Black Woman Owned is a limited series highlighting Black woman business owners who are change-makers and risk-takers in their respective realms. As founders, these women dare to be bold, have courage in being the change they wish to see in the world and are unapologetic when it comes to their vision. These Black women aren't waiting for a seat, they are owning the table.
With hyperpigmentation being one of the most talked-about concerns for melanin-rich skin, it almost comes as a surprise that something as revolutionary as Hyper Skin took the beauty industry by storm only two years ago. The star product of the brand, Hyper Clear Brightening Clearing Vitamin C Serum, is a zealous vitamin C serum designed to brighten skin and tackle dark marks and hyperpigmentation. What sets this buzzworthy serum apart from the sea of products on the market, is that at its core, Hyper Skin was created to be more than a band-aid for hyperpigmentation, it was formulated to be a solution. And we can thank its founder, Desiree Verdejo, for that.
Beauty and skincare have always been personal to Desiree. As a boutique owner of the Harlem-based, Vivrant Beauty, from 2015 to 2018, Desiree found herself within a beauty boom of Black-owned businesses sprouting within the market and wanted to curate a space for these brands to thrive and reach their core community. Although she was surrounded by a limitless selection of brands that could serve as a remedy to her hyperpigmentation, she knew she needed more than what the market was offering. "For so many years, we've been told, 'You can make this work.' But that isn't sufficient at this stage," Desiree shares.
Courtesy of Desiree Verdejo
Guided by the principle of "we deserve," Desiree decided that it was time to create a product that not only spoke her most difficult customer to please, herself but also connect with Black and brown customers to finally have their needs spoken to directly. She expressed, "I want to see myself, I want to see a product that speaks to my specific concerns, I shouldn't have to search for that and make it work in a space where there are so many options."
Hyper Skin offers something different. It fills a gap within the skincare space for women who have gone long overlooked, allowing their skin needs to be brought to light in an intimate way. "The community that we're building is an enthusiastic one. They feel like space is being created for them and so that energy is pliable, it's exciting, the industry is paying attention to that." In doing so, Hyper Skin is bringing realness back to real skin.
And yes, you can, in fact, believe the Hype.
xoNecole: How did you know it was time to launch Hyper Skin? What space did you hope to fill with the brand?
Desiree Verdejo: Being in my store [Vivrant Beauty] and being with so many different women of different skin tones highlighted how we have certain skincare concerns as brown-skin folks and there's such a disconnect between what we're experiencing and what brands are on the market. Talking to my customers and hearing what was bothering them and driving them to our store, made me realize that what the skincare industry was creating — we're saying dark spots, they're saying, "Here's some anti-aging stuff," — there's just a disconnect between our skincare needs."
I had a light bulb moment where I decided that we need skincare created that speaks to the clinical needs of brown-skin people. At the time when I started down the path of creating Hyper, I was still in my boutique [Vivrant Beauty] but I had just had a baby and my own skin was going crazy because I was dealing with all this hormonal acne and this dramatic hyperpigmentation from that. It was a personal moment that emphasized that this was something that was missing and my customers just affirmed that. So I went down the path of creating formulas and ultimately got really excited about the void that would be filled by Hyper, and just decided that I would pivot from my beauty boutique to Hyper Skin because I knew that story needed to be told clearly.
"I was dealing with all this hormonal acne and this dramatic hyperpigmentation from that. It was a personal moment that emphasized that this was something that was missing and my customers just affirmed that. So I went down the path of creating formulas and ultimately got really excited about the void that would be filled by Hyper, and just decided that I would pivot from my beauty boutique to Hyper Skin because I knew that story needed to be told clearly."
Courtesy of Desiree Verdejo
Before you took the plunge into entrepreneurship, it took you two years to actually leave your career as a lawyer. What was that "in-between" season like for you?
Yeah! I feel like on the internet and social media people are like, "Yeah, just do it [start the business], but the truth is it's not easy to leave a comfortable career. In New York as a lawyer, there's a great salary, there are great benefits — definitely a comfortable scenario, so it did take me a while to save and be mentally ready to make that transition. At the time, I was doing little things like meeting people, networking in the beauty space that I was trying to enter, exploring brands, and looking into real estate in New York.
And the same is true for when I made the transition to launching Hyper. There's always this middle space and even if you're in another career, there's always stuff that you could be doing personally and financially in terms of the business to move the needle closer to turning making that business into a reality.
