Your skin looks great, my best friend says to me on FaceTime. Of course, we all know FaceTime doesn’t make skin look its best, especially without great lighting. So the compliment was well received since I’d wrapped a microneedling appointment a week earlier. There are tons of skincare treatments on the market. This treatment is, in my opinion, worth every penny.
Like many Black women, I have a recurring skin condition: hyperpigmentation. I know there’s no such thing as perfect skin. But looking at a new dark spot after every breakup is frustrating. So after some research and watching tons of YouTube videos, I was ready to take the plunge with the same pro I trusted to inject Botox into my forehead and crow’s feet for the first time.
So here’s how my appointment went.
What is microneedling?
“Microneedling is a procedure where a device with sterile needles is used to make precise microchannels in the skin, which stimulates collagen,” Allie McAllister, NP-C, DCNP, founder of The Atlanta Injectors at Lemmon Avenue Atlanta, tells xoNecole. Unlike the at-home microneedling options, in-office needles range from 0.5–2.5 mm and penetrate deeper into the skin, creating tiny wounds that will eventually help yield firmer skin and a reduction in fine wrinkles, enlarged pores, pigmentation, and scarring.
You may be wondering if this treatment is safe for dark skin. The answer is yes. Because microneedling only punctures (they’re microscopic, btw) the surface layer of the skin, this treatment won’t create scarring.
Skin numbing pre-microneedling session
Courtesy of Bianca Lambert
So, what should you expect at a microneedling appointment?
Before your first appointment, you may have some pre-microneedling jitters. Don’t worry. The process is pretty painless because the first step is face numbing. After the skin is cleansed and the cream is rubbed on, it takes about 20 minutes for your face to numb. It’s a strange feeling that will last a few hours post-appointment.
Next, your practitioner will apply a serum that can be hyaluronic acid, a topical vitamin C, and your own plasma-rich protein from your own blood (think: the vampire facial). I just went with hyaluronic serum. Once my skin was numb, the needling began. I mainly felt nothing except in the areas around my nose and outside of my face. But it wasn’t more than a little pinch.
As the needling happens, the most alarming part is the pinpoint bleeding. It’s not normal to have a pen gliding across your face that can produce tiny points of blood on your face. Don’t be alarmed. It’s actually a good thing. “Pinpoint bleeding is a great sign that the microchannels are deep enough to stimulate collagen,” McAllister tells us.
Skin during the microneedling process
Courtesy of Bianca Lambert
How do I take care of my skin after my microneedling appointment?
After treatment, your skin will need to be taken care of very gently. That means gentle cleansers and no activities. “We ask our patients to use gentle skincare and avoid acids, exfoliants, or retinoids of any kind for a minimum of five days post-procedure,” McAllister shares. And if you’re tempted to skip sunscreen: don’t. This step is essential to your skin healing because the skin is more susceptible to hyperpigmentation from sun exposure. And that would defeat the purpose of your treatment.
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40
You may experience some dryness or peeling. I did, especially on days one and two. But that’s normal. “Peeling and dryness are very common after microneedling procedures,” McAllister explains. She recommends Revision’s Hydrating Serum or CeraVe Healing Ointment after a gentle cleanser to give the skin a dose of hydration. I used the Shani Darden Cleansing Serum, SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator, and Tatcha Indigo Overnight Repair Serum in Cream Treatment.
How many microneedling treatments do you need to see results?
The number of treatments needed will vary from person to person, but at minimum, four sessions are recommended four to six weeks apart for the best results with yearly maintenance three to four times a year.
What’s the cost of microneedling?
The cost will vary depending on location, but it can range from $350 to $900 a session on average. However, this also depends on the area size you’ll be receiving the treatment.
Skin a week post-microneedling appointment
Courtesy of Bianca Lambert
Microneedling isn't a skincare overnight fix. But the results, even after one treatment, are stellar. My skin was plumper, the texture smoother, and I could see a slight difference in my dark spots that live along my cheeks and jawline. I’m looking forward to more sessions to get even better results!
