Damn y'all. Where did the year go? I mean, I get that on some levels, 2020 has seemed like the longest decade ever—but then, on the flip side, it also seems kind of crazy that it's time to pull out our sweaters and winterize our house so that our electricity bill doesn't skyrocket. And then there's our skin. Fall and winter seasons are the time of year when it can be a little more challenging than usual to keep it moisturized and feeling super soft to the touch.
That's where today's beauty article comes in. If you want to give your skin the kind of TLC that, deep down, you know that it truly deserves, I've got some all-natural approaches that will make you happy that fall is officially here—no matter how much cold weather it brings right along with it.
1. Don’t Use Soap. At All.
Off the rip, you would think that soap would actually be a good thing, right? Well, when it comes to washing your hands during a pandemic, it is. But when it comes to using it to clean your body overall, it's absolutely not. For starters, soap not only kills bad bacteria but also the good kind that protects your skin from microbes that are unhealthy. On top of that, soap also strips away the lipids that help to keep your skin soft while providing a protective layer on it. And third, soap is loaded with chemicals (like carcinogens), and since your pores absorb what you put into your skin, you can probably see why that is highly problematic too.
OK, but not washing is nasty, so what should you do? Cleansing oils are a great alternative. They're basically cleaning agents that have an oil base to them so that your skin doesn't end up dry and irritated (Allure has a list of some of the top commercial oil cleansers here). Something that I've been a personal fan of for years is Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Soap because it lacks unhealthy ingredients and it's got essential oils in it. Or, you can always step out and make your own body wash. When it comes to washing your body, you can get some tips on how to make a cleansing wash by checking out this video. As far as washing your vaginal area, check out "Love On Yourself With These 7 All-Natural DIY Vaginal Washes".
2. Exfoliate with a Homemade Coffee Scrub
You end up shedding somewhere between 30,000-40,000 skin cells a day! Aside from that being a good enough reason to change your bedding on a weekly basis, it's also why you should incorporate dry brushing into your body maintenance route. It's also why you should exfoliate your body with a scrub as well. After all, the less dead skin you've got, the easier it will be for your newer layers to show—and to glow.
While a brown sugar scrub is a favorite of mine because brown sugar is a humectant that is able to pull moisture into your skin, today I wanna shout out coffee scrubs instead. They're dope because coffee helps to increase blood circulation throughout your system, reduces the appearance of cellulite, contains properties that are anti-aging, and is proven to even help to improve your skin's tone over time. This means that no matter how harsh the weather may be outside, your skin can still look amazing if you add a little bit of coffee to it.
If this is something that you'd like to try, all you've gotta do is combine one cup of coffee with a ½ cup of brown sugar, a cup of virgin olive oil (it's loaded with antioxidants) and two teaspoons of vanilla essential oil (it's loaded with anti-inflammatory properties). Mix well, apply to damp skin, massage gently, let it sit for five minutes, and rinse thoroughly. Your skin will immediately feel super smooth and smell out of this world too.
3. “Seal” Your Skin After Stepping Out of the ShowerA lot of times, in the area of beauty, whenever the topic of "sealing" comes up, it's usually in the context of sealing our hair's ends. But I'll tell you what—when I started "sealing my body", my skin started to feel next level! This process is extremely simple. All you've gotta do is make sure to have an oil like sweet almond, coconut, grapeseed, avocado or argan oil (all light oils that are packed with nutrients) nearby so that, once you step out of the bath or shower, the water that is on your skin will get "sealed in" by a layer of oil that you put on top of it. Just allow the oil to sit for a couple of minutes and then dry off like usual. Your skin will remain silky smooth until the next time you step into your bathtub.
4. Treat Your Face to Some Honey, Figs and Coconut Milk
From what I've read, figs are at their best in two seasons—June and then August thru October. Since they're such a good source of vitamins A and K, along with potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper, that already makes them something that is good for you to eat. But as far as your skin goes, fig oil's got omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 in it which are fatty acids that can have your face and neck feeling off-the-charts soft and smooth. If you add to the fig oil some honey, its antibacterial and antiseptic properties will remove deeply embedded bacteria as its antioxidants will encourage the production of collagen. Finally, bringing coconut milk into the mix is smart because its Vitamin C will improve your skin's elasticity while its copper will help to keep your skin from sagging as it fades age spots and discoloration too.
A half-cup of coconut milk, two tablespoons of honey and a teaspoon of fig oil will create a mixture that you can apply to your skin with a cotton ball after washing your face. Let it sit for 10 minutes and then rinse with cool water (to close up your pores); your face will be ready for whatever the outdoor weather has awaiting it.
