Life is full of ironies, boy. I don't know about y'all but, back when I was growing up, when it came to my hair, the rule in the house was, "Shellie, when you can pay to get your hair done, you can dye it." Shoot, that didn't happen until I was almost in college, so I used to sneak and do stuff like spray my hair with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and lemon juice in order to make it lighter. Chile, fast forward to now and who knew that my body would end up producing enough peroxide to lighten my hair all on its own? Especially now that jet black is my preferred hair hue.
What? You didn't know? The reason why our hair turns grey is because, as we age, our hair follicles produce less melanin. Not only that, but a build-up of hydrogen peroxide naturally occurs in our hair shaft; this basically means that our hair begins to bleach from the inside out. For many of us, this begins at around 30, with grey hairs increasing approximately 10-20 percent every decade or so.
While grey hair is a part of life (and something that a lot of people pay good money at hair salons to get), I totally understand if you're not yet ready to fully embrace your silver locks yet. At the same time, with all of the news out here about how chemicals are wreaking pure havoc on our health, I would recommend that you consider putting the hair dye down and testing out some natural ways to stop premature greying in its tracks. You might be pleasantly surprised by just how well the following 10 remedies tend to work.
1. Be More Gentle with Your Hair Overall
The weaker your hair is, the more prone it will be to grey prematurely. Some things that can do a real number on your cuticles include sun damage, improperly detangling your locks, applying too much heat, using sulfate shampoos, and not deep conditioning your hair on a consistent basis. Speaking of conditioning your tresses, word on the street is that, by applying coconut oil to your hair and scalp on your wash day and leaving it on for an hour, it will nourish your hair follicles and slow down the greying process. Hey, it's worth a shot.
2. Eat More Copper
A mineral that our body needs that isn't discussed nearly enough is copper. When we don't have enough of it in our system, that can lead to high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, a drop in white blood cells, less collagen and elastin production, and more free radicals moving throughout your system. Another indication of copper deficiency is premature greying due to low serum blood copper concentration.
Because copper supplements can sometimes have an adverse effect on birth control and ibuprofen, it's best to get more copper into your system by eating foods that are high in it. Some of those include whole grains, dark leafy greens, cashews, black pepper, dried fruits, potatoes and dark chocolate.
3. Apply Some Onion Juice
One of the reasons why onions are so good for our skin and hair is because it's high in sulfur. If you apply a mixture of onion juice, milk and nutmeg, it will create a face wash that can lead to even and glowing skin. If you apply onion juice to your hair, it can treat dandruff, reduce hair loss, promote hair growth and yes, slow down the greying process; sometimes, even reverse it. All you need to do is apply onion juice to your freshly washed hair, massage it onto your scalp and let it sit for 1-2 hours and then rinse thoroughly, deep condition and style as usual. If the smell of onions drives you up the wall, feel free to add your favorite essential oil to the juice. After doing this for a couple of months, it's possible that your hair will return back to its original color. (You can get an easy DIY onion juice hair recipe here.)
4. Take a Fo-Ti Supplement Too
If you've never heard of the supplement Fo-Ti, don't feel bad; a lot of people haven't. It's basically another name for "Chinese climbing knotweed" and its benefits are pretty impressive. Some practitioners use it in order to aid in treating headaches, acne, high blood pressure, diabetes, muscle soreness, erectile dysfunction and infertility. But what it's got a really great reputation for is combating premature greying by turning grey hair back to its original hue (if you take 1000 mg two times per day). This supplement can be somewhat potent, so make sure to run it by your doctor before taking it, just so that you can avoid any unpleasant side effects that it might bring.
5. Take a B-Complex Vitamin
If you don't have enough Vitamin B running through your veins, this is another thing that could trigger grey hair strands before their time. By adding B-complex to your daily vitamin intake regimen, you can help to stop greying in its tracks. Vitamin B3 is able to nourish your hair follicles, vitamins B6 and B12 will help to restore your tresses' natural hair color, and pantothenic acid (which is a part of the B vitamin family) can postpone the onset of grey hair growth.
6. Snack on a Few Almonds
Remember how I said that grey hair happens, in part, due to the production of hydrogen peroxide building up in our hair shaft? Well, something in our body known as enzyme catalase catalyzes the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide by turning it into water and oxygen. A food that is really rich in enzyme catalase is almonds. Some others that have a good amount of it too include cabbage, kale, sweet potatoes, garlic and broccoli.
7. Load Up on Antioxidants
Something else that happens when we age is our antioxidant levels begin to drop. Whenever this happens, our white blood cells can experience free radical damage due to the overproduction of hydrogen peroxide; this includes the peroxide that is produced in our hair follicles. One way to counteract this is to consume more antioxidants. You can do this by eating citrus fruit, berries and kale, taking vitamin C and E supplements, and consuming the ashwagandha herb. One study revealed that when a group of middle-aged men took ashwagandha for a year, they noticed an increase of melanin production in their hair. That's pretty impressive, if you ask me.
8. Try Some Blackstrap Molasses
I'm borderline anemic. Something that my mother would give me while growing up was blackstrap molasses. Putting a couple of teaspoons in a cup of hot water serves as a pretty good drink that is loaded with iron. Some other benefits of molasses include they help to relieve menstrual cramps, strengthen bones, they contain anti-inflammatory properties and stabilize your nervous system, plus they also fight against fatigue.
Another perk to consuming blackstrap molasses is, if you take the kind that is made from sugarcane juice, they also have a way of keeping premature greying from setting in. Eating a tablespoon every other day should do the trick.
9. Consume More Protein
Since our hair is mostly made up of the protein known as keratin, it actually makes a lot of sense that a lack of protein in our system could also result in premature greying. When you are protein deficient, your hair follicles are unable to get the nutrients that it needs in order to produce the amount of melanin that gives your tresses its natural color. So yeah, amping up your protein intake can also be a surefire remedy for ridding yourself of premature greying. Foods that contain high amounts of protein include eggs, cottage cheese, pumpkin seeds, oats, almonds, tuna, poultry, asparagus, beans and salmon. If you'd prefer to go the supplement route, whey powder is a great way to go.
10. Calm Down
If a senior in your life has ever said that someone in their world was the cause of their grey hair, believe it or not, there is actually some truth to that. When you're stressed out, not only can that shorten the lifespan of your hair's growth cycle, it can also trigger the kind of body inflammation that turns off pigment-producing cells. Wow. As if you needed one more reason to remove all of the stress from your life, right? Now you know, for sure, that it could bring grey hairs to your head well before your time. The good news is this is just one more motivating reason to de-stress as soon as possible. Make sure you do that, sis. Your hair's health—and hue—depend on it!
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
10 Things Your Natural Hair Needs In The Winter
This Is Why Your Natural Hair Ain't Growin'
Uncommon (But Totally Natural) Things That Are Great For Hair Growth
Matthew A. Cherry Fully Deserves His Oscar Nod For Showing Us Mad 'Hair Love'
Feature image by Shutterstock
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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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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