Glow Therapy: Candid Conversations With A Skin Specialist

So I’m having an event in NYC! Think of it as a TEDtalk for all things beauty and wellness related. I’ll be breaking down the functions of the skin, how you can get the most out of your seasonal skin care routines & much more. You’ll also have the opportunity to ask me any questions you might have about beauty (even professional questions). The best part is you will receive a free skin consultation from me as well! I hope to see all your beautiful faces there ‚̧ I’m so excited to meet you!

Here’s the link!


How To: Age Like Angela


Ask any black woman with good sense and a bottle of Essentia water in her hand how she wants to age and her answer will be Angela Bassett. She is always slaying roles and serving body. Always glowing… even in the most unflattering of lights and minimal makeup. Imagine being this gorgeous (and virtually ageless) at 59 years old! The woman can’t sit through an interview without being asked about her workout, lifestyle choices and skin care routine. Spoiler alert: she eats a vegan diet… lots of raw foods… and works out enough to make us all feel like lazy pieces of sh*t ūüôā

For the past few years, Ms. Angela has been working with a very experienced and well-known dermatologist by the name of Barbara Sturm to formulate a range of products For Darker Skin.¬†I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I do know that the products are extremely overpriced! Seriously, the cheapest product in the line will run you $70 and the most expensive one is a whole $300. The range focuses on brightening, hydration, anti-aging and reducing the appearance of oily skin. While these are common skin concerns among black/brown people, I feel as though they are pretty common in most people. But what isn’t common is having four hundred extra dollars laying around to age like Angela.

This is why you have me, Essence. Your friendly neighborhood Esthetician to read through all the ingredients on the products and find comparable, affordable alternatives that will pretty much do the same thing for your skin. When it comes to anti-aging, it is never too early to start. In fact, the sooner you start focusing on it, the better. The goal is to focus on hydration, avoid inflammation and look for ingredients that will maintain a healthy pH balance in the skin (ideally 5-5.5). So basically, dry skin is aging skin.

There are a number of anti-inflammatory agents out there but in¬†Dr. Barbara Sturm & Angela Bassett luxury line for skin of color,¬†there are plant-based ingredients such as Purslane, African Whitewood and Magnolia. For hydration, the line uses Hyaluronic Acid and lots of rich natural oils. Hyaluronic acid is a special ingredient because it is found naturally in the human body. It is responsible for maintaining moisture in the body/skin and lubrication of our joints. When used in skin care products, it pulls water from the air into the skin to increase plumpness. This may be part of the reason the big ticket, $300 item in Sturm & Bassett’s line is Hyaluronic Acid Serum. Now let me show you why there is absolutely no need to drop that much on HA.


Skin of Color

Foam Cleanser ($70) – foam cleansers are typically better suited for oily/acne prone skin. They are gentle, yet tend to strip the skin of excess oils. Sturm’s formula does use Hyaluronic Acid in it to help counteract stripping the skin of necessary oils and Salicylic Acid to break up any congestion within the pores. There is also Purslane for anti-inflammation.

The Alternative: P:rem Safe Relief Cleansing Foam ($20) Рsame foam texture, hydrating qualities and anti-inflammatory properties. Although it does have some exfoliating acid, it does not contain the Salicylic. So it will get rid of dead surface skin, but not congestion in pores. If you need Salicylic, here is a great affordable option to include in your routine from The Ordinary for only $5.30.

Enzyme Cleanser ($77) – described as a “foam & gentle peel in one” that can be used 2-3 times a week, this granular (scrub-like) texture turns me all the way off. Anyone who knows me knows I am not here for applying anything srubby/gritty on the face. The great thing I did notice about this product is that it has loads of brightening agents via Vitamin C.

The Alternative: Dr. G Brightening Peeling Gel ($28) Рuses very anti-inflammatory ingredients like aloe, honey and willowbark alongside Vitamin C and natural hydrators like castor oil and glycerin to treat and brighten skin. Doing so without that nasty, abrasive grittiness.

