Raising the Bar In Beauty

Many African Americans are breaking barriers and becoming comfortable with expressing ourselves and personalities. We display this notion through our hair journeys, makeup techniques, nail and body art and our creative and stylish ensembles. As the lovely Tyra Banks would say, we are “breaking beauty barriers” and making advances toward building self-worth. But as a skincare therapist I ask, what about our skin?

I am alarmed that we as African Americans do not take an active interest in our skin as much as we do our hair, nails, fashion and makeup. Whether it is because we have a mindset that “black don’t crack” or because we feel it is less important, other cultures have surpassed us in proper skincare techniques. Here we are still in elementary school, using harmful bar soaps and I’ll even add soaps with harmful sulfates on our faces and wondering why our skin is problematic. We must take a personal stand regarding healthy skin, educate ourselves on products and procedures and then dedicate ourselves to establishing and sticking to a daily regimen. First things first; STOP USING HARSH BAR SOAP ON YOUR FACE..

Soaps tend to be more alkaline (9-10 pH range) and since healthy skin’s pH sits between 4.6 and 5.5, it is important to not use soaps with high alkalinity. Our skin has a natural acid mantle that protects our skin from environmental influences and bacteria (sort of like cellophane or car wax). Harsh surfactants like many soaps on the market destroys the protective mantle and as a result, bacterial moves in like that broke cousin of yours who’s always looking for a place to stay.  Other drawbacks include:

  • Soaps rob your skin of its natural oils, which hydrates the skin and locks in moisture
  • Soaps contain thickeners (which are ingredients that hold soap together) and can clog your pores, potentially causing acne and dehydration
  • Added chemicals in soaps are likely to increase skin irritations/allergic reactions from fragrances and/or preservatives
  • Soaps have a tendency to leave a thin film behind, leaving you feeling unclean and clogged

If you are using bar soap, stop immediately and switch to a mild cleanser or calming cleaners depending on your skin type. This will begin to balance the skin’s pH balance. If necessary, invest in a hydrating toner (that does not contain harsh alcohols) as well as a facial moisturizer and SPF that is conducive to your skin type. Remember there is a difference between oil and moisture and your skin needs to be moisturized for optimal skin health. Begin exfoliating a couple times a week to loosen dead skin cells and reveal your new smooth skin.

The Beauty of Biotin

One popular trend that I have been following for a while is the consumption of the vitamin biotin, which has become widely known as the hair, skin and nail vitamin.  Because of its ability to promote growth in cells, people without hesitation indulge.  But did you know there are many other benefits that biotin has to offer?  The following info may help you understand the vitamin a little better.

Biotin is a B-complex vitamin and is sometimes referred to as vitamin H. Involving your body’s metabolism, biotin helps support the health of your cells & tissue, nerves, kidneys, skin, metabolism and digestive organs. One of the effects recognized most often is the rate in which the hair grows on the body, in addition to an increased rate of nail growth.

Biotin Benefits

  • Vital with the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins (which hair and skin is made of)
  • Helps body convert food into energy
  • Helps with cell growth (cell turnover rate….removal of dead skin cells, growth of new cells)
  • Accurate fat production for healthier skin
  • Helps to thicken hair cuticle

FACT: “How much should I take a day?” It is suggested that you consume biotin as much as you can from a healthy diet. However, if you choose to consume the dietary supplement specifically for hair, skin and nail growth, consider taking between 2,500 mcgs to 5,000 mcgs a day. You can find biotin in most drug and vitamin stores as well as online. Make sure you are purchasing a reputable brand.

FACT: It’s rare for people to have a B7 deficiency unless you drink quite a bit of alcohol. Heavy alcohol consumption inhibits absorption of biotin and other B vitamins.

FACT: Although many begin noticing a difference after a few weeks, you must take the supplement for at least 6-8 weeks before noticing a substantial difference in hair growth and healthier skin, Remember patience and consistency is key.

FACT: When you consume biotin, expect for your hair to grow EVERYWHERE and your nails to grow quicker than normal. Hair can only grow a certain length on the body (ex. pubic hair, leg hair, etc.), but you may experience stronger and thicker hair stands in those personal areas.

FACT: Biotin sources in food include: cooked egg yolk, sardines, oats, liver, brown rice, sunflower seeds, bananas, carrots, mushrooms, onions, cabbage, strawberries, milk, avocado, salmon, broccoli, grains.

FACT: The body forms antioxidants chemically in the body and makes enzymes to attack free radicals, which are harmful to the body! You have a choice to support the BAD FREE RADICALS (which can overpower the formation of antioxidants by eating poorly) or GOOD ANTIOXIDANTS (which stops harmful oxidation by incorporating food and vitamins that contain vitamins: A, D, E, K and C). Why is this important? FREE RADICALS harm HAIR, SKIN & NAILS

SUGGESTION: If you are a type A blood type, consider taking a higher dosage of B-Supplements. People with type A blood do not fully absorb B vitamins.

