After spending four days in the Dominican Republic in celebration of finishing grad school, I noticed my skin was itchy, red and swollen. When I arrived back home, I decided to make an appointment with a nearby dermatologist. Just before my appointment, I noticed my skin had begun peeling, so I put on a pair of oversized sunglasses and headed out the door. After a series of medical questions, the dermatologist began examining my skin. The dermatologist took one step back and looked at me in shock. I reluctantly asked her what it was, and her reply was, “sunburn.” I looked at her puzzled and embarrassed, and she replied, “I don’t know why you’re so sensitive to the sun when you’re so dark.” Despite the heat permeating from my face, I was frozen. I was shocked that a medical professional would be so crass with her diagnosis. She wrapped up her pseudo-examination, and I made my way to the front desk and checked out.
Forty dollars later, I had no real understanding of why my skin was so sensitive to the sun or why my blackness was brought into question. This reminded me of a time when a friend was told by her former rheumatologist that “Black people have bad genes,” in response to her questions about lupus symptoms. These situations leave me wondering if cultural awareness and sensitivity are a part of medical school curriculum. Many medical conditions that African Americans face are byproducts of slavery, poor nutrition, misinformation and even medical testing (i.e., Tuskegee Study). Melanin provides a false sense of security to many African Americans, myself included.
It’s reported that nearly two out of three African Americans never wear sunscreen.
The misconception that increased amounts of melanin serve as a protector from sun-related injuries is a danger to people of color. Bob Marley, a famous reggae singer/activist, died of melanoma, which is linked directly to sun damage. According to the American Medical Association, the survival rate of melanoma is 58 percent among African Americans compared to 84 percent for Caucasians. This makes it incredibly important for people of color to be knowledgeable about the dangers of the sun and take precaution.
“Ignorance is like sun damage," my friend Kevin says. "It does not discriminate.”
Brothers and sisters, invest in sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50 and wear a hat while out in the sun. Furthermore, check your skin for any changes (color, inflammation, or texture) or moles as these can be signs of early damage. The sooner you spot a change, the better off you’ll be. Last but not least, medical professionals, please invest in diversity training as this may cure symptoms of ignorance and hopefully allow you to provide your patients with a more inclusive experience.
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Step by step, I’ve been trying to improve my "adulting" skills in many areas of my life. I've conquered things such as taxes, groceries and even the doctor’s office. Lately, I've been focusing on my skincare. l’m only 23, but the way my skin routine was currently set up, I was on my way to aging my skin well before its time.
Even though I have melanin on my side, I know fellow age-defyers such as Pharrell, Gabrielle Union and Angela Bassett didn’t simply rely on the old adage, 'black don’t crack.'
With that being said, I went out trying to find skincare products that resembled my hippie values – black-owned, sweet-smelling, effective and free from any hard to pronounce chemicals. A friend of mine owns Oh So Good Organics, a company dedicated to bringing herbalism, art and spirit together, and I decided to try a routine with their products.
As soon as I opened my package, the aroma of different essential oils filled my room. These products are made with natural organic materials such as calendula, lemongrass and bamboo. I tried several products from the company, but I'll let you in on my favorites thus far.
Organic hair oil for hair growth
The hair oil is light with a citrus scent. It contains ingredients such as avocado oil, babassu oil and horsetail herb to promote hair growth. This oil is good for the occasional touch-up. I like to apply and massage my scalp with it during my mid-week re-moisture session. The small container is also great for travel, so you aren’t lugging a ton of products around.
Organic deodorant for men
Deodorants never really agree with me. I’ve tried many, whether natural or not, and they either irritate my underarms or don't control my funk. I like this product because it passed both of those tests! Even though it’s targeted at men (probably due to the earthy citrus scent), anyone can use it. It comes in an eco-friendly package that pushes up like stick deodorant.
One con about it is that the formula didn’t spread evenly on my armpit. I had to apply it with my fingers. It's also probably not best for anyone who leads a super active lifestyle. I just started working out, and it didn’t last as long as when I had a rest day. It will last through a few hours of daily activity, but should probably be skipped if you regularly do rigorous exercise.
