It doesn't take long to realize Braina Laviena is more than just a pretty face. A quick scroll through the Puerto Rican-born, L.A.-based model’s Instagram and you’ll soon realize she's as much of a visionary behind the camera as she is in front. Yes, her glow-y skin ignites extreme envy, and yes, she's walked for Yeezy, but don't write her off as just another model-on-the-rise. Other than frequently posting honest captions about her own experiences with issues like mental health and body acceptance, Laviena also uses her Instagram to experiment with her dreamy, ethereal photography aesthetic, showcase her knack for art direction, and discuss her penchant for clean beauty. Of the latter, we realized we had found a kindred beauty spirit.
A bit of background on clean beauty first. Like the word “natural,” “clean” is a term that isn’t regulated by the FDA when used in relation to beauty products. The crazy truth is, there are thousands of ingredients that are banned in Europe for use in personal-care products, and only a handful in the U.S. We’ll let that sink in for a minute. Laviena had always sought out cruelty-free products, but started investigating clean beauty more avidly when she developed an allergy to parabens. “I like to live consciously and with kindness,” she tells us. “I don’t want to think that anyone is getting hurt just so I can enjoy something. I like to apply that in everything I do.” She explains that her approach to clean beauty isn’t just about being kind to your skin by choosing products free of known toxins, but also taking into account how sustainably the product is made. Is the process kind to the environment, or does it abuse natural resources and create unnecessary waste? With these parameters in mind, Laviena gravitates towards natural-minded brands like Crop Natural and Youth to the People. “They implement high standards for sustainable production, along with using minimal and recyclable packaging," she says.
Knowing a fellow beauty devotee when we see one, we invited Laviena to share her five all-time favorite clean beauty products with Byrdie and creative direct her own beauty shoot showcasing the different ways she uses them. Our takeaway? Going "clean" is anything but granola.
Keep scrolling to get to know Braina Laviena and see the five clean beauty products she swears by.
Shown: Ilia Lipstick in Wild Child
BYRDIE: How would you describe your beauty aesthetic?
Braina Laviena: "I like to approach beauty in the easiest, no-fuss way: simple, clean, natural. I normally don't wear too much makeup, so I focus on keeping my skin looking good with nothing on it."
BYRDIE: Would you say your beauty tastes are constantly evolving?
BL: "Absolutely! I think as I grow older, I am more confident in being 100% myself and not needing to hide behind anything. That confidence also makes me more daring with beauty. For example, when I was younger, I would wear lots of bronzer to contour my face; I never do that anymore! I don't even know when it happened, but it just felt like I was okay with my face looking how it looks and I didn't need to ‘shape’ it into something else. Now I experiment with color for the fun aspect, not because I'm trying to camouflage anything."
BYRDIE: So, walk us through each of these products and why you love them.
BL: All of the brands shown here, I discovered through Instagram. The one I'm wearing above is the Ilia Lipstick in Wild Child. I love this lipstick mainly because it’s sheer, but easily buildable. I like a soft stain, so I do a couple of swipes and then touch my lips and pat my cheeks with the excess. I also use on my eyelids occasionally. I also really love the metal packaging; I tend to gravitate towards products that are not packaged with a lot of plastic.
It is very hard to find specifically red lipsticks that are fully vegan as well as clean, because a lot of them contain either beeswax or carmine (this Ilia one contains beeswax). After I finish this, I am curious to try Ere Perez olive oil 500 lipstick which is fully vegan, as well as clean and doubles as a moisturizing lip balm, or Elate lipstick, which not only is clean and vegan, but comes in minimal packaging made with bamboo."
Shown: Crop Naturals Eye Shadow in Saturn
BL: "This is Crop Naturals Eye Shadow in Saturn. This eyeshadow is amazing for a couple of reasons. It’s very pigmented and metallic—once it dries, it's totally smudge- and crease-proof. I like to either do a very graphic shape or smudge it a little before it dries for a soft rosy, smoky look. It's so easy to apply for a pop of color."
Click here to see more Crop Naturals makeup products in action.
Shown: Lilah B. Glisten + Glow Highlighter
BL: "While not completely vegan because it contains Mother of Pearl, this Glisten + Glow Highlighter from Lilah B. is great because the texture is creamy, but it dries as a powder so you still get a nice glow without any sticky feeling. I also really love the stone metallic packaging this has, but wish it was refillable.
When I finish this one, I want to try the Ere Perez vanilla highlighter, which is not only totally vegan but nourishing and hydrating with ingredients like grapeseed and avocado oil. I’m also very curious about trying liquid highlighters such as this one from Maya Chia, which has so many amazing ingredients that are great for your skin."
Shown: Youth to the People Superberry Hydrate + Glow Mask
BL: "This Youth to the People Superberry Hydrate + Glow Mask is the dreamiest sleep mask I've ever tried; I see it as more of a very moisturizing cream. You rub it in all the way so that your skin absorbs it. It doesn't just sit on top of your skin or go on your pillowcase, and you'll wake up with brighter, softer, more moisturized skin. I promise."
Shown: Cle Vitamin C Elixir
BL: "I really love this Vitamin C Elixir from Cle because it's a mixture between serum and oil, feels so moisturizing and so silky, and the color itself gives you a slight glow instantly. Plus, the high percent of vitamin c keeps your skin tone even and bright."
BYRDIE: We can't let you go without asking you to share your current skincare regimen.
BL: "I usually rotate products depending on the weather. For the recent dry weather, I've been using really heavy creams and a lot of vitamin C to avoid congestion and hyperpigmentation. For daytime, I start with the Youth to the People Superfood Cleanser. It's my all-time favorite cleanser because it doesn't strip the skin. Then I'll follow with the Cle Vitamin C Elixir, then follow with Youth to the People's Adaptogen Deep Moisture Cream. This moisturizer really transformed my skin; it helped with oiliness while adding hydration. I finish with Panacea's Daily Facial SPF 25; it's the most lightweight SPF I've tried so far. I use it religiously even when staying indoors. When I'm out in the sun, I apply another layer of a stronger SPF.
For nighttime, I use the same cleanser, then follow with the Lesse Face Serum, which is another oil-serum combo that's really hydrating while simultaneously very lightweight; it's great for sensitive skin. I finish with the Youth to the People sleep mask. Once a week, I'll use Sunday Riley Good Genes to exfoliate and help with any dark spots or discoloration. I truly swear by this product."
BYRDIE: Any advice for anyone curious about switching over to a clean beauty regimen?
BL: "You don't have to do everything at once, you are allowed mistakes, no one is perfect, and no one should judge you. A lot of people also think that following a vegan or clean beauty regimen is expensive, but it doesn't have to be at all! Not only are there a good amount of affordable brands now, but you can also make your own, or use very minimal ingredients, like using just jojoba oil for cleansing and moisturizing. It's easy! I'm also a very big believer in using what you have first before finding a cleaner replacement. Don't throw it all out just to start from scratch."
Click here for a simple guide on how to "clean up" your beauty routine.
Photos by Braina Laviena & Andrew Echev.