SUGGESTION: Washing your hair with a product containing BIOTIN is questionable. Biotin is not easily absorbed outwardly through the skin…reaping full benefits involves internally consumption with supplements and/or foods.

SUGGESTION: Look into pairing biotin with other vitamins to support cell growth: vitamin C, niacin, B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, magnesium (one of my favs.), zinc and protein – although this isn’t a vitamin it is the building block of hair, skin and nails. Increased intake = increased cell growth.

Proper Shaving Techniques: Avoid Ingrown Hairs

Everyone has individual preferences on the topic of facial and body hair. Some men and women like to embrace it while others loathe the appearance of hair and will go through any measure for removal. There are two primary methods of hair removal, which are depilation at the surface of the skin and epilation which is removal beneath the skin’s surface. Daily, I come across people that are simply afraid to experience waxing and laser methods. Although they typically last longer and result in smoother skin, many men and women favor the traditional shaving technique. With this technique, however, these men and women can encounter the dreaded effects of ingrown hairs. These little monsters are painful, irritating and honestly just ugly.

The best way to ward off ingrown hair is to first exfoliate the skin before shaving using an exfoliating topical product and a soft bristled brush. This helps loosen the skin and helps allow the hair to grow out of the follicle properly. This tool also helps point hair upward giving you a closer shave. Because of its powerful, yet gentle cleansing and exfoliation, it essential for targeting razor bumps/rash and ingrown hair. And when the skin can breathe, it treats you better.

How to Wet Shave…PROPERLY

Step 1: Collect materials

Sharp, clean razor with multiple blades

Shaving brush/ exfoliating scrub / loofah

Quality shaving cream shaving gel or oil

Hot towel

Aftershave balm/cream/oil


Step 2: Prep the skin

Before shaving exfoliate the skin to remove dead skin cells. This promotes a smoother surface. Apply exfoliating scrub in circular motions for about 1-2 minutes, then rinse. Be gentle and don’t scrub harshly.
Step 3: Soften the skin

Apply a warm towel on your face and allow the steam to soften the pores and the hair, making hair removal easier.
Step 4: Apply the shaving cream, evenly

Use preshave for coarse hair followed by shaving cream, which prevents chafing/rubbing that may be caused by applying the razor over your skin. It also moisturizes the skin and hair. If you are using a brush, apply a generous amount to the brush and use circular motions for at least a minute. Using a shaving brush, again, helps lift the hair which means easier removal and less ingrown hairs. For sideburns or goatees, use a clear gel or oil so that you can see where you are shaving.
Step 5: Use a sharp razor; do not rush

*Tip* invest in a men’s razor (such as a 2 or 3 blade) for those areas as they are designed to remove coarser hair…. suitable for men and women.

Never use a dull razor because it will drag along the skin and possibly leave you with a razor burn or rash…painful! Always shave in the same direction with the grain. Going one direction and then the other will cause the hair to make a sharp edge and promote irritation and ingrown. Hold the skin firmly and carefully use short, firm stokes. Be sure to rinse the razor after every 2-3 strokes.

The bikini line and some facial hair, especially around your chin, are usually coarser. Allow the cream to sit and soften before shaving. Consider shaving in the direction of hair growth; going opposite the grain may lead to ingrown hair and rash. For the lip area, curl your lip over your teeth and use short strokes in a downward motion.

Chest and underneath your arms: some people have hair growing in all directions. Examine your hair growth and shave in the direction of YOUR hair growth. Everyone’s hair does not grow downward.

Legs and arms: shave in the opposite direction of hair growth for maximal removal in these areas.

*TIP* shaving in the shower using a fog free mirror is great. The Steam will keep pores open and soften the hair, resulting in a smooth finish.

Step 6: Rinse and remove

Rinse with cool water to seal the pores and check for stray hairs, if you’ve missed a spot, remove with cream and the razor.

Step 7: Dry and Moisturize

Pat dry with a towel, rubbing causes friction and lint residue. After which, apply aftershave balm, oil or cream to calm the skin. Choose a product that minimizes redness, burns and irritation. Lastly, replenish the essential oils that were lost during shaving by applying a moisturizer and SPF to protect the freshly shaved skin.

Lastly, a day or two after shaving make sure you exfoliate again. Dead skin cells build up daily and it is important for us to keep the surface of the skin clear and smooth. If you happen to experience ingrown hairs, as more African Americans are more susceptible to experiencing, reevaluate your shaving technique and make adjustments. Secondly, consider purchasing an ingrown hair products such as pfb, tend skin or kity kity. If the problem persists, see your dermatologist or skincare therapist and think about other methods of hair removal.

Happy Shaving!