5. Do an Herbal Tea Steam Treatment
Speaking of giving your face an at-home spa treatment, when's the last time you steamed it? Steaming not only feels super soothing but it can also open up your pores so that anything that's clogged up in them will easily dislodge itself. Some other perks to face steaming is it increases blood circulation, hydrates your skin and also promotes the production of collagen and elastin. While you'll already be doing your face (and neck; don't forget your neck!) a big favor by using water alone, you'll be giving it an extra treat if you add 2-3 herbal tea bags to the water too. Some herbal teas that are excellent for your skin include rose (it contains lots of antioxidants); hibiscus (it fights off free radicals); dandelion (it's a great detoxifier); chamomile (it contains anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antimicrobial properties); licorice root (it has amino acids that deeply moisturize your skin); Burdock root (it contains phenolic acid, luteolin, and quercetin that helps to prevent wrinkles), and green tea (its micronutrients will keep your skin looking young and fresh).
Matter of fact, if you want to give your entire body the herbal tea treatment, steep a combo of these bags and let them cool. Then pour them into your bathwater. Every inch of your skin will thank you for it.
6. Make a DIY a Scented Moisturizer
Aside from the fact that fall already dips in humidity which means that your skin is subjected to being drier than usual, you need to moisturize your skin on a daily basis because it helps to keep your new cells healthy and thriving. While some dermatologists actually frown upon moisturizers, I'd venture to say that they take issue with actual lotion because of how thick it is and all of the chemicals that the commercial brands contain. But honestly, if you simply blend one cup of whipped shea butter, four tablespoons of virgin olive oil, two tablespoons of coconut oil and 15 drops of an essential oil, you've got all that you need to give your skin the additional moisture that it longs for during this time of the year.
As far as the essential oils go, if you want to smell like the autumn season, add some apple, pomegranate, sandalwood, patchouli or pumpkin. Pumpkin is really the lick because, studies have revealed, that combining it with lavender essential oil can speed up a man's erection by as much as 40 percent. (Exactly.)
7. Create a Lavender, Avocado and Jojoba Oil Blend (for Your Hands)
Other than when you've got your gloves or mittens on, there's probably no other part of your skin that will take a beating from the fall and winter weather more than your hands. "Baby" them by applying a mixture of lavender, avocado and jojoba oil to them. Lavender essential oil is wonderful because it has antibacterial properties that will help to keep your hands clean, along with anti-inflammatory properties that will soothe your skin after you come in from the bitter cold. Something else that's cool about lavender oil is it's able to properly balance your skin's moisture so that your hands won't be too oily or too dry. Avocado oil is wonderful because it's high in Vitamin E, potassium, linoleic acid, oleic acid, and other monounsaturated fatty acids that are ideal for treating and healing chapped skin. And jojoba oil is a great source of vitamins B and E, as well as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that will pamper your skin. Plus, jojoba oil is really good for our nails and cuticles too.
Just combine a half cup of avocado oil with a half cup of jojoba oil and add 10 drops of lavender oil. Then apply it to your hands in the morning and evening. They'll feel baby soft and have a nice relaxing scent to them as well.
8. Massage Orange Oil onto Your Feet
One of the reasons why I make sure to get a professional pedicure, year-round, is because the heels of my feet get all dried and cracked if they don't receive some extra special lovin' on a consistent basis. If you can totally relate but your budget is currently a little tight, I wrote an article on how you can do some DIY pedicuring that you can check out right here. Or, if you simply want something that will provide your feet with a little extra moisture, how about applying some orange oil to them? It has antimicrobial properties in it that helps to detoxify your system and pores; it deeply nourishes dry and/or irritated skin; it contains anti-inflammatory properties (if your feet happen have be slightly swollen from being on them all day) and, it's got anti-fungal properties if your feet are susceptible to fungal infections. Not to mention the fact that orange oil has an invigorating scent to put you in a great mood if seasonal depression has you feeling a little on the lower side.
9. Restore Your Skin's pH Balance with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Did you know that the normal pH level balance of our skin is between 4.7 and 5.75? The reason why this is relevant is that, oftentimes, we apply things on our skin that are either way too high (above 7 is alkaline) or much too low (below 7 is acidic). So say, for instance, you purchase a product with a pH level of 9. If you continually use it, it can end up totally drying your skin out and stripping it of its natural moisture. While this is never good, it's especially not beneficial during the fall and winter seasons.
