The first day of spring this year is March 20. If you're someone who hates cold weather, that's the good news. In the meantime, there are still several weeks ahead where you'll have to bear with the cold temperatures, bitter winds, and messy wet weather—things that can do a real number on your hair and skin if you're not careful. In order to make it all more tolerable, I thought it would be a good idea to offer up some really cheap and easy DIY beauty tips for you during these freezing times. Are you ready to get through the rest of the winter season?
1. Make a Water-Based Moisturizer
Does it seem like you can always write a word on your skin with your nails, no matter how much moisturizing you do? It could be that your moisturizer has the wrong kind of base. What I mean by that is some are made from oil while others are made from water. If you want to lock in as much moisture as possible, a water-based one is gonna be your best bet. Not only does a water-based moisturizer help to keep your skin moisturized longer, but it also helps it to replenish nutrients within it without clogging up pores (which could lead to breakouts) like oil-based ones can sometimes do. There are water-based moisturizers that you can buy at your local drug or department store; however, if you'd like to make your own, I found a pretty easy recipe right here.
2. Add Sugar to Your Shampoo and Honey to Your Conditioner
I don't know about y'all, but something that drives me up the wall about winter weather (and I'm actually a winter fan) is it tends to make my scalp a lot drier. Something that has helped to give me relief is putting some sugar into my shampoo. I'm dead serious. The granules of the sugar helps to exfoliate the scalp. Plus, if I use brown sugar since it's a humectant, it can help to pull more moisture from the air into my hair and scalp.
Speaking of humectants, something else that is one is honey. If you add some to your conditioner, it can make your hair extra soft, the alpha-hydroxy acids in it can also gently exfoliate your scalp and the properties in the honey can help to soothe your hair follicles and smooth out your hair's cuticles.
Also, honey has a way of adding sheen to your tresses too. How much of either? Eh. I'd say no more than two teaspoons in a full bottle is more than enough.
3. Use Dryer Sheets on Your Hair
This one might sound odd, but it really does work. Between the low humidity that winter weather can sometimes bring, along with all of the hats that many of us wear during this time of year, it's not uncommon for our hair to be more "static-y" than usual which can sometimes result in fly-aways (especially if your hair is relaxed). Something that can nip this in the bud is rubbing dryer sheets on your locks. They work because they are able to neutralize the charge in your hair. As a bonus, whatever scent the sheets are will transfer to your hair. A cool hack, indeed.
4. Switch Up Water Temperatures
Here's something that you may not have known before now. While it's pretty much a given that you should consume more water during the winter in order to stay hydrated from the inside out, did you know that the temperature that you drink is important too? The reality is that colder liquids will actually absorb much quicker into your system than ones that are hot or even room temperature. That's why, if you want to be hydrated for a longer period of time, it's best to go with the latter—especially if you're someone who spends a lot of time outdoors.
5. Bathe in Herbal Tea Bags
Question. When's the last time you took a bath in some herbal tea? If your answer is "never", you really are missing out. Tea baths can do everything from detox your skin and balance out your skin's tone to reduce inflammation and soothe psoriasis and eczema-related symptoms. During the winter season, another benefit to soaking in herbal tea is it helps to promote the rejuvenation of your skin's cells.
As a result, no matter how much the cold weather may try and wreak pure havoc on your skin, the herbs from the tea can help to keep your skin soft, protected and undamaged from the harsh weather and the UV rays from the sun.
All you need to do is put about five tea bags into a large pot of water. Bring everything to a boil and then let it steep for 20 minutes before allowing it to cool (at least to a temperature that you can stand). Then pour the tea into your bathwater and soak for another 20 minutes. If you do this twice a week, you will notice a real difference in your skin within a couple of weeks.
6. Seal Moisture in with Sweet Almond Oil
I'm all about sealing in my skin's moisture. Been doing it for years. I simply make sure to cover my body in some sort of oil, right before stepping out of the shower. I typically try and leave it on for a couple of minutes and then towel dry off. It's a great way to lock the oil into my skin so that no lotion (which really isn't the best thing for you anyway because it can clog your skin's pores and make it dull and sensitive over time) is needed.
