Categories
Profiles

Romi Dasani: Undoing Expectations

My AirPods have – naturally – died right before my Zoom conversation with UN_DID’s Romi Dasani.

I have also pulled a paranoid all-nighter in order to make the 8 am meeting. Dasani is in the United Kingdom and extremely busy; the last thing I want to do is reschedule this meeting because I slept through my alarm.

I have been excited about this phone call for a long time. My sleep deprivation fails to hide this excitement, and Dasani kindly recognizes it.

“I’m loving the energy! It’s evening for me here at the moment. So it’s giving me the boost that I need for the day,” he smiles. 

His evening plan sounds extremely relaxing: finish this call (the last of many), have a drink, and write in his notebook. “I’m gonna write and structure my thoughts,” he says. Creating a plan for the next day helps him wind down, because he can sort out priorities, “go all in on that, and everything else can just wait for the time being.”

I look at my desk and realize my own notebook isn’t there, and that I haven’t known where it is for… longer than I’d like to admit. The notebook is MIA. 

Dasani’s comment inspires me to make a mental note to locate it. But for now, I go all in with this interview and begin with the big questions.

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UN_DID is UK-based skincare brand, offering the “money wash” cleanser and “meltdown.” balm. The brand was born because Dasani was sick of seeing performative activism in the beauty industry. As someone from the LGBTQ+ community, the rainbow flags and Pride celebrations that appeared in June but disappeared in July were frustrating.

“The struggles and the fight for LGBTQ+ people don’t stop after July. It doesn’t end there,” he says, and I nod in strong agreement. “It’s an everyday kind of challenge and it’s an everyday conversation. So there were just some kinds of things that didn’t necessarily sit well with me,” he says.

Then there were the companies that, forward facing, appeared to be extremely progressive. But behind the scenes, it was a different story. “It was so contradictory,” Dasani tells me, “because I’m like, how can you speak to different types of communities if you don’t have those people internally telling you, or advising you, or guiding you, and giving their thoughts?”

a group of diverse young people

It reminded him of a time he was at a previous workplace, when a coworker approached him in the lunch area. She told him to look around, and he did… unsure of what he was looking for.

“She said, ‘have you realized we are the only two people of color in this whole building?’ It was a light bulb moment,” he says. And while things have improved, years later, that interaction has stuck with him. 

It took time, but the culmination of realizations and resulting feelings about the performative activism and the homogeneous culture behind the scenes encouraged Dasani to start UN_DID.

“The name UN_DID is obviously a play on ‘undo,’ and the whole concept is around undoing these kinds of stereotypes; undoing and instead trying to create this authentic, really cool, safe space where every gender, every kind of ethnicity, however you identify as a human being, as a person, can feel that there’s something there.”

Dasani has lit up as he tells me this, explaining the backstory. He smiles a little wider before saying, “…But that’s quite a heavy message, so I wanted to do it in a really fun, sexy, playful – just, a lighter way that people can instantly get that kind of warm, fuzzy feeling. That way, that message is delivered in a positive way.”

And fun, sexy, playful it is. Orange is the dominant color, bright and bold; the titles of the products are lowercase, with periods at the end. It’s all very sexy, very cool, very attractive to the eye. Throw in a backward “D” in “UN_DID,” and playful is an understatement.

The messaging is also on point: look at the product descriptions, and the amount of play on “UN” is impossible to miss. For example: “UN_believable? believe it!” describes their money wash, a cleanser for all skin types.

money wash cleanser from un_did

Dasani has created this brand all on his own, but “I lean on experts. I lean on freelancers. I lean on agencies to help me bring some ideas to life,” he says. And in doing so, he brings in diversity – diversity he believes other brands are neglecting.

“I did a big brand photoshoot about two, three months ago, and everyone who was there, models, people working behind the scenes included, were from a diverse background,” he says. “It’s important to represent behind the scenes as well, so you’re giving other people opportunities, and that’s what the brand stands for.”

So, fun, sexy, heartfelt, diverse, and inclusive are all at the heart of it. But why? Why does this man find it so important?

Well, it’s close to his heart, too.


Romi Dasani created a message directed to the world… but also to himself.

When I ask why he created his own skincare company rather than simply bringing this insight to a company he was already with, he pauses and thinks.

“For me to break away from [my culture’s stereotypes] and actually show that as a very proud, gay, Indian, British man, I can do this and I can break all of that kind of taboo… then it will hopefully start opening up more conversations,” he explains. Rather than being a doctor or lawyer, for example – something expected of him – he turned to entrepreneurship. 

“There are so many people who are hustling and have creative ideas and want to change things,” he divulges. But there’s no competition, no edge to his voice. Instead, he sounds encouraged, excited by the prospect of so many ideas coming to life all at once.

