Sunday, April 21, 2019

Can a Sunscreen Really Be Reef Safe?

All through the month of April, I’ve been getting emails about products that are “eco-friendly” and “environmentally friendly” in preparation for Earth Day (April 22) coverage. With summer approaching, I’ve also been seeing a lot of sunscreens labeled “reef safe.” Is this just another buzz word like “natural” and “organic” that, because of loopholes, can easily be manipulated just to sell a product? Can a sunscreen really be reef safe?

The bad news is, no sunscreen is going to be 100% safe for reefs, oceans and marine life. I’m not even confident that the sunscreens deemed safe for human use are actually safe. But there are things that can be done to lessen the environmental impact of sunscreens on the marine ecosystem. 

Photo: Alicia 3690 from Pixabay

Not Tons of Fun

An estimated 6,000 - 14,000 tons of sunscreen per year washes off the skin of swimmers and water sports enthusiasts and winds up in the oceans and reefs. So using reef safe products is definitely a must. 

Being called reef safe doesn’t guarantee that all ingredients are completely safe. Even “natural” sunscreen and skincare products have ingredients that overtime can cause problems. But there are things we can do to lessen their environmental impact.

1. Pick sunscreens that are formulated without oxybenzone and octinoxate. Studies have shown that these particular chemical sunscreen ingredients are detrimental to marine life. Studies have also shown that oxybenzone contributes to coral bleaching,  damage to coral DNA and to zooxanthellae, photosynthetic algae that lives inside coral tissues. (More on this later.)

2. Choose a mineral sunscreen.  Chemical sunscreens tend to be more irritating to the skin, in addition to having more potentially harmful ingredients. Chemical sunscreens, however, tend to give more protection from UV rays and some individuals may feel they need more protection than mineral sunscreens provide. If possible, save the mineral sunscreen for when you will be in the ocean and waterways and use chemical sunscreens to protect against sun exposure during outdoor/non-water activities. 

3. Look for non nano ingredients. If you do choose a mineral sunscreen, it should contain non nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Nano particles lesser than 100 nanometers can clog coral pores. Coral provides a protective environment for the zooxanthellae living inside. Once the pores are blocked from sunlight, the algae can’t grow. All of this causes a chain reaction. Algae provides oxygen and essential nutrients to coral. When coral become stressed, they expel the algal cells, becoming white (known as coral bleaching). This can eventually result in the corals’ death.

4. Choose sunscreens without parabens, such as butylparaben — better for you and the ocean.

5. Other ingredients to avoid — homosaltate, octocrylene, 4-methybenzylidene camphor, retinyl palmitate.

6. Look for biodegradable ingredients often found in the more natural sunscreens — plant-based ingredients like aloe vera and green tea that help provide protection and will take less time to disintegrate than regular sunscreen ingredients. The longer chemicals take to disintegrate, the further damage to the environment.

7. A water-resistant sunscreen is better, since less of the ingredients will wash off into the ocean.

8. Use UPF-rated clothing. It's not always an option, but whenever possible, cover more of your body with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) clothing. You'll have less skin exposed and therefore will need less sunscreen.

Love Sun Body sunscreens have non-nano zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide (depending on the SPF level) and natural, food-grade ingredients — no parabens, synthetic perfumes, dyes, GMO, animal-derived ingredients. The sunscreens also meet both U.S. and European regulatory requirements and are the first and only sunscreens in the U.S. certified by Ecocert Cosmos Natural (the international standard for organic and natural cosmetics and skincare products.) Love Sun Body also received a best score of 1 (out of 10) rating by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The formulas are also water and sweat-resistant up to 80 minutes.  

MyChelle sunscreens, including Sun Shield Clear Spray SPF 30 and Sun Shield Liquid SPF 50 (Non-Tinted) provide broad spectrum protection (non nano zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide) with reef friendly ingredients. The sunscreen is formulated without phthalates, parabens, sulfates, artificial fragrances and colors, and GMOs.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Toni Braxton Breaks Hearts at the Borgata

Over the weekend, I traveled to Atlantic City to see Toni Braxton at the Borgata Event Center. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to an actual concert. I also hadn’t been to Atlantic City or the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in more than a decade. In a former life I reviewed concerts and nightclub performances, so it was fun to sit in the audience without a notepad and a penlight, and just enjoy the show.