Having struggled with skin acne and hyperpigmentation since you were a teenager which is such a pain point for melanated women, how has your relationship with your skin evolved over the years in acceptance? Where do you think you are when it comes to your skin and just embodying your imperfections?
One of the things that I've accepted is that skin is cyclical. It may be at a clearer point, then mid-month you might have a breakout, so for me, it's all about education and accepting the realness of skin. For so long, we've just seen airbrushed skin and models who have won the genetic lottery and the truth of the matter is hyperpigmentation and dark marks are not flaws, these are all normal features of the skin. I think I have come to accept that with my own personal skin and that's something that I've tried to breathe into the brand.
You’ve mentioned that Hyper, as a brand, is personal. Not feeling seen by brands or finding products that served your particular needs seemed to serve as a compass for you. How has creating a product that spoke to your needs first been a benefit as a business owner?
What I'm noticing is that in this [beauty] space, there are — and will continue to be — brands that try to speak to Black customers, brown customers, etc. But for me as someone who's always dealt with acne and hyperpigmentation, it's been important to not just show brown faces but to show and celebrate real skin and to show real results. As someone who has been on the other side of the aisle, I know that feeling. [We] have our messaging be really clear so you don't have to be a skin expert to understand how our products work and what our expectations are.
So many skincare lines are created by dermatologists, estheticians, models, and celebrities with perfect skin, but ours being created by someone who is my most difficult customer to please, myself, I think that's influenced all areas and that's what our customers are drawn to. It's something they haven't seen in the market for their own skin. So many brands will create a dark mark corrector but not show dark marks in their ads, or create a hyperpigmentation product that's the number one concern for Black people, and not show brown skin. I think it resonates with our customers that this is created for them for that reason.
As I look over your career, it’s very clear that you are a gap-filler. You’re able to see what’s missing in the market and you fill it. What are your guiding principles in trusting your gut to fill and create new spaces?
I think my guiding principle is: "we deserve." As a Black woman that's a lover of beauty, for so many years, in so many categories, we've been told, "you can make this work." But the "you can make this work" isn't sufficient at this stage. Because I was in the beauty space, I also realized that skincare is a crowded market, but because it is crowded, people expect to be spoken to directly. I want to see myself, I want to see a product that speaks to my specific concerns, I shouldn't have to search for that and make it work in a space where there are so many options. My principle is we deserve and we deserve to be spoken to directly and be catered to and for our issues to be solved. When that wasn't the case, I felt motivated to create those solutions and options.
"I want to see myself, I want to see a product that speaks to my specific concerns, I shouldn't have to search for that and make it work in a space where there are so many options. My principle is we deserve. We deserve to be spoken to directly and be catered to and for our issues to be solved. When that wasn't the case, I felt motivated to create those solutions and options."
Courtesy of Desiree Verdejo
What are your current go-to skincare products? How does your skincare routine look these days?
It's a hard one because we are in development and I am using a few things that we are developing. Outside of that, I do use SPF. It's a go-to! I am a Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen stan like so many other people. I am loving exploring so many of the Black-owned cosmetics brands that are on the market, Range Beauty, I love! I just ordered by Ami Cole which is like a no-makeup, makeup brand. That's what I'm loving right now, those are the highlights of my routine. Shout out to those Black brands!
"The community that we're building is an enthusiastic one, they're like, we love your serum, what's next? And it's because they feel like space is being created for them. That energy is pliable, it's exciting, and the industry is paying attention to that."
Courtesy of Desiree Verdejo
You've experienced a number of career pivots on your path. What advice would you impart to a young woman who's looking to take the leap into entrepreneurship or needs guidance about their next career chapter?
There's nothing that has helped me more in pivoting careers, problem-solving as a founder, or scaling my business than being surrounded by dynamic people from a broad range of backgrounds. I'm a community-minded person, I give a lot and people have poured so much information and support into me. I would advise young women at any point in their careers to surround themselves with people in their areas of interest. Social media platforms like Instagram, Clubhouse, and LinkedIn and in-person and digital events really allow you to get in front of and to keep up with people so use that access to your advantage.
Featured image courtesy of Desiree Verdejo
Originally published on June 28, 2021
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Aley Arion is a writer and digital storyteller from the South, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Her site, yagirlaley.com, serves as a digital diary to document personal essays, cultural commentary, and her insights into the Black Millennial experience. Follow her at @yagirlaley on all platforms!