“It has to start from somewhere and that’s why I wanted to do it by myself: to prove to myself that I could, and to show and represent myself as well to other people,” he says. 

romi dasani of un_did

He wants it to be bigger than himself, though. “I want somebody else to be like, ‘he did it. He did it. I can do this.’ It’s setting that example: you don’t need to live in that box,” he shares.

“I identify in three different ways: I have an Indian heritage – that’s how I grew up, but I am British. I grew up in England, but I also identify as gay. So for me, this whole process is the idea of bringing together three identities,” he explains. “And it’s not about one being better than the other or one overtaking the other, it’s about: how am I bringing those three things together in my own way?”

Dasani genuinely embraces the differences that make us who we are. He doesn’t use it to build sales or “relate” to an audience he doesn’t actually relate to.

“Some past companies that I’ve been in, they would talk about [diversity and inclusion] because they wanted to win over the community and create a larger community, larger fan-base,” he says. But it would return in sales, and where it returned in sales was where the diversity and inclusion stopped. The same went on internally; as long as sales were up from the “marketing checkbox” of diversity and inclusion, the team stayed the same.

Which is why Dasani regularly asks himself of UN_DID: “How are we showcasing diversity? Not just externally to our customers, and our amazing community. But how are we showing it internally?”

As he mentioned, he leans on outside support. And looking at UN_DID’s website, with so many identities, ethnicities, races, all in gender-neutral clothing, the authenticity of his mission is clear.

diverse group of young people dressed in black, laughing


Romi Dasani also takes sustainability and philanthropy into consideration. 

The formulas are vegan and Leaping Bunny Certified; they use glass wherever possible; all shipping materials are made from 100% recycled materials; packaging like tissue paper and stickers are part of an eco-alliance; and all secondary packaging is fully recyclable. So that guilt? You can let it go and know that the brand is working around the clock to be as sustainable and clean as possible.

I’m thrilled by this sustainability, but I’m even more wowed by the dedication to supporting nonprofit organization akt. Dasani is practically bouncing when he starts talking about it.

“For our partnership with akt, we give 5% of sales of every product. It’s not of profits, it’s of the sale, which is more, and that’s of every single product sold,” he expresses. “And that is every day. It’s not just, ‘we’re doing a spotlight for it now because it’s a great moment to talk about the partnership during Pride.’ I wanted to be authentic, show that it is not just for Pride. It is every single day.”

I reflect on his previous statement, regarding companies that fail to realize the LGBTQ+ struggles exist outside of June. The companies that only give back profits of rainbow eyeshadow palettes. The companies that refuse to have a conversation when July begins.

“akt is about helping [LGBTQ+ people] progress and be self-sufficient and move forward with their own lives. akt works with specific faith groups, because akt are not the experts, who then help bring families together, if that’s what is needed,” Dasani explains. “Or if a person needs to be removed from the home situation, then they have their own housing. Or they help with life skills – they can help write CVs and prepare people for job interviews.”

I back up: faith. I know of many people who were part of a faith that prohibited them from living their lives. Dasani tells me that akt can help those “consolidate in their own mind what it means to be a gender identity or a particular sexual orientation with the faith background.” He looks at me with a gripping intensity – not joy, but depth. “It’s not about rejecting the faith background. It’s, how do you bring those two things together?”

a man holding the meltdown balm from un_did

He stops abruptly, then smiles sheepishly: “I could go on and on, there are so many services. I hope I’ve said everything. I should reach out to my contact there and be like, ‘did I say everything right?’”

The fact that Dasani has given back and is so passionate… well, why?

“No young person should ever feel at risk at home where it should be a safe environment. And I speak from personal experience.”

He divulges further: “my home situation hasn’t been good because of those same reasons. But luckily, I was self-sufficient by that point. But some of these young people are not as fortunate as I was.”

There’s a quiet moment, quick but noticeable. Then he continues: “I’m really happy that I can do even a small bit, whether that’s a small contribution or raising awareness.”

My admiration only deepens.


When I ask Dasani the second-to-last question – what do you hope to see in the beauty industry in the next few years? – this 13+ year veteran of the industry has an immediate response. 

He’s positive, at first. With no criticism in his voice, he says he’s proud of where the industry is headed. “For the last two and a half years, I’ve seen the evolution and the change in beauty brands. And it’s been really good, actually.” I’m surprised by this answer, because many people to whom I’ve asked this question are critical right off the bat. 

Dasani tells me, “I’ve been really excited that people are talking about things like diversity and inclusion and creating accepting spaces and creating safe zones. The diversity of our community can really be truly represented and shine and just be champions of that.” 

a black woman with un_did's meltdown

However, he notes, the voices aren’t loud enough. They aren’t as consistent or strong in their beliefs as they should be, if they want to be true allies to the LGBTQ+ community.