Organic activated bamboo soap
According to the site, activated charcoal absorbs toxins four times more than carbon charcoal. I already know the power of activated charcoal, as it's the main reason for my pearly whites. Oh So Good Organics takes it a step further by adding Himalayan sea salt, green tea and shea butter to make you clean and moisturized. I really dig this soap, not only for its ingredients but for its scent. The scent of ylang-ylang and lemongrass fills up my shower as I lather. An aromatherapy session while I shower is like a two-for-one deal for me.
Organic calendula unscented gentle soap
Even though this is a body soap, I use it for my face. I have extra dry skin and I love how there’s shea butter and calendula in the formula, which both heal my skin and leave it moisturized. Another plus is that this soap bar is unscented.
Organic night repair cream
At night, I normally just crawl into bed without washing my face — I know, that’s so horrible. However, I’ve currently made an intention to have a nighttime skincare routine. This night cream has quickly become a part of it. This has to be my favorite product from Oh So Good Organics. It's not too thick and spreads nicely on my skin, and the scents of lavender, rose and grapefruit are wonderful.
My face is dry, and with ingredients such as shea butter, aloe vera, calendula and marshmallow root, this night cream has my face feeling really soft by morning.
After the three weeks that I've used the products, Oh So Good Organics gets an A+ plus from me! I love the natural scents and the fact that all of the products have very moisturizing properties.
If you're looking for more natural products, check them out here.
On Saturday, May 21st, we’re hosting our inaugural conference about how creativity and technology are changing our daily lives, from our hobbies to our work. Will you be joining us? Tickets here. Use code blavityfam.
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Makeup lovers, can we have a quick discussion? Listen, I totally get it. Many of us have a difficult time parting with our good, expensive, expired makeup. I think a tiny unicorn dies every time we have to toss a Bobbi Brown or Chanel palette, especially one that has gone unused or has gotten very little use. However, for the sake of your health, you have got to replace your makeup.
Cosmetics are pretty tricky, as they're not labeled with a specific expiration date. This is all the more reason to stay on top of your makeup stash and stop yourself from hoarding bad products. It can be tough, but try to keep up with dates of purchase, as well as exactly how long you’ve had certain products. It won't be easy and will require a great deal of organization on your part — but you will thank yourself for doing it.
I know you love certain things and want to use them to the very last drop, but it's important to check in with the product lifespan (often posted on the bottom or the label of your product). If you can no longer read the label or can't find it, here's a general timeline of when exactly to let go:
Mascara - about 3 months
Eye and lips pencils - about 2 years
Lipsticks - about 2 years
Concealers and foundations - about 2 years
Nail polish - about 1 year
Even more important is cleaning your makeup brushes properly following each use. Brushes can harbor loads of bacteria, and you certainly don't want to swipe them all over your face in this state. Hello, breakouts! The skin is the largest organ in the body, so take care of it as best as you can.
Most times, we can simply do the eyeball test and know precisely when a particular product has to be replaced (ex. excessive clumping, drying out, worn down, weird smell, separation in polishes). Although the eyeball test is nice, knowing the exact timeline of when to diss old makeup is absolutely the best.
I shamefully admit that I have a hard time letting go, but it's so necessary.
How are you doing with your makeup purges? Let us know in the comments below!
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Sleep is one of the most understated, important topics when it comes to health. And because we make work, TV, social media, family and other tasks a top priority, humans are the only mammals to delay sleep. Adults need at least 7 hours of sleep and preparing for it is just as important as the sleep itself.
Here are some ways to help you create a routine to efficiently wind down before hitting the hay:
In order to shut down at night, your phone has to shut down too. Smartphones have made us the little kids who don’t want to go to sleep because they're afraid of missing out. With social media, email notifications and 24-hour news cycles, 90 percent of Americans use their phone within one hour before sleep. The constant stimulation, as well as the electromagnetic transmissions and blue light from smartphones, decrease melatonin levels in our bodies. Melatonin is a hormone that is known to make us less alert and ready for bed.
One of the rituals that Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder, does before going to bed is to read. Reading is found to reduce stress levels by 68 percent. It’s a great way wind down after a hectic day.
Another great way to get ready to sleep is to practice some yoga. Doing certain yoga poses such as the lizard pose or locust pose at night can help release tension from the day. Want to try a night time yoga flow? Here’s a video below.
