Shea Butter For The (Skincare) Win

I had chronically, tragically dry skin as a kid. It never mattered how much lotion I would slather on, by the time mid-day rolled around I looked like a chimney sweep. And, oh did the kids in school let me know it! I’m still on my way to healing from the trauma of looking like no one loved me enough to grease up my elbows, but today my woes when it comes to dry skin have been remedied thanks to shea butter!

Chances are you’ve heard of this stuff whether it be in connection to hair routines or moisture, as everyone seems to be enamored with the butter – and for good reason. Shea butter can be whipped and mixed with other oils to produce delectable concoctions which lock in moisture and rejuvenate the skin. I personally love to mix shea butter with warm coconut oil, and a few drops of one of my favorite essential oils and apply it all over before bed. In the morning, it’s like I have a new layer of ash-free skin. It seems like this miracle cream is too good to be true, but with a little investigation I’ve discovered it’s the real deal. Let’s dive in!

History

Shea butter hails from across the West African coast, along the Saraha and into Eastern Africa. The shea tree that the compound is derived from thrives within the dry climate. According to the Journal of Ethnobiologyshea butter has been created from the harvested nuts of the shea tree starting as far back as 100 B.C.E. During the excavation of a site in Burkina Faso in West Africa, a team of archaeologists discovered shells from the shea nut, and realized the practice of making the butter predates the previous belief that it began in 1100 C.E. That’s a long time to perfect the art of shea butter! The process is still carried out quite similarly to the past, and includes the aid of the entire household.

How is it made?

The process is very time-intensive and requires the involvement of the entire household, or a team. In this lovely video from Hamamat, you can watch the different stages of extracting, cooking, and forming shea butter from the nuts of the shea tree by the people who know it best. It’s quite interesting!

 

What does it do?

If you’re struggling with dry skin like I do, shea butter is a great alternative to traditional lotions or oils. It locks in moisture, softens rough patches, and I have experienced it clear up irritated spots. She butter can be applied to the skin of the body, your hair and face to fight dryness as well as the weakening of hair shafts. I do warn that it does not easily wash out of hair, so if you have dreadlocks like me it’s not a good option for the hair. In loose hair it works wonders. What’s great about the product is how long it can last. A little goes a long way, so you could potentially keep a jar of it for months to years without it spoiling.

 

There you have it! Have you tried shea butter? What oils or butters do you use to take care of your skin? Let me know in the comments!

Back to the Beginning: My Natural Hair Journey

 

Bald head scallywag/ aint got no hair in the back/ gelled up, weaved up/ your hair is messed up!”

These lyrics from “Chickenhead” by Project Pat haunted me as a teenager when I first heard them. I felt personally attacked by the imagery of a black woman with rough hair being ridiculed, because I had often looked at my own limp relaxed hair (that never seemed to grow beyond my ears )with resignation. It was so sparse that you could almost always see my scalp – I felt like I had one strand per square inch! For years I felt like relaxers weren’t working for me. Not only was the process painful, but the results left my crown looking like a mound of wet noodles. I usually ran around in box braids during the summer and for sports, but even those weren’t all they were cracked up to be. After hours sitting between a stylists’ legs, powerless as my edges were demolished, I was ready to run away from home. Nothing we did to my hair made me feel like I was me . I always felt like I was occupying a costume of what a young lady should look like.

My limp relaxed hair in middle school

So, when I heard those hateful – and admittedly hilarious – lyrics I felt like the jig was up. It was pure serendipity that India Arie came onto the scene not long after I began searching for new examples of what black hair could be. She was so vibrant and joyful in her “Video” music video that I became obsessed. I wanted to look and feel just as free as she appeared. Goapele came out with “Closer” around the same time, and her locs absolutely captured my heart as well. Those two women were joined by images of Lauren Hill, Whoopi Goldberg, and my cool aunt Gidget who had her own set of locs. Their beauty made me feel so excited about my hair’s potential that nothing could sway me from dreads.