“I’d like to see more boldness and more confidence in what [brands are] saying and what they’re doing, because if beauty brands take a stance, they stay confident in it; it can then inspire change in all of the community, I think,” he tells me. “Don’t get me wrong, brands are speaking out, but I think it needs to be more vocal.”

I ask him if there’s anything else he’d like to get in before we end our conversation. After all, I need to let him get to a drink and that notepad list of priorities.

He says yes.

“No one is just one thing. No one identifies just in one way. Everyone is very complex and everyone is so rich and beautiful and that’s what makes everyone amazing,” he says. It’s the uniqueness, the individuality that brings balance and interest to the world, ultimately.

“I think that’s the nuance of UN_DID. There are different things inside of you and that’s great. It’s how you bring those things together. That’s the beauty of it.”

It’s the perfect way to end a conversation with a man who sees diversity for what it is: absolutely beautiful. 

We wind down our conversation, and I thank him for his time. After he hangs up, I simply want to nap. The all-nighter has hit me hard, and I’m ready to crash. But first? I locate my notebook and outline the day’s activities, circling the priorities. 

And suddenly, I understand the weight lifted off Dasani’s shoulders when a plan has been made. I curl up and snooze for the next few hours with that same weightlessness.

romi dasani from un_did holding his products in a bag


Thank you to Romi Dasani for taking the time to speak with QUILL. You can find UN_DID on Instagram, and check out their site. Head to akt to learn more about the nonprofit.

Categories
Hair Reviews

I Went Suds-Less With Hairstory’s New Wash, And It Was Rough (At First)

If you had told me six weeks ago that I would love my hair without conditioner, leave-in, or any form of hydrator, I would have laughed. Same goes with the suds – the feeling of fluffy, clean strands was my favorite hair day… which is exactly why Hairstory’s New Wash scared the sh*t out of me.

So much so, in fact, that I almost gave up and wrote a review that simply said “I couldn’t do it.”

How’d I even end up here? It’s a simple story.

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I had done plenty of research on Hairstory before I reached out to the company. I loved that the brand was inclusive – hair is hair, here! I also adored the idea of using an affiliate link to connect hairdressers with clients in a COVID-19 world. 

When I pitched an idea of writing a story on the brand, their lovely contact, Hannah, came back with a question: how would I feel about speaking to Wes Sharpton, one of their hairstylists?

wes sharpton in b&w restin ghis face on his fist, small smile on his face as he stares at the camera

Unsure of what the profile would be like, but thrilled nevertheless, I prepared for my interview. The morning of, I ran to my mailbox, and there was a box filled with the Hairstory goods: their New Wash, Powder (dry shampoo), and Hair Balm (to add texture when air drying). 

I proudly showed the box off to Hannah and Wes on the call, both of whom smiled in reaction to the joy radiating from my side of the screen. I couldn’t wait to try it!

And then, for three weeks, I couldn’t wait to be done trying it. But trust me – the story changes quickly.


A “Cream Cleanser”

People are sick of the chemicals stripping their hair of natural oils (the feeling my oily scalped loved) and are becoming aware of what’s lurking in those plastic bottles. So, many methods, like no poo and co-washing, are growing exponentially in popularity.

Popular alternatives to chemical-filled shampoo include apple cider vinegar, mixes with olive oil and/or coconut milk, lemon juice, tea tree oil, clay, and water on its own. 

Another alternative: Hairstory’s New Wash. Though they claim it isn’t exactly a no poo, it ticks all of the requirements to be one. So, the cream cleansing New Wash revolution is blowing up.


Hairstory’s New Wash – The Full Story

Hairstory has a cult following thanks to their New Wash; in fact, it’s what truly put Hairstory on the map. 

New Wash cleans and conditions with essential oils and naturally-derived ingredients. Some of the essential oils include ylang-ylang and rose, while natural ingredients include aloe, lavender and matricaria flower extracts, and peppermint and jojoba seed oils. The combination results in a cleanser that doesn’t strip your locks or scalp of good oils, and it doesn’t deteriorate your scalp’s protective barrier. And we all know that a happy scalp = a healthy scalp!

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Hairstory Studio (@hairstorystudio)

The most enticing part of New Wash to me: Hairstory’s claim that you don’t need to condition afterward. My hair is beyond damaged from years of at-home bleaching and dyeing (sorry @ all hairstylists reading this), so I need the most intense conditioner for at least three minutes in every. single. shower session. It’s the only thing that keeps my hair from looking like I fed the ends through a woodchipper. 

So, skipping the step that took up the most time? I was excited. And good-for-you ingredients that wouldn’t strip or break? I was sold immediately.

