Although all of our hair journeys are different, I always find it interesting when folks say that the winter season is the most brutal when it comes to their hair. For me, it's probably right about now because, between the heat, the shrinkage and, when I do swim, the chemicals in the water — it's a challenge, making sure that my hair doesn't dry out, as I strive to handle it with care on the days when it wants to act like a matted mess.
Can you totally relate to where I'm coming from? If so, I wanted to take a moment to share with you some of the summertime haircare tips that have held me down over the past several years. 12 hacks that are easy, affordable and can definitely help you to keep your inches straight through Labor Day and beyond.
1. Get a Cute Swim Cap
Y'all see that straight up bullshishery that the Tokyo Olympics have been pulling on us? I don't just mean the runners; I mean them banning swim caps for Afro-textured hair. Yeah, I knew that when they put a ban on protesting beforehand that we were in for a ride. Anyway, if a part of what makes you hesitant to swim more often is you want to protect your hair from the salt and/or chlorine that's in the water, I definitely recommend getting yourself a swim cap. If the other thing you're worried about is how crazy you might look in one, these days, there really are cute designs available (so much better than what a lot of us grew up with). Etsy is one place that has some. Just go to the site and put "swim caps for Black women" in the search field.
2. Or Wet Your Hair Before You Swim
On the other hand, if you don't mind getting your hair wet but you still don't want the water to damage your hair (because saltwater and the chemicals in swimming pools can both be pretty drying), a cool hack is to wet your hair beforehand.
Since our hair is a lot like a sponge, if it's already absorbed water, that makes it harder for ocean or swimming pool water to penetrate it. The more you know. The more you freakin' know.
3. Give Yourself a Hot Oil Treatment
While it might seem odd to hear me talk about applying anything hot to your hair when it's already hot as hell outdoors, you really can't go wrong with treating your tresses to a hot oil treatment during this time of the year; especially if you battle with dandruff, dry scalp or a lot of frizz (which can happen when your hair lacks moisture or it's time for your ends to be trimmed). The combination of the heat from the oil along with the nutrients from the oil of your choice (coconut, grapeseed, argan, sweet almond, avocado, rosehip and apricot kernel oil are all great options) will help to stimulate blood flow to your scalp which will help to strengthen your hair's follicles over time.
Your best bet would be to put one-fourth of the oil into a microwave-safe bowl. Zap it in the microwave for 15 seconds. Put your hair into 4-8 sections and apply the oil to your scalp and hair. Massage your scalp for about 10 minutes. Then allow the oil to continue to penetrate for 30 minutes. If you then shampoo and rinse thoroughly, you will notice a real difference; especially after following this next tip.
4. Put Some Jamaican Black Castor Oil into Your Shampoo or Conditioner
With the summer heat being as brutal as it is, you definitely need to make sure that your hair keeps moisture in it on the regular. One way to do that is to add some Jamaican Black Castor Oil to either your shampoo or your conditioner. Since the properties in the oil help to strengthen the cuticles of your hair, strengthen your hair's follicles and reduce breakage, as well as add quite a bit of moisture to your locks, putting a tablespoon of it into your shampoo can replace any moisture that your hair might lose during the shampooing process and adding it to your conditioner can make your hair that much softer after rinsing the shampoo out. Tropical Isle Living has some XX dark oil (which basically just means that it's extra detoxifying) that I've been using for a while now. I can definitely see a difference when it comes to how my scalp and hair feel.
5. Use Honey and Sour Cream to Reduce Shrinkage
If experiencing a lot of shrinkage is the main thing that has you concerned, something that can help to reduce that is lactic acid. Guess what it's found in — honey and sour cream! Straight up, if you make a hair mask that has both of these ingredients in it, not only can it give your hair a moisture boost (because honey is a natural humectant and sour cream is made up of 20 percent fat), it can also help to elongate your hair's natural curl texture too.
