She's so Cult

She’s so Cult: Allison McNamara

Ethereally beautiful inside and out, beauty editor, TV personality and Insta-influencer Allison McNamara is the the fabulous, flame-haired (luminous-skinned) founder of {MARA} – a heavenly capsule collection of oils that have harnessed the nutrient powers of algae and plankton to ‘feed’ your complexion and transform its fortunes. One of the kindest, coolest women in the beauty business, Allison took precious time out from sunning herself in Sicilia (jealous!) to answer our questions…

{Cult Beauty} First things first, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to start your skin care line?

{Allison McNamara} Growing up with my dad working in beauty, I’ve always known I wanted to have a line of my own. I started out my career as an entertainment and fashion reporter, working for POPSUGAR as their on-camera host where I co-hosted a daily news show POPSUGAR Now on Poptv. From there I went to Refinery 29 and ET Online creating beauty and lifestyle content, as well as hosting a style competition show on FYI Network. 

Beauty has always been my passion and when I started getting burnt out from being on-camera for nearly a decade, I decided to pursue my love of skin care, particularly oils, and came up with the concept for {MARA} after a vacation in Istanbul. From there, I started to develop MARA {Algae + Moringa Universal Face Oil} and {Algae Retinol Face Oil} simultaneously – it took us over three years with research and development to create these formulas and I’m so proud of them!

{CB} And what three things are at the core of MARA beauty – what differentiates your gorgeous oils from the sea of elixirs out there?

{AM} {MARA} is all about simplicity, transparency and carving out a niche space for natural products with incredible efficacy. We create totally clean, highly active formulas, use unique exotic ingredients (including our proprietary algae blend) and multi-tasking formulas so you don’t need to use ten products to achieve gorgeous skin.

{CB} It’s all about the algae – why is it so beneficial?

{AM} Algae is literally our living fountain of youth – it’s one of the world’s leading sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins and essential fatty acids which is why it’s so incredible in skin care. Just take one look at the deep rich colours of algae – it’s power-packed with life and has been around for millions of years. Our proprietary algae blend harnesses the power of alaria esculenta extracts – these stimulate natural hyaluronic acid synthesis – and is rich in omegas 3, 6 and 9 to fight free radicals and improve skin tone, texture and firmness. We also use plankton extracts (a.k.a. microalgae) which are full of powerful antioxidants and naturally strengthen the skin’s barrier function for super soft, plump skin.

{CB} You’re certified as cruelty-free, vegan and over 50% recyclable with Provenance, can you share how important these qualities were when creating MARA Beauty?

It was incredibly important to me to make MARA as sustainable and recyclable as possible. Our first run of MARA Universal Face Oil used deadstock components that were at a warehouse in LA – meaning we didn’t have to manufacture new components to create the brand. I also made sure our boxes were 100% recyclable and didn’t use any extra boxing or paper beyond what was necessary to protect the product. I am such an animal lover – I have 3 pets – so being cruelty free was of the utmost importance! 

{CB} How important do you think trans parency is within the beauty industry?

We purchase beauty products to look and feel better – but many products available to us are doing more harm than good. I think transparency and education are incredibly important in the beauty industry, both for brands and consumers. It’s only with customer demand do big brands follow suit, but as an indie brand it’s important for me to deliver products that will make you feel good and also benefit the body and skin too. 

{CB} Can you share your thoughts on working with Cult Beauty and Provenance on this ground-breaking tool to make transparency to customers even more clear and trusted? 

I am so grateful to have MARA at Cult Beauty and love that they are taking the initiative to offer their customers more visibility into claims and ingredients made by brands. 

{CB} And can we talk about moringa? It’s a pretty ‘niche’ ingredient – what makes it so miraculous?

{AM} When I set out to create {Universal Face Oil}, I wanted a completely unique ingredient profile – something different from other prestige face oils – and found the gorgeous moringa plant while deep in research. Moringa is the most nutrient-dense plant on earth with 92+ nutrients, 46 antioxidants, 7x the vitamin C of oranges and 4 x the betacarotene of carrots. Moringa, a.k.a. ‘Tree of Life’ or ‘Vitamin Tree’, is aptly named because it contains vitamins A, B, C, D and E as well as rich amino acids and trace minerals. It purifies and hydrates the skin, promotes a gorgeous glow and restores youthfulness. It also works brilliantly with our proprietary algae blend.