LeLee, Taj & Coko of SWV.
Photo: Courtesy of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa

These Sisters Have Voices!

I was surprised how entertained I was by opening act SWV. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know what to expect after seeing the SWV Reunited reality show that aired back in 2014. That show didn't put them in the best light. I’ve always been impressed with Coko’s chops, but Taj was on fire that night. LeLee was playing the role of emcee and doing a great job. The trio was working it like their lives depended on it. It was also amusing to hear people in the audience making comments like: “I didn’t know that was their song!” “Oh, I know that song. I love that song.” "I remember that song. I never knew who sang it." Yep. They had a lot of jams. Remember “Weak” and “Right Here”? 

Toni Braxton performs at the Borgata Event Center
Photo: Courtesy of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa

Did Toni Really Break Down?

Toni’s repertoire is mostly ballads, so you don’t expect to be dancing in the aisles. (Although that didn't stop her fans from standing up and blocking my view. Sigh.) Her show involves a lot of audience interaction and participation. At one point she invited a 16-year-old onstage who was celebrating her birthday, and a couple of audience members to sing a few lyrics from a song. (The man was a fail, the woman was actually very good.) Later on in the show, Toni “broke down” during “Un-Break My Heart,” a song she apparently now dedicates to her late aunt. I have no doubt that she gets emotional thinking about her when she performs her aunt’s favorite TB song, but she really milked it. It was sort of like her Please Please Please (James Brown) moment. Her fans loved it.

Mase performs at the Premier Nightclub at the Borgata.
Photo: Gerrie Summers

Welcome Back Mase

Later on we stopped by the Premier Nightclub where Mase was going to perform. He took forever to come on and only did three songs at that. The DJ had to coax him back on for the third one. Mase said he couldn’t remember the words.  Now, I don’t know if he was just not prepared to do it or actually didn’t remember the words, but I’m not gonna say nuthin’ about someone forgetting anything! Or course the crowd could have done the song for him, because they knew every single word to the hits he did. 

Flip Like Wilson

I also enjoyed the Gypsy Bar,  a rock n’ roll tequila bar with live music. On Saturday night the music was by Flip Like Wilson, a cover band that has an eclectic list of songs and had me dancing in the VIP section. (Either that or I was very drunk.) Kidding folks. They were good.

If you’re interested in upcoming shows at the Borgata Event Center or Gypsy Bar, or other things to do at the Borgata, visit the website Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Texture on the Runway 2018 Celebrating 20 Years with NaturallyCurly

More than 800 media, influencers, VIPs and fashion/beauty enthusiasts packed Gotham Hall to celebrate NaturallyCurly’s signature event Texture on the Runway on Thursday, September 6, kicking off New York Spring 2019 Fashion Week.  Sally Beauty returned as the retail sponsor for the popular runway show. 

This year I was among the crowd. I write about hair health for Real Health magazine and products for my blogs and other outlets, but I never attended a Texture on the Runway show until now. I’m hooked. It was wonderful to see all the fierce sisters on the runway and the audience with glorious waves, coils, curls, fros and locks. (The hair often got in the way of several of my shots, but I had a blast.) 

NaturallyCurly Co-founder Michelle Breyer (L) and recording artist Amara La Negra

This year’s event also celebrated NaturallyCurly’s 20th anniversary. Naturally Curly was founded in 1998 and provided support, inspiration and education to an underserved natural and textured hair community. NaturallyCurly launched Texture on the Runway in 2012. The idea rose out of co-founder Michelle Breyer’s frustration with the lack of diversity and inclusivity on the Fashion Week runways. “As I covered Fashion Week, I was disappointed to see that the models on the runway didn’t reflect the diversity of our community,” she says. “We decided to create an event that celebrated texture and inclusion, and we wanted to do it during Fashion Week.”

The 2018 Texture on the Runway show was definitely a reflection of the crowd, with impressive braids, dreadlocks, twists, afros and textured curls. Presenters on the runway were Camille Rose Naturals, Cantu Beauty, Carol’s Daughter, Creme of Nature, Mielle Organics, SheaMoisture and The Mane Choice.

