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A Brown Girl's Top-Down Spring Cleaning Guide

Experts in hair, skincare, style and fitness offer tips on how women of color can switch things up.

Oftentimes, the phrase “spring cleaning” is immediately associated with a weekend-long spree of knees-on-the-floor scrubbing, sorting, tossing and rearranging within one’s home, but it should be a little deeper than that. Yes, pristine living quarters are an ideal way to step from one season to the next, but that same fixer-upper dedication should also be applied to the self.

Self-care in 2019, especially for women of color, has become paramount. Audre Lorde said it best back in 1988 within the pages of A Burst Of Light: And Other Essays: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare."

In addition to caring for their well-being in terms of personal space, it’s also important for women of color to take care of their bodies and rejuvenate them from the top down as they would their closets before the summer sun hits. We tapped four experts in hair, skincare, fashion, and fitness to offer nuggets of advice for how to spring clean their habits to get to their brightest, boldest, healthiest and happiest selves for the rest of the year.

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Hair, as told by celebrity hairstylist Ursula Stephen

 

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If you have shrinkage, you might as well embrace it in heat and humidity.
You can't fight Mother Nature, but it's very important to invest in products that are geared towards shrinkage because they are making a lot of things for that. If you keep trying to make it be the thing that it's not, your hair's going to get depressed. You need to give it the love that it needs for what it's going through at the moment. Just like with your skin, your nails, it changes every season. It often changes every couple of years. I think it's a matter of paying attention to what your hair is doing and rolling with it. You have to grow with your hair and learn to understand it and work with it. Invest in a good diffuser. If you have shrinkage, after you pull out your twist outs or your braid outs, what you can do is, after you shake everything out, you unravel it. What the diffuser does is it helps to stretch the hair. It doesn't put direct heat on the hair. It doesn't move the hair around. That's another way of combating shrinkage. Another thing is just embracing it.

Don’t be scared to decorate and accessorize your 4C textured hair.
I think accessories are a big deal. I think I've been pushing accessories for years, I've been trying to get more red carpets and now finally people are using a lot of accessories. I think it's another way to excite yourself about your 4C hair because people are going through a lot. I know girls with shrinkage, [and] I think adding accessories, headbands, and scarves is a way to accessorize it and also get excited about the hair. Dress it up for the summer time.

Staple braid looks can lead to more fun, bold protective styling.
If you feel like it's something you really can't deal with [shrinkage] visually, the summertime is an amazing idea to do alternative styles like braids, and weaves, and getting extension pieces to extend your top knot. You can't hack Mother Nature, so you have to figure out how to work with it. I think long, box braids are a great way [the warm up to protective styles]. If you do long ones, and you're not used to wearing long weaves or whatever, that's your segue into your long hair but it's still keeping up with your natural self. I think doing something like braids, like long braids, or crochet braids, that still gives you movement are a good way to trick your mind, or slowly getting to a different look. I think braids are a good segue into long, box braids. You always notice girls that have long weaves, they're attached to their weaves and you know they're nervous to take it out, they always go to braids. It still gives them the natural feel, but also gives care, so it feels alright.

 

Skincare, as told by aesthetic medicine specialist Dr. Barbara Sturm

 

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When seasons swap, switch it up with skincare.
The misconception is that darker skin is bulletproof. The reality is the Achilles heel of darker skin is a greater sensitivity to the inflammation cascade. Inflammation can be easily triggered in darker skin, so it is essential to avoid inflammation triggers, such as aggressive ingredients in skincare, lasers, acid peels, inflammatory foods, smoking, sun and pollution exposure, and excessive drinking. Women of color need to remain vigilant against inflammation and all its triggers. This means in summer, or confronted with inflammation-inducing sun exposure, it is important to wear a high SPF sunscreen. I recommend a good Anti-Pollution serum year round, but springtime is filled with a natural air pollutant: pollen, which is inflammatory and can wreak havoc on unprotected skin. In warmer months, I recommend using a lighter formulation of moisturizer. In colder months, strong barrier protection is needed against harsh elements that also trigger inflammation. A higher lipid content moisturizer is recommended during the cold season. Strong anti-inflammatory skin care is required 365 days a year, and lasers and acid peels should also be avoided year round due to their inflammatory effects.

Spoiling yourself with facials is more than okay, but quick fix skin regimens can make matters worse.
A facial is a luxurious necessity. In the right hands and using the right ingredient science, a facial cleanses, nourishes, and awakens the skin, while reducing inflammation and hyper-pigmentation, evening out irregularities in the skin, and strengthening the skin matrix. The ideal everyday skin maintenance regime improves the skin matrix and avoids the need for too much “corrective action,” which if aggressive, can trigger inflammation. I would never use a peel with any skin type, but darker skin needs to be especially careful to avoid post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and other dysfunction that can result from these “quick fix” approaches. I do not ever recommend a chemical peel for darker skin. A mask can be healing, hydrating and full of antioxidants and nutrition and should be used several times a week as a skin corrector. Serums, like my Darker Skin Tones Hyaluronic Serum, are one of the most essential elements of my regime and corrects the skin immediately while combating inflammation and oxidation.

