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5 Lit AF Beauty Brands To Add To Your Black History Month Shopping List

With a market so saturated and so many lists, here's a short one of tried-and-true standouts.

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I've been a fan of black-owned beauty brands since the days when Ebony Fashion Fair was the only cosmetics company that truly catered to us (shout-out to my Granny) and when shea butter concoctions were sold on fold-out tables or in narrow shops on the streets of Harlem (1990s B.G. or Before Gentrification). Although several of the major black beauty-product pioneers have either passed away (S.I.P) or sold their shares to larger corporations, there are hundreds of independent black-owned or black-founded beauty lines and brands on the market today.

I have a thing for trying new beauty products, especially cosmetics and haircare lines launched by black women. The larger the beauty supply store or product section, the wider the selection---and the more euphoric the feeling of buying something just to see if it's better than the last 10 products I bought last month. I'd always follow all the "top" or "best" beauty product lists and clutter my bathroom and bedroom with dozens of products I probably didn't need or didn't really like. The market is super-saturated to the point where I've had to force myself to purge cabinet-fulls of half-used jars and bottles and bring an accountability partner with me on shopping trips for grooming necessities.

If you find yourself pacing the aisles of your local beauty supply this month, or you've gotten tired of falling down the rabbit-hole of YouTube reviews and "best" lists, here are a select few of my fave black-owned beauty brands you might want to consider spending your hard-earned coins on for Black History Month:

True Hair Care: Moisture Rich

Image via True Hair Care

Launched by hair extension vet and serial entrepreneur Karen Mitchell, this line features a product collection with the central ingredient being moisture-inducing keratin. Mitchell has more than a decade of experience in the hair industry---both as a licensed cosmetologist and entrepreneur--- with an extension line worn by celebs including Rihanna, Mary J. Blige, Winnie Harlow, and Lizzo, to name a few.

TV star Angela Simmons posted a video last year swooning about the True Hair Care detangling spray being a go-to product she uses to keep her hair in top shape under her weaves. My favorite is the Argan Oil Hair Mask, which has revived my tresses after years of color-abuse. I've used it while my TWA grows out after my 6th---yes 6th---big chop. My mom, who has a relaxed taper cut, and Granny (same) even use the products--having swiped them from my beauty cabinet, and I ain't even mad.

$22

The Shana Cole Collection

Image via The Shana Cole Collection

Jamaican-born and Bronx-bred Sushana Cole launched this line to provide a diversity of hues for black women in the U.S., Caribbean, and beyond. Getting the entrepreneurial bug as a child growing up in Kingston, Cole expanded her brand into a successful retail shop and used her products on the likes of celebrities including entertainment host Khadine "Miss Kitty" Hylton and dancehall artist Ce'cile.

What I love about this collection is that you can buy her beauty products---along with other beauty staples including lashes---via her company's app, a convenient and innovative way to purchase and keep up-to-date with new offerings. My fave--the Boss Chick Liquid Matte Lipstick--is smudge-proof and actually lives up to the brand's 15-hour wear time guarantee, lasting through a day of Sunday brunching and Monday lunching. I've even replaced the queen of reds, MAC's Ruby Woo, with this lipstick on several occasions. It goes on creamy but then dries matte but not crusty and it gives that precision hue to a pout that's sure to be noticed.

$18

BLK + GRN Marketplace

Image via BLK + GRN

OK, technically this isn't a product line but it's literally a modern mecca of black-owned product lines that include non-toxic and natural ingredients. Founded by Dr. Kristian Henderson, this marketplace features product lines made by artisans and carefully curated by black female health experts. You can shop by category and find goodies for your hair, nails, skin, and body that are plant-based and free of toxic additives. You can shop products formulated for children, and if you're a new mommy, there's something for you as well. Brands including Movita, founded by Tonya Lewis Lee---the wife of my favorite director, Spike--- and Kreyol Essence (a product fave that is great not only for your hair but for a few drops in a hot bath) founded by a proud Haitian woman named Yve-Car Momperousse.

The founder actually bootstrapped this platform on her own and has a vested interest in providing a responsible and vetted space for black female entrepreneurs to showcase and sell their green products. And she has receipts: She's worked as a health administrator and professor and her company runs with the adage, "We're Black, yes, but we live green." The company's Website goes beyond just selling products and invests in their customers' overall well-being, providing blog content on topics including how to "detox your skincare routine" and a podcast that includes interviews with beauty artisans.

$26

Walker & Co.

Image via The Form Collection

Tristan Walker, the mastermind behind this company, is an intriguingly smart innovator. I interviewed him in 2015 about his transition from working for tech powerhouse Foursquare to launching products that solved problems and "delivered the best product experience," and I've been following them ever since. I loved how invested, informed, and passionate he was about his vision and how that would manifest in the products he'd launch via Walker & Co. Many might be familiar with Bevel, a men's grooming system that combines products and tools that have been used by celebrities including Steve Harvey, Shaquille O'Neal, Nas, and T.D. Jakes.

