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We all want to look our best, but celebrities are under immense pressure to appear flawless, and reporters are quick to snap embarrassing pictures to parade around the moment they let their guard down. That’s why Alicia Keys‘ decision to give up makeup was such a bold and noticeable departure from Hollywood norms.

The famous singer appeared with a much simpler look that has raised eyebrows and drawn praise. It also means that the beauty regimen that Keys does follow is even more attention-grabbing because it focuses less on the superficial appearance and more on providing a truly healthy foundation. 

Just because Keys has given up makeup doesn’t mean she has turned away from skincare products. In fact, the singer’s complex routine involves some interesting items including crystals and a smelly lotion.

Alicia Keys rose to fame early 

Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys | Michael Muller/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Keys first broke onto the music scene back in 2001 with her hit “Fallin’. At the time, the singer — who was born in 1981 — was just 20 years old.

While that is an impressively young age to have such an impact on the music industry, it was no accident. Keys had been playing piano since the age of 7 and attended the prestigious Professional Performance Arts School. When her debut album, Songs in A Minor, earned her five Grammy Awards, it was clear that her talent and ambition had found a foothold in the entertainment world. 

Keys followed up her 2001 debut with several other award-winning albums including The Diary of Alicia Keys (2003), As I Am (2007), and Girl on Fire (2009). Not content to stay in just one area of the entertainment world, Keys set her sights on other projects and appeared in films like Smokin’ Aces (2006) and The Secret Life of Bees (2008). Merging her two worlds together, she had a recurring role on season 2 of Empire.  

She also became one of the new judges on the hit competition show The Voice

Alicia Keys brazenly donned a bare face

In 2016, Keys — by then a longtime staple at music awards shows — shocked the world when she turned up at the MTV Video Music Awards wearing no makeup. A few months prior to the shocking reveal, Keys had made her intentions clear in an essay in Lena Dunham’s newsletter Lenny.

In the essay, titled “Time to Uncover,” Keys opened up about the pressures she felt as a young star: “I remember when I first started to be in the public eye. Oh my gawd! Everyone had something to say. ‘She’s so hard, she acts like a boy, she must be gay, she should be more feminine!’ But the truth is, I was just from New York, and everyone I knew acted like that.”

These comments caused Keys to adjust in order to be more accepted. “I started, more than ever, to become a chameleon. Never fully being who I was, but constantly changing so all the ‘they’s’ would accept me,” Keys explained.

Keys started meditating and thinking deeply about her public persona and her own desires, but the no-makeup movement might not have happened without a lucky encounter with a photographer. Keys was coming straight from the gym for a photoshoot, and the photographer insisted that they get some shots before Keys got made up for the shoot.

“I have to shoot you right now, like this! The music is raw and real, and these photos have to be too!” Keys remembered the photographer saying. The results were stunning: “I swear it is the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful that I have ever felt.”

Since then, Keys has repeatedly appeared in the public eye with a brazenly bare face and a message to embrace one’s natural beauty. 

Skincare is important to Alicia Keys


Alicia Keys’ No-Makeup Routine Includes 3 Secret Beauty Products

Eschewing cosmetics doesn’t mean giving up on all beauty products. Keys has a skincare routine that includes several products designed to keep her skin healthy and clear. According to Page Six, Keys likes to unwind at the end of the day with comfy sweats, a hair wrap, a glass of water, and some skincare products. 

“For me, self-care is really important. Even if it’s just five minutes at the end of the day, I need it,” Keys said in a YouTube video. “I actually love getting undone at night. It’s my time. I love taking the time to just bring it down.”

She uses face wipes to get rid of any grime from the day’s activities and then turns to an anti-blemish lotion from Advanced SkinCare that contains sulfur. The sulfur has a distinctive scent, and Keys admits that her routine smells a little like farts.

“When you’re driving down the highway and you smell that egg smell and everybody in the car is like, ‘Who farted?’ That’s sulfur,” she said. “But whatever the case, sulfur is the bomb.”

She masks the scent with some other amazing smelling products including Sacred Rose Water, which she says isn’t just for her face but her whole body. She also uses a Mama Medicine bath kit that includes flower petals and quartz crystals, giving her skincare routine an earthy and connected vibe.