indigo + cypress

Vogue Italia Declares Oil as the Cosmetic Product of the Moment (Duh!) + 5 of My Favorite Edible Beauty Products

By Naomi Extra

Oil Mania

Repost of the Week: “Oil Mania” in Vogue Italia

Back in the day, I used to grease my hair and scalp with products like Blue Magic or Ultra Sheen and I used Johnson’s Baby Oil on my skin. Today, it’s all about the natural oils. Typically, black and brown women have never been afraid of a little hair gloss. The shinier, the better. I never thought of my white sisters as using oil on their hair or skin until recently when I came across Vogue Italia’s declaration of oil as a current beauty trend. Out in the world that is my life, I have seen minor evidence of this trend. My stepmother (who is white) recently started using coconut oil in her hair. She was turned onto the product through another white woman who was using it on her hair. There is also a book called Curly Girl (2011) that encourages white women to use oil on their hair.

I have to admit though, I snickered a little bit when I read “Oil Mania” in Vogue Italia. Black and brown women have been oiling up forever. Before Carmen Tal branded and marketed Moroccan Oil as the newest thing in haircare, women of Africa had been using argan oil on their skin and hair for quite some time.  Well-oiled hair and skin have been an especially prominent part of black women’s aesthetic not only in the United States, but across the African diaspora. Bling, for us, was never just about jewelry or money. Renown, African American art historian, Robert Farris Thompson hips us to the Yoruba aesthetic value on “shining brown skin.” But you don’t have to have read Farris Thompson to know that, just spend a few days at a predominantly black grade school in the US and listen for students teasing each other about having ashy skin. In places like Italy, India, and Greece, women also have been using oils on their hair and body for centuries. The politics of trendiness gets under my skin in a big way. It’s not just about what’s trendy or cool, it’s also about capitalism and power. Ultimately, it’s a question of whose aesthetic taste matters.

Still, I’m excited about the so-called trend. As a kid, I remember shyly explaining to my white friends why I put grease into my hair, why my hair needs were different. Perhaps this trend will allow little black girls not to have to explain their hair the way I had to. I’m eagerly waiting to see folks of all races running around, blinding us with their shine. Oils are among the greatest beauty and health resources available to women.  Using oil as part of your beauty routine is both environmentally and economically friendly. I encourage women to seek out high quality products instead of brand names. It’s not just about beauty, it’s also about economic agency. Why not buy organic argan oil instead of Moroccan Oil? I have been saving money this way and have found that I can cook, style, and moisturize with the same products.  These days, I’m on a “mostly edible” beauty product kick. If I can’t eat it, then I try to steer clear of the product. Click the link above to check out what Vogue Italia recommends for hair/body oils. I’ve also added my personal list of favorites below. Enjoy!

1.  Coconut oil.

I swear by this product. I love it on my hair and skin. It has so many wonderful properties, it’s a natural antibacterial and it is one of the few oils that penetrate the hair follicle. It’s also excellent for cooking with. Although not included on this list, olive oil is my go to hair product when I can’t get a hold of coconut oil. I often mix a bit of olive oil with coconut oil and use this as leave-in conditioner.

2.  Tomatoes.

I love to use tomatoes on my face. This sounds strange and funny but it works wonders. Not only do they help balance the pH of your skin, they also help with mild acne. I slice a tomato open and then smear it on my face. I then let it sit for a few minutes before washing. It gives the skin (especially darker complexions) a warm glow as well.

3.  Avocado and avocado oil.

I love eating avocado but I also like using it on my skin. Avocado makes a lovely and rich skin mask. Just mash, apply, and let it sit for at least five minutes, then wash. This is another way to get a nice glow.

4. Aloe vera.

I drink about a shot glass’ worth of aloe vera every morning. I use it to twist my locs and also as my number one pimple destroyer. When chilled, the plant is also great for reducing puffiness and dark circles around the eyes.

5.  Castor oil.

This is another product I swear by. I use it on my hair year round. If you have locs or natural hair, this is a great product for styling (twisting and braiding in particular). What’s most exciting about using castor on your hair is its ability to combat hair thinning. For those of you who might suffer from or be concerned about thinning around the hairline, castor oil is your best friend. For less coarse hair, you may want to experiment with using it as a treatment as it may be too heavy for your hair.  You can also thin the oil by mixing it with another oil. When I retwist, I mix it with coconut oil (which offsets the odor of castor oil), jojoba, or olive oil. I have read about many women who use Jamaican castor oil to thicken their hair but I find that regular old cold-pressed castor oil works well for me.

