Deciem Debacle

I wrote this piece about why I decided to quit my position at Deciem. I hope you enjoy it!

My Deciem ordeal began in September 2017 at a WeWork office in Manhattan. At the time, I knew nothing about the company besides the last minute googling I had done the night before. As a beauty professional, I found the concept of the company to be a bit weird but was moved by Brandon’s very heartfelt and personal letter on the website. I was intrigued to learn more and possibly become part of the Deciem family. The interview was pleasant and filled with talk of growth within the company. Before I got up to leave, the young woman checked her phone and said to me “Brandon is in town and would like to meet you! Are you free tomorrow?”. I wasn’t free the following day but for a chance to meet the infamous Brandon, I made myself free. That evening, I received an email with instructions to meet with Brandon Truaxe at the Andaz Hotel on 5th Avenue in room 1301. Being the skeptical New Yorker that I am, I was extremely hesitant to go up to the hotel room of any strange man. Upon my arrival, it was decided that we would meet in the lobby instead.

Myself, the young woman who interviewed me the day before, another prospective employee, Brandon and a man he introduced to us as his grandfather gathered in the lobby and answered a few brief questions about our ambitions and passions. He was intense and had an almost mythical quality about him. He spoke to us about the vision he had for his company in the United States. The young lady that was being considered for the position (also a woman of color) referred to him as a “genius” which led to his grandfather to tease him affectionately. Despite his crisply pressed clothes, spotless sneakers and meticulously slicked hair he had a messy quality to himself that made him relatable. That was the moment I decided I wanted to work for The Abnormal Beauty Company.

The original plan was for the Nolita location and Deciem office(s) to open during the first week of October. Each week, I received news of construction issues and delays. This meant our product trainings were to be held in hotel lobbies and WeWork spaces. Just when I was beginning to lose hope in my new employer, I was offered the opportunity to travel to Toronto to work in the Deciem stores. Naturally, I was excited about a free trip… and also experiencing the culture of the company I was spending every waking moment studying. With all my training materials and my finest black clothes in tow, I caught an early flight compliments of the company.

During my stay in Toronto, I worked at four store locations which included a pop up shop and a private shopping event. I visited about six locations. It was a common occurrence for me to see some of the same workers at multiple locations. At the time, I took this as a sign that everyone was comfortable jumping into roles whenever/wherever they were needed and not as a sign that the company was understaffed. I also was enamoured with the fact that most of the employees I had seen were women of color. I would later find out through firsthand experience that these women were often extremely knowledgeable but being kept in the lowest position the company had to offer. By the end of my trip, I was excited to take all that I learned and replicate the Deciem culture in the United States.

The Nolita location finally opened its doors on December 9th, 2017. The Deciem team was sleep deprived but excited to get to work. We had all grown tired of the daily email updates declaring and postponing the stores opening. New York city was definitely happy to receive us and prepared to put our knowledge to the test. The first few weeks were fast-paced and fun. We bonded as a team and fell into our roles (some of which we had not applied for). It was decided the evening before we opened that one of my fellow brand ambassadors would be promoted to store director. His promotion was effective immediately.

The honeymoon phase didn’t last long. We learned the true nature of our Canadian coworkers when we received our paychecks and most of them were short a couple hundred dollars. It was the week before Christmas in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. Email threads that had been active for weeks suddenly went silent once questions and concerns arose. All of us were struggling financially and growing impatient. After many conversations amongst ourselves, I decided to reach out to the then Co CEO, Nicola Kilner. About 30 minutes later, I received a response from Nicola with all of the individuals who had been ignoring me for weeks. Needless to say, everyone who had been ignoring my (and my coworker’s) inquiries for the past few weeks promptly replied with declarations to get the situation resolved. This incident marked the first of many unfortunate ones with Deciem.

For us, the new year marked the beginning of our uncertainty of Brandon’s mental health. He sent a company-wide email informing us of how much he loved us. Immediately after, he “implored” us to not contact him or reach out to him for any reason until the month of February. We were instructed to only make important decisions if we were 100% confident in them. If we were not, those decisions were to be put on hold until he returned. He did not inform us of where he was going or why. The tone of the email sounded like a manic episode.