Popcorn Beauty

Let’s face it, we live in a microwave society where we want a hot gourmet meal with all the fixings, seasoned to perfection within two minutes and thirty seconds or the time to pop a bag of popcorn. In other words, many of us have been handicapped by convenience and as a result, taken on the mentality of gimmie what I want…Now! And it better be flawless.

This concept may be satisfactory when it comes to cuisine or even retail, but it is unreasonable when referring to personal skincare. When you begin a new regimen it is important to give the product’s ingredients time to produce change after initial usage. In addition, for best results you must be consistent with your daily regimen. With whatever condition you are looking to improve, remember that patience is key and overnight success is not probable. In fact, not allowing products their appropriate time allotment can result in your skin condition worsening; especially if you use product after product with active ingredients that may or may not mesh well with your skin.

So you ask, how long should I wait before changing or omitting a product? A general rule of thumb is to allow the skincare solutions six weeks to eight weeks before you begin to see results. Take into consideration that your skin has to have time to turnover its cells and shed dead skin. Depending on the product and the desired result, however, the suggested time may be longer depending on the strength and active ingredients. You should never abandon a regimen days after using it, due to lack of results. Also, never use more than is suggested of a particular product, thinking that you will see results faster. Too much of a good thing can potentially harm your skin, sometimes to a point of no return. Only abandon if the product produces a severe allergic reaction including extreme swelling, severe itching or burning, blisters, and/or beat red completion for longer than 24 hours.

*Note that products or ingredients may initially cause mild redness, itching or irritation, but should subside shortly after. In this case, allow your skin a few days to build a tolerance of such product or ingredient. Also, you may also choose to spot treat a condition once daily until your skin builds a tolerance, and then increase usage thereafter.*



Bumps Be Gone!

After being in the sun or sweating profusely after a good workout, have you ever experienced small red-like bumps or blisters on your body? Many people often refer to this condition as acne, however you may be experiencing the effects of a heat rash or sweat retention syndrome. This is not a fatal condition (so don’t freak out) but they can potentially be itchy, irritating and let’s not forget unattractive! Luckily, it is a condition that can be treated with proper care and consistency. When a heat rash occurs, your sweat glands aren’t evaporating the moisture to the surface of your skin effectively and that area has become inflamed. The salt from sweat has crystallized (become solid) with your pores and caused blockage (that’s why it’s a small bump filled with bacteria/dirt). So here’s a quick daily regimen to consider:

  1.  Regulate the temperatures you’re expose to as much as possible.
  2.  Wash with cool water and thoroughly dry the area of your body that is inflamed or keep wipes close by.
  3.  Keep your pores clear and clean. Treat the inflamed area with a product that contains salicylic acid such as toner, moisturizer or serum. These products remain on the skin and have time to penetrate….unlike facial wash that is washed off. Salicylic acid is normally used for acne but this ingredient cuts through oil and dirt, clears the pores and increases cell renewal which in turn promotes new, healthy skin.
  4.  Also, consider a calming or mild facial and body wash to decrease irritation.
  5.  Use an oil free moisturizer and an SPF of 20 or more. We need the sun to supply us with vitamin D, however we must beware of its harmful effects…therefore, always protect yourself.



How to Become Successful

I recently watched an inspirational YouTube video posted in 2012 by the great Tyler Perry himself.  In the video, he explains what it takes to become successful.  It was a very short but hugely relevant message that stopped me dead in my tracks and shed a bit of light on my obscure situation.  So often we complicate things that are meant to be simple and we are often left feeling disoriented.  I would like to share with you some key points that were enlightening to me and may assist you in your journey towards success. Granted, this is a subjective point of view coming from the heart of a Christian. Other successful people may have opposing beliefs to that of Mr. Perry. Nevertheless, lessons can be taken away from his commentary and applied to everyday life. Enjoy!

  1.  Realize that success is granted only by the grace of God and success will only happen when God believes that you can handle it.
  2.  Narrow your focus to one idea and make it work for you. In due time, other fruits will produce.
  3.  Plant the seed and water that particular area. Spreading water across many seeds causes you to not have as much water for that one seed.
  4.  Believe in your set goal and work diligently and honestly to see it come to pass.
  5.  Never give up on your baby (aka dreams). Always make it the priority and stick with it no matter what.

Mr. Perry made a very intriguing proclamation worth sharing. He stated, “There is no difference between my humanness and your humanness. The only thing is, if you’re trying to get there, you cannot stop believing in any way.” He goes on to say that when something is meant specifically for you, there is a feeling within your soul that will not allow you to let it go. That feeling, or Holy Spirit as I’d call it, will become the belief for you when you feel like giving up. I encourage you to reflect on these words and share with someone else.

“All you can do is plant the seed and water it – God Himself has to give the increase.”  – Tyler Perry