It’s still possible (and preferable) to glow without a full makeup beat.
Summertime skin care means high lipid-content moisturizers can stay in the cabinet. A lighter formulation is appropriate for the warmer months and depending on one’s own sebum production and the climate, my serum may suffice as a moisturizer, which also contains Lumicol, a complexion brightening and skin evening ingredient. I am a fan of healthy skin that doesn’t require too much makeup, and makeup itself can contain aggressive ingredients triggering the inflammation that darker skin tones are uniquely sensitive to. To make my makeup pop or even instead of makeup on a hot summer night, I use my Glow Drops, which provide both anti-inflammatory anti-aging benefits and shimmer particle-delivered glow.

 

Style, as told by supermodel Chanel Iman

 

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Revamping your wardrobe is a lot simpler than you think.
I always keep my favorites. I always put them away when it’s wintertime, then bring them back for the spring, and then mix-and-match with different accessories. That’s what I do to make it look new again. Try it with a different shoe, or instead of wearing a heel or a tennis shoe with it, try to make it different than how I wore it the last year.

 

Fitness, as told by STRONG By Zumba co-creator Ai Lee Syarief

 

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Despite the heat of summer, sneak in fun ways to stay active and healthy.
I think the most important thing is that you do something where you have fun. Don't do something where you think, I have to do it because everybody's doing it, or it's like, Oh, I heard this is good. Let's just try it. In the beginning, you do it, but if you don't have fun, if you don't really enjoy it, you wouldn't do it. Make sure you do something where you have fun. Make sure you do something with your friend because if you're two, if you're three, it keeps you motivated. If you're only, "OK, I'm at home I'm doing a workout," and then today I'm like, "Aw, should I do it or not?" Or "should I go to the gym?" Make sure you have somebody, friends, do something you really love, too. And you know the whole package—workout, good sleep. Sleeping is very, very good. Make sure that you have a really good, balanced nutrition, and then I think you're going to be fine for summer.

Pushing through crappy weather days to get a quick sweat in is a motivation booster.
Even on the bad windy days, I don't feel like it's something bad. I mean, I love fresh air. For me even if it's windy, let's just go out. Be motivated and do something you love. That is going to push you very much. I think that STRONG by Zumba, what motivates you is the music. Find a factor that you really love. When results come, whatever the results are, you will get even more motivated. You do it, you love it, you see your results whatever they are and then you go like "OK, let's push through."

Additional reporting by Desire Thompson.

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Best Of VIBE Vixen's Boss Talk Podcast: Saweetie, Amara La Negra And More On Making Boss Moves

VIBE Vixen's Boss Talk podcast amplifies the voices of women and she/her-identifying individuals in their respective industries as they discuss their journeys toward becoming the bosses we know today. From their demeanor and confidence and persevering through life’s pitfalls to make a name for themselves in their own way, being a boss is much more than 'just running sh*t.'

We rounded up some of our favorite pieces of advice from our first few episodes! Our bosses so far have ranged from rappers (Saweetie and Kash Doll), to authors (Karyn Parsons) to activists (Peppermint). Each of the bosses invited on the show have had some incredible journeys, and we thank them for giving us insight into how they've become the bosses they are today.

Whether they're thanking their mothers for inspiring them to be their best (like Amara La Negra), or chalking up some boss moves to being their authentic selves (Bevy Smith), this retrospective episode focuses on the awesome words these bosses have shared with us thus far.

Listen below to our "Best Of..." episode as well as all of the episodes of Boss Talk Podcast. Be on the lookout for new episodes coming soon.

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Andrea Kelly Says She's Been Attacked For Calling Out R. Kelly's Behavior

Andrea Kelly has found it hard to march for women as they continue to support her polarizing ex-husband, R. Kelly.

The former choreographer shared her sentiments on an upcoming episode of Growing Up Hip Hop: Atlanta shared on Entertainment Tonight. Speaking with close friend Debra Antney, Kelly tearfully expressed her frustrations with her ex-husband and praised Antey for sticking by her side.

The former couple was previously in a child support battle for their children Joann, 21, Jay, 19, and Robert, 17. During the time of filming, Kelly owed $161,000 in back child support to his ex. In May, it was reportedly paid off by a mysterious donor.

"When I think about the ways that I have been abused by Robert, from being hogtied, having both of my shoulders dislocated, to being slapped, pushed, having things thrown as me, the sexual abuse, the mental abuse, words can't even describe," she said.