Something that you've probably already got in your kitchen cabinet that is great when it comes to keeping your skin's pH balance right where it should be is olive oil. It is brimming over with antioxidants that help to keep your skin healthy. Olive oil also has omega-3 and polyphenols that are able to deeply moisturize your skin without clogging up your pores in the process. It contains natural anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties if you happen to have skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis. And yes, it helps to keep your skin levels well-balanced too. The reason why I mentioned extra virgin olive oil specifically is that it's made from pure olives and not a blend of cold-pressed and processed oils (like regular olive oil is). The purer your olive oil is, skin-wise, the better.
10. Sleep with Shea Butter on Your Lips
I don't know about y'all but, personally, I don't know if there are too many things more irritating during the colder part of the year than freakin' chapped lips. And although I am definitely a lip gloss junkie, I have honestly not found a better moisturizer, lip protectant or even lip primer for lipstick than shea butter. Between its high concentration of vitamins A, E and F, antioxidants and fatty acids, shea butter really does provide all that you need for your lips to be kissable, soft and smooth. Apply a layer of it to your lips before turning in every night and they'll remain moisturized whether you've got a humidifier (which is also a good idea during the fall and winter because it will keep dry heat from drying you out) or not.
Welcome to the colder part of the year, everybody!
Are you a member of our insiders squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!
Featured image by Unsplash
Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Whether it was your group chat, social media feed, or your favorite media outlet covering the spectacle, I’m pretty sure you’ve come across the viral Black wedding between actress KJ Smith (Sistas, Raising Kanan) and actor Skyh Black (All the Queen’s Men, Sistas). From their grand entrance to Jay-Z, Kayne West, and Beyoncé’s song “Lift Off” to KJ’s standout dance routine and the endless celebrity appearances, it’s an addictive TikTok scroll you can’t help but delve into.
But what many people would be surprised to know is that the couple’s original wedding plan was nothing like what it grew to be. What started as her simply scrolling through posts to get ideas eventually transformed into what the internet knows now as #TheBlackExperience. In an exclusive conversation with xoNecole, KJ walked us through her planning process, the morning of her wedding, and what she thinks of the online response.
Some women have their whole wedding planned out, from the bridal gown and venue to the bridal party and playlist. However, KJ was not one of those people. “I didn’t foresee a wedding in my future,” she reveals. “I was just gonna be the boss chick, rich auntie. I didn’t force love in my life until recently. I never had an idea of what a dream wedding would look like, it was easier for me to elope.”
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
And to many people’s surprise, that was their original plan – until Skyh brought up a valid concern. He was raised by his grandmother and thought she should be at the wedding, and naturally, that led to KJ wanting her grandmother to be there as well – then her mom – and later her sister – and, you’ve gotta invite the besties too, right? From there, the guest list continued to blossom. Much like the updo and pop of color bold red lip, she wore on her special day, which was initially on her Pinterest board as a soft glam look with her hair hanging on her shoulders, KJ is okay with changing her plan if it brings her and her loved ones happiness.
So let’s get into the wedding, which took place in Malibu, CA. The first thing you should know about the celebrity couple is that they’re non-traditional. They know, and they don’t care. So, in true unconventional fashion, they shared the morning of the wedding together.
“I woke up with Skyh, we walked our dog, had black coffee, and said good morning to the people who stayed at the venue with us,” she says.
Now, it was time for hair and makeup. While she was getting glammed up, she had Black-owned McBride Sisters wine and champagne (which ties into The Black Experience theme) on deck with her mom and friends, had her besties help rework her vows, retried on every outfit (sis is very Type-A), took photos, and ended the early-celebration with prayer and meditation. It seems very non-Bridezilla, I said.
“Yeah, I was the most unbothered bride ever. Everyone was just so supportive. As entertainers, we go on red carpets all the time. We actually have a production company,” she explains. “The get-ready process was like a day at work, but with people we love the most. Being entertainers, we didn’t feel stressed at all, but my excitement was so high.”
Things moved quickly, and before she knew it, it was time to line up to walk down the aisle.
“Yeah, I was the most unbothered bride ever. Everyone was just so supportive. As entertainers, we go on red carpets all the time. We actually have a production company. The get-ready process was like a day at work, but with people we love the most. Being entertainers, we didn’t feel stressed at all, but my excitement was so high.”
KJ Smith and her bridal party
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
Since everything started with their grandmothers, the couple wanted to ensure they honored them and planned to keep an element of their wedding traditional. Although we’ve all seen the reception videos and photos online, you may have noticed visuals from the wedding itself are harder to find.
“We planned for it to be traditional, but we’re not like that, so we tried to create those moments. We jumped the broom and had a salt ceremony (where the bride and groom individually pour salt into a glass container, symbolizing their lives becoming one.) But honestly, still, nothing was traditional about it.”
