“From the youngest age, I wanted to be a mini Martha Stewart. I’d come home from school and make scrapbooks, and I collected stickers and made stationery for myself. In that sense, I always knew that I wouldn’t go the standard route when it came to my future career, but did I ever think I would be in charge of making accessories or have a business related to beauty? Not at all.
I founded Emi Jay in 2009 after I became obsessed with styling my hair in middle school. I wore a uniform to school, so the only way to add a little something to your uniform was through hair accessories or jewelry. I had a 14-year-old’s budget, and I couldn’t afford all of the things that I saw on shows like Gossip Girl, so my mom and I would dye elastics in our kitchen with different colors. That’s how it all started.
For the first five years of the business, we did everything from our house—we were dyeing everything in pots and pans. Then it got picked up by a few magazines, and I think that because people only knew drugstore elastic hair ties that would snap and hurt your hair, they were excited to see something different. 2019 is when things really changed. We always say there was Emi Jay 1.0, and now there’s Emi Jay 2.0.
We were geared towards a younger demographic when we started Emi Jay, but now, our age range is so wide. We make products for everyone—babies, toddlers, teens, adults, grandmas. There’s no age limit. I always say whether you’re buying a hair clip out of impulse, or you just want to buy something that will make you happy, or you simply need something to put your hair up, we serve a purpose for every single one of those wants and needs, and that’s unique as a small business.
I wish I had skin that could handle every oil and serum, but it can’t. I’ve struggled with acne since I was 14 years old, I’m very eczema-prone, and I have perioral dermatitis (POD), which I think was triggered by getting my makeup done for a friend’s birthday in Las Vegas. I’ve dealt with it since then, which is gross to think about because it probably means that the makeup brushes were really dirty—or at least that’s what my dermatologist told me. If I’m not careful, it comes back, so I keep my routine pretty minimal. Everything I use is fragrance-free, including my laundry detergent, and I never use thick moisturizers.
If I have a POD flare-up, the Avène Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream is the only thing that calms it. When that happens, I don’t use astringents like toners or acne medicine, and I avoid wearing makeup.
In the morning, I use a pea-sized amount of Farmacy’s Green Clean Balm with Summer Fridays’ Heavenly Gua Sha Tool—the balm gives me a really nice glide. My face swells up so easily; I could literally have a lick of salt, and it’ll puff up like a balloon. I have to say I’m not as consistent with my gua sha as I should be, but I’ve seen people’s faces, including my sister’s, transform with it. Right now, I just do about five minutes if I have the patience and the time.
I follow up the balm with First Aid Beauty’s Face Cleanser. I discovered it through another one of my friends who has struggled with acne her entire life. She was trying to find a cleanser that’s not so stripping, and this one’s really gentle on the skin. I’m obsessed with it—it’s so underrated. I also use FAB’s Ultra Repair Cream on my hands when it gets a little bit colder, especially if I go to New York during the colder months.
Since I can’t use anything too exciting, I like EltaMD’s AM Therapy Facial Moisturizer in the morning. I’ve been using EltaMD products since I was either 14 or 15 years old, and they’re really great for acne-prone and sensitive skin. I also make a point to put it on my eyes because I don’t use eye cream—I just haven’t found one that I’m obsessed with. Then I grab my EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 and call it a day after that.
For my lips, I always have Lucas’ Papaw Ointment on me. It’s the best ever—it’s not sticky, it’s unscented, it doesn’t try out my lips like other balms. I was using Aquaphor for a while, but it triggered my POD.
At night, I use a pump of DHC’s Pore Cleansing Oil. It’s a Korean beauty brand I recently discovered on TikTok. Everyone was raving about how it cleans so deeply and really works on blackheads. After a long day, especially if I’ve been running around, sweating, and have makeup on, it’s nice to use something that really gets all of the dirt and grime off. I like to rub it on my face for about five minutes and remove it with warm water. Then I do a pump of Christie Kidd’s Clean Natural Facial Cleanser. I’ve been seeing Christie Kidd since I was about 15 years old. She’s my acne fairy godmother and really helped me clear my skin.
A couple of my friends go to Biba de Sousa, a facialist here in LA, and she has a zinc mask that I like to use as a spot treatment. Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patches are great, too, but not necessarily for cystic pimples.
In general, I’m bigger on treatments than I am on expensive skincare. I think finding a laser treatment that works for your skin is one of the best investments you can make. I’ve been getting Laser Genesis on and off for about at least five years at Christie Kidd. It helps with acne marks or any scarring you may have, but it also helps with fine lines and boosting collagen. Just last week, I had terrible breakouts, and then I did Laser Genesis, and now I only have one little scar left. It’s magical.
Every morning and night without fail—it doesn’t matter if I’m running late—I hydrate my entire body, from neck down to my toes. I’ve noticed since then that my skin texture is much more bouncy and hydrated.
I use Rhode’s Glazing Milk on my neck and chest. It gives you the perfect amount of dewiness without being oily, and it doesn’t break me out. On my stomach and legs, I use a pump of Oak Essentials Dew Body Oil. It’s so hydrating without being uber thick or sticky. I like to mix it with Avène’s XeraCalm A.D Lipid-Replenishing Cream, which helps keep my skin eczema-free. If it’s cold or dry out, I’ll use a pea-sized amount of the Augustinus Bader Body Cream—the price tag is crazy, but I ration it out—and mix it with Bio-Oil.