Just mix a half cup of sour cream with two teaspoons of honey and a teaspoon of sweet almond or grapeseed oil. Apply the mask to clean damp hair. Let it sit for 25-45 minutes and rinse out thoroughly, first with warm water and then with cool water (to seal your hair's cuticles). If you decide to go with a wash 'n go, you should notice that your hair has a bit more length to it, just from the mask alone.
6. DIY a Moisturizing Spritz
If, outta nowhere, your hair feels dry or your scalp needs a little bit of relief, nothing is more refreshing than pulling a handy spritz bottle out of your purse. What's even better is one that you made yourself! A moisturizing hair spritz that consists of rosewater (it'll restore the pH balance to your hair); Aloe vera juice (it smooths your cuticles and reduces frizz); raw honey and/or vegetable glycerin (they're both humectants which means they pull moisture from the air); chamomile oil (it soothes your scalp), and 5-7 drops of lavender oil (it contains strong antimicrobial properties to fight bacteria and moisturizing properties to soften your hair) will pamper your hair from dusk until dawn — and vice versa.
7. Ease Up on the Edge Control
I know y'all like those super sleek edges yet I'm gonna be honest with you — even if you go with a brand that doesn't contain any alcohol (or you make some of your own), sometimes the oil from the control combined with the extra sweating that you typically do can cause the perfect storm when it comes to breakouts. Plus, wanting to lay your edges all of the time can put a lot of pressure on your already fragile temples which can result in breakage. So, as much as it might pain you, try and ease up on edge control for the summer. Wrap your hair up in a scarf or rock a straw hat instead. You'll still be cute and trust me, your edges will be oh so very grateful.
8. Chill Out on Permanent Dyes Too
I'm gonna be honest with y'all. The only permanent (boxed) dye that has not read my hair for filth by causing all kinds of breakage issues is Revlon's Colorsilk Luminista. I think it's mostly because it is ammonia-free. And shoot, even with it, I still have to be mad intentional about keeping my hair moisturized because it makes it a little drier than I would like. Bottom line, if you still want to maintain the strength and integrity of your tresses so that you'll have some extra inches to brag about come the fall and winter seasons, it really is best to leave permanent dyes alone. One, because a lot of them do contain ammonia which is super drying and damaging and two, the heat is going to try and zap whatever moisture you do have. Please try not to help it do that. This is a great time of the year to play with some hair color wax. The hues are vibrant. And because the wax is super temporary, you don't have to worry about experiencing any breakage. You can literally sport a different color each day without any of the dry brittle drama. Excellent.
9. Make Some SPF Spray for Your Hair
Something that a lot of us — and by "us", I mean Black folks — don't think about is protecting our hair from the damage that UV rays can oftentimes cause. While there are sprays that you can find at your local drugstore, another route that you can take is to make some of your own. It's really not that hard (or expensive) to do. And if you add an ingredient like zinc oxide to your spray, you can be sure that you're in good shape because that is a natural product that reflects the rays for the sun so that your hair isn't penetrated with constant heat.
All you need to do is fill up a spray bottle with some distilled water. Then add a tablespoon of the zinc oxide along with a teaspoon of your favorite carrier oil (sweet almond, grapeseed, jojoba, argan and avocado are all really good) and 5-7 drops of your favorite essential oil. Shake the bottle and then lightly spray your hair before heading out. It's a great way to protect your hair and enjoy a favorite scent at the same time.
10. Baby Those Ends
Your ends are the oldest parts of your hair. This means that they need the most TLC if you truly want to retain length. You need to deep condition your hair every wash day. You need to seal your ends on that day too. Heat needs to be used minimally and you definitely need to apply a thermal heat protectant (cream will give you the most penetrating coverage) before blow drying and using a flat iron. As much as you can "tuck your ends in" so that they don't get exposed to outdoor elements, the better. Sleeping with a humidifier at night can give them some extra moisture while you sleep. Naturally stretching your hair out at night by braided or twisting your hair and then applying a mixture of coconut milk (it's loaded with vitamins B, C and E as well as fatty acids) and jojoba oil (it's filled with antioxidants) to your ends can reduce the chances of them splitting.
