These days it’s nearly impossible to know what women are spending on the way they look. Someone with Instagram-flawless contouring might have honed her craft using the finest from the drugstore aisles, and the utterly makeup-free type might be spending thousands on laser treatments and serums. Enter our series “What It Costs to Be Me,” in which we’re asking interesting women for radical transparency.
Next up: Fatimah Asghar, 28, poet, screenwriter, and co-creator of the web series Brown Girls, who bounces between Los Angeles, CA and Chicago, IL. Her total? $963
When it comes to explaining her extra-minimal beauty routine, Fatimah Asghar is utterly no bullshit. “I’m pretty busy—and lazy,” says the 28-year-old. The busy part is undeniable: Her debut book of poems If They Come For Us just came out (Publisher’s Weekly called it “awe-inspiring”), and she’s been traveling nonstop for her book tour. As if that weren’t enough already, her seriously amazing web series Brown Girls is currently in development with HBO and has been hailed as a successor to Issa Rae’s Insecure. But just because Asghar doesn’t have an elaborate regimen doesn’t mean she isn’t considering her purchases. “I’ve been trying to prioritize local and natural beauty products,” she says. “I want to start spending more of my money on queer and women of color-run businesses. Being a woman of color, myself, I think it’s really clear how integral that support from other women of color is. And I read some statistic about how most people’s dollars still go to big, old, white businesses, and not to local businesses.” When she can, she tries to buy from small, independent skin care lines, makeup brands, and dance classes. Read on for her streamlined, no-nonsense picks.
My pared-down shower and body routine: $60
I have psoriasis, so I use a pretty standard psoriasis shampoo that helps—MG 217 ($11)—then Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Oil conditioner ($11). And I use Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap ($18) as my body wash. The peppermint scent is awesome.
For body lotion, I love Petty Butter’s Body Mix ($20). I found out about it because I literally ran into the person who created it in an elevator, we started talking, and they handed me a sample. And then coincidentally a friend also gifted it to me for my birthday. I use the unscented version—it’s kind of a whipped butter, so it’s easy to apply but really silky and moisturizing. When I think about the stuff that I get locally from independent business owners, they’re often just better quality. I know obviously sometimes it’s more convenient to go on Sephora or Amazon or walk into the drugstore, but if I can get stuff that’s local, it feels more unique.
My hair regimen: $94 a year
I get my hair cut at a place in Chicago called Aby’s Unisex Salon. She’s amazing, and it’s like $10 for a great haircut. I’ve been going there for the last seven or eight years. Now she knows me really well. I never make an appointment; I just walk in, and when I come in she’ll look at my hair and go, “The usual?” There have been several iterations where it was a little bit longer, but a few years ago I went super-short. I get my hair cut maybe every six weeks to two months now, so I’ll cut it pretty short then let it grow out a bit. It’s been a minute since I went—maybe two months now. My hair’s super-thick and wavy, and any time I get my hair cut people comment on how thick it is. So when she cuts it she’ll thin it out a little. If my hair is too heavy, I can’t get it to do anything.
I occasionally use DevaCurl Set It Free Finishing Spray ($14), but usually I just wash and go. I’m so basic when it comes to my hair. That’s why I really like having short hair—it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.
My morning skin (and dental) routine: $93
I don’t really know what my skin type is, to be honest—it’s just kind of normal. It doesn’t get really oily and it’s also not that dry. I wash my face with Trader Joe’s SPA Tea Tree face wash ($12), and then if I have a pimple, I’ll spot-treat it with pure Tea Tree Oil ($10), also from Trader Joe’s. I dip a Q-tip directly in and put it on. That’s usually all I do to my face because, again, I’m super-lazy. I really need to start wearing sunscreen, I know I do, especially because I’m in L.A. a lot and it’s so sunny. But you know what’s super-important? Floss ($3). Last year I went to the dentist for the first time in 10 years and had to get 12 cavities filled. Yikes. We all gotta floss, friends. And use an electric toothbrush ($68). That’s super-important too.
My makeup staples: $51
I usually just rock eyeliner and lip gloss most days. I’ve used a lot of different eyeliners, but my most standard is Anastasia Beverly Hills Waterproof Crème Color in Jet ($18). I apply it with a little angled brush I got from a travel brush set on sale at Sephora. For lip gloss I tend to do Mented Cosmetics Berry Me Gloss ($15)—the brand was founded by women of color for women of color—or Rihanna’s Fenty Gloss Bomb lipgloss ($18). I’m obsessed with the pink one.
My Nighttime Makeup: $157
If I’m going out I’ll use Fenty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 300 ($34), but I haven’t been able to use it recently because it’s the end of summer and my skin’s a little darker right now. You know how you get to the point in the summer when you use your makeup and you’re like, “ooh, that’s not right?” That’s where I am.