Around this time, we began to experience random power outages in the store. Because our registers and heating systems were operated via WiFi connection, we would lose heat and the ability to conduct business. The power outages seemed to happen every time there was inclement weather. We would contact the Canadian team that was remotely in charge of the store operations. Once again, our correspondence went unanswered. It was the middle of winter in New York City. We had no heat or hot water (which we hadn’t had since the store opened). As most problems do when they go unattended, as time passed… they got worse. In January, we had a blizzard in New York. It had gotten to the point where most of us had to work with our coats on. We relied on expensive yet ineffective Dyson heaters for some comfort. They were the only heaters available that went with Brandon’s aesthetic. Because of the heating situation, the pipes began to freeze and before you know it, we did not have any running water or a functioning toilet in the store. The Abnormal Beauty company became a hotbed of germs and sickness since we were unable to wash our hands, properly clean the store or use the bathroom.

We considered the fact that Canadians were unaware of OSHA laws in the United States. Our store director sent them article upon article with information regarding the building not being up to code and relayed to them our discomfort. They advised us to use the restroom in the basement of the dilapidated building next door which is also owned by Deciem. It was (and still is) under construction and also had no working electricity or heat. We only went there if absolutely necessary due to the fact that it was an active construction site. The team began to lose morale and each day more and more people called out sick. Inevitably, one of my coworkers got caught the flu. She immediately notified the store director who then notified one of the Canadians. His response was one I will never forget. He called the young woman a liar. He said that they had made Purell hand sanitizer available to us and if we (the employees) did not want to use it, it was our fault. He also said that the company would not be intimidated with threats of calling OSHA. Last but not least, he stated that if we could not go along with the way things were then perhaps we were not good fits for Deciem. That was the day I finally realized Deciem did not live by its many advertised philosophies. They were crooked, passive aggressive and did not care about their employees.

With all of the electrical and heating issues, it was decided that the store would close until they were able to fix things. I stayed home and thought about the decision I had made to leave my previous (well-paying) job for this promising brand that spoke about growth. I began to examine the fact that most of the stores were filled with Brand Ambassadors of color while office positions were reserved for waspy, inexperienced white women. One of my coworkers (a woman of color) was literally a chemist who originally applied for a position in the office. She was interviewed and offered a position as an hourly store employee instead. A transgender coworker of mine who is pursuing a career in public relations once mentioned being interested in a promotion from store keyholder to PR assistant. The response was a coy laugh followed by “You already work for the company.” It was apparent that people like me wouldn’t have much mobility here.

When the store reopened, heads rolled! Almost every week, one of our Canadian contacts was being fired. It was always sudden and followed by a very short and cryptic email to our store director. We began to question whether or not we would all suddenly be let go should Brandon change his mind. To me, his mental health became a real issue following the first video he posted on the Deciem Instagram page declaring the end of all marketing plans. Contrary to what was reported by the media, the entire marketing team was terminated the following day. Then, word went out in the company that we were going in a new direction. From now on (or until he changed his mind again), Deciem would be focusing on customer service and not education. For someone like me, who was interested in attempting to grow in the beauty education “department” of the company, this was disheartening. How was I supposed to be the pioneering black woman in the company if there was no space to pioneer? Also, how could we be effective brand ambassadors if we did not educate customers?

Everything began to fall apart after this. Brandon’s incessant rants on social media brought waves of negativity into the store. Customers who were already dissatisfied with our lack of stock were now questioning us on the morals of our boss. It was a hellish place to be. Our new Canadian contacts were just as unaccountable as the last. They tried their best to credit majority of our complaints to our store director. We knew everything they said was untrue because we watched and listened daily as they mistreated him and put him in compromising situations. Often times, he was physically ill due to the added stresses of this position they forced on him. Seeing them neglect someone who was giving some much of themselves to the company did not make me any more excited to move up within the company. I was disillusioned at this point.

