“What is Soulcare?” a promotional video for Alicia Keys’ then-upcoming Keys Soulcare platform and skincare line asked last September—and rightly so, because I, for one, wanted answers. After all, “self-care” is a much talked-about but ultimately elusive and highly subjective concept—and also an overused one as we’ve scrambled to carve out moments of peace in a past year of chaos. With self-care already an eyeroll-inducing phrase, “Soulcare” basically got a dead stare from me when I first heard about it last fall.
“When we give ourselves space to slow down and breathe, that’s soulcare,” read the tag on one of its videos. “When we light a favorite candle, connect to the moment and just be, that’s soulcare, too.”
Slow down and breathe? Who has the time? Of course, Alicia Keys—she of the “no makeup-makeup” and Earth-mother vibes on 10—would launch something super-esoteric like this. Nevertheless, part of my job is to cover and review Black-owned and founded beauty news, and a 15-time Grammy-winner (not to mention another 14 nominations) putting her name and face on a beauty brand is nothing if not newsworthy, so, when the Soulcare team reached out to let me sample several products from the brand’s initial launch, I agreed to do so with mild curiosity, but low expectations. C’mon...the type of skincare Alicia Keys can afford is definitely out of my budget—and therefore, likely not going to fit into the pretty reasonable price-point of these products ($12 - $38 for individual products; $93 to $165 for Soulcare’s “Ritual” bundles). That, and the fact that Soulcare positions skincare as turning our “routines into rituals.” I mean, I guess.
Okay, so I was lowkey and preemptively hating. Maybe I do need a time-out.
Timed with the January launch, a box arrived at my door bearing a collection of smaller boxes and boasting “Serious Skincare + Soul Nurturing Rituals,” along with a note from Alicia which read:
We’re so busy all the time that I don’t think we create these small rituals for ourselves. Even the two minutes it takes to wash my face—when I’m able to create that space for myself, I feel more beautiful, more powerful, more possible. That’s soulcare.
Whatever it’s called, I was admittedly intrigued as I removed the elegant boxes from their nests. Beneath each was printed a mantra, like: “You surround yourself with things that are good for you” or “You are devoted to this moment.” I mean...I’d like to be. Unboxing the Golden Cleanser ($20); Reviving Aura Mist ($22); Be Luminous Exfoliator ($22); Harmony Mask ($28) and Comforting Balm ($12) (the brand has also released a Skin Transformation Cream in fragranced and fragrance-free variations ($30), a Sage + Oat Milk candle ($38) and Obsidian Facial Roller ($25), I was delighted to find each packaged in gorgeous deep violet glass (matching the aforementioned boxes). So far, so good; I proudly arranged them on my bathroom vanity so they’d be at the ready—plus, they looked really great.
But how would they perform? “Beauty is more about frequency and vibrations and energy and how you feel,” Keys, a seasoned performer, muses on the Soulcare site (she seems like someone who does a lot of musing). Would they make me feel like a “Superwoman”? A “Brand New Me”? Would these products recognize “A Woman’s Worth” and “Show Me Love”? (Okay, I’ll stop.) Only one way to find out...
Following the fairly simple instructions for each product, I mapped out a basic plan that involved using the cleanser each night, following it with the exfoliator and the mask every few days, and using the spray and balm...whenever. Real talk? Ooh! Baby, baby, baby...that spray was instantly put into heavy rotation. (Okay, I’ll stop for real this time.) Granted, I was already an all-day sucker for a rosewater spray, but this one instantly leveled up my game—the rose fragrance is gloriously complex, while the mist is instantly soothing and refreshing. (I know; sounds contradictory, but it’s true.) Plus, did I mention how prettily it’s packaged? Well, at 3.72 ounces, it’s generously sized for a face mist, too.
Well played, Keys. Well played. You won this round.
It’s kinda hard to notice miniscule changes on your own face over the course of a week, but I knew something was up when both my mother and The Root’s resident auntie Monique Judge commented on how great my skin looked. While I didn’t necessarily see a major difference, I did appreciate that the Golden Cleanser never left my skin feeling tight or dry—probably because it was developed in partnership with a board-certified dermatologist. To be fair, as a devoted double-cleanser, one of my cheats was a pre-cleanse with my tried-and-true (and cult favorite) DHC Cleansing Oil (which I keep on Subscribe & Save from Amazon; $27.50) to remove any makeup or extra grime. But the Golden Cleanser was always the grand finale—and unlike my unscented oil, the Ayurveda-inspired blend (featuring Manuka honey, turmeric and chamomile) smells heavenly.
Dare I say, it might even be...calming?
Keys Soulcare isn’t the first to offer a powdered, mix-it-yourself exfoliant (fellow musician/skincare aficionado Pharrell’s Humanrace offers a rice powder-based version, as do others), but Soulcare’s water-activated Hojicha green tea powder, mung bean and oat formula offers a delicate variation—so delicate that I initially wasn’t sure it was really doing much, as it quickly dissolved. Playing with the thickness of the paste helped a bit, but what really drove home the impact was what seemed to be a subtle yet definitely finer and smoother texture to my skin after the first couple of weeks. I’m not sure I can attribute that solely to the exfoliator, but based on the slight new tingle I felt when applying my nightly hyaluronic/glycolic serum (another cheat, but longtime use has me well accustomed to the serum’s usual tingle), I wouldn’t say it was ineffective, just...subtle. In short, this may be a relationship that takes time to develop—again, there’s ample product, so we’ve got time.
Okay, true confession time: I’m not really into masks. I have tons in sheet and cream form—even a peel-off or two—and I hear they do marvelous things. But much like meditation or drinking enough water, I admittedly struggle with it, probably because it feels claustrophobic—and because having to now wear actual face masks outside makes the idea of voluntarily applying one indoors burdensome. However, the onset of “maskne” on my chin made that point moot, and made trying out Soulcare’s Harmony Mask both a professional and personal imperative. It’s a unique formula, not only infused with Manuka honey and activated charcoal, but gold foil (reportedly a favorite of Cleopatra’s, as the brand reminds us). I can’t really say I caught a whiff of the promised sandalwood scent, but I didn’t hate this. More importantly, my skin didn’t.
Over the month, I tried the Harmony Mask both alone and immediately following the exfoliator (and again, there was a tingle—insert “Girl on Fire” quip here). While it definitely dries tight on the skin, the formula isn’t at all thick or plaster-like, reducing the usual claustrophobic aspect. It also dries down quickly, removes easily, and made short work of the cystic zit on my chin, helping to reduce the nightmare to days instead of weeks. In fact, my main complaint is pretty much the last one I thought I’d ever have about a mask: at 1.76 ounces, I wish there was...more?
A month later, I’m ready to admit that while I was perfectly prepared to hate this line—or at the very least, be underwhelmed—it has become a fairly quick and easy nighttime ritual. (Yes, I said “ritual.” Ugh.) While I would’ve loved to try Soulcare’s Transformation Cream this round, the more significant takeaway is that I now want to—and will, just to know how this skincare story ends (and knowing me, I’ll probably throw in that obsidian roller, just for good measure). What would I love to see from Soulcare, moving forward? Given the brand’s spiritual component, I’d love to see some Earth-friendly refill options, so we can simply reuse/recycle those stunning glass containers, instead of rebuying them.
Alicia, you don’t know my name (ha!), but apparently, we’ve got something in common (okay, I promise I’m done—it’ll be like you’ll never see me again): Against all my prior judgements and perpetually multitasking instincts, Keys Soulcare got me to slow down for a rare 5-10 and give myself a little attention, and my skin is looking better for it, so I begrudgingly admit that I’m sold...on Soulcare.