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Dating a water sign is full of love and intensity. Water signs are often known to be more emotional than the rest of the zodiac, but what does this mean for their love life and for dating a water sign yourself? Well, it means experiencing a love that is refreshing at its best, consuming at its worst, but more importantly, a love that is deeply felt. See, water signs often find power in expressing their emotions, and being so vulnerable with their inner world creates partners who don’t just tell you how much they love and feel for you, but they want to show you so that you can feel it as well.
Water signs that are evolved and aligned with their highest selves are some of the most loving, romantic, and compassionate partners to have. You don’t have to guess with a water sign. If they like you, they will tell you, and if they don’t, they will tell you that as well. Even though water signs can be a little mysterious sometimes, they aren’t ones to hold back when it comes to expressing how they are feeling, which leads to a sense of transparency when dating them. Water signs at their worst, however, can be controlling and moody, and it depends on the person at hand. Water signs feel everything so deeply, and they can often attract negative energy into their life and let it consume them.
When it comes down to it, water signs put their relationships and loved ones first in life. So much of their time and day-to-day life is wrapped up in whom they love and care for, so they make a dedicated partner, to say the least. Sexually, water signs tend to be some of the most sensual as they need to feel the connection of the relationship on every level, and they crave this type of intimacy with their partners. They are sincere lovers who can intuitively feel how you feel and often read your mind because of it. They want to be known as a good partner, and although there are some water signs notoriously known for their toxic behavior, when you get a good one, you are loved by them for life.
Dating a Cancer
Cancers are known for their nurturing energy, though those close to them know there is a lot more to it than that. Cancers have a deep yearning for stability and safety and create their relationships around this part of themselves. Family and close loved ones are everything to a Cancer, and this is a partner that is perfect to bring home to the parents, and one whom you can build a strong family foundation with yourself as well. Cancers are the type of partners to treat you to something special that you mentioned once in passing and to make you feel like you are the center of their world.
At their best, Cancers are nurturing and protective, at their worst they are moody and restrictive.
The perfect types of date nights for a Cancer are ones where there aren't too many people around, and preferably a romantic date at home or somewhere they have already been and love. Many Cancers are known for their homemaking skills as well so don’t be shocked if they try to take rein here and surprise you with a homemade meal of your favorite dish. Cancers are homebodies, so if they invite you into their home, then that is a good sign they feel safe and comfortable with you which they need as a basis for the relationship. Dating a Cancer is a nostalgic type of love.
Learn how a Cancer pairs with each sign of the zodiac in love here.
Dating a Scorpio
Scorpios are passionate lovers and will go to the ends of the earth for you. Dating a Scorpio is like entering the depths of love, as they only form bonds with those they feel they have a strong connection with. Every Scorpio is different, and this is a sign that if you dated a few of them, you would see some similarities, but the experience you have of them will be completely different. Scorpios are masters at mirroring energy, and if they feel the love they are looking to give to another, then you can be assured they will give their all to the relationship.
At their best, Scorpios are loyal and magnetic, and at their worst, they are jealous and resentful.
Scorpio is another private sign, as most water signs are, and a perfect date night for them is one with moody lighting, minimal people or interruptions, and an intimate sort of environment. Scorpio is an intrigued lover and will want to know absolutely everything about you right away, but will take some time divulging any information about themselves. Dating a Scorpio is sexy, and you can feel their love and attraction towards you strongly when they are interested.
Learn how a Scorpio pairs with each sign of the zodiac in love here.
Dating a Pisces
Pisces is the hopeless romantic of the zodiac, and dreams of a fairytale type of love. This is the type of lover who wants to immerse themselves in art, fun events, music, and movies. They cherish every moment they spend with their partners, and love is never a dull experience for them. Pisces has a habit of being all over the place so this is a relationship that will sure to be a whirlwind, but one where you feel like you are dancing together rather than alone. Pisces are givers that want to make their partners feel loved the way they wish to. They tend to attract people who are more organized or “put together” than them, as they love to grow and learn more through their partnerships. This is the type of partner who wants to be led more than lead.
At their best, they are creative and compassionate, at their worst they are confused and co-dependent.
The perfect date night for a Pisces is one where you take the lead and plan something. They love to be thought of sincerely, and they will be swooned if you take them to their special places or do something that brings out their more extroverted side. Organizing something for them, not being flaky, and also taking your time when developing the relationship are all favored by Pisces. Dating a Pisces is like entering a dream of their own making.
Learn how a Pisces pairs with each sign of the zodiac in love here.
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