But the company also has something for the ladies by way of The Form Collection, which includes serums, creams, conditioners, shampoos, a polisher, a pomade, and a gel. It even has a 3-in-1 leave-in lotion called the Multitask. The latter has a "coconut-derived silicon replacement," coconut, argan, avocado and grapeseed oils. Their products are also free of preservatives including alcohol, mineral oil, and parabens. The products have been used by stars including Yara Shahidi, and I like that the brand offers a 30-day, money-back trial.

If you like the products, you can also set up Auto-Ship and re-up. (So sis, you can forgo that umpteenth time of getting in the shower, ready to get your co-wash on, and forgetting you used the last dollop of conditioner a week ago.) The nozzle on the Clarify Detoxing Shampoo is a nice touch and saves me the added cost of something I've been doing for years: buying separate bottles to dispense my fave products in because I wanted to really get the product into the nooks and crannies.

$22

Mielle Organics

Image via Mielle Organics

This brand offers hair and skin products, but beyond that, I especially love the glow-up of its founder Monique Rodriguez. She was a registered nurse when she decided to step into the haircare game and, since 2015, her products have been available in more than 80 countries. Early enthusiasts included reality TV stars Rasheeda Frost, Draya, and Yandy Smith, and today, singer Sammie raves about it as a unisex product he's added to his regimen. The brand was inspired by Rodriguez's own journey to restore her natural hair after years of color and heat damage, and she used her background in science to experiment with formulas in order to come up with just the right mix.

Her brand is another I've followed since its inception---both from a business and product standpoint---and I fell in love with Mielle's Honey & Ginger Styling Gel which has helped ween me---somewhat---off of the usual brown or "green" (won't drop the names here, but you know what I'm talking about) gels. I'd gotten tired of mixing oil with the usuals that would dry out my 3c/4a curls. (I don't care how much they say those popularly-talked-about gels are non-flaking and moisturizing. I can never go without adding some sort of oil to those gels.) This alternative definitely fits the bill for days when I want to slick my thick curls up into a sleek ponytail or, when my hair is short, create waves for a short chic 'do.

$13

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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Mj Rodriguez has been giving us all of our lives since she emerged on our screens as the ever-so-fabbbulous Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista in Pose, in 2018. Since, she has captured the hearts of many all over the world, from LGBTQ advocates, to everyone in between. The beloved series officially came to a heart-wrenching end, after three seasons of tackling homelessness, sex work, the rejection that the trans community deals with on a daily basis and combined it with heart and dance to captivate millions around the world weekly.

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Sometimes, when things are a little "off" when it comes to our health, there are simple steps that we can take to get ourselves back on track. For instance, did you know that around 92 percent of Americans are considered to be vitamin or mineral deficient in some way? And since there are core nutrients that all of us need in order to function properly, it's important that we're aware of what certain deficiencies are directly linked to.

Today, that is the focus. Here are eight health-related issues that, oftentimes, if we'd just add more of a vitamin or mineral into our system, we will start to feel better in no time (technically a couple of weeks but you get my drift).

1. Muscle Cramping

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Something that happens randomly to me sometimes is I'll have a muscle that cramps up, seemingly out of nowhere. Then I'll snack on a banana and start to feel better. You know why? It's because bananas are high in potassium and potassium is a nutrient that our system needs in order for our muscles to easily contract. If you sweat a lot or don't have enough fluids in your system, you can become a high candidate for being potassium deficient. As far as how much your body requires on a daily basis, it's somewhere between 3,000-4,000 mg a day. Foods that are a good source of this mineral (that is also an electrolyte) include mushrooms, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and lentils.

2. Lip Cracking

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If your PMS is off the chain or you've been catching a lot of colds lately, it could be because you need some more Vitamin B6 in your life. However, a telling sign that this is almost definitely the case is if the corners of your lips are cracking or even if your tongue feels a bit swollen.

The main thing to keep in mind with this point is if you're noticing indications that you could stand to have more Vitamin B6, there's a pretty good chance that your system has gotten close to totally running out. And just how much does your body need of this vitamin on the daily? About 1.3 mg. Up it up to 1.5 mg if you're over the age of 50.

Foods that are loaded with Vitamin B6 are peanuts, poultry, oats, avocados and pistachios.

3. Brittle Nails

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If it seems like no matter how much pampering you do to your nails, they are brittle and breaking, that could be an indication that you are low in iron and/or Vitamin C. The reality is that just our periods alone can make us vulnerable to having lower iron levels. And just how much should you be getting into your system? A lot of healthcare professionals recommend somewhere around 14.8 mg each day. As far as the Vitamin C goes, not only can you have brittle nails when you're not getting enough of it, this is a nutrient that makes it easier for your body to absorb iron too. 75 mg per day of it is recommended (120 mg each day if you're pregnant or are breastfeeding). Foods that are high in iron include beef, dark leafy greens, quinoa, pumpkin seeds and broccoli. Foods that are a good source of Vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, potatoes, berries and Brussel sprouts.