She goes on to explain that her mom caught the holy ghost coming down the aisle, her glam team was on deck, and she became so nervous with excitement that she had an anxiety attack – something she struggled with for years, she explains tearfully. Her friends had to literally cheer her down the aisle because of how overwhelmed she felt until she eventually calmed down.
“Skyh was standing there with his hand on his heart; we have our own little language, and I could feel the support,” she shares.
It was surprising to hear all these emotional moments happened before the party we saw online. That is until she once again got into the backstory.
“As a Black woman actress, for so long, it was popular to be mysterious and secretive, but that’s not who I am or what I like. Plus, we both wanted to create an experience for everyone there. We are the people who always host family and friends,” she says. “Like for me, the first order of business was getting sandals for the women so they can dance all night long. We had oxtail, D'ussé, and a coffee and sativa lounge – which is part of Skyh and I’s lifestyle and routine. We wanted to bring them into our world.”
Skyh Black (L) and KJ Smith (R)
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
She went on to discuss the dance routine she did for her husband at the reception, which has taken over the internet. Apparently, that’s another thing that didn’t go according to plan. According to KJ, she had promised a performance at their joint bachelor/ bachelorette party, but her outfit got stolen from her car. So, Skyh ended up performing for her – complete with a strip tease. Still, she never forgot her promise to dance for him.
So, she hired her friend as a choreographer, learned the routine, made friends and family watch it endless times, and attended Beyoncé’s Renaissance show a few days before for a confidence boost. It ended up being a show to remember. But that wasn’t all the night offered. Lil Mo performed, and the guests received special goody bags featuring their favorite Black-owned products like journals, hair care, and more.
“We made sure everyone was taken care of all night. That kind of stuff makes us happy. I wanted everyone there to experience the joy and love I have for myself, my partner, and for them. I wanted them to feel full and whole, and they had the time of their lives,” she says.
But naturally, the internet is going to internet, and while there were countless people praising the event and applauding the newlyweds, some thought it was too over the top. I was curious to know her thoughts on some of the criticism.
“It’s cool. We did what we wanted to do. I’ve decided to share my world with people. Just how I went on social media platforms and found inspiration, I want people to do the same,” she explains. “I don’t think it's fair to my supporters not to give that out. There’s so much I wanna share with brides, specifically Black brides. I love that people are adding it to their Pinterest boards."
"I wanted everyone there to experience the joy and love I have for myself, my partner, and for them. I wanted them to feel full and whole, and they had the time of their lives."
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
“I’m happy with it because we did what we wanted to do. They can do what they wanna do. Don’t be cruel, though, because you will get blocked,” she said, laughing.
The more I spoke with her, the more her sense of freedom shined through. People are always going to have their opinions, but at the end of the day, it’s you who has to live your life, and it seems like the couple realizes that and embraces that power. She also stressed the importance of not living for others and the lessons life has taught her.
“I’ve been to countless weddings, and I’ve been in countless weddings. I’m a generally older bride. So when women in my demographic get married, and you and your husband are busy working people like us, you deserve to have the one you want to have,” she shares.
“This is what we wanted to do. Our loved ones love and support us. We did so much to honor them, but we also wanted to start our own tradition, legacy, and creation. I'm not going to be pulled back into ideas of the past when I’m trying to create a future with my partner. “
If you’d like to see more of the couple, you probably won’t have to wait long. Although no content is planned yet, she admits to being an oversharer. “Me being open and transparent about my experiences lets people know it’s okay to have flaws; it makes you human, and for many years, I didn’t believe that was okay. I had pressure to be perfect, and I’d crumble every time,” she explains to xoNecole.
Now, she owns her flaws and uses them as a superpower to connect with her community and feel and express her love.
“Some people give us [Skyh and KJ] a hard time because they say we just seem too perfect. I’m like, why is that a bad thing? I love the people I love. From my man to my mama, to my friends - unabashedly. We move through time and space how we want to move. If we did it another way, we’d let ourselves and our union down.”
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
When Erika Hairston was entering her first year at Yale in 2018, she never imagined that the challenges she experienced during her education would give her the insights needed to solve a problem that she and many STEM students would face. “The summer after my senior year of high school, I stumbled upon a documentary about the lack of women and minorities in tech,” she tells xoNecole. “They showed how code was in every single thing we touched, and I just remember thinking, ‘Holy smokes, how is it possible that there are so few people who look like me in this industry that is clearly taking over the future?’”
While her time at the Ivy League came with its set of learning curves, Hairston was sure that her love for coding as a computer science major would outweigh those barriers to entry.