Sustainability-wise, one 8-oz. pouch – not plastic bottle, but pouch – covers both your shampoo and conditioner, and you can go longer between washes. In total, New Wash reduces your plastic use by an astounding 91%. It’s also biodegradable and safe to use in open water sources. Just keep in mind that the use of keratin – aka a protein derived from sheep’s wool – means it is not vegan.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Hairstory Studio (@hairstorystudio)

After my interview with Wes, which also happened to be day three without washing, I skipped to the shower and prepared to enter the cleanser cream lifestyle.

It was not what I expected.


My First Experience With Hairstory

First, Hairstory also includes a little scalp massager, so you can really work through the formula and then rinse it out thoroughly. I didn’t get it at first, until I opened up my bag and the cream came out thick. It wasn’t gel-like, like a mask or a face cream or shaving cream – it was hefty. But I’m as curious as a cat with a death wish (or nine), so I dutifully followed the instructions and worked it through my hair with the massager.

new wash from hairstory, tess is smiling behind it as she holds up the orange and white bag to the camera

No suds. Not even slight foaming. I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell that I had shampoo in my hair had I not put it in myself, because it rubbed into my strands so gloriously. When I was sure I’d scrubbed my scalp enough, I rinsed out with the massager, letting every drop of the shampoo wash out. I went to rub my scalp, expecting to feel your standard stripped hair.

Nope. None of that. My hair felt nice and… okay, kind of oily still.

I was baffled. Hadn’t I just washed it, and intensely at that? I knew there weren’t chemicals to strip the hair, but it was only then that I realized just how badly foaming shampoo strips your strands.

The best part, though? My hair was SOFT. It was MANAGEABLE. I didn’t have to use conditioner for my brush to go through my hair!!!! It was a goddamn miracle.

After drying out my hair to a damp level, I flipped my hair over, applied Hairstory’s Hair Balm for some texture, tousled my hair, and went about my day. I was feeling pretty good… until I caught a glimpse of my hair. It was oily, it was greasy, it was messy, it was not cute. I felt mortified, as my friend was mere minutes away. 

tess holding up the hair balm, a white and blue bottle

I quickly located Hairstory’s Powder. Instead of a spray, it came out as a puff of white powder. I massaged it into my roots… and it made it worse. I looked like a hot mess. (Thankfully, my friend knows and respects that I’m a beauty editor, so he did not find it off-putting when I answered the door and said “my hair is greasy as fuck” with a very greasy head.)

tess holding up the powder bottle, which is hairstory's dry shampoo

I assumed this was a fluke, and, if not, it probably would sort itself out in the next wash or two. 

I reported this to Tara, QUILL’s Content Writer. She texted back a link to an article and a follow-up text: “it takes six weeks.” 

Oh dear god. What did I get myself into?


Wes Taught Me To Be Honest, So…

I will spare you the details, but the first three weeks were miserable. And it was my own curiosity that landed me here.

As someone who sudsed up her entire life, switching to chemical-free shampoo was terrible. My hair constantly felt dirty, it never sat the right way, and the Powder just didn’t help. I cut out the Hair Balm, and though I lost texture, my hair at least felt a little less greasy – I guess it’s just my roots that get super oily, and if I don’t brush, I don’t have to worry about hydrating it as much.

Still, despite my discomfort, I liked my routine. The massage into and off of my head was nice, and I adored not having to take five minutes to stand around while my conditioner worked its magic. When was the last time I had used a shampoo that allowed me to skip conditioner? Not ever, that’s when.

It was week four when I appeared on Zoom with the QUILL team, yelling “look at my hair!” and shoving my roots into the camera for all to see. And what did they see?

A normal, non-oily, healthy scalp and roots. 

It was a frickin’ miracle.

I had outlasted the pain and was entering the other side of the anti-chemical lifestyle: the lifestyle in which you give up stripping your hair for that sense of cleanliness, and fall in love with keeping it healthy and hydrated with its natural oils instead.


My Final Thoughts On Hairstory’s Products

hairstory line up of products

So, here’s my Hairstory review: New Wash is the only shampoo I’ll be buying from now on, and I think I’ll be skipping the Hair Balm unless I desperately need texture. And the Powder? It’s great in a pinch, but it just didn’t help the build-up that accumulated on my head so quickly. This isn’t Hairstory’s fault, or a weakness in their product – it’s my own hair being finicky and adapting to a major change.

I have no doubt that my hair will continue to adapt as I enter the famous week six (Tara, I did it! I really did it!). I’m only halfway through my first 8-oz. bag, so while the price is somewhat steep for those used to drugstore prices, it’ll last you just as long – if not longer! – than your daily salon shampoo bottle. Aka, if you’re looking for cream cleanser that won’t kill your hair, Hairstory’s New Wash is about to become your long-term relationship.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Hairstory Studio (@hairstorystudio)

I want to take a quick paragraph to thank a VIP, too: Hannah, thank you for gifting me these lovely products. I am so honored, and I hope you like the article on Wes! Please know: you made that happen. You made a cream cleanser gal out of me, and you helped me to produce one of my favorite articles. You’re a miracle worker.