For me, the final straw came when I returned from a brief vacation. Before I took the days off, I was told that I would be compensated for a certain amount of vacation hours. I confirmed this with two of my superiors. When I returned, I reached out to HR to confirm that the hours would be accounted for on my upcoming paycheck. She (nastily) said that they would. On February 28, I received my check and it did not include my vacation hours. I was agitated. Immediately, I reached out to the woman in HR. My email was forwarded to someone else. Then that person forwarded my email to someone else. It was said that I had to confirm my vacation hours with the final person included in the chain of emails. I have still not received any response from that individual. I left Deciem out of frustration. I left because I cannot work at a place that does not honor their word and makes me beg for money that I have earned.

Since my departure, some of my former coworkers have also left Deciem. I love them more for it. As Deciem employees, we were severely underpaid by beauty industry standards, not offered any health benefits as full time workers and taken for granted in the worst possible way. The Abnormal Beauty Company is conducted in a similar manner to a cult. The prime goal is to protect the interest of the leader and to carry out all of his wishes, no matter how bazaar. I once walked in on an interview being conducted by someone in management where he told a prospective employee that instead of the saying which speaks of “drinking the kool aid”, he preferred the term “drinking the coffee”. He proceeded to ask the young woman if she was prepared to drink the coffee. She said yes.

UPDATE: This morning (4/27/2018) I received a text message which included a screenshot from a Deciem store manager. The photo was of a company email from Brandon Truaxe and simply reads “I’m done with DECIEM and EVERYTHING. No need to discuss.”

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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!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/glow-therapy-candid-conversations-with-a-skin-specialist-tickets-42162783019

The Pu**y Peel

As you may or may not know, vaginal care is important to me. Why? Because myself and some of my favorite people have vaginas. They’re pretty awesome but having one is like having a part-time job you never applied for but keep just because you need to make ends meet. Between GYN appointments, waxing, shaving (yuck!), periods and child birthing… it’s like WTF?! When does it end? Not today.

I did some extra shit to my vagina earlier that was amazing and you need to hear about and/or experience! I got a chemical peel on my vag to help with ingrowns, exfoliation and brightening. I have tried a few different brands of peels on my face. All of them were busts. I did not like the tingling/burning sensations or the weeks of dehydrated skin that ensued. The reason I was willing to try again with my vagina was because my ingrowns have gotten worse due to the cold season and the fact that my waxing schedule has changed.

Fortunately for me, one of my very best esthetician friends referred me to Baire in Hell’s Kitchen. They use PCA chemical peels, which have been around for over 20 years. PCA is a science based brand complete with pH balanced products for every day and professional use. They are very education oriented. I love the company philosophy mainly because they offer so many options in peels that otherwise can be very harsh and intimidating.

My appointment was with a lovely woman named Marina. She was pleasant and gentle. We chatted about our shared reservations regarding other brands of peels and direct acids. Because I am completely comfortable busting it open on medical tables, my service was quick and easy (about 25 minutes). Although I did not experience any discomfort, burning or stinging, it is a possibility with others. Luckily for me, Marina was nice enough to check in and make sure I was okay.

So far, my bikini area feels smoother and softer. My ingrowns are a bit more apparent and I am trying my best to not pick them out just yet. The bikini peel service is priced at $75 and recommended to do every 4-6 weeks. I will most likely be doing 6 sessions so that I will see desired results. I want my skin to be completely recovered from all those years of shaving!

I’ll keep you posted 🙂

SAY NO! Protect Your Glow

If you’ve followed me for a while, you are absolutely aware that my approach to skin care (and overall wellness) is being gentle with the skin. This means not doing anything that would disrupt the acid mantle of my skin. The acid mantle is the outermost layer of the skin that protects it from any bacterias and potential invaders. Moral of the mantle is, it keeps the dirties out. Being that it is so important to skin health, I want to do everything within my power to keep it intact. So here’s a list of things to avoid that could disrupt and/or destroy your acid mantle.