Face Cream ($215) and Face Cream Rich ($230) –¬†I decided to lump these two face creams together because they are both very similar formula wise. The only difference in the two is that the Rich one has a heavier texture due to the use of heavier oils in the formula. Things like macadamia oil, grapeseed oil, vitamin E, sweet almond oil, shea butter, avocado oil and of course, hyaluronic acid contribute to hydration of the skin.

The Alternative:¬†J. One Hana Cream¬†($50) – probably one of the richest face creams I have ever. In my top 10 arsenal of hydrators to combate winter skin. It uses most of the same oils as Sturm & Bassett’s line PLUS niacinamide, vitamin C and biotin to contribute to healthy oil production and brightness in the skin. And the little jar goes a long way because the moisturizer is already in the shape of a ball. That means you’ll no longer have to worry about overusing product! If you should find yourself feeling as though your skin needs more moisture (which I doubt would happen), you could always add in a few drops of¬†Rose Hip Seed Oil¬†available for $9.80 at The Ordinary.

Hyaluronic Serum ($300) – hyaluronic acid for hydration and lumicol for complexion brightening. It is unclear on the website how advanced the hyaluronic acid formula is, but no hyaluronic should EVER cost $300 unless it’s going so deep into your skin that it hits bone!

The Alternative:¬†Multi Molecular Hyaluronic Complex 2 (MMHC2)¬†($35) –¬†water-thin formula instead of the conventional, heavier serum texture because it penetrates the skin extra deep for hydration. Advanced technology that helps your body to produce more hyaluronic acid. This slows down aging by way of hydration and preserves the integrity of skin. I have been using it for a little over a month and it has truly changed my skin for the better.

So while the luxury skin care line by Dr. Barbara Sturm & Angela Bassett could run you about $670, these alternative products would target all the same skin concerns for approximately $540 less! A lot of the time, we equate luxury with price when in fact, cost and worth are two completely different topics. This is when reading and understanding ingredients come in hand! I know what you’re thinking: “Thank goodness I have Essence to sort all this out!”

You are welcome, beautiful ūüėČ


Coming Soon: Mask Mondays!

You know what pisses me off? Seeing tutorials and skin care vids of women with beat faces sparingly applying mask products to their face. As if they are completely unaware that the skin around their brows, mouth and eyes also needs to be tended to. After providing these women with one too many views, I have decided that I will begin a weekly Periscope broadcast featuring myself and some of my fav masks and other products. Those tuning in will be able to ask me health, beauty and wellness questions. So you’ve got a week to download the app and follow. Can’t wait to see you there!

Not into livestreams and such? No problem! I’ll bring the best questions, suggestions and ideas here for your consumption.

Toes & Hoes: A Guide to Suckable Toes and Rubbable Feet


Genetics blessed me with good feet. When I say good, I’m strictly speaking about the look of them (because they are big). I often meet guys who claim they “don’t do feet” but as soon as we are in intimate positions, my feet somehow find themselves in these young mens’ mouths and hands. Foot play was never even my thing, but there is something about having your partner love on all your parts that makes you (or just me) feel cared for and a little empowered. So if you’re trying to get your man or women or gender fluid bae to slob on your toes, here are some of my fav products and tips to preserve your feet and keep them kissable even in the colder months!

1. Baths! Baths are the answer to everything! Being able to soak in hot water and oils helps to make exfoliation easier and hydrates areas like the feet and hands (which house the thickest skin on the body). I like to add things like grapeseed oil, extra virgin olive oil, tangerine essential oil and whatever else I have around the house and soak for about 30min before scrubbing my feet of any dead skin. If you are opposed to baths, you can invest in an at home pedicure spa thing.

2. To prevent any flaking and crusties, hydration is a must. I try to stay away from products that are too thick or greasy. A few of my favs are¬†¬†ha3 Hand Hydrator¬†from Deciem and¬†“First Place” Body Shimmer Oil¬†by jKo Cosmetics. Yes, I use a hand hydrator on my feet but this is a judgement free zone so no worries! ūüôā Both these products smell and feel amazing! The body shimmer is usually reserved for special occasions.