While it’s tempting to use my regular shampoo just to compare after all this time away, I know I never want to go through those first three weeks again. So, to Hairstory’s New Wash I will stick, and never stray. Hold me to that.

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Did you like this review of Hairstory’s New Wash? Have you tried it before? Tell us below!


Read More Reviews:

Wes Sharpton & The Pursuit For Inner Peace
Mermaid Marissa: I Tried Three of Amika’s Hair Masks
Categories
Makeup

Full and Fluffed Up: Feathered Eyebrows Are In

When you think about the 1980s, what comes to mind? Is it the harmonious hits of Bruce Springsteen (who btw was Born in the USA), or the controversial structured shoulder (*cough* shoulder pads)?

For me, it involves eyebrows. Instead of a meticulously plucked look, the ’80s boasted full and fluffy, totally natural brows that were loud and proud, seemingly a vessel of personal expression.

Unfortunately, the natural look slowly morphed into the overly-plucked skinny mini brows of the ’90s and Y2K. Not only was this era notorious for narrow brows, but for narrow female physique, popularizing the idea that the idea of femininity equated to shrinking the body until it was barely visible…

I’ll save you dear readers from my soap box on ~beauty standards~ and point out that we have come a long way. Especially now, here in 2022, the resurgence of the full brow is back — and I think it’s here to stay.

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New Year, New Name

The feathered eyebrow. No, not the very… different trend from 2017 (where eyebrows were literally made into feathers), but the fully wild and beautifully unkempt eyebrows of today. Capitalizing on the natural look, feathered eyebrows present as bushy yet neatly combed with the use of makeup or a technique entitled microfeathering. The genius behind the method is eyebrow extraordinaire, Kristie Streicher co-founder of Striiike. Our queen, Streicher, was unimpressed by an original eyebrow method, microblading, so she decided to come up with her own.


Micro-what? WTF is That?

Let’s understand the basics, what the heck is microblading and why would you want it? Microblading uses semi-permanent technology (a hand-held device with tiny blades that are dipped in pigment) to create hair-like lines to your existing eyebrows. Essentially microblading emboldens your original eyebrow to make it big, bold, and defined (which can. If done correctly, the procedure ensures your eyebrows will never have to be filled in again– save for a touch up every 12 months.

This brings us to the alternate method, microfeathering. The eyebrow master Kristie Streicher, thought the look of microblading was too tattoo-like, making it obvious that the brow was not natural. She adapted the technique, ensuring that the microblade was used to enhance the brow that was already present instead of building up and around it. This trend pulls back the layers of a heavily made-up face (although there ain’t nothing wrong with that) and helps to construct a prominence to your original brow.


So… What Are The Cons?

In the age of social media, fads are usually just that, fads. Since the act of microblading/feathering is semi-permanent, you may still be sporting your look after the trend has set sail. Similarly, the result of the procedure may not be what you bargained for, leaving you feeling like you’re having a perpetually bad hair day.

BEWARE: If you’re prone to infection or keloids,  pregnant or breastfeeding, on blood thinners, or have sensitivity to cosmetic pigments, you are ineligible for this procedure.

No need to fear! I have found some non-needly ways to make your brows go from flat to full, feathered fluff.


Kits and Sh*t

If you’re not ready for commitment, like all men I have met, your eyebrows won’t have to endure the heartbreak. Instead, get yoself an eyebrow kit which will include a serum to help grow the brows, a solvent to perm, a cleanser, and an eyebrow soap — when wet, the soap turns into a gel to place the brows exactly where you want them to be. Some of these kits can get tricky, both in application and when comparing price to effectiveness (do not underestimate the power of reviews!).


Lustre Lamination Kit

eyebrow lamination kit from brow code

For our more fancy followers, I recommend the Brow Code Lustre Lamination Kit for a cute lil price of $79.90.This baby comes with five products: a perming solution, a fixing solution, a keratin nourishing solution, a brow adhesive, and a brow oil! The website provides an easy-to-follow step-by-step tutorial for your lamination needs. You’ll have your brows thicker than ever in no time.

BUY NOW – $79.90


Brow Sculpt Kit

makeup revolution brow kit

If you’re looking for a more conservative route, aka wanting to maximize the bang for that buck, look into Makeup Revolution’s Brow Sculpt Kit ($7.00). Distributed in travel size packaging, it includes a brow gel, powder, highlighter, tweezer, brush, AND spoolie. For use, shape your brow with the spoolie and gel to prep it for some fill in. When you’re satisfied with the arch, get that powder on the brush and apply hair-like strokes to add some oomph or fill in as you wish.