While there are a few carrier oils that work well (avocado, rosemary and grapeseed come to mind), a personal favorite of mine is sweet almond oil. For one thing, sweet almond oil has vitamins A and E, along with essential fatty acids, proteins and zinc in it. Also, it's the kind of oil that fades scars, soothes dry hands and feet, dislodges impurities from your pores and deeply moisturizes so that your skin is soft and has a vibrant glow. If you don't do anything else on this list, do this. It's one of my favorite beauty regimens to-date. Not too many things top it.
7. Pamper Your Lips with Rose Petals and Almond Milk
Am I the only one who, no matter how much water I might drink, my lips still seem to get chapped? If you can totally relate, a hack that you might want to try is soaking some rose petals into a bowl of almond milk overnight. Rose petals are dope because they're loaded with Vitamin C (which is a powerful antioxidant) and they help your skin to retain moisture. Almond milk is great because, not only does it have antioxidants in it too, it also contains Vitamin E and magnesium—both of these are able to nourish your skin (including your lips) so deeply that chapping and chaffing are significantly decreased. Just mash the petals up the following morning and apply them onto your lips for about 10 minutes before rinsing them off. Your lips will feel silky smooth all day long.
8. Soak Your Feet in Mouthwash
When it comes to this specific DIY winter-related beauty hack, the key is to get Listerine mouthwash. Because it's so potent, the antifungal properties found in menthol and thymol that it contains can help to keep your feet smelling fresh. And if you soak those bad boys in a mixture of 1 ½ cup of Listerine, one cup of white vinegar and 2 ½ cups of warm distilled water for about 30 minutes, the combo will help to break up any stubborn dead skin that might be on your heels. All you need to do after soaking is rub your heels with a pumice stone and the dead skin should literally peel right off.
9. Pamper Your Tresses with Heavy Whipping Cream
Let me circle back to the hair for a moment. If you want a way to deep condition your hair with as little chemicals as possible, I know this might sound crazy, but you should definitely consider applying some heavy whipping cream to it. Not too long ago, I checked out a video that featured a pretty Ethiopian woman doing a tutorial that showed how to make a moisturizing hair butter out of nothing but heavy whipping cream and water and chile—it's right on up there with Chebe powder to me. It's apparently a traditional Ethiopian beauty treatment and since heavy whipping cream is full of protein, fat and lactose acid, it makes sense that it would soften the hair. Anyway, if you want to give it a shot, you can check out here video by clicking here.
10. DIY Some Cuticle Cream
Since outdoor air is colder and the indoor air is drier (because of the heat) during this time of the year, it should be no shocker that your nails are more susceptible to being brittle and breaking. That's why it's better to wear your natural nails at a shorter length and that you keep your cuticles moisturized with some cuticle cream. If you'd prefer to make your own, I found a recipe that consists of lavender and myrrh essential oils that is absolutely amazing. Lavender smells delightful, contains antifungal properties and soothes dry skin. Myrrh oil helps to fight infection, heals the skin and is loaded with antioxidants. If you apply a little bit of your DIY cream in the morning and again at night, your nails will be stronger and you'll decrease your chances of getting hangnails (which is always a bonus) too. You can get the recipe for this cuticle cream here.
11. Sleep in Shea Butter and Aloe Vera
If you're looking for a creamy kind of all-natural moisturizer that will have your skin feeling buttery smooth, you really can't go wrong with combining shea butter and 100 percent pure aloe vera. Shea butter is the fat that is taken out of the shea butter tree. It's rich in vitamins A and E, plus it has antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal properties in it. I can personally vouch for the fact that if you use it consistently, your skin will be really soft, your tone will even out, fine lines and wrinkles will fade, collagen production will increase and cells will regenerate.
Adding some pure aloe vera to it will give your skin a nice dose of vitamins C and E which increases skin elasticity, heals skin imperfections and hydrates your skin. Applying a half and half amount of the two to your skin every night can give your skin enough time for the combo to deeply moisturize for hours, so that your skin is as soft as ever, come morning.
12. Use Flannel Sheets
Speaking of bedtime, make sure you're sleeping on some flannel or (my personal favorite) jersey knit sheets. Not only can the warmth of them help to keep your electricity bills down but they both tend to be hypoallergenic, breathable and will help your skin to retain heat and the moisture that you add to it. Plus, they're comfortable as all get out if you prefer to sleep naked, even during the winter months. Just one more thing that can beautify your skin until the flowers start blooming and the birds begin chirps again.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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