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Madison Utendahl’s ‘Burnout’ Smells Like Dessert

“I’m a third generation New Yorker. As a child, I wanted to be some sort of a performer. I went through a phase where I thought I was either going to be an actor or win ‘American Idol.’ [Laughs] I went to college at Brown University for film, but I ended up in the design and marketing space, which feels very creatively close.

My two formative jobs were at ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ and then Refinery29. R29 was an incredibly powerful place to work at. I sort of fell into working in social media because there were so many opportunities to create content. It was amazing, but I think it’s really important to acknowledge that my experience is my own and not everyone else’s. Working specifically for Piera Gelardi, one of the founders, fundamentally made me the leader I am today. She taught me so much about being a kind, thoughtful, and empathetic leader who values their team’s wellbeing.

After that, I had a really rough time working at the Museum of Ice Cream. Truly everyone was working a minimum of 12 hours daily—the company culture was unsustainable and it burnt me out. And then, all of a sudden, I developed physical problems—cystic acne, pancreatitis—that I never had prior to working there. At first I ignored them because I had trained myself to not listen to my body. Eventually, after testing my blood and running every other kind of test possible, a doctor told me that I needed to reevaluate my lifestyle. Leaving that job set me on a path of really trying to understand what it means to have a work-life balance, to not kill myself for my job, to get eight hours of sleep. That’s been the catalyst for building my own business, Utendahl Creative, which is a design and branding agency. We’ve worked with Halsey’s makeup brand About-Face, non-alcoholic beverage company Tilden Cocktails, and Chris Paul’s plant-based snack line Good Eat’n. We also did the rebrand for Alala, an athletic-wear, female-owned brand based in New York.

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I do feel it’s important to say that the Museum of Ice Cream wasn’t a bad place, it just wasn’t right for me. And I was doing a lot of things that weren’t allowing me to rest. I didn’t put my phone in the other room at the end of the day. I was on Instagram 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I didn’t create boundaries. In building my company, I think a lot about burnout as an employer. Am I creating an environment that allows for burnout? What is the autonomy that my employee’s need to recognize and recover from burnout? How can these two things coexist in a way that allows for a healthy work environment? I believe in this philosophy called Ubuntu, which is an African term that essentially means ‘I’m the best that I can be when you are the best that you can be.’ Being able to build a company with a high retention rate and where people are happy and healthy is the biggest gift of my life. To that end, we actually shut down our social department in 2021, after I asked everyone to vote if they wanted to work in social. We all said no.

Overall, I really want women to feel that they can be many things at once in their career. Once you get the itch that says that what you’re doing is not in line with your values, move on to something else. I’m really proud to say that I don’t know if I’m going to be continuing with my company in the next five years. I was a very different person five years ago, and I will be a very different person five years from now. If I decide to change what I’m doing with my life, that’s pretty in line with the fact that human beings evolve. Truly, none of us have this figured out.

I’m somebody who really subscribes to taking care of my skin. My sister, Sydney, is an aesthetician, and her interest in skincare was the catalyst for my education—she’s actually opening her first studio, Dorian Skin Studio, in a couple of weeks, and I will be her first customer. Before her, I had a dermatologist and got facials, but I didn’t necessarily know the different types of facials you can get, how important light therapy is, and how important it is to get facial massages that can release the tension in your jaw.

In the morning, I wash my face with just water. Then I either apply hyaluronic acid in some form—I love the Hada Labo Gokujun Hyaluronic Acid—or Rhode’s Peptide Glazing Fluid, followed by Tata Harper’s Water Lock Moisturizer and EltaMD’s UV SPF 40. I love that it goes on clear.

I start with CeraVe’s Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser at night. Then, I’ll apply some sort of toner. Recently I have been super into Biologique Recherche’s Lotion P50, but I’m mindful of not using it on days that I use retinol. I know that a lot of people can’t tolerate it, but if you can, holy shit, it is a saving grace. Sometimes I’ll grab the Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, which is also excellent, instead. I used to have bad bacne and my sister suggested that I put the product in a spray bottle, and it really did clear up my back.