BUY NOW – $7


Kits not your thing? Some helpful tools to have in your makeup case include a pomade (or pot of gel-color), dual-sided thin angled brush, and eyebrow wax. 

Pomades

Dual Brushes

Waxes


We hope this gave you all the info you needed on microfeathering! What are your thoughts on the feathered eyebrow trend? Are you in on it? Tell us in the comments!


Read More Beauty Articles:

11 Eyebrow Shaping Kits To Give Your Eyebrow Game An Upgrade
12 Eyebrow Pencils Perfect For Redheads
Categories
Hair Profiles

Wes Sharpton & The Pursuit For Inner Peace

Hairstory’s Wes Sharpton doesn’t give me a chance to ask a question after I open with “Who are you?”

Instead, Sharpton launches into his full story. Who he is, how he got to Hairstory, the history of Hairstory, and where they are now.

It’s like he’s practiced telling this tale, the way it flows so naturally. I follow along easily, lost in his descriptors.

But I don’t laugh. No, I tear up multiple times instead throughout the hour-long journey.

When he gets to the end, he mumbles that he’s sorry for “blabbing” on. I tell him it’s fine; I only have two questions now, anyway. 

“Sure,” Sharpton says, nodding. I don’t know what he expects me to ask; maybe something about Hairstory, or a detail he left out. But it’s clearly not these two questions.

Have I piqued your curiosity? Good. Here’s Wes Sharpton’s story, from humble beginnings to Hairstory.

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“My friends and I would always joke: I’m the original country queer. And that’s where my story started.” It’s a succinct intro, but Wes Sharpton makes it seem like the easy way to start the story.

Sharpton grew up in Oklahoma in the ‘90s, before he had the resources that we do now for the LGBTQ+ community – and when the state was extremely conservative regarding gay rights. “It was feeling like there weren’t enough of us in people’s homes yet to really like that I could feel…” He searches for the right word, eventually landing on: “safe.”

I quietly listen to him describe his strategies in school: taking different paths throughout hallways to get through class, never following the same one, because there was a lack of safety in familiarity. “I thought ‘if I am in this space and I keep doing the same thing every day, someone’s gonna notice my path to get to class and that’s gonna make me vulnerable to being beat up, or something like that.’” He shrugs. “It’s what you had to do to survive.”

b&w wes sharpton walking down the street, looking behind him at the camera

There was more strategy; making friends with those who could indirectly, unknowingly protect you. It helped Sharpton develop his “people smarts,” something he takes pride in.

“I think many people in my position had to get smart and quick! And we had to move in a way for survival, right? We had to be a little strategic for our own safety, like, ‘who do I need to align with to be protected?’”  I didn’t come out until 24; the thought of dodging and befriending solely for strategic reasons makes my stomach churn.

But Sharpton says it so casually, no shock factor attached to the words. As he says, “it sounds awful, but it was just the way that we had to navigate the world in that place, at that time.”

But through the media, Sharpton knew there was more out there for him, more than what conservative Oklahoma had to offer him. There was space for him. Space where he didn’t have to be strategic. 

“I just had an inkling in my mind: ‘there’s gotta be a place. There’s gotta be a place where not everything is like Oklahoma. I’m not gonna always have to change paths. I’m not always gonna have to switch gears. I can have a routine one day without fear.’”

A routine is something most youths take for granted through their adolescent lives. They wake up, quickly scarf down breakfast, go through the motions in school, and continue on to extracurriculars, or to do homework, or to visit friends, or to simply rest at home. And it happens every day. Rinse, wash, repeat. There is no strategy involved.

Sharpton did not have this luxury. But he did have those dreams of a better place.

“Growing up gay, poor, having learning disabilities… These are all challenges, but there is a gift in these obstacles: imagination,” he says, smiling. “The idea of seeing and training your mind to imagine something that isn’t quite there yet in reality is such a valuable gift.

“I could have a bigger vision of myself than others could, because I could imagine things that had not existed in the world yet, as we know them.”

He eventually made it out of Oklahoma. Here’s how.


After escaping school and its lack of consistency, Wes Sharpton gravitated toward fashion.  

a picture of a woman in nylon magazine with hair by wes sharpton

This is where I tear up for the first time.

“Can I be honest with you? Really honest,” he asks me. I say yes, of course, please.

“For me, my otherness was in the fashion world, which I believe I gravitated to because it wasn’t a place I belonged…” Sharpton pauses and looks at me.

“I never felt beautiful. I never felt pretty in my own skin. And I thought, if I can’t really have it myself, at least I can be a part of it. At least I could have a piece of something beautiful.”

