On your podcast Naked Beauty, you have important conversations on beauty and wellness. What inspired you to start the podcast?
Back in 2016, I remember listening to so many podcasts, but I could not find podcasts that were by women, certainly not by Black women on one of the topics that I'm most passionate about, which is self-care, skincare, wellness, and beauty. And it's such a rich topic to talk about because you can go up to a stranger on the street and be like, "Oh, I love your twist outs what products are you using?" And they'll give you like a full rundown down of every single thing they use. Beauty is such a strong connector between women. And I thought it would be an amazing topic for a podcast. I started Naked Beauty because I wanted to talk to women I admire about their approach to skincare, wellness, selfcare, and beauty in a way that wasn't specifically about product reviews and that wasn't specifically about, the latest lipstick that they bought. Instead, it is focused on getting into deeper conversations like "who influenced your beauty decisions growing up?" "What does your mother teach you about beauty?" "How is beauty in your culture looked at versus the way it's looked at maybe in the US?" So, I was able, through the medium of a podcast, to get much deeper into what beauty meant to people on an individual level.
You've interviewed women from all walks of life, including a lot of Black women. What have you noticed is a common theme/problem in beauty, skincare, wellness that Black women struggle with?
In terms of Black women's relationship to beauty, I think what a lot of us have in common is not seeing ourselves depicted in the media or mainstream culture. A lot of my guests grow up in majority White environments, whether that's schools or the towns that they live in. And they get told comments like, "Oh, you're pretty for a Black girl". Things that are demeaning and make them feel different and not appreciated for their skin color. And I've talked to a lot of my guests who said that growing up, they wished that they had fair skin or they wished that they had hair that hung down because they didn't like that their hair grew out and not down. Unfortunately, a lot of these issues and insecurities that Black women end up feeling have to do a lot with representation in the media. I'm so happy when I think about the introduction of Instagram and YouTube and TikTok, all these platforms that I didn't grow up with. The kids now get to see so many different depictions of beauty and I think that's positive.
Secondly, when it comes to skincare, I'd say hyperpigmentation is one of the most common skincare concerns that we talk about. So many Black women struggle with hyperpigmentation. Sunscreen has become a big thing recently, but a lot of Black women maybe grew up not understanding the importance of sunscreen. The way that melanated skin is, you get one little scratch and suddenly you have a scar. So, hyperpigmentation continually comes up as something that my audience is trying to combat, to fix, and to undo.
What do you think is lacking right in the beauty and skincare industry right now with the brands out there?
We need more products that specifically speak to Black women and Black women's skincare concerns. And we need to do so in a way that is using natural ingredients that come from powerful plant-based and proven sources. That’s something that's missing because there are maybe a few products that cater to darker skin tones and maybe they're not the most natural. So, it’s needed in the market.
“We need more products that specifically speak to Black women and Black women's skincare concerns.”
What made you partner with Ustawi and what role do you see Ustawi playing skincare industry?
I was excited to hear about a Black woman who created a product where she saw a need like I did when I created my podcast. It was a podcast that I wanted to listen to and I couldn't find it. So, I created it. When I think about what Natasha did, she felt like she's traveled the world and she's had all of these great life experiences but she wasn't able to find a skincare brand that addressed her specific needs. So, she stepped in and created what didn't exist and that's powerful. I'm so inspired by founders who see that there's a ton of stuff on the market, but nothing is speaking to them or their specific community and so they find ways to step in and create something meaningful. That's what Natasha has done. I love that Ustawi uses natural ingredients sourced from Africa that have centuries of healing properties and that we know are effective. Ustawi is packaging all that together to create effective skincare for Black women and women of color. I should say it is really powerful and something that I was eager to be a part of.
You talk a lot about plant-based and natural products for skincare and haircare. Why do you think that it's important?
It's interesting because I find that all of the best products that I use contain natural oils. I have learned firsthand the power of oils like Marula oil or Jojoba oil or using natural clay masks versus something that's been sitting on a shelf for a million years. So, the reason why I'm passionate about natural products and natural ingredients is that they just work better. I find that it's much gentler on your skin. There's a reason that these ingredients have been used in rituals for hundreds of thousands of years because they do work. Niacinamide and hyaluronic acid are great but I'm always reminding people to not forget about all of these amazing products that mother nature has provided us with.
What are three key products that Black women should have on your skincare?
Number one is sunscreen. It's so important to wear sunscreen even on days when it's not very sunny. Even when it's overcast you still have to use sunscreen because the sun is still out there doing its thing. And if you're dealing with dark marks or any hyperpigmentation, the sun makes it so much worse. Number two is a really good vitamin C. I think vitamin C does so much to brighten your skin. It helps even texture and helps with the firmness of your skin as well. I love a good vitamin C. My third must-have which isn't only specific to Black women is having a good moisturizer is important. A good moisturizer that has really powerful active ingredients that can target any dullness in the skin. When I put on my favorite moisturizers my skin just feels so much more radiant after the fact. A good moisturizer is always worth it.
“I'm passionate about natural products and natural ingredients is because they just work better.”
What does your skincare routine entail?
I have a detailed skincare routine I will admit. I'm not one of those girls that just wash their face and put on moisturizer. I wish. I believe more is more. I use toner and essence and eye creams and I do face masks and double-cleansing and all of that stuff. I love a detailed skincare routine because it's also "me time". My skincare routine time is time for me. So, my skincare philosophy is to take your time with your skincare, enjoy layering each of the products and enjoy the ritual of it. When you treat your skin with a lot of TLC, it rewards you back.
Interviewed by Jiji Ugboma for Ustawi Blog.