Over the phone, it’s hard to believe this girl was born after Y2K.
In some circles, 17-year-old actress Yara Shahidi is best known for her award-winning role as Zoey Johnson on the ABC sitcom Black-ish; in others, she is recognized for her awe-inspiring beauty look (think: effortless curls and cheekbones higher than the Chrysler building). And increasingly, the young performer is earning respect for her unswerving social conscience, for speaking out about the importance of intersectional feminism, and representing diverse identities in the media at every turn. All of this sounds intimidatingly impressive, but somehow, talking with Shahidi is easy—her demeanor is laid-back, familiar, and at the same time, makes you wonder what the hell you were doing with your life at 17.
We know this for sure because the other week, we got to chat with Shahidi in honor of her collaboration with Clean & Clear—a partnership that makes sense considering her longtime commitment to skincare. The actress is half Iranian-American, half African-American, and she says both sides of the family have taught her the importance of skin health. “To focus on eating well and taking care of the skin that you’re in—that’s something that I’ve learned from my mother, my grandmothers, everybody in my family,” she says.
Shahidi has a lot of things figured out way before most people, and beauty is just one of them. Keep scrolling to learn six genius beauty secrets from Hollywood’s most impressive teenager, told in her own words.
1. Cardamom is the Persian secret to ageless skin
Yara Shahidi: “There is this focus on skincare and having a great base that I’ve learned from both sides of my family. That starts with eating well, and using cardamom to cleanse is part of it.
“Cardamom is great for you and has a number of skincare benefits [like vitamin C and boosting circulation]. One of the only ingredients in Persian tea is cardamom. So it’s really about finding those things, whether it’s a tea or juice, that help supplement your skincare routine through your diet. It’s about making sure that you internally take of yourself, that you focus on fixing more than what’s externally visible.”
2. Ginger and turmeric will make you glow from the inside out
“Juicing is another huge thing I do to eat well. The juices I make usually feature a lot of ginger, a lime or a lemon, beets, kale, mint, and turmeric, and sometimes a carrot if I’m feeling sweet.”
3. If you only have time for makeup or skincare, always choose skincare
“I’m working full-time, I’m in school full-time. I’m doing a lot full-time. Like today alone, I have this interview, I have a couple Black-ish obligations, then I get on a flight to New York, and while I’m in New York, not only am I doing my college things, but I’m also dealing with press and all sorts of stuff. So with that kind of pattern and crazy routine, I only have time for what is essential.
“When I’m working on the show, I usually wake up 20 minutes before I have to leave for my 6 a.m. call time. This means I have a pretty fast routine. As of late, I’ve been washing with Malin + Goetz Grapefruit Cleanser and iS Clinical Cleanser to really get into my pores. Clean & Clear has fantastic makeup wipes that I’ve been using for a minute now. And then, of course, the brand has just come out with its Acne Triple Clear Bubble Foam Cleanser. The foam is fantastic for my skin, and it’s so gentle—I don’t feel irritated or anything.
Then I use a Cetaphil face lotion. I’m a teenager who wears HD makeup, so my skin does have iffy moments. Luckily I also have an amazing dermatologist in L.A., Dr. Grimes.
“For my morning beauty routine, I think that would be it because that way I have a fantastic base, and that makes me feel most confident. That goes further than piling on a ton of other products.”
4. Mascara, brow gel, lip gloss: That's all the makeup you need
“Whenever I’m not working (which is usually never) I like to keep my makeup simple and fresh. I love mascara of any and all kinds (my favorite is one by Maybelline). There are just two more products I like: Glossier Boy Brow because it’s a nice light way to add an extra oomph to your brow, and then I’m obsessed with clear lip gloss. For me, I love anything that’s nice and clear, it doesn’t matter the brand.”
5. The perfect natural hair routine costs just $30
“I have always been very natural with my hair. It really wasn’t until the request of some acting jobs I had to straighten it. What I realized is just how damaging heat is. While it does give you really cool options and allows you to do different takes on hairstyles, I had to deal with a lot of heat damage from straightening my hair or curling my hair with heat.
“So, last year, last summer, I cut off a total of six inches to just help get rid of the heat damage. In many ways, I’ve been transitioning ever since then. Now that I’m in this fantastic place, where I’ve been heat-free for over a year (other than a light diffusing of my hair after the shower). I’ve been able to have so much fun with it. Almond oil, a great gel, and deep conditioners are all fantastic for curly hair like mine. I love the Mielle Deep Conditioner ($15) and Almond Oil ($14). I think those really do help with my hair.
And then EcoStyler is a $3 gel that I swear by because it’s not always about the most expensive product, but the most efficient.
“It’s just important to make sure you treat your body right. Whether it’s with almond oil or vitamin D or coconut oil—whatever it may be. Making sure that your products don’t have too many chemicals in them is part of caring for your body.”
6. Take it from a teenager: The future of beauty is individuality
“Based on the images we constantly see in the media, there is a specific type of beauty that we’re all encouraged to accept. And while we’re slowly seeing more beauty as it pertains to ‘diversity,’ now it’s really about addressing intersectionality, because diversity stems from so much more than ethnicity. Ethnicity is an integral part of diversity, but at the same time, it can be extremely exclusive if we don’t include gender identity and sexuality and religion and body types—all these other aspects that make up who we are.
I feel like once we can grasp that complex layering of identities, then we can truly be more inclusive. Because, while you may see someone who has the same skin tone as you, you might not be able to relate, because everything else seems different. It’s about opening that spectrum. Rather than redefining beauty, it’s about undefining it.”
Want more celebrity exclusives? Don’t miss our interview with Ruby Rose, where she gives a crash course on how to make your look more androgynous.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.