My heart lurches to my throat. I swallow down the lump. Be professional, I tell myself. 

Sharpton continues on after telling me his secret about his experience at a “cheap” cosmetology school, where he learned the details of makeup and hair care. He had assumed he was going to be a makeup artist, but after being invited to a hair show – “which is really where people stand on a platform and cut hair” – he was drawn to the hair world.

“I thought, ‘dang, these people are cool…. Maybe there’s a space where I could do this.’ And then I started to cut hair. I ended up in New York, where I trained and worked at Bumble and bumble. for many years.” Goodbye, Oklahoma; hello, Big City.

However, the fashion world wasn’t what Sharpton expected. He was glad to have escaped his hometown and found his niche in cutting hair, but “a fashion set is not as amazing as people assume it is, there’s a lot of standing and waiting and then ‘go.’ There’s a lot of pressure.”

So, Sharpton leaned into hair cutting. He worked at salons for many years, perfecting his craft, therefore putting Sharpton on the map. But it was when his work made it into Vogue that he faced a major realization.

wes sharpton's hair cut in vogue magazine

“I thought, when I got into VOGUE, that I would be whole. And that would mean that I had made it and showed everybody and did the thing,” he says.

That’s understandable. Those who have felt othered, felt the doubt from those surrounding them… “making it” means you proved them wrong, that you are where you belong. But it was the opposite for Sharpton.

“I realized then that I needed to do some internal work, and that I’d need to align myself with things that I really loved and really believed in,” he tells me. “The press is interesting, right? It happens quick and it happens fast. I remember taking that moment and going, ‘okay, cool. This is great that this is going on in your life, but it won’t fix you.’”

He recalls doing an interview on what hair is best for your face shape; he felt “icky” after doing it, and he decided then and there that he would never tell someone how to be beautiful again. 

Instead, “I thought, ‘what if we stopped having these conversations about face shape? Why don’t you just come in and you tell me what you really love about yourself? Then I’m gonna focus on how I can bring attention to that.’”

So, when someone sits in his chair and complains about their face, he resets the conversation. He has the client tell him what their favorite feature is, and he highlights that instead. “You are not designed to hide. And I, as a hairdresser, am not designed to help you hide,” he says. “I’m not OK with the culture of criticism and having a ‘solution.’ I say, let’s blow that out of the water because this is a bunch of bullsh*t, and we don’t need to be participants in that.”

b&w photo of wes sharpton cutting hair

He was thrilled to make this change, taking a stand to never speak about face shape again and then bringing it into his personal practice. But, he tells me, he was tired. As his career grew exponentially, he was also growing tired. 

He dreamt of simplifying his life, ending his story and “opening a juice bar on the beach.” Something that didn’t exhaust him so much.

“I was really leaning into a little bit of that fantasy of thinking, ‘it’s time to wrap this show up. Maybe it’s time to do something different,’” he recalls. “And then Hairstory came into my life, a brand that is fully supportive of the hairdressing community.”

Ah, there it is. Enter: Hairstory.


The hair world was facing a crisis: what was once so exclusive had become accessible. People were able to buy hair products online, if not for cheaper on Amazon. The hairdressing community took a hit financially as e-Commerce capabilities grew – those who relied on product sales and in-person sales were losing out to a fast-growing and fast-moving Internet. 

“As e-commerce grew, we were almost abandoned by haircare companies who had previously said they were ‘pro the hairdresser,’” Sharpton says. ‘Hairstory did something different that appealed to me because it supported hairdressers in a way no other brand had done.’

The idea came from Hairstory’s CEO, Eli Halliwell: providing hairdressers with affiliate links, therefore rebirthing exclusivity – just online, this time.

How Hairstory’s affiliate links work, in Sharpton’s words: “Hairdressers are rewarded for their client relationships – so much so that, after one affiliate sale, the customer remains connected to their Hairstory hairdresser for eternity, with the hairdresser rewarded ongoingly.

“Eli told me; ‘Your clients are always connected to you, and we will always pay you and we’re always gonna do that every time that they return. We will always honor sharing your education about these products with your clients.’”

hairstory line up of products

Sharpton was drawn to the concept, because “the one thing that energized me the most was a big idea.” On top of this, he felt that Halliwell was supporting the hairdressing community, which had been so brutally abandoned by others.

Part of the reason behind the abandonment: the misconception by so-called “pro-hairdresser” companies that claimed that hairdressers were poor at selling their products, or simply didn’t know “how to retail.” But Sharpton strongly disagrees.

“This isn’t true!” he emphasizes. “It’s that our entire business is built on trust. We’re intuitive at our job and we have a personal connection with our clients that doesn’t align with pushing for retail sales.”