Camille Rose Naturals

Camille Rose Naturals presented exotic styles influenced by the Amazonian forest, South Pacific and Middle East to reflect the exotic ingredients used in the Around the World collection like Amazonian buriti fruit oil and Middle Eastern oud oil. (More on this in a later post.)

A model walks the Camille Rose runway. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NaturallyCurly

Another exotic look on a model walking the Camille Rose runway. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Naturally Curly

A model walks the Camille Rose runway. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NaturallyCurly

Cantu Beauty

The “Faces of Cantu: Head Over Heels for Texture” presentation showcased textured hairstyles by hairstylist/textured hair expert Maria Antoinette paired with colorful “kaleidoscope of hope” fabrics from textile designer/artist Melissa A. Mitchell of Abeille Creations.

A model walks the runway for Cantu Beauty. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NaturallyCurly

Head over heels for Cantu's colorful show. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NaturallyCurly

Carol’s Daughter

Carol’s Daughter co-founder Lisa Price introduced the show by spitting rhymes (!) accompanied by dancers. The presentation featured actual mothers and their daughters as models. Lead stylists Derick Monroe and Gabrielle Corney used the Pracaxi Nectar style line to create the hairstyles.

A model walks the runway for Carol's Daughter. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Naturally Curly

Founder Lisa Price and daughter Becca. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Naturally Curly

A model on the Carol's Daughter runway. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NaturallyCurly

Creme of Nature

Creme of Nature proclaimed that they were shifting the culture and redefining the future of universal style and texture with an Afrofuturism runway featuring the “Afro Punk Urban Queen,” wearing fashions by De La Cruz New York and hairstyles by celebrity hairstylist Pekela Riley.

A model walks the Creme of Nature runway.  Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Naturally Curly

Loved the textured hair (and the glasses) on the Creme of Nature runway. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Naturally Curly

A model walks the Creme of Nature runway. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NaturallyCurly

Mielle Organics

Hairstyles and looks were inspired by the woman warriors of Wakanda. Lead stylist Key Glover created the styles using the Promenade and Honey collection. There was also a great symbolic message about competition among women to wear the “crown.” The presentation began with the women fighting over who would possess the crown, with one taking the crown from the another, followed by a segment in which they shared the crown. It ended with each queen being presented with her own individual crown. I thought it was a great reminder that we should support one another.

A model walks the Mielle Organics runway. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Naturally Curly

The Mielle Organics runway show was inspired by the women warriors of Wakanda. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NaturallyCurly

A model walks the Mielle Organics runway. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Naturally Curly


SheaMoisture’s “Celebrating Our Shine” presentation showcased the beauty and versatility of textured hair with styles created using the Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen and Restore Hair Care collection overseen by celebrity stylist and SheaMoisture Textured Hair Ambassador Diane C. Bailey. The show also featured Davina Bennett, Miss Jamaica and SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Brand Ambassador.

Davina Bennett walks the SheaMoisture runway. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Naturally Curly

Closeup of a model on the SheaMoisture runway. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NaturallyCurly

A model on the SheaMoisture runway. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NaturallyCurly

A model walks the SheaMoisture runway. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NaturallyCurly

The Mane Choice

The Mane Choice runway show featured bold, fun and colorful over-the-top hairstyles. Their goal, they said, was to showcase how their brand is taking strides to empower and offer solutions to all textures.

A model walks the runway for The Mane Choice. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NaturallyCurly

A model walks The Mane Choice runway. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NaturallyCurly

Amara La Negra Performs

Recording artist and Love & Hip Hop Miami star Amara La Negra performs at Texture on the Runway. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NaturallyCurly

Monday, June 18, 2018

How to Do a Pampering Pedicure


Pedicure Perfection

There’s nothing like a great pedicure complete with a warm, relaxing foot soak and a massage. I have easy steps for an indulgent pedicure you can do at home.

Our feet have the burden of moving us around and supporting our bodies. If we’re on our feet all day, especially in high heels or tight, uncomfortable shoes, they can become swollen, tired and achy.

Going to the nail salon on a weekly basis for a pedicure, though ideal, could become very expensive. But you can give your feet a treat at home by doing more than just a quick polish.

Do this pampering pedicure near the end of the day, when you have nothing else planned, except to relax and retire for the night. It will help you get a restful sleep.