In addition to the child support case, Kelly was charged with 11 felony counts of sexual assault. He's pleaded not guilty despite reported evidence of videotapes that reportedly show the entertainer engaging in sexual acts with minors. Andrea tells Antey how difficult the process has been for her since speaking out about Kelly's behavior in the Lifetime docu-series, Surviving R. Kelly. 

"Here I am, putting myself in a position because I want to help women, and they are attacking me," she said. "There's some things that I don't even speak anymore, that I feel like, once you give it to God, you better leave with God, because if I don't leave it with God, I'm definitely going to be somewhere with my hands on the glass, visiting my children every other Sunday."

Growing Up Hip Hop: Atlanta airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on WEtv.

Watch the clip here.

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Baby Tress' Edge Styler Ensures Women Of Color Will Always Shake The Beauty Table

"Do you have edge control in here?"

It's an inquiry my niece asked me over the weekend as we got ready for our cousin's graduation. Atlanta's heat is friendly but mixed with nimbus clouds, frizz (and thunderstorms) are on the horizon. Given the circumstances, a high bun seems to be the best choice for me and my niece, a slick-back style with extra attention to our baby hairs. It's typical for either one of us to grab a toothbrush to slick and swoop our edges with pomade or gel, but with The Baby Tress Edge Styler, the process is easier and equally as stylish.

Created by boutique communications agency Mama Tress, the styler is everything baby hair dreams are made of. It's also a testament to the rise of the "style" in popular hair culture. With a dual comb and brush top, its pointed tip elevates a consumer to baby hair connoisseur.

But the styler isn't something created to appropriate black culture or piggyback on what boosts the most likes on social media. The handy styler was created by Mama Tress CEO Hannah Choi and her team consisting of other women of color like public relations coordinator Mariamu "Mimi" Sillah. The New York native tells VIBE Vixen the styler was made as a gift for an event they hosted but its intentions to propel black hair were always present.

"We try to make it clear that this is for women of color. Because we all understand the history of baby hair, we all have connections, we all have stories, we all do it differently, some people swoop it; if you see some of my coworkers they do the swirls," she said. "This is a product that we want everyone to see and think, 'I don't need to be using a toothbrush. I deserve more than a toothbrush.' This is a tool made thoughtfully with women of color in mind and we are women of color who came up with the idea because we know what we need."

Coming in six different colors, the styler's bristles are stronger than a typical toothbrush and give anyone's edges a look all their own. Over the years, styled baby hairs have gotten the white-washed celeb treatment. From the runways of New York Fashion Week to fans of black culture like Kim Kardashian, its recent love affair among popular culture crosses out its rich roots.

Many have attributed the actual rise of baby hairs to the '70s with pioneers like LaToya Jackson and Sylvia Robinson of CEO Sugar Hill Records sporting their luxurious edges with Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas being the all-time queen. Recent entertainers like Ella Mai and FKA twigs have made them fun and creative. There are also the many Latinx and black around the way queens who have kept the culture alive.

 

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“Our tool is more than a beauty product, it’s a conversation starter," Choi, who is of Korean descent, previously told fashion site Beauty Independent. "There are nuances of someone’s world that you won’t see if you’re not part of that community. And we felt that the conversation around why this market is so underserved should be brought to light and talked about. We are seeing such a big change now in fashion and beauty in terms of representation, and we want to be able to have that conversation without it being heavy. We want it to be approachable. Our brand is very approachable.”

When it comes to moving in the black hair space, Sillah feels empowered at Mama Tress. It also makes it easy to develop black hair tools like the styler. "I feel like my voice is listened to because I am a consumer of all these things. It's empowering to be in a position to have more control," she said. "If we're being honest, a lot of the black hair spaces are not owned by people who look like us. To be in a position where I can say "No, don't create this product, we don't wear things like this,' or 'Actually you should name it this because this resonates with this community,' I'm an advocate for my community. That's part of the reason why Baby Tress was created because it's about a larger conversation, about things not being thoughtfully made for us."

Baby Tress' next steps are to make the styler accessible to consumers and create even more products dedicated to black women.

“We need to be in retail spaces because this is a product you need to see up close and touch it and play with it,” said Shannon Kennard, account executive at Mama Tress tells Glossy. “Everyone who tries it falls in love with it.”

Sillah is more than ready for women of color to elevate their beauty regimen, one creation at a time. The future of Baby Tress includes an array of more products designed with women of color in mind.

"Anything that has to do with baby hair, we can bring to Baby Tress and make it beautifully designed and effective," she said.  "That's what this is about. It's about that step up. Again, we should not be using a toothbrush anymore."

Learn more about Baby Tress here.

 

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