November 20, 2014

Nyakio Kamoche Grieco reflects on the Kenyan origins of her cult-favorite beauty brand.

While working at a talent agency in L.A., first-generation Kenyan-American Nyakio Kamoche Grieco was exposed to beauty brands from all over the globe. Noticeably missing, she realized, were the rich ingredients of her parents’ homeland. “I felt like the sophistication of Africa was underrepresented,” she says. In 2013, she founded her namesake skin-care line, using kola nut, marula oil, and other elements from the continent to create products that work for all skin types. She spoke to T+L about her inspirations.

The ritual: “My earliest beauty memory is watching my grandmother, a farmer, exfoliate her skin with rods of sugarcane and boiled-down coffee beans mixed with oil and honey. Her formula is the basis for my Kenyan Coffee Body Scrub ($55).”

The beach: “I spent every summer in Nairobi growing up. My parents would take us to safari parks in the Masai Mara National Reserve or over to Diani Beach on the Indian Ocean, where the sand looks like sugar. We would stop for lunch at Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant, which specializes in seafood. My favorite dish: drunken prawns soaked in a whiskey cream sauce.”

The tree: “The anti-aging Firming Baobab Collection was inspired by my grandfather. As a medicine man, he would use extract from the baobab tree—Africa’s so-called fountain of youth—to treat various ailments and hydrate the skin.”

The hotel: “The spa at Nairobi’s boutique Tribe Hotel offers a Kenyan-coffee detox treatment. It’s exciting to see local beauty practices reinterpreted in modern ways.”

The market: “I love to walk around the city market in Nairobi, set in an old airport hangar. The colorful art and jewelry and vibrant scene really capture the energy and diversity of Africa.”

Katie James is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @kjames259.

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