As I'm currently on a journey to grow out this hair of mine, a part of me feels like I'm back in school again. I say that because I am constantly—and I do mean, constantly—researching products, tips and naturalistas who can help me to achieve my ultimate goal: longer hair than I've ever had that is very healthy and totally natural.
As far as the naturalistas go, some of my faves include (these are their IG accounts, by the way) naturallytemi (who I believe I recently saw in a Suave commercial—big ups!), naturalneiicey, torichloemiller, univhair.soleil, sadoraparis, evaniwithav and maryamjhampton. All of them have fabulous hair, super-informative YouTube channels and are proudly natural. As far as the products go, I'm actually not that much of a product junkie; at least, not when it comes to commercial brands. But what I will do is find an herb, an essential oil or some sort of other natural item and test it out. Doing that is what inspired me to provide you with this list.
If you've never heard of any of these before, don't feel bad. I honestly didn't either until not too long ago. But if you are looking for some super-effective-even-if-they're-not-mad-popular all-natural things for hair growth, I'd be totally shocked if you and your hair and scalp do not fall in love with all of the following.
1. Moringa Oil for Hair Growth
Moringa oil comes from a plant that is mostly found in the Himalayan mountains. The cool thing about it, from its seeds to its bark, is it's edible and packed with antioxidants. As far as your overall health, moringa oil is good for you because it contains three times more iron than spinach (good to know if you're anemic or you have heavy-flow periods). Moringa oil also contains amino acids to keep your cells in good shape. It's also got a great reputation for giving you an energy boost, healing ulcers and reducing arthritic pain. Plus, if you're a new mom, it's an oil that has the ability to significantly increase the flow of your breast milk.
What makes moringa oil so good for your hair is because its high amount of Vitamin A will strengthen your hair follicles, its high amount of zinc will prevent your follicles from experiencing atrophy and, all of the Vitamin E that is in it, will increase blood flow to your scalp so that your hair follicles will get all of the nutrients that they need. Healthy follicles mean healthier hair from root to tip. As a bonus, if you massage your scalp a couple of times a week with the oil, you'll see less split ends too. You can learn more about it in oil form here.
2. Chebe Powder for Hair Growth
I am pretty intentional about not abusing the word "love", but when it comes to my hair, if there is something that I am absolutely falling in love with, it's Chebe powder. If you've got any kind of 4-type hair, you will too because it has been hailed for decades as being an ingredient that will help you to grow tailbone-length tresses.
Chebe comes from an African shrub known as Croton Gratissimus. If you commit to using it 1-2 times a week, it will remove fungus (including the fungus that causes dandruff) from your scalp, restore the pH balance of it as well, and deeply moisturize your hair to the point that breakage will truly be a thing of the past. For women with 4-type hair, it is a highly-praised solution for gaining length retention. It really is!
I won't lie to you, Chebe powder is not the cheapest stuff on the planet; but I choose to see it as an investment—a very worthwhile one at that! As far as the best way to apply it, I recommend making a paste out of it and applying it to your hair on a wash day. Oh, one more thing—in order to get the best results, it's a good idea to leave it on for 4-6 hours before rinsing it all out. Hey, I never said it wasn't high-maintenance; what I am saying is it's a total game-changer. (Learn how to make a Chebe powder hair mask here.)
3. Arnica for Hair Growth
Arnica is a European flowering plant that is pretty popular in homeopathy. Some people take it as an herbal supplement while others prefer to apply it as a gel directly onto their skin. Although it is used to treat muscle pain or to help to heal the swelling process following a surgical procedure, too much Arnica can prove to be toxic (when taken internally), so make sure to speak with a doctor, health practitioner or homeopath before consuming it.
Arnica's super strong anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties are what make it a great hair remedy. As an oil, it will strengthen the protein of your hair strands, reduce dandruff, slow down premature greying, help to eliminate split ends and increase the lifespan of your hair overall.
I had a hard time finding a naturalista doing a video featuring this oil, but if you'd like to purchase an organic brand of it, you can find a good one here.
4. Red Palm Oil for Hair Growth
If clean eating is one of the goals that you set for yourself this year, add some red palm oil to your diet. It's an oil that is derived from the oil palm tree that is able to fight heart disease and promote weight loss. It's got a lot of Vitamin E in it and more antioxidants than tomatoes or carrots. Many health professionals also credit it for healing asthma, treating liver disease and protecting your skin from UV ray damage, making it an ideal oil to cook with.