What You’ll Need For the foot soak:
foot basin or foot spa
nail brush
foot scrub or cleanser
pumice stone or foot file
a couple of towels and washcloths

Foot Soak Ingredients
3-5 lavender sprigs (or 2 tablespoons of dried lavender)
3 stems of fresh peppermint (or 1 tablespoon of dried peppermint or 2-3 peppermint tea bags)
  5-6 drops of lavender oil (optional)
(Lavender is soothing and relaxing. Peppermint rejuvenates tired feet and is good for circulation. 

For the pedicure:
nail polish remover
toenail clipper or scissors
emery board
orange stick
cotton swabs
toe dividers
foot cream (or hand cream)
moisturizing wipes or tissue
vitamin E, olive or vegetable oil

Prepare and Cleanse

1. Remove Nail Polish

I prefer non-acetone nail polish remover. Don’t laugh, but I use Piggy Paint Nail Polish remover. It’s made for kids in mind, but it’s natural and made without harsh chemicals.

2. Prepare the Foot Soak  

Boil 10 fluid ounces of water and pour over the lavender flowers and peppermint leaves in a large bowl and let steep for 15 minutes.

While waiting, boil about 18-20 cups of water or whatever amount will cover your feet and ankles in the foot bath.

3.  Add the Foot Soak and Essential Oil  

Strain the foot soak mixture and then pour into the foot basin. Add the essential oil if using and mix well. (If you are using an actual foot bath/foot spa, read the manufacturer’s instructions to find out what bath ingredients and products are safe to use in it).

4. Add the Warm Water and Soak 

Add enough water to cover the feet up to the ankles and soak for 15 minutes. Here's a trick I've used after having a pedicure at a spa. Put smooth stones (like the type used for hot stone massage or for decorating mini-water fountains) and spread them at the bottom of the foot basin to massage the soles of your feet as you soak.

5.  Gently Scrub 

Using a nail brush, clean under the nails and gently scrub the feet. You can also use a favorite foot scrub or cleanser to help loosen dead skin.

6. Smooth Away 

Remove one foot from basin and using a wet pumice stone or foot file, smooth away calluses and rough, hard skin with a circular motion on the soles and heels (but not the toes).  

7.  Gently Push Back Cuticles… 

Gently push back cuticles with an orange stick. Repeat steps 6 and 7 with the other foot.

8. Rinse  

Rinse both feet in the foot bath. (You might want to rinse off the feet again in another foot basin or use a soft, wet washcloth to wipe off the feet).

9. Pat Dry  

Pat dry with a towel and be sure to dry well between the toes.

10. Trim the Toenails 

Cut the toenails straight across with a toenail clipper. Do not cut into the corners. It's best to allow the nails to grow out at the corners to prevent ingrown toenails. If you cut too close to the corner, the nail can grow into the skin. [If you do have an ingrown toenail, have a podiatrist cut and shape it properly.]

11. File and Shape 

Gently file and shape the nails with an emery board.

And Now for the Massage… 

Rub in a foot cream and massage your feet for 10 minutes.

For Extra Pampering You Can Add This Optional Step:

Massage a rich foot cream onto the feet, then wrap them inside plastic and cover with a warm towel and relax for 15-20 minutes. (If you don’t have a towel warmer, you can warm a towel in the dryer). You can also use an at-home paraffin treatment.

Time to Get Ready for the Polish  

1. Remove Excess Cream with a Tissue or Moisturizing Wipe

 Then use cotton balls or toe dividers to separate the toes.

2. Base Coat 

Apply a base coat to the nails and let dry.

3. Apply One Coat of Polish… 

Apply one coat of polish and allow it to completely dry. Apply a second coat.

4. Apply Top Coat  

Once the second coat has dried, seal with a top coat. Clean up any polish that might have gotten onto the skin with a cotton swab dipped in nail polish remover.

The Final Step for Pampered Feet 

When your toenails are completely dry, just before going to bed, apply vitamin E oil (or olive or vegetable oil) to the cuticles and, if you like, massage a little more lotion onto the feet. Cover with socks overnight and you'll wake up with gloriously soft, happy feet.

If you have certain health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, please consult your doctor about using hot foot baths.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Bubble Bath Bliss

A soothing bubble bath is one of my favorite things to do, especially after a busy day or a strenuous workout. My old apartment had a large claw-foot tub that was extremely difficult to climb out of—and not for the reason you think! I didn’t want to leave! 

