the matte project


Beauty Journey: Sheena Adams

 Name: Sheena Adams

Age: 37

Occupation: Editor-in-Chief of Destiny Magazine

I am an only child which made for a very close and supportive relationship with both my mom, a primary school teacher and my dad, who was a carpenter when I was born and a textile export fundi later on. I grew up Muslim, in Sydenham, Durban, as part of a crazy, spirited and extended family – Muslim and Christian by turns. These days, I have an embracing approach to spirituality. I identify with many aspects of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Neo-Paganism which I love particularly for its celebration of earthly beauty and nature’s wisdom. It’s been tricky but also very beautiful to raise my two children (Ela, 8 and Leo, 6) with an array of affirmations.

My mom, Jenny, has the most phenomenal skin which seems to keep its youth with not too much product prompting. I can still remember the clean smells of the Clinique 3 Step regime she used for a long time. She also loved Payot, which makes an amazing pimple product (Pate Gris) that she bought for me as a teenager.
But after I got my first student job as a Clarins beauty assistant at Red Square in La Lucia Mall, my mom and I became converts (notwithstanding the white nurse shoes I was forced to wear). We’re fans of their Iris toner, anti-pollution creams and Double Serum, in particular. (I also live on Beauty Flash Balm.)
My mom’s style was tied up in graceful long skirts and those fab braided, leather, slinky sandals from the 70s. She bought Revlon Blackberry lipsticks religiously and would rub it onto the bridges of her cheekbones. Ripe Raisin from Clinique was another long-time favourite purchase of hers.

I feel a bit starstruck at how I am suddenly Destiny Editor, to be honest! It’s official from the September issue which is on shelf soon. I’m excited and nervous but it also feels right as I’ve been with Khanyi and Ndalo for a decade. Which is a long time even for me who has spent longish periods at few places (The Star, the former, The Mercury).
However, I do obsess regularly over a Li Edelkoort quote from a few years ago at a talk she did in Cape Town, where she spoke about farmers being the new-age aristocracy – both for a food-poor and glam-obsessed world. I harbour serious yearnings to be a farmer. But it’s a dusty dream at present.

I used Clarins for many years but developed adult acne on my cheeks about three years ago. I try to keep it at bay with regular microdermabrasion and 10% chemical peels every two months, administered by Kena Mukala at the Sandton Aesthetic Institute. I’m currently using NeoStrata in the day (Clarifying Facial Cleanser and Sheer Hydration SPF 35). At night I use a serum – either Clarins Double Serum or Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate or a rich, wintry cream like Sisley L’Integral Anti-Age, which I reviewed recently and is in fact a revelation in a jar. I rub the remnants on the tops of my hands and swear there’s an instant difference!

I love lipsticks. I have a bag of them that perk me up day by day. I love YSL Rouge Pur Couture in Alternative Plum and Woolworths’ Lips Hydro in Scarlet.
My other make-up staples are Bobby Brown Creamy Concealer, MsLondon Mineral Makeup (Caramel 2), MSL High Definition Mineral Blush in Orgasm, Essence waterproof eyeliner pen in black and Sisley So Intense Deep Black mascara.

My skin. Acne can really knock your confidence. I’ve been dipping into Roaccutane over the past year and although it works (in low, weekly doses), the act of taking medication that can harm foetuses horrifies me. It’s lessening the closer I get to 40.

When it comes to my kids I try to re-inforce the message that beauty is skin-deep. I absolutely try to help them understand the concept of beauty in nature and in living with kindness. But I also find myself stressing, particularly with Ela who is often told how pretty she is, that outwardly it isn’t a powerful signifier of anything. That it’s hollow without a strong, beautiful core, too.
She reads constantly and we’ve been chatting about beautiful words and sentences which has been very lovely too.

Hair’s been quite political for me. Skin colour too, actually.
Hair because I grew up inside a scourge of straightening and blowdrying. In Durban! The irony. I had very long hair and it’s spiral curly, so blowdrying it was a three-hour mission that often started with rollers. But for weddings, Eid, Christmas and the like – blowdried it was. Until the ends and the bits around my face started crimping anyway. I love my curls now and have been encouraged to go ever bigger by friend and hairstylist Saadique Ryklief. I find hair – mine, yours, all of it – to be fascinating and empowering in how it allows you to express yourself.
Skin colour is a fraught topic today and it was just so 30 years ago. Especially in Durban’s Muslim community. I have distinct memories of my granny screaming at me and my cousins to get out of the sun so we “don’t go so dark!”.
I travelled once to Mozambique on a penny-scarce camping trip many moons ago and ran out of sunblock shortly before going home. I took on a deep sheen that I adored and only wore white for ages. My granny would have died.

Sade, forever.


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