4. Create a to-do list for tomorrow
Make your morning easier by prepping the night before. Life might have you thinking about millions of things at once. And if you're anything like me, you can become so overwhelmed that you don’t accomplish anything at all. To stop this, try the Most Important Task or MIT approach. Choose three top priority tasks you want to tackle the next day and sleep knowing you've got the next day at least partially planned.
5. Drink tea
If it’s hard for you to calm down after a hectic day, try drinking some herbal tea. Herbs such as chamomile, valerian and lavender have sedative effects. If you are incorporating this in your nighttime routine, make sure you set your teatime at the beginning stages of your ritual. You don’t want to have to take late-night bathroom trips!
6. Take care of your skin
When you sleep, your skin goes to work repairing and building itself. Help it out by cleansing and moisturizing it properly before bed.
Whether it's reflecting on your day, jotting down a fleeting idea, or just expressing yourself freely, writing can help you calm your mind and help build it as well. Writing is known to help you retain information better and build your confidence.
How do you practice a healthy sleep routine? Let us know in the comments below!
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Do you always break out on your chin? Or maybe zits always seem to crop up on your cheeks or your T-zone. According to New York-based dermatologist, Dr. Whitney Bowe, “based on Ayurvedic (a holistic approach to health) principles, there are reasons you might be breaking out in one particular area over another.” Hormones, diet, poor hygiene, stress, or an underlying issue with an internal organ are all factors that could trigger breakouts in a particular spot. “Great skin often starts from the inside-out,” says Lindsey Blondin, lead esthetician at George the Salon Chicago. “One of the places through which your body rids itself of toxins, illness, and stresses is its largest organ — the skin.” The method of using the location of acne to inform treatment and prevention is called face mapping.
But before you run to your bathroom mirror and start examining, it’s important to note that not all forms of acne can be cured by simply giving up bad habits; consult with a dermatologist to determine the best form of treatment for you. Still, taking clues through face mapping is a great place to start. Here, Dr. Bowe and Blondin break down the possible causes — and solutions — of those pesky breakouts on your forehead, cheeks, chin, and more.
If you frequently wear hats, the friction from the fabric could be to blame. “The acne may also be a result of using heavy hair-care products like conditioners or leave-in treatments that can clog pores around the hairline,” says Dr. Bowe.
Another possible culprit here is stress. If you have exams coming up, for example, it might be a good idea to incorporate acne treatments like salicylic acid into your routine to help control potential breakouts. And, to avoid making things worse, lay off the chips and candy. “Your forehead is linked to your digestive system, says Blondin. “Reducing the amount of fat in your diet and stepping up your water intake could help.”
Your nose is linked to your heart, and, according to Blondin, cutting back on meat and spicy foods could reduce breakouts here. She recommends swapping these for foods that contain “good fats” like nuts, avocados, fish, or flaxseed. “Also, since this area is chock full of dilated pores, check that your makeup is not past its expiration date or does not contain pore-clogging ingredients,” she says.
In Between the Brows
“This is the zone where food allergies show up first,” says Blondin. Lactose intolerance is a possible factor as is a diet rich in foods that are difficult to digest like fast food.
If you get your eyebrows waxed, treat the in-between area with salicylic acid to avoid breakout-causing ingrown hairs, advises Dr. Bowe.
When did you last clean your phone or makeup brushes? If you’re experiencing breakouts in this area, it might be time to give them all a good cleanse, says Dr. Bowe. (Here’s exactly how to ensure that they’re properly washed.)
Because this area also corresponds with your respiratory system, Blondin says that smoking cigarettes is a definite no-no (for many more reasons than just pimples, too).
Chin and Jawline
“This could be a sign that acne is due to a hormonal imbalance,” says Dr. Bowe. Birth control or spironolactone (which decreases testosterone levels) are both effective treatment options.
While hormonal changes can be unavoidable, “you can decrease the effect by getting adequate sleep, drinking enough water, eating leafy veggies, and keeping skin squeaky clean,” says Blondin.
Because this area is associated with the kidneys, breakouts here could be a direct result of dehydration. “Drink lots of water and avoid carbonated and caffeinated beverages,” says Blondin.
This post was originally published on Teen Vogue.
