When I first started working on this story, COVID-19 was at the top of my mind. My mission was to highlight small brands run by women of color, brightening my days during quarantine because of the high impact the virus was having on our communities. However, like many Black folks, COVID-19 wasn't the only thing taking a toll on my mental health. At that point, the on-going violence of Black bodies due to systemic racism and police brutality took centerstage.
I am a Black woman. I am always emotionally triggered when watching the graphic videos (most of the time, involuntary thanks to autoplay on social media platforms) and hearing about yet another person in my community losing their life for existing. However, like many Black folks in this country, I am used to working through my pain and trauma, even if I am having a difficult day.
The sudden "awakening" of the world to the on-going plight of Black people has changed how I look at the products I use each day. Are the brands I support supporting me? Are they actively doing the work to amplify Black voices on their platforms (not just posting a black square)? Are they supporting Black beauty business owners along the way? What are their hiring practices? These questions are especially important now. As we have conversations about the term people of color, which based on the numbers I've seen brands share on Sharon Chuter's Pull Up For Change initiative, the blanket term provides a way for companies to exclude Black people when hiring.
I have always been conflicted about the term women of color. I now know for sure I want to be called Black. My expectations for non-Black women of color, specifically in beauty, have also shifted. Posting a black square is not enough. Continuing to have tough conversations publicly and genuinely support Black women in beauty (and beyond) is a start. Anti-Blackness has long been ingrained in communities of color, so there is work to be done everywhere.
With all that has been going on in the world, I have been intentional about making time for myself. Lighting candles, Bantu knotting my hair, applying a little concealer, and taking extra care of my skin are a form of my Black resistance. I can't do the work if I'm not pouring into myself along the way. I want to share a few products by Black founders and women of color (doing the work) that are lifting my spirits and making me feel and look my best even on the toughest days.
If you don't know about Gilded's zero-waste candles and marble brushes, you're going to thank me for sharing Blair Armstong's bespoke, handcrafted line with you. I light my candle each night about an hour before bed. My lavender, peony scented candle helps create a sensory experience that feels luxe and helps quiet my anxious mind.
Each time I use Ranavat's Radiant Rani Brightening Facial Serum overnight, I wake up with glowing skin. I think that would make anyone feel good. I pair the serum with my Gua Sha tool, and since facials are still a no-go, I pretend I'm an esthetician as I smooth the saffron and turmeric-infused serum on my skin.
The fact that I can apply a full face of makeup with Black-owned products still amazes me. During warmer months, I typically prefer concealer over foundation, and this full-coverage concealer makes you say whoa. My under-eye circles and hyperpigmentation disappear instantly.
When I was on the hunt for a Gua Sha tool to help with my TMJ, supporting a business rooted in traditional Chinese medicine was important. I selected Mount Lai's amethyst tool because the stone is said to cleanse negative energies and relieve stress. I place oil on my face and apply my tool while I watch The Golden Girls each night.
Truthfully, I have never been a body wash girl. Hand me a bar of soap or whatever is in the shower, and I'm good to go. Plant Apothecary's Start Happy Body Wash changed that for me. Even on my most anxiety-filled, emotional days, I can pop into the shower and come out feeling lighter and refreshed. I love this body wash so much that I only use it on days when I need a pick me up to stretch it out.
I have a confession. I have barely shaved during the quarantine. The most I've committed to is where my ankles show and under my arms when things start to get a little too much for my liking (because I think shaving is a personal choice). But, when you have a rose gold razor, shaving seems fun. Ok, not fun, but special.
If someone had told me I'd be wearing press on's, I would have given them a side-eye. Thanks to an Instagram post, though, I found Janee. Her ability to bring my nail art ideas to life and her openness to having conversations about what is happening in the Black community has made me a forever client.
Bantu knots are my go-to style these days. They're cute, they're protective, and they require little styling time. Getting them to stay put was a bit of a challenge until I tried using Honey Curls. Just a little on my ends and my Bantu knots are set.
This handcrafted Oaxacan clay mug isn't a beauty product, but it fuels my joy. Each morning, I make my coffee (I drink the same cup all day) and walk around with it as I work, cook, or do anything around the house. I think it's my adult version of a security blanket.
Have a Zoom meeting? Put on Mented #5. Feeling a little meh? Put on Mented #5. Doing anything at all? Put on Mented #5. The creamy semi-matte lipstick is my favorite nude and instantly makes me feel put together, even if I'm just going to the mailbox.