Red palm oil is also the kind of oil that you can put on your hair. We already touched on what Vitamin E can do, but two additional bonuses are this oil can prevent greying and slow down hair loss. You can get a wash day routine tutorial here. (Head's up, the oil is literally red and can stain, so don't use it while watching television in your living room. You need to be able to apply it where it won't stain your stuff!)
5. Brahmi for Hair Growth
Something Ayurvedic medicine uses quite a bit is the plant Bacopa monnieri, also known by its "nickname" Brahmi. It contains compounds that reduce bodily inflammation, strengthen brain function and is even known to treat ADHD-related symptoms. Also, if you're someone who struggles with stress and/or anxiety, Brahmi is the kind of herb that will naturally reduce your cortisol levels while boosting your mood.
If you happen to deal with excessive shedding, Brahmi powder is definitely something that you should try. It protects your hair's roots, strengthens your hair follicles, and can also relieve dandruff or dry scalp flakes. For a walkthrough on how to make this particular kind of hair mask, click here.
6. Beef Tallow for Hair Growth
If you're vegan, this is a hair solution for hair growth that you'll probably want to pass on; if you're not, this is one to definitely consider. If you don't know what beef tallow is, it's a healthy form of fat that comes directly from grass-fed cows. It contains loads of vitamins A, D, K and E; so much that a lot of people apply it directly onto their skin. It's great for your hair because it reduces itchy scalp, smooths out any frizz and, it's able to give your hair some really amazing shine.
A young sistah sells the concept of using it pretty darn well here. What she uses is a combo of whipped beef tallow and Chebe power as her night haircare routine. Not sure how you can go wrong there!
7. Hibiscus for Hair Growth
There's a pretty good chance that you've at least heard of hibiscus before; especially in tea form. If you are an avid tea drinker, it's a cool one to add to your collection because it's got lots of antioxidants in it. Not only that, but hibiscus can help to lower your blood pressure, improve the health of your liver, fight bacteria and free radicals, and it aids in weight loss.
As far as what hibiscus can do for your hair, the benefits are kind of endless. It encourages regrowth in thinning areas, strengthens your hair follicles and slows down the appearance of greys. And, thanks to all of the Vitamin C that is in hibiscus, it can boost collagen levels so that your hair has less breakage. Hibiscus can also trigger dormant hair follicles so that they can start growing again. To learn how to make a DIY hair rinse, click here.
8. Bhringraj Oil for Hair Growth
When the Indian herb Bhringraj is used in powder form, it is able to strengthen your vision and even improve your hearing abilities. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, Bhringraj is also able to relieve joint and muscle discomfort and, when applied directly to your temples, reduce the pain that is associated with headaches and migraines. Also, because it is used heavily with Ayurveda treatments, Bhringraj also considered to be a very powerful liver cleanser.
But perhaps what it's best known for is how it can improve the quality of your hair. When applied as an oil, it is able to immediately relieve dry scalp, reduce hair fall, add shine, reduce greying and, if you massage it onto your thinning areas three times a week, it can even fill in bald spots too. One YouTuber shouts out how the oil has worked for her hair here.
9. Organic MSM for Hair Growth
The technical name for the dietary supplement known as MSM is methylsulfonylmethane. Some people consider it to be a "miracle supplement" because it decreases joint pain, restores muscle damage that is associated with working out, reduces the pain and stiffness that's associated with arthritis and it can boost your immune system as well.
Organic MSM is fabulous for hair growth because it contains a sulfur compound that is naturally found in the body. It's the type of compound that makes hair stronger and can even help with hair growth too. The best way to get the most out of MSM is to take it in supplement form (500 mg, twice a day) or pour a couple of teaspoons of MSM powder directly into your hair conditioner.
10. Hops for Hair Growth
Hops is a flowering plant that is used for insomnia, restlessness and irritability. Sometimes it's also used for bladder infections, post-menopausal symptoms and even underarm body odor. Skin-wise, hops can help to improve skin discoloration over time. Hair-wise, it's really powerful when it comes to reducing dandruff and hair fall. If you want to learn how to DIY a potent hair growth oil that includes hops, click here.
Apply it 1-2 times a week, preferably at night, and watch how much longer and fuller your health becomes by year's end!
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
This Is Why Your Natural Hair Ain't Growin'
10 Must-Have Product Staples For Curly Girls
Thinking About Going Back To A Relaxer? Ask Yourself This First.
One But Not Equal: Natural Hair Is Not The Same
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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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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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Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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