4. Allergy Symptoms

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If you've got allergy symptoms that are driving you totally up the wall or you're someone who deals with asthma or eczema, these things can be so much worse for you if you are low in omega-3. Long story short, they're fatty acids that pretty much every part of our body needs from our skin and hair to our reproductive system and our heart. Matter of fact, I actually read once that if you tend to have an excessive amount of earwax, that can also be a heads up that omega-3 is lacking. As far as how much is good for you, 1.1 grams daily is enough. And as far as foods that have omega-3 in them, those would be walnuts, spinach, salmon, chia seeds and eggs.

5. Weakness

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Magnesium is both a mineral as well as an electrolyte that helps to regulate muscle and nerve functions and keep your blood sugar in balance. Well, when you don't have enough magnesium in you, it can cause you to experience extreme amounts of fatigue and weakness. A part of the reason why is because magnesium is what helps to keep your potassium levels where they should be. So, when your potassium levels are low, your muscles will not perform with as much strength as they should. Somewhere around 315 mg each day is what your system requires. Foods that are loaded with magnesium include whole grains, pumpkin seeds, halibut, bananas and dark chocolate.

6. Hair Loss

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One of the main things that all of us need in order for our hair to flourish is zinc. It's a mineral that assists with hair tissue growth and repair, fights dandruff and, it also helps your scalp to produce the sebum that it needs for your hair follicles to remain healthy. That's why it makes a lot of sense that if you're low in zinc, you could possibly suffer from some hair loss or, the very least, hair breakage. What can keep your tresses in good condition is if you consume around 8 mg of zinc daily. Foods that are high in it include Greek yogurt, cashews, black beans, sesame seeds and kale.

7. Sleepiness

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OK, if you're out here getting less than six hours a night on a consistent basis, that's probably not an indication that you are lacking a nutrient; what that probably means is you are sleep deprived.

However, if it seems like no matter how much sleep you get at night and/or naps you take during the day, you are still sleepy as all get out, what that could be telling you is that you are low in Vitamin B12. I can personally attest to this because I was sleepy a lot (and I get no less than six hours a night and sometimes a nap) until I started taking a B12 supplement. When you're low in this vitamin, it can trigger sleepiness or even sleeplessness because it plays a significant role in maintaining your energy levels.

It's kinda crazy that a lot of us are Vitamin B12 deficient when most of us only need .002 mg a day of it. Anyway, foods that are a good source of this nutrient include liver, fortified cereals, shellfish, nutritional yeast and milk alternatives (like almond or oat milk).

8. Food Cravings

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Last fall, I wrote an article about signs that you've got a sugar addiction going on (you can check it out here). One indication is if you're constantly wanting to eat sweets all of the time. Well, along these same lines, if you're experiencing food cravings, that too could mean that you've not some nutrient deficiencies happening. Sweets typically mean that you can stand to have more magnesium or tryptophan. Fatty foods mean you need more calcium. Red meat, caffeine or the desire to chew ice means you're low in iron. Salt is oftentimes connected to dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance.

Wanting to eat bread all of the time could also mean that you could use a tryptophan boost (because you are looking for something to make you feel better and bread is a comfort food. Tryptophan helps to produce the feel-good hormone serotonin so that you don't want bread as much). Foods that are high in tryptophan include tuna, cheese, turkey, milk and apples.

While I certainly wasn't able to tackle all of the nutrient deficient-related issues that exist, take this as a bit of an intro cheat sheet. Again, if you are currently experiencing any of these issues, try getting more vitamins and minerals into your system. You might be surprised just how big of an impact...a little bit of tweaking can make.

Join our xoTribe, an exclusive community dedicated to YOU and your stories and all things xoNecole. Be a part of a growing community of women from all over the world who come together to uplift, inspire, and inform each other on all things related to the glow up.

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I can honestly say that I haven't used Cantu since I went natural back in 2016. It's not that I don't like the brand — let's be honest, Cantu is the holy grail brand that a lot of us probably started our natural hair journey with. It was and still is affordable, accessible, and effective haircare. I somewhat strayed away though because it's very easy to get caught up in trying different brands that some products honestly just get lost in the sea of haircare. Nevertheless, Cantu has dropped a few collections that I couldn't help but try. One of their most recent drops is the Jamaican Black Castor Oil line which works for all hair types but is made with 4C hair in mind.

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Born between December 22nd and January 19th, these Saturnians are notorious for being pragmatic workaholics who are constantly striving to reach the peak of their proverbial mountain of acclaim and success. Ruler of the 10th house, Capricorn is no stranger to grind as they are internally driven by their duty to fulfill their obligations.

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As the sun shines and the weather heats up, we're inching closer to a breakout summer like no other. With most of us excited to be outdoors with our loved ones, it's time to get into the looks we've been mentally preparing for the past year and a half sitting at home. While I've gotten accustomed to the basic black and heather grey combinations from the loungewear overload we experienced, those dark days are finally over and I'm ready to brighten up my summer wardrobe.

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