Y'all, it really can't be said enough that a lot of us don't get the inches that we want — not because our hair isn't growing but because we aren't retaining length because we're not taking good care of our ends. This summer, please make sure that you do.
11. Leave the Shears Alone
While it's always a good idea to trim fairy knots and split ends away, try and leave your hair alone as much as possible during this time of the year. Between protective styles like braids and twists, turbans, scarves and straw hats, there's no need to have your hair all out all of the time. Tuck in those ends that I just talked about and try and let your hair grow through September. If you do, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you have to show for it by the time you need to pull your sweaters out.
12. Have Fun with It
Knotless braids. Twist outs. Top knots. Butterfly locs. Passion twists. These are just some of the natural looks that are big-time trends this summer season. And the moral to the story with this final point is — try one. Then try another. Then make something up! So long as you are doing the routine maintenance that your hair requires, there is nothing wrong with getting super creative and having an absolute ball with your hair. After all, our textures make that oh so easy to do!
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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 (email@example.com) 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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Tabitha Brown Explains Why She's Still Approachable After All The Success She Has Achieved
Social media personality, entrepreneur, and Emmy-nominated host Tabitha Brown have won the hearts of many with her kind demeanor and positive outlook on life, as evidenced by the uplifting videos she shares on her social media page.
The mother of two --who has been a part of the entertainment industry as an actress for over a decade with minor roles in films, television shows, and videos--became a household name in 2020 after her TikTok content of vegan food and inspirational posts went viral. In addition to the virality, Brown gained millions of followers solely based on her loving personality and was ultimately nicknamed America's Mom by her fans.
Since then, Brown has used her popularity to obtain various job opportunities. The list includes the 44-year-old's children's television show Tab Time, a haircare brand Donna's Recipe, a collection with Target, and a McCormick partnership for her Sunshine All Purpose Seasoning, among other things.
In a recent interview on Shannon Sharpe's Club Shay Shay podcast, Brown opened up about how she remains positive regardless of life's circumstances and why she continues to be an approachable figure despite all the success she has achieved.
Tabitha On Why She's A Positive Person
During the discussion, Brown revealed that her positivity comes from her late mother, Patricia, and how she dealt with her 2005 diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS.)
According to John Hopkins Medicine, the terminal disease "affects the functions of one's nerves and muscles." The site also states that ALS can affect "any racial or ethnic group" around 40 to 70 years old. To date, there is no particular cause or cure for ALS.
During her mother's journey with ALS, Brown shared that her mom never complained or wished away the disease but dealt with it gracefully because she believed it was part of God's will. Sadly two years following her diagnosis, Patricia passed away in 2007 at 51.
Following the loss of her mother, Brown disclosed that she uses the lessons she learned from her mom in her "everyday life" because she knows that no matter what happens, it will not compare to what her mother endured.
"Listen, it plays a large role in my everyday life, in my everyday life. Even like right now, things I'm going through, I be like, 'I'd hate that I'm going through this, but there's nothing compared to that,'" she said.
Tabitha On Why She's An Approachable Person
As the topic shifted to how friendly and approachable Brown has been toward her fans over the years, the star explained that her kind demeanor has always been a part of her personality and will continue to be regardless of her celebrity status.
When asked why she usually makes time for her fans, Brown told Sharpe that it's because she understands that her supporters are one of the reasons she is successful.
"I'm going in. I'm going in for the hugs. I'm like, 'Hey, how y'all [doing]? I love that, but also like how dare I not have time for the people who helped me climb. You know, I am in this position because God said I could have it right, but because people support me," she stated while describing her past encounters with her fans.
Brown would add that her appreciation for her fans runs so deep that she is willing to take time out of her schedule to meet and talk to everyone when she has events.
"I have events, and if there's a meet and greet, you better not put a time limit for me because I'm going to see every person literally," she said. "It will go from an hour to 10 hours."
Brown wrapped up the statement by saying her meet and greets could take about 10 hours because she gets to know everyone in line.
With Brown's recent revelation about positivity and being approachable, it appears that she's found the formula of what it means to be a well-rounded person.
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