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Featured image by CoffeeAndMilk/Getty Images
Bianca Lambert is a proud Atlanta native soaking up the Los Angeles sun. She is the founder of Mae B: a stationery company for women of color and a digital content creator on a mission to elevate the voices of women of color everywhere.
Unapologetically, Chlöe: The R&B Star On Finding Love, Self-Acceptance & Boldly Using Her Voice
On set inside of a mid-city Los Angeles studio, it’s all eyes on Chlöe. She slightly shifts her body against a dark backdrop amidst camera clicks and whirs, giving a seductive pout here, and piercing eye contact there. Her chocolate locs are adorned with a few jewels that she requested to spice up the look, and on her shoulders rests a jeweled piece that she asked to be turned around to better showcase her neck (“I feel a bit old,” she said of the original direction). Her shapely figure is tucked into a strapless bodysuit with a deep v-neck that complements her décolletage.
Though subtle, her quiet wardrobe directives give the air of a woman who’s been here before, and certainly knows what she’s doing. At 24 years young, she’s a “Bossy” chick in training— one who’s politely unapologetic and learning the power of her own voice.
“I'm hesitant sometimes to truly speak my mind and speak up for myself and what I believe,” she later confessed to me a couple of weeks after the photoshoot. “It's always scary for me, but now I'm realizing that I have to, in order to gain respect as a Black woman— a young Black woman— who's still navigating who she is. And you know, I'm realizing that closed mouths don't get fed. And if I keep my mouth shut just because I'm afraid of what people's opinions of me will be or turn into, then that's not any way to live.”
For Chlöe, the journey into womanhood is about embracing who she is, without succumbing to the perceptions of what others think of her. From the waist up she’s everything you’d imagine. A gorgeous goddess with the kind of sex appeal that some work hard to embrace but fail to exude. But unbeknownst to anyone not on set, her bottom half is covered by a white robe, surprising coming from the girl who boasts “'Cause my booty so big, Lord, have mercy” on her first hit single “Have Mercy.”
But that’s the beauty of Chlöe. There’s more to her than meets the eye. More than what a few sensual photos sprinkled throughout an Instagram feed could ever tell you. Just like the photo-framing illusion of her portrayed from the waist up, what we know about the songstress is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more beneath the surface.
Some hours later Chlöe leans back in a high chair as her locs are transformed from a formal updo to a seemingly Basquiat-inspired one. It’s pure art, and at her request, no wigs are a part of the day’s ensemble. She’s fully embracing her natural hair, a decision that wasn’t always a socially accepted one.
In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, (Mableton, to be exact) Chlöe began to explore the foundation of her self-image. At an early age she and her younger sister, Halle, demonstrated a vocal prowess and knack for being in front of the camera that caught their parents’ attention. Soon after, they were sent on a parade of local talent shows and auditions, and eventually broke into the digital space with song covers on YouTube.
It was during these early years that Chlöe first learned that the entertainment industry could be unforgiving to those who didn’t fit a particular beauty standard. Despite the then three-year-old snagging a role as the younger version of Beyoncé’s character, Lilly, in Fighting Temptations, casting agents requested that her natural locs be exchanged for more Eurocentric tresses. Ironic, considering that growing up Chlöe saw her hair as no different than that of her peers. “I remember specifically in pre-K we had to do self-portraits and I drew myself with a regular straight ponytail, like how I would put my locs in a ponytail,” she says. “I just never saw myself any different.”
Chlöe would also learn the true meaning of a phrase that would later become an affirmation posted on her bedroom mirror: “Don’t Let the World Dim Your Light.” After attempting to wear wigs to fit in, the Bailey sisters instead chose to rock their locs with pride, which undoubtedly cost them casting roles. Yet they would have the last laugh when making headlines as the “Teen Dreadlocked Duo” who landed a million-dollar contract with Parkwood Entertainment, and the coveted opportunity to be groomed under the tutelage of a world-renowned superstar.