3. Pedicures are a must! We put our feet through hell (and heels) on the daily so maintenance is crucial. Some people prefer to do them at home and that’s okay but I prefer to have a professional to get all in the nooks and the crannies while i sip green tea in a massage chair. The only real advice I have about getting pedicures at salons is¬†make sure they use plastic liners in the tubs EVERY SINGLE TIME and clean their tools BEFORE they work on you!¬†I would have for you to wake up to nubs or deadly infections because of something like cleanliness.

Birth Control Business

My Birth Control Experiences

I promised I would save this topic for a later date. Well now is the time. Let’s talk about birth control… and how much I hate it. Many women (and girls) use it as a way to control their cramps and other physical symptoms of their period like acne. I was once one of them. I began my period at 9 years old. Every month I would become violently ill (fainting, vomiting, etc.). This meant calling out of work every month and missing out on school. PMS would leave me in a deep slump that was similar to depression. I would spend the week before sobbing and hating myself. So naturally, when the doctor presented birth control pills as a solution to my problem, I was hopeful. The dosage she gave me was low. It worked for a couple of months. Afterwards, we went higher. Each time I tried a new brand or dosage, it would work for a short amount of time and then the wrath of my period would return. It was bullshit. After a while, I gave up and didn’t take birth control for a few years.

Then randomly, my sickness got worse. My OB-GYN informed me that it was hormone related and that I should try this thing called NuvaRing to help me out. Im sure she had great intentions… Im sure she thought her medical knowledge and experience was going to be the key to saving me from monthly agony. After reading the side effects of NuvaRing (vaginal infections and irritation, vaginal itching or discharge, headache, nausea, vomiting, bloating,¬†stomach cramps, changes in weight or appetite,¬†breast pain/tenderness/swelling, headache and much much more) I decided I would go for it. There are very few things in this life I regret doing. Putting that little flexi circle of hormones into my vag is one of them. Everything went smoothly. I followed the directions. Put it in for 3 weeks and took it out on the 4th week so I could get my period. My period came. I still got sick. Then my period stayed. For 1 year. Not 365 days straight. Sometimes it would stop for a week or 2. I would think I was in the clear. Then it would return.

I consulted with three different doctors in that year. Each of them was completely baffled. One of them was convinced that I had done something to my own body to make it react this way. I got more sonograms than a pregnant woman. All three physicians recommended the same thing: an abortion. Even though there was clearly no baby up there. Apparently, the NuvaRing hormones interfered with the formation of the lining of my uterus. Every month, my body would try to rebuild itself, but the hormones had been so thrown off that it wasn’t happening. The abortion procedure consists of scraping away the lining of the uterus. The doctors were hoping that would allow the lining to come back regulated and healthy. I was not with it. I didn’t think it was a good idea. So i found natural ways to regulate my hormones. After a few months, I was back to my normal violently ill period. I was never more grateful for it!

Birth Control Industry

“Never has a drug whose target population is entirely healthy people been shown to be so pervasively carcinogenic in animals as has Depo-Provera”

-Medical Apartheid, Harriet S. Washington

The birth control business is shady af. Birth control is poisonous af. Prior to reading Medical Apartheid by Harriet S. Washington, all of my misgivings about birth control were simply due to my own experiences. I was skeptical about the use of synthetic hormones to regulate my living, breathing hormones. I was skeptical about the many side effects each birth control had no matter how much the doctor said there was a minor chance of them occurring. I figured if the birth controls are becoming better/more advanced, why the hell are the list of side effects nearly identical?!

Although Washington’s book is about the medical industry and its exploitation of black people in America throughout time, there is a particularly interested part about the inner workings of some birth control studies. For example, the Depo-Provera shot which was given to dogs (beagles), in 1978, before it was human tested. The shot was created with the intention of being a cancer treatment but seeing it helped to prevent pregnancy changed its destiny. All of the dogs developed breast cancer but¬†didn’t get knocked up. So they moved on to phase 2: human experimentation.¬†¬†Nearly 5,000 were injected. Because they were unable to find funding for the drug, it disappeared for a while. When I was in high school, the Depo shot was proposed to us as a new and easy solution to teen pregnancy. You didn’t have to worry about taking a pill every day and best part of it… no monthly period! I remember seeing commercials on TV for it and being envious of the girls I knew had it.