My first set of locs after two years

My parents didn’t take much convincing when I told them I wanted to have dreadlocks, which I am so thankful for. After speaking with a hairstylist, my mom learned that I would have to grow out my relaxer to start the locs. We started transitioning my hair before we even had the terminology for it! I braved the box braids situation all through my senior year of high school until I had enough growth to cut off the relaxer and start my little locs. I remember being so enamored with the nubs when they were formed in 2005 that I couldn’t pass a mirror without gawking.

I went off to college feeling like the best version of myself and my locs truly flourished. I played with color, curled them and tried different updos in ways I never could have with my relaxed hair. The only time I encountered any push back against my hair was during a meeting with a woman in a corporate setting. This was my junior year, and I had to interview her about company policies for my class. Everything went well until the end when she suggested I needed to change my hair if I wanted to be taken seriously. I was struggling with depression at the time, so her comment – regardless of her intentions – struck me right in the gut. A few months later, while feeling worse and worse about myself, I went to a barber to have my hair shaved off. That moment was so painful that I vowed to never have locs again.

In the years following, I relaxed my hair in an attempt to look “normal”, but I felt just as uncomfortable and sad as ever. Instead, I decided to wear my hair in different ways to see what felt like me, such as a fro, a close crop, then braids, but nothing could compete with feeling ropes of my own hair floating free in the wind. So, it was only natural that I broke my vow and drifted back to the style that had made me so happy in the beginning of my journey.

My second set of locs, after being dyed

I put my second set of locs in on my own, thanks to several Youtube videos and articles on natural hair forums. Instead of worrying what others thought, I was devoted to having more fun with my hair. So, I grew my twists into locs, then dyed them a bright pink that rivaled cotton candy. I was so in love with how I looked and how free I felt. Sadly, those locs were so damaged after the bleach and dye that they had to be cut off once again. Yet, I didn’t feel the same at the time as I did with the loss of my first set. This time, I felt at peace with the decision to move forward. It was finally on my own terms, rather than being steeped in fear.

 

Before starting this current (and definitely permanent) set of locs on Christmas Eve in 2014, I came to terms with three lessons I’d been avoiding. I wanted to really commit to healthy hair, and these three realizations have helped me to push forward:

  1. Locs are all about acceptance. Not everyone is going to like them, and I had to accept that. I had to accept that my hair would do its own thing and I had to be at peace with the loss of control.
  2. I had to abandon the old habits of care. No more harsh chemicals, or waxes, no more going to bed without covering, and at least for now there is no more dye. I want to see how strong they can be with proper care.
  3. Whether I realized it or not, my hair is tied to my mental health. This isn’t true for everyone, nor do I think it’s wrong or right, but it’s the way it is for me. When I’m taking care of my hair I feel better, I feel strong, I feel nice and that’s alright. I know that hair will grow back and its just dead cells on my scalp, but I also feel the most me with my locs.
Me now, happy with what I’ve got

The tendrils on my head twist and bend in ways that are unique to every experience I’ve had with them like going on gator tours, volunteering in Haiti, and getting married. Every moment of joy, as well as bouts of sorrow, are weaved into my crown in a beautifully individualized manner. I don’t think there’s one way to look or be that everyone needs to follow. The beauty of our hair is that it’s strong enough to withstand journeys back home to who we want to be. I’m happy now that I’ve come back to myself in a big way and I hope others will find that kind of happiness, too. I can’t wait to share the process as I go.

Thank you for reading! Stay strong out there!

 

Noto Botanics: The Gender-Fluid Cure To My Self-Care Slump

Anyone out there as addicted to Pinterest as I am? I could scroll through the outfits, inspirational quotes, and art for days – which I’ve done on more than one night when I should have been planning posts! I regularly find myself tumbling down rabbit holes of information, discovering people or concepts that the omniscient Universe just knew would keep me distracted for hours. I floated through my “Hair” board on the site, looking for a little encouragement to keep on with my growing my locs, when I stumbled onto the face of Gloria Noto. It was an old article on Refinery29 about cool hairstyles in LA and her face popped out to me immediately. So, being the internet sleuth that I am, I consulted my partner in crime (Google), to find out more about the captivating character. As always, what I “discovered” was exactly what I needed.