Credit: Derek Blanks
While that could be the end of a beautiful fairytale of self-empowerment, the reality is that it’s just the beginning of the story of her evolution. For most girls, the transition into womanhood takes place in the comfort of their own worlds, often limited to the number of people they allow to have access to them. But for Chlöe, it’s happening in front of millions of critiquing eyes just waiting for an opportunity to either uplift or dissect her through unwarranted commentary.
Many in her position wouldn’t be able to take that kind of pressure. But Chlöe is handling it with grace. “I feel like all of us as humans, we have the right to interpret things how we want,” she says. “I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
Chlöe isn’t the first artist to receive criticism for her carnal content, and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2010, Ciara writhed and rode her way to banishment on BET when the then 24-year-old released her video for “Ride.” In 2006, 25-year-old Beyoncé received backlash for “Déjà Vu."
"I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
So much so that over 5,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that her label re-shoot the video because it was “too sexual.” Even 27-year-old Janet didn’t escape critical headlines when she shed her image of innocence for a more risqué appearance with the 1993 release of janet.
It’s almost as if public reproach is a rite of passage for young Black women R&B singers on the road to stardom. Good girls seemingly “go bad” whenever they embrace the depths of their femininity, and fans only like you on top figuratively. But Chlöe has learned not to bow down to other people’s opinions, but to boss up and control the narrative. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. If sex appeal is her weapon, she wields it well.
On set, Chlöe exudes the energy of Aphrodite in an apple red, off-shoulder dress with a sexy high split. In between shots, she mouths the lyrics to Yebba’s “Boomerang” as it echoes throughout the space in steady repetition at my recommendation. The hour grows late, yet Chlöe is heating things up as eyes stare in deep mesmerization of the girl on fire.
Credit: Derek Blanks
Through music, she explores the depths of her being, a journey that seems to be, at its foundation, rooted in self-discovery. Whereas their debut album The Kids Are Alright (2018) boasts a young Chloe x Halle empowering their generation to embrace who they are while finding their place in the world, their second album Ungodly Hour (2020) shows the Bailey sisters shedding the veil of innocence for a more unapologetic bravado.
What fans looked forward to seeing is who Chlöe shows herself to be on her debut solo album In Pieces. In an interview with PEOPLE, she confesses that releasing her first project without her sister was “scary.” "It was a moment of self-doubt where I was like, 'Can I do this without my sister?’”
Chlöe has never been shy about sharing her insecurities or her vulnerabilities, all of which are laced throughout the 14-track album. “I want people to have fun when they listen to it and to just realize that they're not alone and it's okay to be vulnerable and raw and open because none of us are perfect; we're all far from it. And I think it's healing when we all admit to that instead of putting up a facade.”
The gift of time has given the self-professed “big lover girl” more encounters with romance and heartbreak. Love songs once sung for their beautiful riffs and melodies become more than just abstract lyrics and are replaced by real-life experiences, which she tells me is definitely in the music.
In her single “Pray It Away,” for example, she contemplates going to God for healing instead of going at her ex-lover for revenge for his infidelities. “With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable,” she says. “I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
Has Chlöe been in love? That still remains to be said. Of course, she’s been linked to a few potential baes, but dating in the digital age isn’t as easy as a double tap or drop of a heart-eyes emoji. It requires a level of trust and vulnerability that’s hard to earn, and easy to mishandle. To let her guard down means to potentially set herself up for disappointment. “It’s difficult dating right now, honestly, because you really have to kind of keep your guard up and pay attention to who's really there for you. And you know, I'm such an affectionate person and I love hard.
"So when I meet the one person that I really, really am into, it's hard for me to see any others and I get attached pretty easily. And you know, I don't know, it's…it's a scary thing.”
Credit: Derek Blanks
“With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable. I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
While broken hearts yield good music (queue Adele), what’s in Chlöe’s prayer is the desire to be happy. What does that look like? Well, she’s still figuring that out herself. “Honestly, I'm the type of person who I don't truly learn unless I experience it. So it's like I can view and watch my parents and watch the loving relationships that I see in my life and be like, ‘Oh, I want that. I would love to have that.’ But then I also have to experience [love] on my own and see what my flaws or my faults might be or see what my good things about myself are. I feel like it's really all about self-reflection. And even though our base is our family and that's our foundation, we are still our own individuals and we have to find out specifically the things about ourselves that may be different from what we saw from our parents when we were growing up.”
