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Renée Chow aka Gothamista on the beauty of aging

'I truly feel I’ve become better with experience and beauty comes with that. ... I don’t think I even started to get interesting until my late 30s.'

If you’re really into skincare and you haven’t watched Renée Chow (aka Gothamista) yet, drop what you’re doing and hit subscribe! 

Her Sephora sales picks and her facial gua sha videos have introduced new products and routine tips into my life that I just can’t live without.

It’s been my pleasure to know Renée for the last 4 years, and she’ll also be at YouTube’s first-ever Beauty Festival on May 14, which is taking place on starting at 1 p.m. PT. 

It was so good to chat with her ahead of the live event. We talked about the beauty of aging, being “skintuitive,” and her five holy grail products. Renée is an absolute inspiration and a true beauty guru in every sense. As you can tell from our conversation, I could go on talking to her forever.

Let’s get into it!

Chanel: We're so excited to host #BeautyFest during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the amazing Asian community that we have on the platform and beauty creators like you. Why do you feel like it's important for us to see and hear diverse voices represented in the YouTube community?

Renée: When I first started watching beauty videos on YouTube, it was nice to see myself represented. Something I didn’t see much on TV at all. Especially with makeup, I loved seeing what works for people who have similar features and with my skintone. This is also important in skincare because we all age differently and have skin issues unique to our ethnicity. I think it's so important to be represented.

Chanel: I completely agree. And my journey has been very similar where YouTube was always a place I went to look for people who looked like me, because I didn't see myself in other places. So I completely get what you mean in regards to representation. 

Renée: I never thought of myself as an AAPI creator, especially when I started. It was never a thing. I just talked a lot about my own skin issues and preferences, but then realized that these are similar issues that many other AAPI, as well as women of color, share -- ones that aren't addressed much, such as hyperpigmentation as a sign of aging or just a concern in general. Also, finding sunscreens that are more wearable, comfortable and that don’t leave a chalky cast. There is so much focus on wrinkle prevention as “anti-aging,” but for me, it’s more about pigmentation than wrinkles, and I discovered this was the case for many.

Chanel: You just opened up a segue into another topic that I wanted to talk about, which is aging. I wish we talked about it more in the industry, and I think that there's so much beauty in the aging process. But the way the industry kind of approaches it is not always about embracing it, but more so trying to figure out ways to avoid it. We're all going through the process. So I'd love to hear from you. What do you love most about the process?

Renée: There's so much disrespect and fear towards aging. … It boggles my mind because I truly feel I’ve become better with experience and beauty comes with that. This isn’t something one could understand until they’re there. I don’t think I even started to get interesting until my late 30s. A valuable skill that evolved is learning how to preserve my energy. I learned how to put it in the right places, which doesn’t involve negativity. I don’t  engage in drama because I have no interest in spending my energy on that.

Chanel: I love that, Renée. Yes!

Renée: It makes me really uninteresting on social media! I just have no ability to be bothered or curious about things that have no consequence. I would rather stay focused more on positive things. Appearance-wise, the way people become obsessive over any sign of aging can be unhealthy. This leads to overdoing it with skincare or expecting miracles, rather than embracing the concept of aging, gracefully. 

Chanel: But people go manic about it and then they become like -- to your point -- obsessive about this. That step has to be included every single time. And if it's not, and then you're doing it wrong.

Renée: The only reason why aging in appearance is so terror-inducing is because we’ve been conditioned to believe it’s a negative. This is mind-boggling: that growing older could be considered a negative rather than a privilege. Gotta love different cultures where it's not. Look at France, for example. Older actresses become goddesses. 

Chanel: So you're a big proponent of being “skintuitive” and you classify yourself as a skinthusiast, which I personally think is beautiful and brilliant. Can you explain what that means to you?

Renée: It’s just getting to know your skin and listening to it rather than being legalistic or following rules. It’s about meeting your own personal skin needs and knowing what will get you where you want to be. For me, listening to and then becoming an expert of my own skin was transformative. Sometimes, that meant breaking rules or whatever rules that I perceived existed for beauty. You think that you should do exactly the same thing every single day. That didn't always work for me. Sometimes I have to mix it up. With my videos, I want to help people make informed choices, but also just feel good about the choices they make. I don't want anyone to feel like they're being scolded or shamed for their routines. The only person who can make the decision for your skin is yourself. To me, “skintuition” is about meeting your own personal needs. I know what gets me to the glow that I want at this point, and it's not going to work for everybody.

Chanel: You're going to be sharing a beauty secret with us during #BeautyFest, but we'd love to hear if there's anything else that you want to share. 

Renée: Sunscreen. You’re supposed to put half a teaspoon on your face, which is a lot of product to apply and work in at once. There have been studies that show us that the more we’re working sunscreen into our skin, the more we end up removing some. And with sunscreen, it’s all about even coverage for even protection. So I do it in two layers. So you’re applying two thinner layers that are easier and quicker to apply, but will also give you better coverage and sun protection. So after the first layer dries down, apply a second one. Easier and more insurance!

Chanel: So the same product, but layer twice. Let the first one really penetrate, let it dry and then apply a second.

Renée: It gives you better coverage and, hence, protection.  You can do it in two layers rather than just one big globby one.

Chanel: Okay, I will be adding that tip into my routine, for sure! That’s really good. I hadn't even thought about that. If you were taking a three-day trip and you had to bring five skincare products, what would be your holy grail?

Renée: One oil-based cleanser, vitamin C, vitamin A, and a hydrating something. (It could be anything: toner, serum.) And a very moisturizing sunscreen.

Chanel: Thank you so much, Renée. I'm going to apply my sunscreen in not one, but TWO layers. You all heard it directly from the expert. 

Renée: Thank you. Good luck with everything. Seriously. See you on the other side.