During her freshman year, she landed an internship at Facebook that would shape her outlook on tech forever. “I got my first offer letter, and seeing that, I was like, ‘This is how you create economic opportunities,” she recalls. “Seeing how much I was making as just a 19-year-old in tech made me realize I wanted to devote the rest of my career to helping more people have access to this in-demand field in tech.”
And that, she did.
Today, Hairston is the CEO and co-founder of EdLyft, a tutoring platform that equips students in computer science courses to land in-demand tech careers at the largest tech companies and is one of the youngest Black women to raise more than $1 million in venture capital through her startup. “We're a platform that helps companies train and engage their entire future workforce,” she says. “Everyone and all students are using our platform, however, we make it an intention to prioritize partnerships and programs where diversity is a top priority or a top goal.”
Erika and her co-founder believe in replicating the support that kept them in computer science to help more underrepresented talent thrive in the growing world of tech. After leaving their corporate jobs to pursue this mission and launching Edlyft in February 2020, they have since supported over 3000 students to reach their goals in the tech field.
“Computer science dramatically changed our lives, and when we looked at the market, we saw how in-demand software engineering was and realized that if we could replicate what kept us in computer science to help more people gain access to these in-demand careers, that would be really powerful.”
Photo by Apple Media
xoNecole: Learning to code can seem like an intimidating skill to acquire. Can you speak to how one can overcome those initial barriers of entry?
Erika Hairston: Coding is like learning a new language where practice makes perfect. The intimidation, it's not just women of color who experienced that, it’s everyone when they try coding for the first time because it has a very steep learning curve. The first piece of advice is acknowledging that you're not alone in that initial hurdle of the steep learning curve.
The second piece of advice is that the media doesn't help. When you think of your typical hacker or getting into computer science, you see a white guy with a hoodie and glasses on, with a laptop in the corner, and sometimes people don't see themselves represented in that. And so I think there's been a lot of push to change that in really seeing yourself as an engineer, and that’s a part of what we are trying to change.
On a tactical level, there are so many organizations and resources that I encourage women, especially Black women, to tap into in order to overcome those barriers. One amazing organization that we're partnering with is Reboot Representation, whose mission is to increase the number of Black, Latinx, and Native women in tech.
xoN: Many female entrepreneurs struggle with imposter syndrome. How have you dealt with self-doubt while remaining confident in your abilities?
EH: More recently, I will say I have chosen to dismiss impostor syndrome as something that I feel because I realized that no one knows what they are doing. I wasn't ready to become a founder — I actually was working on a side project when I thought, ‘Oh, I can't be a founder. I don't look like a founder.’ What does that look like? And when I got into Apple’s Entrepreneur Camp, I was surrounded by women founders who were stages ahead of me, and they became my friends, and I got to see what it looked like to be in their shoes.
It was the first time that I saw that this is what it would look like for me to do this. I am capable, I can do that. Changing what it looks like to be what you want to be is a really important part of my journey. Surround yourself with investors or peers who have that shared vision of the world with you, empower you, and help you see what you can become.
"Changing what it looks like to be what you want to be is a really important part of my journey. Surround yourself with investors or peers who have that shared vision of the world with you, empower you, and help you see what you can become."
Photo by Apple Media
xoN: What challenges did you face when raising venture capital funding or navigating the tech world?
EH: Demystifying the fundraising process is one of those inside secrets that you don't know until you know. So democratizing access to this information is critical so that there's no longer those "The Only Black Woman To Raise This Much" headlines — those have to be abolished.
We went through an accelerator program called Y Combinator. It's three months of access to investors who help you gear up for its ‘Demo Day’ where you pitch in front of a lot of investors. That was how we got that inside, ‘secret juice’ which is the way the fundraising process works. Doing those exercises and research to learn the tactics and skills that will increase our chances of being funded by investors that are mission-aligned was a really critical part of the process.
What that looked like for us was sending a lot of emails; I was even in people's DMs on Twitter. Being prepared to answer any questions and asking more founders for more introductions, that is truly how fundraising happens because sometimes we can't do what works for the 99%.
xoN: As a successful female entrepreneur, what advice do you have for women who aspire to start their own businesses, particularly in male-dominated industries like tech?
EH: One, do your ‘startup math’ or do your founder math. Calculate how much you need to have saved before you start your business. For me, that was six months of living expenses to feel confident and comfortable leaving my full-time job to focus on my company full-time. Do that math, save it up. That way, it's not always ‘Oh, I'll do it later,’ there's a concrete number that you're saving up towards.
Second, fall in love with a problem, not the solution. When you're building a business, the solution will look different, and it'll have to change as you learn from the people that you are building for. But if you care a lot about the problem, you'll find all of the different ways to best solve that and stay motivated as you work on your business.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Apple Media