The birth control industry still texts on humans today. They usually do it in poor third world places like Nicaragua, Venezuela and various African villages. The notion attached to this is that black and brown women in these places are not only uneducated but also not cared about. Because the 17 year old girl in the Bronx does not care if 50 women had to become sterile in order to ensure she and her boyfriend can have unprotected sex. She was not taught to care. The saddest part is, sometimes these drugs are not just tested in third world countries. There have been incidents where drug research companies test birth control on young black and brown girls right here in the U.S. In cities with high teenage pregnancy rates like Baltimore drug companies are partnering with schools to administer birth control to students. This is wrong both because they are underage (with no parental consent) and because they do not have the girls medical histories and could be putting their health at risk.

Moral of the Story

If you read all of this so far, thanks! My point is, when you take hormonal birth control, you interrupt your body’s natural processes. Hormones are a vital part in every system within the body. When they are off balance, you are vulnerable. Also, many of them have life threatening side effects and can lead to major health issues like cancer. I’m not sure about you, but I would much rather have a baby than cancer. And from an humanitarian standpoint, when we give our money (or our insurance company’s money) to these drug companies, we condone their unethical business practices. We create a demand for a product that hurts other people. We give poor black/brown people around the world their death sentence.







Who knows what this beauty symbol is called? 

I’ll give you a hint… it’s on every beauty product you own. 

It’s called a Period After Opening symbol. It appears on products to make consumers aware of how long the products are usable for. Basically, it’s an expiration date (in months). Beauty brands conduct many tests on products to help determine how long it will take for them to lose potency due to oxygen exposure or simply how long it takes for them to be so contaminated by germs that they should be disposed of. 

When purchasing things like face masques, I pay close attention to these because I want to be sure I will get a good amount of usage for my money. But since I am a fan of natural products, I usually have to settle for ones that have less than a 12 month period of usage. 

One cosmetic product you should make sure you are constantly replenishing is your mascara. I believe the typical period after opening symbol for mascara reads to replace it every 6 months, however, to best prevent the spread of bacteria and lower the risk of infection, mascara should be replaced every 3 months. 

With that being said, to achieve healthy skin and a flawless makeup application, make sure you are replenishing your skincare and makeup! 

Period Talk

So it’s been established that pads and tampons are bad. The bazar part is, we don’t know exactly how bad they are for you because the companies you love like Playtex, Always, etc. are not required to let consumers know what their sanitary products are made of. How come? Because they are classified as medical equipment. Yes, I know what you’re thinking… if you can’t use tampons and pads then how will you stop your vag from bleeding all over the place during that time of month? 

There are alternatives such as organic/natural/eco friendly pads. If you would like to be adventurous you could experiment with the a Diva Cup which is a little cup-like device (hence the name) that you insert in the vagina. It catches the blood, you remove it after a certain amount of hours dependent on the heaviness of your flow, rinse it then reinsert. I’ve tried it. IT WAS A DAMN MESS! There was blood everywhere …from my hands to the walls smh. It was also very uncomfortable to insert it. I couldn’t get it in the proper position so after a day of sitting home trying to get it right, I gave up. However, I do know some women who swear by it. 

My own personal favorite alternative is the Thinx period underwear. If you live in NYC, you probably (briefly) saw their controversial advertisements that were taken down because they used the word “period” to refer to …periods. 

They’re made of a comfortable, breathable material for all the ladies out there who experience a little excess sweating during their lady time. They’re easy to clean and ACTUALLY WORK! I don’t know about you but i do not have a nice, delicate period. Mine is relentless… a beast in the night. Since using the underwear, I have not had any spills. I highly recommend them. Right now, Thinx is having a sale. You should get them in your life. They are worth it.