{CB} There are now two oils to choose from – who should use which and how do they best complement each other?

{AM} I named it {Universal Face Oil} because it is – quite literally – universal. It works gloriously on all skin types ranging from super oily or acne prone to dry and sensitive and I always encourage potential customers to start out with this using it morning and night as their moisturiser. It’s so rich in vitamins and proteins that it can be used as your serum and moisturiser hybrid and you will see beautiful, glowing results. 

The {Algae Retinol Oil} is my personal favourite of the two just because it truly is the secret to my clear skin. Algae Retinol Oil is wonderful for those concerned with ageing, pore size, texture, dark spots and hyper pigmentation – all of which this oil addresses. I use Retinol Oil five times a week at night, followed by Universal Face Oil but, I suggest starting with 2-3 nights a week until your skin acclimatises.

{CB} What does your skin care routine look like? Are there any other skin care brands you swear by?

{AM} I am super simple – at night I wash my face with a cleansing oil, I love Tata Harper’s {Regenerating Cleanser} which isn’t an oil but I love it. Next I apply MARA {Algae Retinol Face Oil}, let it soak for five minutes then apply {Universal Face Oil} on top, massaging it in with a {Gua Sha} with extra emphasis around the eyes. I don’t use eye cream often but if I do I like Youth to the People or {Caudalie}.

In the morning, I gently splash water on my face and apply a Vitamin C serum, (I love {Drunk Elephant} it’s the best that I’ve used). I then follow with MARA {Universal Face Oil} and then SPF – I like anything {Coola}.

{CB} And how do you apply your oils? Is there a technique or a tool you use to elevate the application process?

{AM} I apply in an upward pat/sweep motion and really focus on the jaw, cheeks, chin and eye area. I love to use Gua Sha to enhance the penetration. Oh, and don’t forget the neck!

{CB} The big debate: oil before or after cream? What’s the definitive answer?

{AM} Forget cream all together because you won’t need it after using Universal Face Oil! I haven’t used a cream in over three years, but the definitive answer is that your hydrating oil, like {Universal Face Oil}, should be the last step in your routine to seal in the goodness (or mixed in with). The {Algae Retinol Face Oil} can be confusing, this should go directly on clean skin for maximum benefits but can be used after a cream to help ‘buffer’ it. 

{CB} The testimonials for your new Evening Primrose + Green Tea Algae Retinol Face Oil are phenomenal. What makes it such a potent acne fighter?

{AM} It’s a multi-retinoid blend, which means we have 1.2% totally clean retinol mixed with an additional four natural sources of vitamin A including cacay, fermented green tea, hemp-derived cannabis seed oil and black cumin, so you’re getting a supercharged dose of retinol without any of the harsh side effects since it’s nestled in a super hydrating plant oil base. It’s wonderful for acne prone skin because it calms and soothes as it works to improve the overall texture, tone and integrity of the skin.

{CB} And for those who’re new to retinol, what are your top tips for overcoming skin care scaries…?

{AM} Start slow and ease in! You might go through a little retinol purge which can involve an increase in whiteheads – rest assured, this is what it’s supposed to do! Imagine your skin is a sponge and retinol helps wring out anything that’s been sitting in your pores for a long time. Stick with it, you’ll see wonderful results in two to four weeks.

{CB} How long should it take to see results?

{AM} Customers notice improvements in skin texture as quickly as overnight, but full results take two to four weeks.

{CB} And finally, what’s in the pipeline… any new products for us to look forward to?

{AM} We have smaller sizes of our two face oils launching this year as well as a new SKU that we are really excited for! Can’t spill the beans just yet but it should be launching before holiday. 


Verity Douglas

Verity Douglas

Content Editor

Cult Beauty’s Content Editor and a Cult Beauty OG, Verity loves nothing more than the marriage of language and lip balm. A quintessential Libran, she’s a self-professed magpie for luxury ‘must-haves' and always pursuing the new and the niche — from the boujee-est skin care to cutting-edge tech. Balancing an urge to stop the clock with her desire to embrace the ageing process (and set a positive example for her daughter), Verity's a retinol obsessive and will gladly share her thoughts about the time-defying gadgets, masks and treatments worth the splurge...