Her ideal beau, she tells me, is someone she can feel safe to be her fun, goofy self with, but who also gives her the space to be the boss chick chasing her dreams. A man who understands that just because the world compliments her doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear those words from his lips or feel it in his touch. A bonus if he shows up on set after a long hard day of work with vegan cinnamon rolls. You know, the basic necessities. “I like whoever I'm with to constantly tell me they love me and that I look beautiful because I do the same. I am a very mushy person, and if I see something or you look good, I will never shy away from saying it out loud. And I want whoever I'm with to do the same, be very vocal. Tell me that you love me. Tell me what you love about me because I'm doing the same for you because that's just the person I am.”
Until she meets her match she’s married to the game, and for now, that seems to be perfect matrimony.
Credit: Derek Blanks
On stage at the 2021 American Music Awards, Chlöe solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with. It was a full-circle moment. In 2012, bright-eyed and baby-faced Chloe and Halle would walk onto the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show and blow the audience away as they bellowed out their future mentor’s song. Ellen would present the sisters with tickets to attend the AMAs, assuring them that they would be back and had a promising future. Nine years later, Chlöe descends from the sky cloaked in a snow-white cape and matching midriff-baring bodysuit for her debut performance. It’s the first time she’s graced the stage of the very award show that she was once an audience member of.
As she shakes and shimmies and boom kack kacks out her eight counts, it’s clear that she’s in her element. Just like her VMA performance a couple of months prior, and the many more stages she’ll continue to grace, she brings an energy that has earned her comparisons to the beloved Queen Bey herself. An honorable statement, considering few R&B songstresses are getting accolades for their entertainment capabilities. It’s on these very stages, in front of hundreds of astonished eyes and millions more glued to their televisions at home, that she tells me she feels most sexy. Powerful, even.
But off stage, it’s a different story.
It’s more than just the commentary about her image and media-flamed rumors that get to her. Mentally, she’s in competition with herself. The desire to be the best burns at the back of her mind with every performance, every production, and every time she steps into the booth. Before, she could share the weight of this burden with her sister. Being a part of a duo meant she could turn to Halle for quiet confirmation and encouragement without a word being exchanged. But lately stepping on the stage means stepping out on her own. And despite being a breathtaking, five-time Grammy-nominated star, Chlöe doesn’t escape the reality that sometimes we can be our own worst critics.
Over the last year, she’s been coming to terms with who she is on her own while overcoming the fear of failing to become who she’s destined to be. While the world waits to see how Chlöe wins, the real triumph is in every day that she chooses herself and continues to walk in her purpose. “I don't really have anything all figured out, honestly. But what I try to do, a lot of prayer. I talk to God more and I just try to do things that calm my mind down and just breathe.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. She’s been chosen to walk this path for a reason. Once she fully embraces that everything she’s meant to be is already inside of her, she’ll be an unstoppable force. “My grandma, Elizabeth, she just passed away and my middle name is her [first] name. So I feel like I truly have a responsibility to live up to her legacy that she's left on this earth. I hope I can do that.”
There’s no doubt that she will. With a role in The Fighting Temptations at three years old, a million-dollar record deal, a main role on five seasons of Grown-ish, five Grammy nominations, a number one solo record in Urban and Rhythmic Radio, a debut solo album, and starring roles in recently released movies Praise Thisand Swarm (just to name a few), Chlöe’s certainly already made her mark, and she’s just getting started.