Aromasong’s Magnesium Oil was also a TikTok find. I used to take magnesium before I went to bed, but then I read about people using magnesium instead of deodorant, so I started replacing my deodorant in the morning with it too. I have not had to use deodorant in weeks, which is crazy. Honestly though, I’m the placebo princess. [Laughs]
Every now and then I get a lymphatic massage, which is an extravagant treatment. I go to Detox By Rebecca Beverly Hills. Rebecca Faria, the founder, is amazing. I started going to her because I had double foot surgery last year, and my doctor recommended doing lymphatic on my feet in order to drain the swelling. She just does amazing body work.
I always want my skin to look like I just stepped out of the spa—dewy, clean, and without a lot of pigment.
I always use my Emi Jay Popstar Clips in Aura to keep my hair out of my face as I do my makeup. If I want a minimal daytime look, I’ll use the Kosas Revealer Concealer in 03 W on any spot that needs it. If I’m doing a nighttime look, I follow it up with the Clé de Peau Radiant Fluid Foundation with SPF 25 in 020 Ocher. It’s really pricey, but I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s non-comedogenic, it goes on sheer so you can build the coverage you want, and it doesn’t feel cakey. It’s very close to the Armani Luminous Silk Foundation, which I used for maybe 10 years of my life. But with that one, that shade matching was never quite right.
I love the 001 Universal version of the Dior Backstage Glow Face Palette. I especially love the baby pink shade. It’s a highlighter, but I even use it as eyeshadow or as a blush if I want something quick, or I’ll layer it with my cream-based products. I love using the bronze shades as eyeshadow, too.
Saie’s Lash Curler [discontinued] is one of my favorites as well. I love that it’s lilac; it’s the cutest. I also love, love, love Saie’s Sun Melt Natural Cream Bronzer in Medium Bronze. Then I add Merit’s Flush Balm Cream Blush in Beverly Hills. It’s the perfect dusty rose hue.
As far as lip liner goes, I am a Charlotte Tilbury Medium Pillow Talk Lip Liner girl till I die. It’s really the only lip liner that I use because it makes my lips look more voluptuous. Then I use either Summer Fridays’ Lip Butter Balm in Pink Sugar or Rhode’s Peptide Lip Treatment in Vanilla. I always have them in my bag.
Lastly, I’m obsessed with the Rare Beauty Long-Lasting Setting Spray. A lot of the setting sprays I’ve tried can be drying, but Rare Beauty’s is so hydrating. Sometimes, I even use it like a face mist. I don’t know if you’re supposed to, but my sister does as well.
I have a weird hybrid of hair—it’s thick and it dries a little wavy, but it gets greasy at the top very easily. I know everyone says not to, but I wash it every other day. I actually like to switch back and forth between brands because I don’t want my hair to get too used to one or the other. I’ll either use the Milbon Repair Restorative Shampoo and Smoothing Conditioner—my mom heard of the brand from her hairstylist—or the Davines OI Shampoo and OI Conditioner.
After that, I use Davines OI Anti-Frizz Oil, which is thick and amazing. If not, then I’ll grab the Olaplex Nº.7 Bonding Oil, especially if I’m going to do a blowout or use my Dyson Airwrap. Klorane’s Dry Shampoo with oat milk is great in between washes.
If I’m going to sleep, I always put up my hair with an Emi Jay Sweet Dreams Scrunchie in Counting Sheep because it’s made of silk. As far as day-to-day styles go, I always work with an Emi Jay Bamboo Paddle Brush or Emi Jay Flat Brush, which is made of bamboo and natural boar bristles—good, raw materials keep your mane nice and healthy. I always have an Emi Jay clip on me—I especially love the Big Effing Clip in Buttercream, Big Effing Clip in Toasted, and Sweetheart Clip in Pink Pixie—and as needed, I’ll use the Emi Jay Angelstick, our hair smoothing balm. I have so many baby hairs, and I was always looking for something to tame them, but I didn’t want my hair to be pinned straight and stuck to my head. Every product I came across was either too waxy or too oily or too fragrant, so we formulated our own with super yummy ingredients like murumuru butter, castor oil, shea butter, and vitamin E. Its main purpose is for flyaways, but you can even use it on your eyebrows or your cuticles—and it’s unscented. For me, it’s the cherry on top of a simple hair routine.
I do really, really minimal highlights with Matt Rez, who’s amazing. Here’s the thing though—I’m allergic to dye, and Matt’s really patient because we have to make sure that the dye doesn’t touch my scalp, which is super exciting and fun when you’re sitting there for hours. [Laughs] I know I’m the last person a colorist wants to have in their chair, but we found a system that works.
Actually, the way that I discovered I’m allergic was intense. You know how at kids’ birthday parties, they have henna tattoos? I got a Hello Kitty henna tattoo on my ankle when I was five years old, and it gave me a crazy rash. For maybe 10 years, I had a Hello Kitty scar. But I didn’t think that being allergic to henna meant that I was allergic to all types of dye, so I begged, begged, begged my aunt to take me to get my eyelashes tinted when my mom was out of town in middle school. I woke up in the middle of the night, and my eyes were swollen shut and leaking. I ended up in the emergency room.
I’m obsessed with Kuumba Made’s Persian Garden Fragrance Oil—I get it at Whole Foods. It has such a warm, yummy smell, but it’s also not too harsh that it gives me a headache. I get a million compliments when I wear it. I mostly love natural oils as perfume, but I do like AERIN’s Amber Musk and Another 13 by Le Labo, too.
For my home, I’m huge on Jenni Kayne candles, the cedar candle especially. Feu de Bois from Diptyque smells like Christmas. It’s a very woodsy scent, but I burn it year-round because I love Christmas so much.”
— As told to Daise Bedolla
Photographed by Brittany Bravo in Los Angeles on September 30, 2023