  • Drying Alcohols– drying alcohols wear away at the acid mantle and make the skin vulnerable to infection and overproduction of oil
  • Peel-off masks– masks that dry hard and peel from the face not only hurt like hell to take off but they can make the pores appear larger
  • Nair– it falls under the category of chemical depilatory which means which means it is highly alkaline (unlike the natural state of the skin) so… NOPE!
  • Shaving– call it dermaplaning or whatever you want… it is shaving. Those little vellus hairs (yes, they have a name) are the equivalent of a wire fence for your acid mantle
  • Microneedling- poking holes in my face with needles? Blood? Need I saw more?
  • Mineral Oil– check all your products and if they have mineral oil in them, burn them. Or just throw them in the garbage. Although it softens the skin, it does clog the pores and increase water loss in the skin. Water loss speeds up aging
  • Face Scrubs– anything with granules on the skin that is meant to exfoliate usually does not. Instead, it scratches at the acid mantle and makes the skin raw. Step away from the St.Ives ladies!
  • Lemon Instagram hobbyists will lead you to believe that lemon juice on the face is a great lightener and exfoliator. It is actually too acidic for the face.
  • Vaseline– Its derived from petroleum… like the stuff we put in cars. Also, uses paraffin wax which is bad for your skin in the exact same way as mineral oil. It is also horrible for the environment
  • Facial Brushes Similar to face scrubs, they can wear away at the acid mantle. Aside from that, they hold bacteria and makeup.

The Abnormal Beauty Story

I have been keeping a secret. For the past three months, I have been a brand ambassador for a company called Deciem (also known as The Abnormal Beauty Company). You might’ve heard of the brand by way of The Ordinary which is now carried at retailers like Sephora and Ricky’s. The company is an umbrella brand, which means it owns and formulates multiple brands. As of now, there are more than 100 products under the Deciem umbrella. This means it took me a lot of research and trying out to know for sure if I loved the brand. Since it is against my personal code of ethics to promote some shit I don’t use or love, I kept my new role under wraps.

But now, I am here and ready to share with you!

Deciem offers lines for hair, skin and body but for the purpose of simplicity, we are just going to focus on the skin care lines for now. There’s The Ordinary, Hylamide and NIOD (pronounced KNEE-odd).

The Ordinary: This line is so simple that it’s complicated for most people. It’s where you go to figure out what kind of ingredients your skin likes. Also, it helps you to get real about your skin concerns and goals. It has everything from exfoliating acids, retinoids, vitamin C, cold-pressed organic oils and other molecules for various concerns. The best part about the line is, all of the products are priced under $15. The only thing that I am not fond of about the line is that it does not have a cleanser.

Some of my fav products from The Ordinary include EUK 134, Azelaic Acid, Marula Oil.

HylamideThis would be considered the next step up. The formulations are a little more advanced and target more signs of aging. Also, the serums are a lot lighter in texture compared to The Ordinary because they’ll penetrate the skin a lot better. This line has a face cleaner, face mists and uses targeted “boosters” for skin care concerns like sensitivity and congested pores.

Some of my fav products from Hylamide include the High Efficiency Face Cleaner, SuQ Anti-Age serum, Photography Foundation

NIODOkay so NIOD is probably the best thing to come into my life in 2017. Most advanced skincare technology I’ve ever used. The line focusing on preserving the skin health for as long as possible. This explains why it is absent of things like direct acids and retinoids. It is also very special because it not only supplements what your skin is missing but it also trains your skin (via these crazy delivery systems called precursors) to create more of whatever your skin is lacking. Naturally, it is the most expensive line, but not so expensive that you feel horrible about purchasing it. It ranges from $25-$90.

Honestly I love everything I’ve tried from NIOD. It has become a staple in my daily routine (both day and night). I use the Copper Amino Isolate Serum, Fractionated Eye Concentrate, Multi Molecular Hyaluronic Acid, Non-Acid Acid Precursor, Voicemail Masque, Flavanone Mud and Mastic Must.


I know that the website can be a bit overwhelming but if you are ever in need of product recommendations or have any questions, feel free to hit me up and ask!

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 AlternativeP: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 AlternativeDr. 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 AlternativeMulti 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!

Image result

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