I also usually put on lipstick if I’m going out. I like bright colors on my lips, so I use a lot of different kinds—Hi Wildflower has some great ones. Tanwi Nandini Islam, the creator of the line, is an author too. I knew about her first because we were both writers; I’d read her book, and her writing is great. When I found her on Instagram I saw she had this entire makeup business, and I was like, this is so dope. I got so excited about all of her products. Then we met at an event and I told her how much I loved her stuff. The lipstick I use the most is a bright purple, Vanda ($27), which I really, really love. The other ones I wear a lot are Matí Red ($27), which is a darker red, and also Matí Rose ($27), which is a little lighter and more of a true rose. Fenty’s Stunna Red ($24) is another favorite. I usually pick my lip color based on my outfit. I really like bright colors, though I tend to not wear a lot of bright clothing—so my makeup is often where the colors come out. I don’t love how I look in nude lip colors in general. The only ones that don’t look weird on me are the Mented ones ($18) since they’re designed for women of color.
My most beloved beauty tool: $6
I tweeze my own eyebrows, and I’m super-particular about my tweezers. They’re so tricky, because sometimes if they come to too thick a point they can’t actually pull out the hair. I love Revlon’s Slant-Tip Tweezers ($6). Those are my shit. I can’t tweeze without them.
My evening routine: $50
To be honest, I really only use the Trader Joe’s face wash—and sometimes not even that. I remember occasionally to wash my face, but not always. It’s mostly because I travel so much. I just flew back to Chicago two nights ago, and I’m flying back to L.A. on a red-eye tonight. I can’t have a ridiculous number of products—if I do, they just sit in the bathroom. So everything I use has to be very simple and easy to travel with. The reason I don’t use a night cream is largely because of that. And also because my skin just doesn’t need it. If my skin is really dry, I’ll use something—back when I was fulltime in Chicago for the winters, I’d use Ole Henriksen’s moisturizer ($38). But if my skin’s not dry, I’ll just let it go. And drinking water does help your skin, so a lot of times it’s about remembering small things like that. I used to be really bad at this too, but: if you wear makeup, don’t go to bed with it on. You have to wash it off. I have face wipes for that, but I change them out so quickly and am not particularly loyal to any one kind—I’ve got a Clean & Clear pack ($5) right now, and sometimes I use Neutrogena ($7).
My custom fragrance mix: $23
For my perfume I’m really into Bloom: Booty & Body Mist by Mahal Healing Arts ($15). I went to an art space in Chicago, a pop-up spot in this big warehouse, that was full of performances and people selling things, and that’s where I found the booty mist. I love the smell: very witch hazel-y and frankincense-y. It’s a grounded scent that smells really natural. It’s also great because you can carry it around with you and spray it on toilet paper and wipe your ass with it if you take a spicy poop or want to freshen up before sexy time.
There’s also a scented oil I use that I bought from a shop I was walking by in Brooklyn one time—Anwaar Co. The owner has a bunch of imported oils, and I went with Golden Sand ($8)—it’s a pretty light scent with a bit of gentle sweetness to it. I’ll put the base oil on my wrists and use the booty spray on top, which magnifies the scent. The combination is so good; the sweetness from the body oil, the witch hazel and frankincense. And it doesn’t feel like I’m dousing myself in perfume.
My every-so-often skin treatments: Roughly $289 a year
Every three months or so, I’ll get a full Brazilian and leg wax. I really hate shaving, so I don’t shave my legs or my armpits, but then randomly I’ll just want it off my body so I’ll go and get it all done. In L.A. I go to Brave Kitty Waxing and in Chicago I go to Just Waxing. Depending on if I’m just getting a Brazilian or a Brazilian and leg it can be between $40 and $100.
I’ll very occasionally use a sheet mask, but I’m super-inconsistent with them. I’ll do one once every three to four months—no particular brand. I’ll just pick up something in a Walgreens or CVS or Target and they’re usually each about $3—it’s more scents that I’m after, so I go for lavender, or masks that advertise that they’re soothing or calming.
My dance classes: $60 a year, but soon to be more
I don’t have a gym membership, in part because I’m traveling so much right now it’s hard to get to one. In Chicago I used to go to a Bollywood cardio class called Bollywood Groove that I loved. It was about $20 a class, or you could pay for a bulk pass where you could buy a set number of classes for less. I’ve barely gone this whole year because I’ve been so transitory—Chicago for four days, L.A. for four days. Even when I was in Chicago more, I’d only end up going once a month. I’m really not good at the constantly-working-out thing. But if I go with friends, I’m more likely to make the effort. Once my schedule calms down a bit I want to start going to classes more.
My sporadic de-stressing treatments: About $80 a year
I’ll also occasionally splurge on something if I’m feeling down or stressed, like going to a bathhouse. The first massage I ever got was last year and I was amazed by how dope it felt. I’ve been trying to get better about doing things like that, or even doing small things like painting my nails to pamper myself. (I just go to the drugstore and get whatever color catches my eye, $3 to $10—no particular brand.) Maybe twice a year I’ll go to a spa. There’s a great Korean Spa in Chicago called King Spa that you can go to for $35. It’s amazing. I love the multiple baths and saunas at different temperatures. And you can literally stay there for a whole day. It’s really reasonable but I don’t go that often, just because it’s kind of far away. But when my friends and I do go we’ll stay for hours—they even have a movie room and a nap room. And you can get add-ons while you’re there. For example, you can be like, “Okay, cool, I want a scrub,” and pay a little extra for it. I haven’t done the add-ons yet, but I want to go to spas more often. I feel like it actually changes your entire mentality just by being in a place where you’re taking care of yourself for a few hours.