Why Alicia Keys Is Shaking Off Her ‘No-Makeup’ Label With a New Clean Color Range

Alicia Keys Soulcare
Alicia Keys | Courtesy

If there’s one thing Alicia Keys wants you to remember, it’s that you create your own beauty standard. Her new minimalist clean makeup range may help.

With skin like Alicia Keys’, it’s easy to see why the Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter had no problem stepping away from makeup.

But that wasn’t always the case. After years of being in the spotlight, Keys realized she was “addicted” to makeup. Like many women, she began wearing it as a teen when breakouts and unevenness are often at their heaviest.

An occupational hazard of being in the spotlight, Keys said she grew to depend on makeup, even off the stage. That is, until 2016, and a photoshoot for her then-forthcoming album Here. It was photographer Paola Kudacki who told Keys that with the music raw and real, the photos needed to be as well.

“I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.”

Alicia Keys

It sent the multi-hyphenate artist on a personal journey, an internal dialogue about how free that made her feel, how empowered. Keys walked red carpets without makeup and created a stir when, a few years later, she hosted the Grammy’s make-up free.

“I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing,” she said at the time.

Keys’ newfound freedom was infectious; many followed in her footsteps reducing heavy makeup at a time when the Kardashian-fueled Insta world pushed people to wear more. Covid only added to the momentum sparked by Keys; many women forewent the heavy foundation and concealers—even for the Zoom-heavy work-from-home schedules.

The no-makeup movement emphasized the benefits of great skincare regimens, and Keys jumped into the booming celebrity-backed skincare category, which includes the Kardashians, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, and most recently, Scarlett Johannson, and models Winnie Harlow and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

Keys launched Keys Soulcare amid the pandemic in 2020. A skincare brand for the times, the clean, cruelty-free products come with positive affirmations, something important to Keys, who wants her customers to feel empowered in their own skin.

Then, in a 180-degree pivot, just ahead of last week’s Met Gala, the poster-face for no makeup announced her beauty brand now includes color products.

Alicia Keys’ no-makeup album photo for ‘Here’

But, according to Keys, the new collection, dubbed Make You is meant as a complement to healthy skin—not a cover-up. And it’s about empowering herself and others to write their own rules when it comes to beauty.

The pivot has earned her backlash, just as her initial decision to go makeup-free did six years ago.

“People like to keep you in that box and never let you out,” she told Vanity Fair. “I realized along my journey that the only beauty standard is the one you create.”

It’s why the product range is called Make You instead of makeup. “I was asking myself, ‘Who do you want to be? You want to be this person that’s freaking out when you pick up your son from school because you don’t have a full beat, or are you just a human who experiences life in different ways?’” she says.

Make You is about unlocking who you already are and inspiring you to be more possible and more powerful in your own skin,” Kory Marchisotto, president of Keys Soulcare, said in a press release. “Alicia’s journey has led us to this moment, which is all about being free to be yourself, fresh-faced or full wattage, you decide what makes you.”

The brand was developed in partnership with Dr. Renée Snyder, M.D., co-founder of clean beauty pioneer W3LL People, part of the e.l.f. Beauty family of brands.

Products come named with self-affirmations like “Powerful” and “Enigmatic,” and feature little feel-good mantras on the jars and bottles like “I choose my own path.

The products are hybrids—skincare with something extra. The cheek tints give a moisturizing shine and a pop of color, lip balms hydrate and provide a bit of tint, and a brow gel designed to highlight your natural brow.

Keys says the products are light washes of buildable color, meant to accent, not overpower. “They really feel like skincare,” she says, “but when you wear them you look just like you, and that is a beautiful thing.”

The first Keys Soulcare makeup launches—tinted lip balm cream blush brow gel and complexion brush—follow the hybrid...

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