The second reason why I love castor oil is because it does wonders for the skin. In the winter I like to use castor oil on my legs, feet, and arms (sometimes I dilute it with coconut oil or olive oil). It is very heavy and will lock in moisture to keep your skin supple. It is also wonderful for aches, pains, and general soreness. After a hot shower, from time to time, I like to massage my neck, shoulders, and feet with castor oil. You can also make a compress which is very effective as well. It’s the royal treatment right at home. On the face, you can use the oil to prevent and lessen wrinkles. Apply it around the eyes before bed. If you have sensitive or acne prone skin, you may want to be conservative with facial use.

Lastly, you can ingest castor oil as well. Castor oil can be used as a laxative to help with constipation. Be sure to do your homework before ingesting it. Prolonged use of castor oil as a laxative is not recommended.


Lights, Camera, Omission

By Camille Wanliss Ortiz

It’s been more than a century since the advent of the motion picture industry yet Hollywood still fails to accurately address the greatest atrocity to ever take place on American soil – slavery.

The latest example is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, director Timur Bekmambetov’s big-screen adaptation of the Seth-Grahame novel. Not only does it reconstruct the life of America’s 16th president but also the oppressive system he abolished. In this sci-fi rendering, slaves are less an economic commodity than they are vampire food. And it appears that the end-game of the Civil War was not to abolish the bondage of black folks but instead to stop the undead from enslaving all mankind (that’s code for “white people too”).Though no one should look to a vampire film for accuracy when it comes to slavery’s role in the Civil War, it is no less symbolic of the lengths this nation has gone to in order to spin its own revisionist history.

Just last year the Sons of the Confederacy Veterans kicked off a four-year celebration of the war’s sesquicentennial with nary a mention of slavery. Instead they stuck to their script; maintaining that the eleven states of the Confederacy were only fighting for their right to secede from the Union. What they conveniently left out, however, was that the reason they wanted to secede was so they would not be forced to end slave labor, which their ancestors benefited from economically. After losing the war, the Confederacy decided the best way to lick their wounds would be to continue spewing the “states’ rights” myth. The mindset behind this led to a romanticization of the antebellum era as the glory days of white Southern pride; a time before the North infringed on their rights and ruined everything (that’s code for “when blacks were in their rightful place”).

Hollywood soon latched on and in 1915 produced Birth of a Nation, the Confederate-sympathizing, KKK propaganda film. Then in 1939, Hollywood released Gone with the Wind, the “American classic” in which slaves are sassy and inept but never unhappy. Never searing at their core for freedom. Never rapt with fear of being raped, beaten or sold. Prissy “don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies?” Puh-lease. Not only would she have birthed a few for Massa herself but nursed and raised the babies of her mistress too.

The film industry has done a great service to the revisionists. Search IMDB for Hollywood films set during the antebellum era and read the plot summaries. Most tend to be any of the following: sweeping sagas revolving around the lives of white plantation owners; war epics on white Confederate soldiers; war epics on white friends who find themselves on opposite sides of the war; and romantic tales about white lovers torn apart by the war. It’s amazing how many stories can told about the antebellum South or the Civil War without so much as a hint to the ills of slavery. Can you imagine sweeping love stories and epics set during the Holocaust from the Nazi point of view? Yeah, me neither.

Over the past twenty-odd years, Hollywood released only three major motion pictures that dealt with slavery, though somewhat peripherally. Glory (1989) revolved around a regiment of black Union soldiers during the Civil War and Beloved (1998), based on the Toni Morrison novel, was more of a post traumatic slave tale set during Reconstruction. The one to come closest was Steven Speilberg’s Amistad (1997), about an uprising aboard a slave ship. It told the unflinching true story about the horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its aftermath.

But there may be hope for Hollywood yet. Though Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter only adds to the canon of revisionist movies, it at least does what no film has done before it – depicts metaphorically what the Confederacy was to blacks in reality – life sucking vampires.

There are also a few films on the horizon that may add a new dimension to the oeuvre of slave narratives. This Christmas, Quentin Tarantino’s slave revenge flick Django Unchained will be released. And in 2013, director Steve McQueen will get his turn with Twelve Years a Slave, a star-studded film featuring Chiwetel Ejiofor and based on the true story of a free man of color who fights for his liberty after being kidnapped and sold into slavery.

With so many holes in the stories of this nation’s history, it’s about time Hollywood fill in the blanks.

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