Upon learning that New York's governor issued a stay-at-home order, one of my first concerns was what I saw many Black women fretting about on Twitter and in the last-minute lines at the hair store: Wtf will I do with my hair with no access to my hairstylist for an indefinite amount of time? I wasn't worried about having a style per se. I was more concerned about having access to the professional eyes, hands, and treatments that keep my hair healthy. You see, I have 4C natural hair and while I do adore it, baby girl is very high-maintenance. I also had a bad breakage experience about a year ago due to stress, stress, and mo' stress. I've dealt with anxiety almost my entire life and when things get really thick for me, it has historically shown up and shown out in my hair thinning in certain areas.
COVID-19 shaking up the whole country's employment status certainly files itself in that category of stress — partially because I've been laid off three times before the age of 28, so job security is a soft spot for me that I tend to unhealthily fixate on. Since I could smell the anxiety and stress burning a smoke cloud up the road toward me, I pressed the gas lickety-split on different therapy techniques and self-care regimens I've learned. First things first?
So many candles from Target, the attendants probably thought I was hosting a seance — and virtual appointments scheduled with my hairstylist.
That's right. While I do miss visits with my nail tech and masseuse, there's no service entrepreneur I have a closer relationship with than my hairstylist, Astariea "Star" Martin. She helped me transition into natural hair almost a decade ago, encouraged me to love my 4C curl pattern (a hair type she shares btw, which def helps), and one of the things I love most about her is how easily she can explain the science of hair to a mostly clueless person like me.
Just when I started to panic about potentially reversing all the hard work she's put into my hair, Star texted me just to see how I was holding up. Not to inquire about my hair. She hit me up just to ask about me and honestly, she was that way long before New York made headlines as the epicenter of this pandemic. Finding a stylist who actually views me as more than just one more head and cha-ching on the CashApp has been a godsend in many ways. Her kind text reminded me that we've built up a strong enough rapport over the years for me to trust her to simply view my hair on a video chat and glean exactly what I need to be doing or not doing with it. It's also not lost on me that with hair care services being shut down completely all over the country, her business has undoubtedly been affected.
Thus, my bright idea for a paid video consultation was born.
The consultation, of course, began with Star encouraging me to calm down with all the worrying I was doing about my hair and a few ki-kis about this and that. Then, I showed her the different parts of my head that have been trouble areas in the past. Hearing her confirm that my thick lil' 'fro is indeed in a healthy spot was the relief I needed but that isn't even what made our video conference peak beneficial. She reviewed every single product that I've been using or thinking about using (which included me reading the most prominent ingredients on the label), and helped me create an entire monthly regimen for my normal-to-medium porosity hair.
Star also gave me a few cute cocktail recipes I could use to strengthen my hair until she and my mane are reunited. I especially appreciated the moisturizing mix which is basically my favorite spray-on leave-in conditioner, rosewater, and lavender oil — all of which I already owned, except for the rosewater which I needed to re-up on. I simply told her what I had in my cabinets and she recommended the mix based on that. Easy peasy.
When I say I VALUE this woman?! Sometimes, I feel so lost with styling and caring for my natural hair, particularly since I'm at the 'awkward length' stage where it's too long for some things and too short for others. This leads me to worry about it constantly. Sis calmed me down (which is honestly half the battle) and empowered me to manage my hair on my own with a step-by-step plan. I've been writing about beauty and Black women for years but I still unabashedly prefer a lil' more hand-holding on my hair journey. There are enough Black beauty salon horror stories in my past (and maybe yours) to justify me stanning a stylist who doesn't mind communicating with me about every little thing concerning my hair. If I need to cut, you're not just taking a pair of scissors to my head. Imma need to know how much we're talking and why. If my hair is breaking off, just break it to me plainly and help nurse it back to health, not style around it. If all that sounds like a given, let me assure you that it's not always.
Some stylists prefer to withhold key information, often out of fear that you may become so knowledgeable that you won't need them anymore.
Thankfully, Star and other stylists like her — because more do exist — understand that when it comes to the client and the professional, it has to be a team effort. The client is the person who spends the most time with their hair, so it's really important to equip them with all the knowledge of their unique hair needs plus the products and practices that work for it. This way, on the blessed day when we pop back into their chair, we've not undone all their glorious work. A very dope piece of advice I noted from her was the reminder to not look at doing my hair as a chore (which I often do) but to reframe it in my mind as another self-care process. Hair shouldn't be a source of stress for me or any of us but it often can be because of societal pressures and whatever our personal circumstances are at the time.
If you've been feeling lost without your professional stylist during these times or if you're just concerned about how they're sustaining their business, try scheduling paid video hair check-ins. You could do it weekly, bi-weekly, or once a month until the stay-at-home order is lifted. If you don't have a go-to professional right now, it's still not a bad time to look for one. This'll help you stay on top of your hair even when you feel like you're in a slump and it'll keep a few coins coming to their pockets during these trying business times.
Hopefully, I'll be back in Star's chair sooner than later but in the meantime, I'm riding this stay-at-home situation out with her as my main Quarantine Ting. Doing so has helped me sort out my hair woes and uplifted my spirits because she cares about me as a person and it shows in how she approaches her services. Despite all that's going on, I'm doing everything I can to not let Ms. Rona take away my inner peace or this hair I'm trying to grow out. May we (and every hair on our heads) all stay safe throughout all of this.
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Featured image by Marquaysa Battle
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Russell and Nina Westbrook are one of those low-key, unproblematic couples we don’t talk about enough. They met in college and got married in 2015. They also have a beautiful family with three kids. While Russell is an NBA star, Nina is a licensed family and marriage therapist and a mental health advocate.
She recently launched the podcast The Relationship Chronicles with Nina Westbrook, and in the latest episode, she had none other than her husband on as a guest. The college sweethearts dived into important topics from marriage to children and how they navigate it all.
One of the topics they touched on was dealing with resentment in your relationship. The former MVP highlighted the sacrifices his wife has had to make in order for him to pursue a career in the NBA, and that’s why it’s also important for him to support his wife whenever he can.
“For me is respecting and understanding what your partner do and the time it takes,” Russell said. “Not kind of downplaying what they do, understanding the time and energy and effort they're doing to make sure whether it’s their job or making sure home is taken care of, and understanding that, I think that is the challenge of not being resentful.”
Nina agreed and also shared her thoughts on resentment. According to her, one of the best things couples should do is have their own identity and passions outside of the relationship in an effort to be fulfilled.
“I also think that when you’re in a relationship, that’s why it’s so important that each individual kinda pursue their own passions and follow their own dreams as I feel like it only becomes or leads to resentment when one person is not feeling fulfilled in what they're doing in their lives,” she explained.
“And so, they will start to look at the other partner who’s happy or excelling or promoting or moving along in their journey, then they’re left feeling stuck like they sacrificed themselves, their happiness, their career, their future and have not pursued it in the name of the relationship or their partner. So, it’s so much easier to avoid those feelings of resentment when you’re each equally pursuing your passions.”
The couple has many passions that they work on together and separately. Outside of basketball and his family, Russell has become known for his eclectic style and started the fashion brand Honor The Gift. Nina has her podcast, and she also started the mental health website Bene. Together, they run the Why Not? Foundation, which works with kids in underserved communities.
“I’m a firm believer that one person can’t be everything to you, so you have to sort of seek out those different friendships or groups or hobbies or activities that help to fulfill you,” Nina concluded.
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Feature image by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Religion of Sports