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Image via notobotanics.com

 

Gloria Noto is a makeup artist and business woman who founded Noto Botanics to cater to people with a desire for products that are glam without being harmful. The products are multi-use, i.e. oils you can use on hair, face, and body and good for customers across the board. I’m aesthetically drawn to the clean, crisp packaging, but more so enraptured with the glorious mix of oils and herbs designed to take you to the spa with every use. I’ve always struggled with dry skin, so a big part of my beauty routine is the application of oils, butters, and hydrating serums in order to ease my ashy woes. I’ve found myself in a bit of a slump lately, as my routine seems to have plateaued leaving my skin wanting something different. After being on the hunt for something I can use on my face and hair, Noto is a godsend.

Deep Serum
Deep Serum Image via notobotanics.com

 

I’m looking forward to giving Noto Botanics a try, because stagnation in routines – particularly the self-care variety – seems to lead to abandonment, which I have no desire to do. Even better? Gloria shared with V Magazine that Noto Botanics raised 15k for organizations such as Planned Parenthood and LGBTQ Center of LA. I’m all for a company that is concerned with the exterior and interior betterment of the community.

I’ll keep you updated on the magic as I move forward! What products are you looking forward to trying? What do you do for your beauty routine? Hit me in the comments with your suggestions!

Beautycon Is The Event I Didn’t Know I Needed

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I used to have a seriously sketchy relationship with makeup. I’m talking never wearing it (not a bad thing) unless one of my friends slathered it on me in a shade too light for my skin. I once put blush on so harshly that I looked like Chris Farley after getting hit by a 2×4 in Tommy Boy. Real talk.

So….. I stayed away from the brushes and palettes.

It wasn’t just the struggle of makeup that kept me from doing anything considered really feminine: I didn’t think I was pretty enough to be “girly”. From the very beginning we’re inundated with images of beauty that are light years away from what I see in the mirror; it’s all about being tall, thin, white or lighter in complexion and definitely fine-featured. Add on top of that the positively LOVELY tendency of some folks to tell me I look like a guy, and you’ve got an adorable complex. So, when I did wear makeup, it was to hide or reduce the features that set tongues wagging in ridicule.

It’s taken a long time, but I’m unwinding all that programming and replacing it with the knowledge that beauty isn’t about what you put on your face or body – it’s all about what you radiate from within. I’ve learned a few things along the path of life that make looking in the mirror a joy rather than a nightmare:

A) The way others see me isn’t really about me. They’ve been shaped by the same beauty standards as I have, and some people will never shake that.  

B) Calling myself ugly isn’t just a diss to me, it’s a diss to the people I come from, and they surely don’t deserve nastiness. 

C) Loving myself is my right. Plus, it gives other people permission to love themselves, especially if they look like me. 

Now, I can look at makeup and beauty routines as fun, rather than necessary to gain someone’s approval. Instead of hiding my big nose, I part my hair down the middle to let it shine. I rock my hair free and dreadlocked because it makes me feel like a warrior. I wear lipstick when I nothing else will brighten my day. These days, I love how I look at my most discombobulated just as much as when I get my makeup done professionally, because that’s when my strength really shines through.

Yet, even with my mind where it is now, I still look to the media for inspiration when I want a push to glam up, which is where Beautycon comes in! I have not been able to go to the event yet, however reading about the programming has me salivating for the chance to join the masses. Beautycon is something I sorely wish would have been available to me during those ashy foundation days and moments of self-doubt. I love that they’ve got role-models from all walks of life talking about real-world issues like body image, colorism, representation, and self-love. It’s so wonderful to see leaders pushing away from one type of beauty being the standard.

I truly feel the most rebellious thing a person can do in this life is to own and proclaim their own beauty. It’s not easy, but I’ve found it is so rewarding. If you’re like me and need to feel inspired to keep going or just want to learn, click here to watch videos from Beautycon! What makes you feel beautiful these days?

 

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