The world's trusted guide to sustainable and ethical fashion

The world's trusted guide to sustainable and ethical fashion

A Non-Toxic Beauty Boutique for and by Black Women

Written by Dr. Kristian Henderson, Public Health Professor & Founder of BLK+GRN.

Historically, Black women in America haven’t been allowed to be happy.

Black women are taught to be strong and resilient. We are taught to be independent, hardworking, and sacrificial. We are taught to distrust other women and to be skeptical of men. We are taught that the world is tough, nothing will come easy, and only the strong survive. We are taught to take pride in struggle and adversity. Simply put, we are taught to be “strong, independent Black women.”

When I decided to choose happiness — a radical notion for a Black woman — that decision took me on a long and difficult journey. I had no idea that committing myself to creating a life of happiness was revolutionary.

Learning to love my kinky, curly hair challenged the self-hate that racism perpetuates.

Letting go of a failing marriage challenged societal norms.

Supporting, uplifting, and loving other women challenged the patriarchy.

Deciding to watch less television and read more books challenged popular media culture.

Quitting my high-paying corporate job challenged capitalism.

Eliminating the need to acquire things and putting more value on experiences challenged the essence of the American Dream.

Deciding to be more conscious about the quality and source of my food and products challenged the corporate-industrial complex.

This struggle culminated in my founding of BLK + GRN, an online e-commerce platform that curates all-natural products created by Black women. It allows Black people to be conscious both politically and socially with our consumption decisions.

Why Black Women Need a Beauty Overhaul

75% of mainstream products marketed to Black women are considered toxic.

According to the Environmental Work Group (EWG), many of the mainstream products that target Black women contain toxic and harmful ingredients. Health hazards linked to ingredients in those products include cancer, hormone disruption, and developmental and reproductive damage. For example, one study in the EWG report found that Black Americans had higher urinary concentrations of parabens, the hormone-disrupting chemicals commonly used as preservatives in personal care products, pharmaceuticals and foods.

Moreover, most of these products are not even created by Black women. Because of this, my store BLK + GRN focuses on supporting small indie brands, because we believe it is the independent women who are creating better products for African American women in ways that are often ignored by mainstream corporations. The majority of the brands we carry create products in small batches in order to remove the use of toxic additives that have no value in the body. We also love our artisans because they really understand their supply chain; they are conscientious and ensure that, in most cases, they are using ethically-sourced ingredients by working directly with farmers and producers.

Dr. Kristian Henderson

For example, Laws of Nature Cosmetics is an organic mineral makeup that comes in a variety of darker and more nuanced shades. And Alodia is a haircare line crafted by a biomedical scientist who needed natural products to help grow, nourish, and condition her multi-textured hair.

Mixing Black Into Green

The Buy Black movement is an acknowledgment of tremendous buying power (currently at 1.3 trillion dollars) of the African American community. We’ve realized that we can literally vote with our dollars and build our communities by supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs.

The green movement is a movement towards holistic health. It is the idea of removing toxic chemicals from our diets and products and using the power of plants and nature instead to heal and thrive.

I am a Black woman who is committed to creating happiness in my life and giving others the space to create happiness in theirs. Happiness is indeed revolutionary, and I invite you to join me in this revolution.

Photos via BLK + GRN.

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