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 🙂

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) – same 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) – uses 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 😉


What the pHuck?

Everyone from doctors, dietitians and beauty professionals are mentioning the importance of pH levels. Usually, people just smile and nod as if they know what the hell is going on. So what exactly does it all mean? Let’s say you had a garden and you wanted to create the best possible conditions for said garden to thrive. You would probably provide top of the line water, air and sunlight. Maybe even talk to it a little bit because you read an article once that plants liked that kind of stuff. My point is, you would facilitate a proper place for growth to take place. Your hair, skin and insides are similar to your (metaphorical) garden in the sense that they all require proper environments in order to thrive. Part of your wellness mission is to achieve and maintain the proper pH for your body to thrive.

Let’s get technical for a sec… pH stands for Potential Hydrogen and describes the alkalinity or acidity of a product/substance. The pH scale goes from 1-14. The higher the number, the more alkaline the substance. Just in case I’m losing you, here’s a chart!

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pH for hair: scalp should be 4.5-5.5 – to maintain this, your products should be a little on the acidic side (less than 7)

pH for skin: acid mantle should be 5-5.5 – to maintain this, your products should be a little on the acidic side (less than 7)

pH for body (internal): 7.5> – to maintain this, the foods in your diet should be as alkaline as possible (more than 7) *this includes a healthy vagina*

Usually, when shopping for any kind of beauty products, you can find the pH level listed on the website or can just research them online. pH level is especially important when it comes to shampoos and face cleansers because of the stripping of vital oils that may occur. When certain oils are removed, the pH of the skin is disrupted.

So stay balanced!

Water your gardens with the finest alkaline beverages

Keep your body clean

Stay away from bad products, bad foods and bad men! lol 

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.

To Derm or Not to Derm

I have a confession to make. I have never been to a dermatologist. I never felt the need to. I’ve never heard anyone I know going to a dermatologist and being cured without their affliction popping up again in the long run. Most of the time they prescribe some topical creams that serve as a quick fix by striping the skin/body of necessary vitamins, bacterias and nutrients. Me being someone who doesn’t take drugs or even use medicated skin care products, I’m not willing to waste my time at a derm office. 

Many skin diseases/disorders as well as other health issues are just red flags our body is trying to send us regarding our internal health. I always recommend visiting your physician, allergist and/or nutritionist.

  •  Physicians can give you blood tests and let you know what vitamin deficiencies you have 
  • Allergists can let you know what allergies you might have that can be causing inflammation and irritation inside and outside the body.
  • Nutritionists can aid you in creating a plan to intake whatever vitamins and nutrients you are lacking.

It’s really the perfect combination for wellness! Disorders like depression, fatigue, skin rashes, and blood related illnesses can all be treated with vitamins and supplements. 

I currently take 

  • Niacin (key ingredient in Vitamin B) for skin and heart health as well as blood purification
  • Multi strain Probiotics for digestive health 
  • Spirulina Powder for protein, Vitamin K, iron, magnesium, chromium 

Check out this bomb ass chart below to help you figure out what vitamins and supplements you should be incorporating into your diet or taking in pill form to improve your health. 

Transformation Inspiration

Meet Jenn! She is a fireball of a woman whose charisma and love for life I have always admired. Ever since our paths crossed, I am constantly amazed by the way she puts herself out there and pursues her passions with virtually no fear. I have watched Jenn throughout her amazing lifestyle transformation and look to her as a source of inspiration when making healthy life choices. I hope you can too! 
What influenced you to make the decision to transition into a healthier lifestyle? How did your journey begin?
Jenn:What influenced me? I was fat! My health and quality of life were deteriorating. My real journey began with weight loss surgery. After that it was making better food choices and a lot of exercise 

What is your favorite way to burn calories?
Jenn:I don’t have a favorite way to burn calories, but most often I run, dance, and lift weights. 

Did you try different types of workouts? If so, which one was least effective to you?

Jenn:Um…nah I wouldn’t say I tried different types because to me the only thing that differs a workout is intensity. I think that it’s really all the same, just a matter of execution. Everything I did was pretty effective, i just needed to be consistent

What advice would you have for creating a diet plan that works? 

Jenn:I no longer believe in diets. They never worked for me. I believe in making the right choices regarding food and what works for my body. I kno that simple carbs aren’t my friend. So I don’t intake a lot of it. Nor is soda. I have a snacking habit, so I try to snack healthily. 

My only advice would be to learn your body and make small adjustments until they become a habit. It’s the only thing that is guaranteed to work long term. 

Are there any special apps, gadgets, or workout gurus that keep you motivated and consistent? 

Jenn:I love my Fitbit, but I’m looking into apple watch, I like the Nike + app for running.

 I follow a few workout gurus like @massyarias and @qui2health among others. I like to follow @ladydork to remind me that I need to stretch. I also follow a fellow wls (weight loss surgery) patient @bodybuildingbrandi she’s so inspiring, especially since we had the same procedure. She motivates me to get off my ass. @qui2health motivates me to keep going in the middle of a workout cuz I vision her and the weights. And I’m like “Jen, ur only lifting a fraction of that. U got this.”

My personal trainer also keeps me focused and going to my post-support group every so often refocuses me 

Yoga Bones

I have always loved low intensity workouts. There is something deeply satisfying to my body about feeling my joints and muscles  move and separate cohesively with my breath. That makes yoga the ideal workout for me. Although I have always been interested in it, I found myself too shy to practice in a class setting. You could say it was nerves or fear of not being able to keep up with the rest of the class. What I think I really needed was a partner. Someone to go with that made my anxious ass feel more comfortable. That person came in the form of my friend/coworker and fellow esthetician, Andrea. She is the proactive, positive, and cool as hell friend every girl needs. She found Harlem Yoga Studio which offers great deals for potential yogis that find themselves lacking the funds for ritzy (and sometimes ineffective) yoga classes. 

We took a beginners class with instructor Sarah Snider. She was quirky yet committed. My goal is to strengthen my body and possibly elimate the many aches I have from a combinations of scoliosis and standing all day at work. Andrea’s goal is to help strengthen her lower back and knees. After today’s hour long class, we walked out feeling grounded and renewed. She said some of the chronic pains she deals with already felt relieved. I feel elongated. I’m standing a little straighter and more conscious of areas of my body that I previously ignored. Basically, we both feel good as f*ck!! We will be returning. I hope to make yoga a part of my lifestyle. 

At one point in the class, Sarah (our instructor) had us lay flat and breathe mindfully. As I laid there with my mind racing from person to place to obligation, she said “now thank that thought for coming and let it go”. And I did. I realize that there are so many thoughts in life we hold onto that do not need to sit with us. Being able to allow them to pass through my mind is a skill I would love to develop. Wish me luck! lol 

Five Benefits of Practicing Yoga

•increases blood circulation

•improves respiration 

•improves athletic performance 

•helps with weight loss 

•prevents joint breakdown