Allison McNamara on Her Favorite Skincare Trends and Which Ones She's Skipping


Welcome to our podcast, Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr. Think of it as your direct line to the designers, stylists, beauty experts, editors, and tastemakers who are shaping the fashion-and-beauty world. Subscribe to Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Allison McNamara is on a mission to help people confront their fear of face oils.

"Back in the day, we were advertised [to] 'beat acne, banish breakouts.' We were always fighting against our skin," says McNamara. "But I think the mantra of Mara is that you can heal your skin with amazing moisture and rich actives—and do it so you're not dry, pilly, or crepey. Oils are so supportive for the skin."

But before she was building an algae-infused beauty brand stocked at retailers like Sephora and Revolve, McNamara got her start in editorial as an intern during the early days of Who What Wear. She then went on to have a career as an on-camera host for outlets like PopSugar and Refinery29. 

In the latest episode of Who What Wear with Hillary Kerr, McNamara dives into her career evolution, shares her tips for every skin concern, and explains why she has declared 2023 the year of sea moss.

Scroll for some excerpts of the interview, and be sure to tune in for the full conversation.


(Image credit: Courtesy of Mara)

I want to start things off by taking a little walk down memory lane because we have a history that goes back to some of the early days of Who What Wear. Do you mind letting everyone know how we met?

Yes! So it was 2009, and I was looking for an internship—this was at the days when dot-com was really starting to boom—and I always knew I wanted to be a television host. But I really wanted to get editorial experience, so I worked at Who What Wear as an intern. … I think we made the Twitter [account] for Who What Wear. That's how long ago this was. You guys taught me so much. Honestly, it's such a 360 moment to be here.

You started with one product, which is your Universal Face Oil. Tell me a little bit about the process of getting to the right formulation, the right product, the right packaging, and all of that because I know there are so many details and decisions that go into launching anything, especially when it comes to beauty and skin.

I feel like you can have a really curated, edited skincare routine and have a few products that do amazing results. So that's kind of where I started because I felt like I was inundated with products. Nothing was really working, and I spent years on these formulations. We have this proprietary algae blend that we use in all of our products, and that's really the story throughout the entire line. But then we really play with what I think are the key actives in skincare: We have an amazing retinol, an amazing hydrating oil, and amazing vitamin C. The list goes on. So [we're] really kind of perfecting those classics like you would a wardrobe, if you will. And I feel that's now the trend, but in 2018 it was not the trend.

Are there any skincare myths that you would like to bust?

Something that drives me crazy is there's hyaluronic acid in everything. And I have an aversion—my skin has an aversion to this ingredient. I think it's just one of the most overhyped ingredients out there. It's in everything. It can be really inexpensive if you're using one that doesn't properly permeate the skin. So it's a filler in a lot of products, and I think there's an overconsumption of it. I just want to see people stop using hyaluronic acid. I think it's a myth that it really hydrates the skin.

I would love to hear your favorite ingredients or practices to help treat a few things. … What do you do for puffiness?

I wouldn't do this every day, but if I am puffy, I love an ice roller. They aren't great for the exterior of your skin to use all the time, but I love an ice roller. And I love using a little bit of gua sha mixed with our cleanser. I think it's really nice because you kind of work it into the skin. And then I think anything with caffeine is really great for puffiness. And standing up to just get yourself vertical helps you drain it out.

What about hyperpigmentation?

I'm obviously partial to our Mara Sea Vitamin C Sérum. It's amazing for hyperpigmentation, redness, and any sort of sun damage you may have garnered over the years. … You will notice a dramatic reduction in redness and those little brown spots that we get. I had a full face of freckles, and with consistent use of retinol at night and vitamin C in the morning, all of it is basically gone. So you have to be consistent. It took years and years.

What about redness?

So I think chlorella, reishi, and ginseng, if you see those ingredients, are really great for calming the skin, reducing puffiness … and really great for redness. I love tiger grass. It's a great ingredient for redness. You'll see that throughout the Dr. Jart+ line. In particular, you'll also see it in different types of tinted foundations or tinted moisturizers that help with evenness. But overall, I think redness is something [where you should] look at your actual diet too and see what things make you redder than others. … There's so much correlation between diet and redness, diet and psoriasis or eczema. So keep that in mind, as that could be the root cause. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Next up, check out our previous episode featuring Janessa Leoné.