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I love the Tatcha Indigo Overnight Repair Serum in Cream Treatment, but I’m obsessed with Rhode’s Glazing Milk. I don’t give a shit if anyone’s like, ‘It’s Gen Z skincare.’ It’s great. So, after toning, I’ll either grab the Glazing Milk or the Hyaluronic Acid. If I didn’t put on P50, I’ll follow these up with Altreno, which is a retinol that I love, or A313. I start to peel like crazy with retinol, but putting on a light layer of a serum beforehand has been a game-changer for me. I know that the skincare diehards are going to yell at me, and tell me I’m wrong. That’s OK. This is how I do it.

And another thing—I was skeptical of The Outset’s Vegan Collagen Prep Serum, but it really surprised me. It’s so hydrating. Honestly, I was an active hater of the brand because I was like, ‘Why is Scarlett Johansson selling me products?’ But then I literally messaged the brand on Instagram being like, ‘I tried not to like this.’ [Laughs]

For facials, I usually see my sister. She’s big on hydration, and she’s really conscious of hyperpigmentation. She’s not just going to do an extraction because it looks like you have a pimple coming through, which I find that a lot of facialists do. But you can’t do that with melanated skin because it’ll leave a dark spot. I also love Josie Bisetti at Sage + Sound. She’s fucking great and also really understands melanated skin and only does bespoke facials. I can’t stand going to a studio where they follow the same protocol for every single person. Occasionally, I’ll go to FaceGym for their Signature Sculpt. It’s a great, relaxing facial massage. I got one before my engagement party.

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My daily makeup routine includes a little bit of concealer, mascara, blush, and brow gel. If I go out for dinner in the evening, I’ll add winged eyeliner, but that’s the extent of it. If I have an event, that’s when I’ll contour and add in foundation and eyeshadow. But the goal is always to look like myself.

I have two different concealers because my skin tone changes depending on how much sun I get. The first is the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in the shade Macadamia. The second is from Ami Colé. They both go on really light, so they’re never cakey, and you can build up the coverage. Sometimes I find that concealers have a chalky sort of essence to them, but these don’t. Then, if I’m adding in foundation, it’s Kosas’s Revealer Foundation in Medium Deep Warm 300.

I’m experimenting with bronzers. Right now, I’m using the Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow palette—the Medium to Deep version—but I think it has too much glitter for me. I need something a little bit more matte and less shimmery. Westman Atelier’s Face Trace Contour Stick—in the shade Truffle—is super simple to use. Same goes for Ilia’s Multi-Stick. I sometimes use the Cosmic Dancer shade on my cheekbones, and I have a really strong nose, so I don’t need to accentuate it more, but sometimes I’ll put some on my nose, too. My usual highlighter go-to is the Ami Colé Light-Catching Highlighter Balm in Glaze. And my sister introduced me to orange blush for our skin tone. I’m obsessed; I fucking love the way it looks. Tower 28’s Lip + Cheek Cream Blush in Golden Hour is the best.

Stila’s All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in Intense Black is the best on the market. Always has been, always will be. And I’ve been using Lancôme’s Hypnôse Mascara since I was in high school. I’ve tried millions of other mascaras, and I always come back to this one. It doesn’t clump, the brush is great, and it really does accentuate my lashes. For my engagement party, I did get eyelash extensions at Bling Lash, but I don’t wear them 95% of the time. I just like the way they look in photos.

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I have a million different eye palettes that are variations of the same colors, but The Nubian Eyeshadow Palette from Juvia’s Place and The Necessary Eyeshadow Palette from Ilia are my favorites. The 1979 shade, a matte terracotta, in the Ilia palette is a really strong accent to my skin tone. I’m a loyalist to it.

For brows, I swear by Patrick Ta’s Major Brow Lamination Gel. I have curly eyebrows, and when I put that shit on, they’re tight and right. It’s wild. Other than that, I don’t touch them in between visits at Nicky C. Artistry. She used to be at Benefit Cosmetics Brows a Go-Go, but she developed such a cult following that she was able to leave and open her own practice. My eyebrows take a long time to grow in, so I only see her every two months, but I’m completely loyal.

I’m not a lipstick girl. If I have an event to attend, I’ll occasionally wear Bobbi Brown’s Luxe Lipstick in Neutral Rose, but I like the look of gloss more. I really like Rhode’s Unscented and Espresso Peptide Lip Treatments and Ami Cole’s Lip Treatment Oil in Reflection, the clear shade. It reminds me of that MAC lip gloss that was so sticky you couldn’t actually wear it out.