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Makeup remover wipes are so incredibly convenient. I’ve been known to carry a pack or two of them in my bag for quick makeup removal or to freshen up my face when needed (i.e., humid day, post-workout, etc). Although they seem to serve their purpose for those special on-the-go or time-crunch situations, I've always wondered exactly how clean my skin was getting when using them. I’m sure you’ve wondered the same thing. The truth is, I’m not totally convinced that they remove all of the makeup, and I still wish to cleanse my face more thoroughly following use.
It’s hard not to imagine an ugly layer of residue sitting on my skin wreaking all kinds of havoc – eek!
Turns out, there is some truth to my OCD this! Dr. Maryann Mikhail, a dermatologist based in New York, confirmed, on the use of makeup cleansing wipes:
“Since you’re not rinsing away the active cleansing ingredients in wipes, that residue that’s left may expose your skin to high concentrations of solubilizers, surfactants and emulsifiers. This can be drying and irritating for some people, especially those with dry or sensitive skin. Also, some wipes contain alcohol, which can cause stinging.”
This got me thinking of more natural ways to remove makeup from the skin without causing further damage or irritation. You will be very surprised (and relieved) that many of the ingredients can be found right at home…in our very own kitchen!
Coconut or olive oil
If there were ever a beauty crisis, the answer will (almost) always be coconut oil; it just has so many uses! Natural oils are great for the skin and a key factor in keeping it vibrant and youthful. Coconut and olive oils help to remove makeup without overdrying the face — win! This is my personal go-to and it works each and every time, even for more difficult eye makeup.
Almond oil and milk
Now I know why milk baths are a thing! The fats and proteins milk contains do wonders for the skin. A little almond oil mixed with milk gets the job done for makeup removal – just put some of the mixture on a cotton ball and give your face a good, gentle rub down.
Good ol’ cucumbers. They always come through for us due to their anti-inflammatory properties, especially when we have puffy undereye bags. They're also great for removing makeup — who knew? Just blend some into a paste and apply to skin alone. Or you can choose to add a bit of milk or olive oil to the mixture for smoother consistency/ease of use.
And there you have it! Pretty soon, you'll be mixing and concocting your very own makeup remover pads that are great for your skin — not to mention they'll save you money in the long run.
Have you tried any of these makeup removal combinations? Sound off in the comments below and let me know if you have any additional natural removal remedies to add!
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Aging is the one thing that everyone has in common. Many women, no matter their race, worry how to keep a glowing and youthful looking complexion. So we thought we would talk toAntonia Burrell – skincare expert and founder of the Antonia Burrell skincare range. With over 18 years in the industry, Antonia has accumulated a hoard of famous and royal fans (HRH Princess Tatiana of Greece, Princess Maha of Qatar and actress Sadie Frost to name a few) and has won a plethora of awards, with her brand being named the best skincare brand for Black and Asian women at this year’s Psychology Positive Beauty Awards. So when we had the idea of wanting to show black women how they can look after their skin in every decade, she really was the only woman for the task…
BB: Could you please tell us how black skin differs from other races?
AB: The main difference is the AMOUNT, SIZE and DISTRIBUTION of MELANIN (the cells that product the pigment/colour in the skin). Therefore, darker skinned women have different concerns like post-inflammatory pigmentation and uneven skin tone. They are not so concerned with biological aging, as darker skin also ages slower due to the high sebum content in the skin.
BB: Are there any misconceptions about black skin?
AB: YES! A LOT!
Skin is skin… no matter what the colour, just like blood is blood… no matter what the colour of the person’s skin, it’s still red and essentially made up of the same chemical composition, however, there are variations. If you think of it in this way – what you eat – your diet – no matter what the ethnicity of a person, we all need the same nutrients to live and maintain a healthy life style. So, we all need anti-oxidants, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and water to be healthy. This also applies to the skin. Everyone needs the basics to maintain a good skin like cleansing well and using the correct products for your skin type, regardless of colour. It’s down to experts like myself to offer advice, clarity and homecare regimes on such things.
I think a lot of women think that because their skin is darker then it can “take it” and I know a lot tend to over exfoliate. This actually makes the skin darker.
BB: One rule that applies to every black woman no matter their age?