Photographer & Creative Director: Derek Blanks
Executive Producer: Necole Kane
Co-Executive Producer: EJ Jamele
Producer: Erica Turnbull
Digitech: Chris Keller
DP: Alex Nikishin
Gaffer: Simeon Mihaylov
Photo Assistant: Chris Paschal
2nd Photo Assistant: Tyler Umprey
Features Editor: Kiah McBride
Special Projects: Tyeal Howell
Hair: Malcolm Marquez
Makeup: Yolonda Frederick
Fashion Styling: Ashley Sean Thomas
For More: Cover Story: Issa Rae Comes Full Circle
The Anti-Aging Skincare Secrets I Wish I Knew Before 30
Let’s face it, growing older is inevitable, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. With age comes maturity, strength, and wisdom, and it should be embraced, not seen as a hindrance or a part of our lives to be ashamed of. While we can’t stop the natural process of life, we can be proactive about the proper skincare products, tools, and lifestyle choices we can practice to promote healthy and natural aging that allows us to age gracefully with beautiful, healthy skin.
Prior to my 30s, I relied on my melanin-rich skin with minimal effort because, as the saying goes, “Black doesn’t crack.” However, I’ve learned that there’s more to maintaining glowing skin than relying on purely genetics. Preventative measures are crucial in combating the skin's aging process. Fine lines, wrinkles, loose dry skin, hyperpigmentation, and other noticeable forms of aging begin long before you see them, seemingly appearing out of nowhere. Recently, I noticed a change in my skin's texture around my neck that never went away. Slowly panicked once I realized what was happening, the first sign of aging had arrived, and I had no idea what to do or how to reverse it.
From product ingredients to lifestyle choices, there are many factors in how one’s complexion and skin health progresses over time. If you’re reading this, you more than likely have a facial routine or know to at least wash and moisturize your face daily, however, there are simple additions that we can incorporate into our everyday routines.
To provide tips, I’ve enlisted the help of skincare experts to provide the best and most effective products, ingredients, and even foods to achieve your best-looking skin yet.
Meet the Experts
Courtesy of Jordan Karim
Jordan Karim, Founder/Owner of Flora & Noor
Flora & Noor is the first and only halal-certified skincare brand in America with a mission to provide beyond-clean skincare that yields efficacious, fast-acting, and non-irritating results for underrepresented consumers with chronic skin conditions and melanin-rich skin. Inspired and formulated with botanicals and versatile fruits from African and Middle Eastern traditions, their products are clinically effective with clean ingredients that are backed by science and powered by botanicals.
Courtesy of Mona Bahraini
Mona Bahraini, Owner of PPBody
PPBody is skincare simplified with formulas that are true to nature, using the power of cacti to heal. Mona Bahraini, the founder, grew up in Arizona, where they used prickly pear, aka nopales, for everything from eating to topical benefits. As an adult, she discovered the power of the cactus fruit; not only is it a superfood, but the oil extracted from the seed is incredible for your skin. Prickly pear seed oil contains a plethora of vitamins, minerals, plant acids, and fatty acids that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
1. Do less.
The common notion that less is more is true indeed for most of what we do in life, and skincare is no exception. When becoming more aware of proper ingredients that work well for your skin type, it could all be incredibly simple when achieving and maintaining tight yet supple, youthful-looking skin. “The skin industry has convinced the people that we need to have 4-5 daily products applied on the skin, and our skin is screaming at us 'do less,'” states Mona Bahraini. “You only need one or two powerful natural ingredients on your facial skin to make a significant difference."
2. Don't forget to exfoliate.
As mentioned, our skin naturally sheds and regenerates new skin cells; however, nonabrasive exfoliation is an amazing process that can instantly refresh our complexion by speeding up the natural process with noticeably instant results. “Exfoliating not only eliminates the buildup of dead skin cells but also helps encourage your skin to quicken its cell turnover rate to reveal the healthy skin cells below,” Jordan Karim explains.
However, Bahraini has a slightly different take. “Exfoliation is a tricky subject as the skin industry has convinced us that we need to disrupt and exfoliate constantly with scrubs, masks, cleansers, and the list goes on. Our skin also has a natural process of shedding cells and regeneration that we actually prevent and disrupt by doing everything that is trendy.”