Going from relaxed hair to natural hair is really overwhelming and emotional. I went natural partially because I went to college and didn’t want to make the trip back to New York just for my hair. It really started out as, ‘I’m missing out on a weekend to go to the city, and it feels like it’s taking something away from my life. I’m prioritizing my haircare over having a good time.’ Then I read about how bad relaxers are for our bodies. One time, ‘The Tyra Banks Show’ had an episode with Steve Isaacman, who randomly was my seventh grade chemistry tutor. He took a Coca-Cola can and put it in a hair relaxer, and the can disintegrated. That changed everything for me, and I decided I didn’t want to put relaxers on my body anymore—by that point, I didn’t know what my natural hair even looked like because I started relaxing it around age 10 or 12. I’ve since figured out I have 4C hair and have been on a long journey to not only learn how to take care of my natural hair, but to respect it, to honor it, and to find the best products for it.

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I’m usually in box braids or twists fifty percent of the year—I love Illeshia Lussiano at The Way. She is my go-to girl for all things hair, and specifically, braids. She is so talented and can do it all. I have a standing appointment with her every two months. When my hair is natural and out, as it is now, I wash it once a week—if I wash it too regularly, it gets incredibly dry and breaks very easily. Right now, I’m using Briogeo’s Don’t Despair, Repair! Super Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner. That’s it. I’m one of those people who uses something until it’s completely empty because I’m really, really, really making an effort at having fewer, better things.

When I have braids in, I do a hair rinse every now and then. I also rely on scalp oils, like Ceremonia’s Aceite de Moska, to clean it. I also sleep with a Helix Hair Labs Sleep Sleeve. It keeps my braids intact for so long. I swear by it. And Eco Style’s Professional Styling Gel is the best hair gel, and Design Essentials’ Sleek Edge Control is the best edge control. I’m begging for a brand to make a clean hair gel and a clean edge control though. Maybe it’s not possible? Tracee Ellis Ross tried with Pattern Beauty’s Edge Control, but I don’t love it. I find it to be really sticky, and it doesn’t hold the hair down. Perhaps that’s also a beauty standard I need to work through. Maybe it’s not supposed to.

Abby at Primp and Polish in Williamsburg does my nails. I was not a nail girl growing up. Actually, I used to be like, ‘Ugh. My sister is a hardcore nail girl. Give me a break.’ But now I’m the same. I’m literally the bitch out on the street taking photos of them. [Laughs] My natural nails are so brittle, but Gel-X changed the game for me. I typically go for an almond-oval shape. I got a pink chrome shade for my engagement party, but I normally wear bright, crazy colors that I would never wear in my clothes. Give me the greens and blues. I love them all.

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I lean towards scents that are a bit more traditionally masculine and a little musky. For a long time, I wore Malin+Goetz’s Leather Perfume Oil, and I loved it but too many people are wearing it now. I like to switch it up, too.

My fiancé and I are sharing the same fragrance right now. We’re obsessed with D.S. & Durga’s Mahogany Kora, the collaboration with Armando Cabral. He took it with him on a trip the other day, and I was like, ‘Where the fuck is my fragrance?’ It’s very sensual but not overpowering. People always ask what I’m wearing when I have it on.

The Nue Co. sent me their Functional Fragrance. It’s meant to help you de-stress, but honestly, I’m wearing it for the smell. It has green cardamom, bergamot, cilantro, myrrh, and palo santo, so it’s very in line with the scents I love.

At home, I burn a lot of the Burnout Burner candles that my company makes. They have a fig tone to it. But recently, I was in a hardcore Flamingo Estate Roma Heirloom Tomato Candle phase. I’m also a classic Diptyque Baies girl. To me, it’s a classic to have in your home—you can never go wrong with it. The other ones I’m lighting are Byredo’s Tree House, which I actually wasn’t sure if I liked at first when a friend gave it to me, and Private Hours, which is more of my fiancé’s scent profile. It’s a collaboration between our friends Simon Huck and Phil Riportella, the founder of Snif, and The Standard. We bought a bunch to give our engagement party guests.”

— As told to Daise Bedolla

Photographed by Alexandra Genova in Brooklyn on September 23, 2023

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