BA: For me this rule applies to ALL WOMEN. I recommend exfoliating daily or as recommended with my Luminous Light Polishing Powder to support renewal and gently polish the skin.
BB: What are the biggest misconceptions about the skin for those in their 20s?
AB: Generally 20 something’s are blessed with skin that’s plump and youthful, so you likely don’t need a full-coverage foundation. Opt for a tinted moisturizer instead or a sheer coverage BB cream. Most of us tend to over-powder our faces as well.
BB: What are the common problems those in their 20s face?
AB: The number one complaint among women in their 20’s is acne. Most 20-somethings break out because they use dehydrating products that strip their skin of natural oils. This causes oil glands to overproduce, resulting in blemishes.
BB: Could you recommend a good skin routine for those in their 20s?
AB: Focus on cleansing thoroughly and understanding your skin type. Consult a skin expert and invest in the knowledge you receive.
BB: Best ingredients/products for looking after your skin in this decade?
AB: Pick a good quality natural moisturiser and try to ensure that it contains a SPF and that it gives you both UVA and UVB protection. Apply it all over your face and on your neck. At night time, you can choose something with a vitamin A-derivative, which is good for brightening and treating acne.
BB: What’s the difference between the skin in your 30s compared to your 20s?
AB: Even if you’ve taken good care of your skin, you’ll probably start noticing fine lines and wrinkles, especially around the eyes and mouth. Dark-skinned women might notice discoloration and uneven skin tone; fair-skinned women might see some hyperpigmentation (brown/age spots) and duller.
BB: What are the golden rules for looking after your skin in this decade?
AB: Exfoliation and brightening products is the key here in your 30′s and have regular facial treatments.
BB: What products/ingredients do you recommend to those in their 30s?
AB: Try to use products that contain salicylic acid and avoid harsh scrubs.
Use a good clay based mask once a week to really deep cleanse, firm and polish.
Hydrate with a non-alcoholic toner.
BB: What do you suggest those in their 30s should avoid in order to maintain good skin?
AB: SLEEP WELL!
40s & 50s
BB: Could you tell us the common problems those in their 40s face in terms of skincare?
AB: The loss of collagen and skin elasticity in your 40s mean you’ll find your skin sags a little more and seems less resilient.
BB: Are there any products/ingredients you recommend for women in this decade?
AB: Difficult to say…it really depends on the skin. But I generally recommend a good mask, brightening serum and suitable moisturizer for your skin-type.
BB: What is a good skin routine for those in their 40s & 50s?
AB: Your skin repairs itself while you sleep, so if you don’t get enough of it, it will show – in the form of a pale, ashy skin tone and more pronounced wrinkles and under eye circles. Shoot for 7 – 8 hours a night. Tapping all over the face gently with the two middle fingers from both hands for about a minute a day will work wonders to plump and firm the skin. Focus on jaw line and under the chin.
BB: What should those in their 40s and 50s avoid in order to maintain healthy skin?
AB: Maintain a good antioxidant diet.
60s and over
BB: Could you please tell us about what changes the skin is going through in these years?
AB: No matter how well you care for your skin, it’s not going to be the same at age 60 as it was at age 20. There’s no getting around it. The skin has a natural aging process that involves a slowdown of cell division in the middle layer of skin, also known as the dermis. This process breaks down collagen and elastin fibers that thicken skin. Age-related changes in the hypodermis, the inner layer of skin, can also lead to thinning. The primary alteration occurring in the hypodermis is the degradation of fatty cells leading to skin thinness.
BB: What are your golden rules of skincare for women in this age bracket?
AB: Since dry skin is more prone to thinning, providing it with extra moisture is never a bad idea.
In addition to aging and family history, another big risk factor for thin skin is sun exposure. Ultraviolet (UV) light causes collagen and elastin fibers in the dermis to break down at a faster rate. So, one of the best ways to prevent or delay skin thinning is to cut back on your time in the sun by spending less time outdoors when the suns rays are at their most intense.
BB: Best products and ingredients for taking care of the skin in these years?
AB: Water, sleep, good facial oil and serum… must be correct for the skin type.
All of the answers above were written by Antonia Burrell and illustrations are by Jerome J Rand.
This post was originally published on Black Ballad.
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