August Alsina is on a spiritual journey.
The 29-year-old singer from New Orleans has endured much in his life between fast stardom with his debut album Testimony in 2014, an autoimmune disease that upended his life and losing a brother to gun violence and sister to cancer.
The ups, downs and struggles pushed Alsina to come to terms with himself and practice healing, all of which have inspired his new venture, Encina Wellness, a skin care line that represents healing from within and self-care. Alsina hopes to make this a community initiative.
“Everything I do is a tribute to myself and my ancestors, because each time I get more equipped with more energy and wisdom,” Alsina said of the development of his new line.
Encina is comprised of four products, Begin Again facial cleanser, 3-in-1 Super Elixir, Stripped Powder Exfoliator and Infused Wellness Cream. Encina is Spanish for holm oak (and the word Alsina’s last name is derived from) and key ingredients include oak tree extract and vitamin E.
The facial cleanser serves as the entry product at $32 and the wellness cream sits at the high end at $52. The brand is offering two sets comprised of the facial cleanser and elixir with either the exfoliator for $107 or the wellness cream for $117.
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“As I did deeper research on oak trees, I learned they grow so large it can look like it gains a crown at its highest height,” Alsina said. “More research led me to discover how old a tree is by its rings. We incorporated that idea into the packaging.”
Alsina also tapped his family members to model for the packaging. The boxes the products come in feature the star, his cousins Sneak and Teke and family members China, Zu and Heaven, and his niece Kayden LaBranch is on the website. The photographer for the shoot was an old family connection that Alsina reconnected with by chance.
“God is so real,” he said. “The photographer was one of my cousin’s ex-girlfriend’s kids and I grew up with them when we evacuated from one of the hurricanes.”
Encina is entirely self-funded and is currently available direct-to-consumer; Alsina is in discussions to enter retail and is working on building out the product line. Upcoming launches will include items addressing issues with melanated skin and wellness products that support the mind, body and soul.
“I’m transforming pain to take steps to a newer journey,” Alsina said. “Skin care is that. I went through so much different insecurities when I got sick.”
Alsina was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disease that, at one point, caused his face to swell and threatened his ability to walk. He explained that his cortisol level ate the nerves in his legs and he felt pins and needles in his legs and couldn’t move. After his diagnosis, he stayed in a rehab center in Los Angeles and said that despite his condition he had a smile on his face.
“I had a failing body, but my mind was thriving in a way it hadn’t before,” he said. “I realized it was because so many people from different walks of life were there in that building with an intention.” He compared the experience with going to church and feeling the presence of God. “I believe in the power of intention, which was to heal.”
“We did different sessions in group and solo to get to know people on a deeper level for who they are and with skin care it was the same idea for me,” he continued. “Skin care being an entry to forming a community of people connected to something. As a Black man, I had never felt drawn to any product that’s geared to wellness on a basic level in skin care and everyday routine. After getting into skin care there’s a difference to putting time and effort into your skin.”
Launching his brand is part of his process of rebuilding anew.
Alsina hit the scene with mixtape The Product in 2012 and achieved major success with his debut record, “Testimony,” in 2014 that went platinum, peaked at number one on the Billboard Top R&B and Hip-Hop Albums chart and number two on the Billboard 200.
But this was finding success through pain. He said seeing his stepfather beat his mom inspired his first album, as did the death of his older brother Melvin La’Branch III in 2010.
Alsina was also in a brief romance with actress Jada Pinkett-Smith when he was battling an addiction to painkillers, as she revealed in her Facebook Watch show “Red Table Talk.” She said she sought to help him heal while she was separated from husband Will Smith. Alsina remained silent on the affair but went public after he became legal guardian of his three nieces. Pinkett-Smith referred to the affair as an “entanglement,” which inspired the title of his song “Entanglements” with rapper Rick Ross in 2020.
His latest mixtape, “The Product III: State of Emergency,” explores his upbringing and his new role as a guardian to his three nieces following the death of his sister, which began his process of rebuilding himself.
“God bodyslammed me,” Alsina said. “I didn’t think she would die. What happens when you die with so much inside of you that you weren’t able to fulfill all that you wanted to out of fear? This is all while I’m going paralyzed.”
It would get worse. The IRS froze Alsina’s accounts while he was planning his sister’s funeral because old notices weren’t sent for three years after he transferred from his old management to his new one. He spoke of living in an eight-bedroom mansion with no water or lights and was unable to work, let alone walk, all while he was grieving his sister’s passing.
“The universe was giving me signs to put out the fire inside of me,” he said. “The spiritual journey hasn’t been the easiest and hasn’t been pretty, but through the pain of it all I’ve been able to recreate myself.”
Alsina believes that years of trauma manifested in pain and disease. He managed to create success through pain, he said, but now he embarks on a new journey with Encina centered on creating with love.
“It’s not a company to me,” he said about Encina. “People have asked me to be an ambassador or a partner and this is not that. It’s not about product or about skin — it’s about deeper levels of finding yourself and building a tougher skin, new layers of skin in the journey of finding myself and me coming more into myself. In order to do that I needed to be broken completely down in order to receive from God.”
He continued, “I’m grateful to God that I have been able to survive this journey. God always provides for me and this is hopefully a way to be able to take all of the pain I’ve experienced and share it with other people and give them a mirror to look into.”