Pillow Talk: Perfume connoisseur Maya Njie’s nighttime routine

We sit down with Maya Njie, the London-based perfumer and founder of her eponymous brand, to discuss all things nostalgic scents and home comforts. Inspired by her background in creativity and photography, it was when Njie came across a family photo album from the 60s and 70s that she began to connect to the dots of her business. Sweden-born and of Gambian heritage, she infused her knowledge with research into perfumery, finally creating her brand in 2016 and cultivating a loyal following not long after. Here, Njie invites us into her bedroom to discuss all things drifting off to sleep, and how the perfect scent landscape can help you do so.

Hi Miya, Can you sum up what you do in five words? 

I formulate memories through olfaction.  

Why did you decide to create your perfume range? 

I have always been creatively driven, and scent is something I used as an extension of my visual art, namely textile design and photography. I ended up having many people wanting to wear the fragrances I was making. “Why not share the joy,” I thought, and at the same time, try and make it work for myself. It’s given me the independence I didn’t have and facilitated a much more creatively enriching life for me.

What makes it different from other perfumes on the market? 

I mainly work from my own photography and started by recreating snapshots of my family’s photo album from the 60s and 70s before I was born. These photos are set in Sweden but tell the story of two cultures intertwining, with part of my family being from Senegal and Gambia. These elements combined give the narrative of the brand and the perfumes something special. 

On a scale of 1 – 10, how much do you love your sleep? 

A solid 8.

What time would you ideally like to go to bed, as opposed to when you really end up in bed? 

It’s usually quite spot on, to be honest – around 10.30 pm. It’s a matter of not crashing too early for me, as then I might get a second wind around 3 am, which has unwanted consequences for everybody involved. 

What’s your usual reason for going to bed late? Work… scrolling through Instagram? 

If I am going to bed late, it’s because I am working on something creative like image editing or other design-based tasks. That can keep me up for hours. That side of the business is something I would be doing anyway, so it doesn’t feel like work to me.

What side of the bed do you sleep on? 

I air on the right side of caution but with an unwavering aim for the middle. However, when the bed was on the opposite side of the room, I slept on the left. I’d like to think it’s to do with feng shui but it’s most likely as it places me nearer the sockets!

What kind of sleeping position do you usually find yourself in? Do you sleep on your back, or are you more of a fetal position kind of person?

Falling asleep in bed, I am either on my side or my front with one knee up and one arm under the pillow – on my back just doesn’t happen. 

What is your bed setup? Silk/bamboo sheets or something more simple? 

My bedroom is really cold in the winter as it’s a semi-detached house with two exposed walls, so at the moment, I layer up with a soft grey feather duvet and blanket, no more than two pillows, and nothing too bulky. During winter, I get the electric blanket on before getting into bed, which is used instead of having the radiator blasting as there is simply no point. I do prefer a slightly cooler room to a hot one. As soon as I can have the windows open at night, I will. We live on a quiet street, so it’s usually no bother. 

Light sleeper or heavy sleeper? 

I have always been a light sleeper. This was heightened even more after becoming a mum. I used to wake up knowing that my daughter was going to call me from her room at night before she did! But I do have vivid dreams and always have. I used to be able to control them, too; it’s not as common anymore. 

Morning bird or night owl? 

Definitely a morning bird. I find it hard to stay up beyond 9.30 pm or 10 pm on a weeknight at home. Give me a blanket, and I’m off. I have always fallen asleep early and risen early. Mornings are my favourite part of the day. 

How do you unwind before bed? Can you walk us through your routine…

It’s my time to switch off from work and spend time with the family. The unwinding starts as we cook dinner and watch something on TV. That’s when my mind starts to shut down and prepare for sleep mode, and when it does that, I just have to go with it. 

Do you read before bed? If so, what can’t you get enough of at the moment?

I tend to be too tired to read before bed. It is lights out and drift off. I find that the easiest time for me to read is during the day when I am off, usually on holiday, as that’s when I can fully relax and stay awake. 

What products/items are on your bedside table? 

I have a couple of chests of drawers in my bedroom that house my products, mainly my creams and perfumes. They keep my skin moisturised and smelling nice, which is the main aim.  

What’s the weirdest thing next to your bed? 

That must be my boyfriend’s Weird Walk zine, and it is just what it says – a zine that recommends weird walks around the British Isles. Potentially the source of my witchy dreams. 

Do you sleep with your phone next to you? 

I do, yes, but I am pretty good at leaving it alone before going to bed. If I reach for it, I run the risk of not falling asleep, and that is a risk I can’t afford to take. 

What can’t you go to sleep without doing? 

At the moment, it’s filling my hot water bottle. I just know that I’ll settle in better with it. A bottle before bed – could it be instilled in me since childhood? 

Do you always take off your makeup before sleeping? 

Only lipstick if I have been wearing it. The rest stays on. I never wear foundation, so it tends to be remnants of mascara mainly. 

Favourite way to remove your makeup?

I thoroughly enjoy removing what is left the following morning in the shower using my Caudalie foam cleanser, which I have been using for years and seldom deviate from. 

How does your nighttime routine change when, say, you’ve been out late on Friday night?

Not much, but if I have had more makeup than usual, I’ll use a wipe or pads to clean it off. I love serums for my face as, a lot of the time, creams can feel too rich, but I love the Caudalie 3-in-1 Energy moisturiser.  

Can you walk us through your nighttime skincare routine?

I cleanse my skin and moisturise it using Caudalie products. First, their foam cleanser, the Vinoperfect serum, and sometimes their Beauty Elixir. I also have an Epara serum that I like. I’ll also use the Caudalie 3-in-1 Moisturiser, which is light and smells lovely. For my body, I am using the Dizziak Body conditioner as I need something thicker that is durable and provides moisture that lasts. It’s the perfect base for applying perfume as it has a scent but nothing too strong. 

Favourite products to use before bed?

For sweet dreams, I spray a little bit of one of my perfumes; Nordic Cedar and Vanilj are both like receiving a warm spicy hug in a forest cabin. Tobak is cosy for bed too. It’s usually more about scent for me. A gentle amount, and they create the perfect sleeping environment.  

If I have a shower before bed, I love to use Glossier Body Hero (which I bought for my daughter but have ended up using secretly). It’s a light oil wash that smells oh-so-good. I also love the Dizziak Hydration Wash. To hydrate after exfoliation, I use Weleda’s Skin Food body butter. I also have an Ouai body oil that is really nice to wear after a shower. 

What do you do if you can’t sleep? 

Listen to a podcast with my cat for company. It usually does the trick.