"Our skin also has a natural process of shedding cells and regeneration that we actually prevent and disrupt by doing everything that is trendy.”
She continues, “Most exfoliants strip your skin of the natural oils it needs to help natural skin tissue regeneration and dries out your skin which then means you need to add more product to your face to lubricate it after you strip it, it does not make sense to the body at all, but it sure makes sense to the pockets of big box skin industry.” When it comes to exfoliation, Bahraini suggests going the natural route without stripping the skin of essential oils.
3. Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Do you notice people who live well past their 80s and 90s typically have one thing in common? Healthy lifestyle habits go a long way, quite literally. Easier said than done, one way to ensure ageless skin is by practicing a lifestyle of self-care from the inside out. “Reduce the amount of alcohol intake and drink more water. Use sunscreen. Have a couple days a week where you do not make healthy food choices, but most days of the week, you should be incorporating walnuts, avocados, blueberries, honey, olive oil, lemon, red onions, fish, deep leafy greens like kale, spinach, and arugula,” Bahraini advises. Easier said than done for most, eliminating alcohol is a long-term solution for achieving ageless skin.
4. Don't forget your neck.
For most women, the first signs of aging begin to appear at both the hands and neck, caused by various environmental stressors. With noticeably dry, thin skin beginning to appear in both of these areas, I frantically began my search for anti-aging ingredients that would tighten and brighten my newfound problem areas. “Vitamin C and Gotu Kola are great ingredients to look for in anti-aging products," Karim shares. "Flora & Noor's Vitamin C Collection will give you tighter, brighter, and hydrated skin which includes a 4-step regimen to promote healthy collagen production using our Boost and Brighten Cleanser, Vitamin C Resurfacing Toner, Bright Side Serum, and the Super Glow Moisturizer."
Courtesy of Flora & Noor
Flora & Noor doesn't use retinol since it's not halal. However, the company created a plant-based alternative. Karim continues, "Gotu kola, a plant-based retinol alternative which, is another great ingredient for anti-aging. Gotu kola's benefits concerning skincare include decreasing aging signs, promoting tighter and firmer skin, and it is anti-inflammatory using nutritional elements, including beta carotene, amino and fatty acids, and phytochemicals to fight aging signs from setting into the skin."
5. Wash with a gentle cleanser.
Using cleansers with harsh and/or toxic ingredients can do more harm than good to our skin, especially as we age. Recently, I discovered an app called Yuka that helps consumers choose healthier products. Yuka scans a range of products from our favorite brands assessing the health benefits with a rating of harmfulness while recommending healthier alternatives. This is a great option for those who want to get a comprehensive breakdown of harmful ingredients that may be in our favorite cleansers.
In addition to Yuka, to avoid products that may do more damage to our delicate skin, Bahraini suggests going back to the basics. "At night, if you wore makeup, use a natural baby shampoo to lightly remove makeup. Most cleansers that remove makeup strip your skin of everything good, which makes your skin's job much harder."
She recommends washing your face with water only, especially if you do not wear makeup, and applying a morning and night oil with only a couple of drops to balance out natural oil production, even with oily skin.
6. Moisturize every day.
Dry skin can significantly advance the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, which is why moisturizing every day is essential to slowing down premature aging. We’ve learned that cleansing can strip our skin of vital oils and nutrients, so following up with a moisturizer traps water in our skin, giving it a more luscious youthful appearance. This should become a routine habit within our skincare regime. However, Bahraini explains it takes more effort than using just any moisturizing product.
Bahraini suggests PPBody’s night and morning formulas reduce wrinkles formation, tighten existing wrinkles, lighten dark spots, minimize bags under the eyes, and provide deep hydration for an ultimate natural glow. “Cream-base moisturizers do not penetrate skin the way oil does as most are stuffed with fluff ingredients and water. Another key ingredient, prickly pear seed oil, is non-comedogenic, which means it does not block pores and fully penetrates all skin types with a plethora of vitamins, minerals, plant acids, and fatty acids that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.”
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Featured image by Olga Rolenko/Getty Images