Beckham’s eyeliner also. I think she makes excellent eyeliners in general. Her Bordeaux Eyeliner is the color of a Bordeaux wine, and I have a brown eye color that might have some lighter colors. It helps to bring those out and is more interesting than the traditional black-brown. Huda has so many great palettes. She has a new palette, a light purple, and I’m obsessed with it. Huda also makes an excellent lip stain, so if you don’t like sticky and don’t like to reapply, her lip stain is good. It’s like a gloss, but it dries flat.
For a no-makeup look, Supergoop makes eye shadow, which not many people have tried, and it’s in a pot. You can use it on your fingers, and it doesn’t make your eyelid all one color. It’s got some iridescent colors in it, and I like those eyeshadows a lot because they’re fun on a no-makeup day.
I’ve always just done my brows and tweeze; I don’t wax or have a particular routine. Every few years, I like to see Anastasia [Soare] or someone with her team to shape them if they’ve gotten off somehow. There’s a woman in LA, Audrey Glass, who does microblading. It’s never too much. It’s just what you need and gives you that great base. I like Brow Wiz by Anastasia Beverly Hills, and I will still use that on top. I also have this contact in New York; she’s a secret weapon: she will never name-drop clients, but she knows who to go to. If you need somebody for brows, she matches you with whoever you need. It’s very specialized, but she goes by Beauty Broker. She’s online, and she matches you to surgeons or recommends skin care treatments. So if I want to know who will microblade my brows or who to go to for this and that, she’s the answer.
I have curly hair, and I go in phases where I’m only wearing my hair curly for three months. People think you don’t have to do anything to curly hair, but you have to do so much with it. Sometimes when I blow it out, I can go a week with one blow-dry, and I can brush it and restyle it without having to wet it every day; I find it to be less maintenance. My curls feel more high maintenance because even though they can air dry, they need so much moisture and product. I layer it, section it and brush it, and there’s a whole curl routine. If I’m not in my curl routine, I’m doing a lot of conditioning. I use Olaplex’s full line because I do think it helps my hair. I love Wow’s Dream Coat when I’m down in Palm Beach because it’s more humid here or during New York summers, and you can coat your hair with it and blow it out. They also have one for curly hair, and it’s a spray, so it’s super thin, and it really does make my curls very lovely, but also their Curly Dream Spray is fantastic. You can blow dry your hair, and even in humidity, my hair won’t curl back up like it will without it. I like Virtue Shampoo also when I’m not doing Olaplex-type treatments. Something I started using on curl days and straight days is K18. I think it’s made my ends so much nicer. Then, Bumble and Bumble has a curl butter, and I think it’s thick, and my hair does well with it for curly hair days.
When blowing my hair out, I either use the round Moroccanoil Ceramic Brush with my T3 blow dryer, or if I’m willing to do small enough sections, Dry Bar has a blow-dry brush that’s all in one.
I get massages, and I do them not for relaxation but more therapeutic because I like the deep work. I’m a big fan of dry brushing, so I love a good dry brush at least a few times a week before the shower. At Mutha, we just launched an exfoliating body bar. It’s part of our Nudist collection, a new collection that’s all about KP or the bumps you get on the base of the butt or the back of the legs from sitting, or the bumps you get from swimsuits, or on the back of the arms. It’s a body bar, and it has lots of little renewable wood pulp in it, so it’s very soft, but it’s an exfoliating agent, and it has lots of niacinamide and vitamins in it for the skin. I’m using that every day as a targeted treatment for where I have those bumps. If I’m in a more humid climate, I’ll only use body serum and be very hydrated all day. It’s got an exfoliant in it, and it has lots of fruit acids and M-tight technology, clinically proven to stimulate your blood flow by 375 percent in the first 75 minutes you’re wearing it. It helps with lymph flow, so if you like lymphatic drainage or are obsessed with flushing toxins, depuffing, and things like that, this is an excellent body serum to do daily maintenance. After that, if it’s at night, I’ll layer the body butter. If it’s daytime, I’ll put oil on, but I’m big on moisturizing the body during AM and PM. I also do slugging with our body butter for the feet, and I’ll put socks on top.
It’s funny because my kids still have the most luxurious bath routine. They always want to take a bath. They’re not showering yet, so we’ll do bubble baths, bath bombs, or bath oils. I think it’s perfect for calming them at night. I’ll try anything I can to make them wind down, and they think it’s fun because it’s bath bombs. So I make those at home. I make a lot, and that’s a project I do with my kids. Then, they use body butter when they get out of the bath. My seven-year-old has had it every day for seven years; I swear he will have the best skin of any man. I don’t even know if I would’ve kept making it past pregnancy or turned it into a brand, but one person in my life was always addicted to it, and it was my husband. He still, to this day, uses the body butter after every shower. He says it’s the only thing that helps his skin, and he has very dry skin. «
— as told to BeautyCosmetics
All photos taken by Alexandra Genova in New York City