The Indie Products Beauty Guru Desiree Verdejo Swears By

Desiree VerdejoPhoto: Island Boi Photography/Courtesy of Desiree Verdejo

If you’ve been shopping for foundation lately, you know how hard it can be to find a shade that matches your skin tone—especially if it’s any deeper than the lightly toasted color that most mass makeup companies have decided to call “medium.”

Frustrated by this glaring gap in cosmetics offerings for women of color, Desiree Verdejo decided to ditch her high-powered career as a lawyer to open Vivrant Beauty, a beauty boutique in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood that stocks lesser-known brands catering to a truly diverse clientele.

Verdejo seeks out lines that aren’t readily accessible and has become a champion for local, women-, and black-owned labels, making her a powerful and innovative force in the industry. We caught up with her to hear about the products she personally swears by, as well as her best beauty tips and tricks.

The first thing I do in the morning is:
Stream NPR from my phone.

My everyday skin care routine includes:
An enzyme-rich cleanser like Indie Lee’s Brightening Cleanser, Mun’s hydrating toner, a vitamin C serum—Mario Badescu makes a good one—and then I moisturize with Juara’s Radiance Oil. I’m always on the hunt for a good SPF: Murad’s Invisiblur and Coola’s Makeup Setting Spray with SPF are the least noticeable options for my skin tone.

My go-to, five-minute beauty routine includes:
Foundation, mascara, a bold lip—currently, I’m wearing Butter London’s Ruby Murray Matte Lipstick nonstop—and a touch of Becca’s Shimmering Skin Perfector in Rosegold on my cheeks for a bit of a glow.

My favorite cocktail is:
Champagne-based, for sure. A French 75 is always good, but a simple glass of bubbly will do.

My favorite meal in the world is:
Mussels Provençal with shoestring fries and a chilled glass of champagne, preferably dining al fresco on a sunny day.

Desiree VerdejoPhoto: Island Boi Photography/Courtesy of Desiree Verdejo

My favorite way to work out is:
In a class for motivation, with good music blasting. Cycling classes are my favorite.

I keep my hair healthy by:
Using rich, scented hair oils like Kesh Beauty’s orange blossom–scented argan oil and Davines Oi Absolute Beautifying Potion.

My weirdest beauty secret is:
Apple cider vinegar cures all. I go through stages where I drink a diluted glass of it in the morning for clearer skin. I also occasionally rinse my hair with it—also diluted—for thoroughly cleansed, shiny, soft hair.

My favorite lip color is:
It’s a close tie between MAC Rebel and Rituel de Fille’s Night Wanderer. I live in a plum lip color.

My must-have beauty products are:
Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel, Ren’s Glycolic Lactic Renewal Mask, and, for curl definition, Earth’s Nectar Honey Curls.

My favorite thing about my job is:
Working closely with so many ambitious, inspiring female entrepreneurs on a daily basis.

The best beauty tip I’ve ever received is:
Eat—or drink—your veggies, avoid dairy, and drink tons of water. Beauty starts from within.

My favorite Instagram accounts to follow are:
@travelnoire, @intothegloss, @asiyami_gold, @eyeswoon, @stylenbeautydoc, and @simplycyn. Can you tell that I spend way too much time on Instagram?

My favorite travel beauty tips are:
Pack individually wrapped face-cleansing wipes for an easy refresh once you land—I love Cleanse by Lauren Napier—and throw a hydrating sheet mask in your carry-on to use as soon as you reach your hotel.

The beauty trend I’m dying to try is:
Rubber masking. The Korean beauty scene intrigues me. Although some products are too gimmicky for my taste, I’m obsessed with face masks and have to see if they live up to the hype.

My favorite lesser-known brands are:
Mischo Beauty five-free nail lacquer, Youth to the People kale-based skin care, and Briogeo hair products—their conditioners are the best.