Taking baths is a favorite pastime activity for many of us. In fact, it has it’s own special day—National Bubble Bath Day on January 8. Bubble baths are a great way to relax, to soak away stress and soothe aching muscles, tired feet, and an exhausted mind.

I alternate using foaming bath products with bath salts and oils, because bubble bath products can be drying, but it’s just not as fun without those bubbles! There are a few potential down sides to taking bubble baths. As a person of color, I’m particularly susceptible to dry skin conditions, and long hot baths can further dry out the skin. Bath water that is too hot can aggravate certain skin conditions like eczema (atopic dermatitis) and can even be unhealthy if you have certain diseases like diabetes or have high blood pressure, conditions that affect many women of color.

Here are tips to help you avoid the problems associated with bubble baths and to reap the benefits.

The Benefits 

Hot water increases blood circulation to the skin and increases the flow of oxygen, which is great when you have sore muscles and stiff joints. Hot water opens up the pores and helps release toxins from the body. Along with candles, the right scent, and soothing music, the warm water is simply heavenly, especially at end of the day.


Avoid frequent hot baths. When the water is too hot the heat breaks down the skin barrier and makes it more prone to irritation and dryness, according to dermatologist Dr. Jean Ho.
According to the Mayo Clinic, taking frequent hot baths can also lead to vaginitis, an inflammation of the vaginal area. A common form is a yeast infection. Hot baths don’t actually cause yeast infections but can cause you to become susceptible to them.

Also avoid very hot baths if you have circulation problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and are pregnant. If you can’t climb into the top comfortably, (and you tend to feel itchiness afterwards) it’s probably too hot. The water should be close to body temperature. When in doubt, consult your doctor about whether hot baths are safe for you.

Beware of Bath Ingredients

  • Certain ingredients could disrupt the natural balance of the vaginal area by killing off the good bacteria that controls fungus growth. 
  • Some ingredients might be irritating (like surfactants and fragrances found in store bought bubble bath and bath gels) and make the condition worse.
  • Irritation, itching and burning can be symptoms of non-infectious vaginitis, caused by an allergic reaction to perfumes.
  • If using a heavily scented bubble bath, put a little baking powder (which helps to relieve irritation) in the bath. 
  • Also note that while bubble baths are soothing, they are not good for relieving vaginal dryness.
  • Check ingredients of store bought bubble bath if you have sensitive skin or tend to have allergies. Bubble bath can also aggravate these conditions.
  • Don’t take bubble baths if you have a urinary tract infection, which could have ingredients that will hamper recovery.

Dry Skin. Because you are typically in a bath for a prolonged period of time, if you have dry skin, certain bubble baths can strip away natural oils from the skin, resulting in flaky and itchy skin. If you have eczema, bubble baths (due to certain ingredients and hot water) can cause dry patches of skin to flare up.  Use a bath soak that is free potentially irritating ingredients and that are made for muscle relief and dry skin.

To control what is in your bubble bath, try making your own. 

Here are two natural recipes:

Queen of the Nile Bubble Bath

It’s well known that Cleopatra enjoyed a bath of milk and honey. And for many of us, a long bath has once again become a luxury! Milk has lactic acid, which is good for exfoliating, while soothing and moisturizing the skin, and honey has antiseptic qualities and is also moisturizing. Add a light oil for extra softness and an essential oil to match the mood you’d like to evoke.

  ½ cup powdered milk
  ½ cup honey
  ½ cup liquid Castile soap

  ½ cup of oil (olive, grape-seed, etc.)
  A few drops of essential oil (like lavender or chamomile for relaxation or lemon or eucalyptus to feel energized)

You can pour the entire mixture under running water and swirl it around to distribute into bath water. If you use less, store any remaining mixture in the refrigerator. Use within two-three months.

Gentle Homemade Bubble Bath

  1-quart warm water
  1 ½ cups liquid Castile soap (or a 4 ounce bar, grated)
  2 tablespoons of vegetable glycerin
  5 drops of essential oil

Mix ingredients in a glass or ceramic bowl. Pour into a large (preferably dark) glass airtight container. When ready to use, shake and pour ¼ cup under running water.