So Sharpton’s response to Haillwell’s big idea? “I thought, ‘here is someone who’s bringing something new and fresh that also allows [hairdressers] to participate, respects our work, and allows us to be considered,’” Sharpton says of Halliwell. “And it was really [hairdressers] being considered, which was bigger to me than the idea of the link.

“I was also drawn to [Hairstory’s New Wash] in a space that’s historically always been the same, shampoo, conditioner, detangler… What reinvention could happen from there?” Sharpton tells me. The unique New Wash – which helped to blow up affiliate links and what Hairstory is best known for – is “an all-in-one hair cleanser that rivals shampoo.” (Note: I’ve been using it for the past six weeks, and my review comes out tomorrow.) 

hairstory's new wash

So, Sharpton didn’t give up his hair cutting and start a juice bar. His excitement kept him around. He’s still with Hairstory to this day – the exact reason we’re on Zoom right now, my mic muted.

… Until it’s my turn to ask the follow-up questions.

I only have two.


The questions aren’t easy, and I’m aware of it. They’re direct, thought of as he closes his story, his vulnerable journey from “original country queer” to world-renowned hairdresser. But I don’t feel like asking Wes Sharpton easy questions after this story – this “Hair”story, if you will.

“What is your definition of beautiful?” I ask point-blank.

“I think that is such a hard question,” he says. But he doesn’t shy away from the question; he thinks hard about it.

“I don’t know that I’ll ever be whole, right? I don’t know that I’ll ever have that ability to be able to maybe be like, this is beautiful because I don’t know that I’ve dismantled all of the messages that say what isn’t beautiful yet. So my job is to try and dismantle a little piece of that in hopes that other people down the road either have to do less dismantling or hopefully one day have to do zero dismantling.”

Zero dismantling sounds impossible right now, but Sharpton is determined to do the work. 

“I just wonder what the world would look like if people thought they were enough already as you came in,” he says. “I would hope that in the future, that we could have the idea that there could be a space for all of us.”

wes sharpton holding a camera and smiling at the camera in b&w

I reflect on how I’ve struggled to feel beautiful all my life, and how the internal struggle pops up every single day. Sharpton drops another piece of wisdom.

“I would love to give you a clean, pretty PR answer, but I don’t know that it would be, I don’t know that it would be the truth. I thought about this today and I thought, you know what? You always have a choice to be as honest as you want. And sometimes your honesty means that you have to be vulnerable about the way that you view yourself in the world and why maybe you’re motivated to change that for others.”

Then he apologizes. I tell him not to – QUILL doesn’t look for clean answers. We look for the raw, real, brilliant, honest, vulnerable truth. And that’s what he’s given me here.

It changes my next question, but it’s just as pointed, and I’m almost scared to ask it: “Do you think you’ll ever be enough?” It’s a personal question for myself as well, and I’m hoping Sharpton hasn’t run out of wisdom, because I desperately need it.

I could summarize what he says, but I’m going to give his full quote, because I teared up and nearly cried as he dove into it. I hope you enjoy it, too. I think it’s an appropriate close to the interview. Please take this to heart.

“I think it depends, right? I think, at the end of the day, I think that what we really want is just to be seen, because I think the idea of being seen means that you have value, and if you have value, then maybe someone could value you. And that is because when it comes down to it, you’d like to imagine for yourself that if you could be seen, that you could also be loved.
“We want the baseline. Like, you’re good, right? Like, you’re here, you exist. You deserve to exist. You can be recognized. We want that as a baseline and everything else, and as far as enoughness goes, maybe it’s just doing the work to unravel why we have tricked ourselves into believing that we’re not enough.
“Sometimes challenging yourself to be like, ‘what if I did this incrementally better?’ There’s never an end to mastery, right? There’s only just the journeys along the way. That’s the joy of the whole thing. And so in some spaces, I want to be enough, but I also want a healthy challenge to still be better.
“I think for me, enough will never be there because there’s always growth. As a community, we are sometimes a little harsh on ourselves, and I think we’ve got to remember to let people learn and grow. And we’ve got generations of experiences that are new, and queer people are learning. I didn’t have access to some of the things that are around today, so I didn’t have a language around some things. It’s cool that we can grow together.
“And I would say, just be gentle. Remember people are largely on your side. I think sometimes we get a little bickering amongst ourselves and we get overwhelmed by things outside of our group that we’re not addressing and that are not moving us forward. So I think that can be something that we have to be considerate of; to be kind to ourselves and let people learn.

“Let people grow.”

b&w photo of wes sharpton looking at camera straight on


Thank you to Wes Sharpton for the honest, real conversation. Follow Sharpton on Instagram and his site. You can also follow Hairstory on their site and Instagram.


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Categories
Hair Reviews

Mermaid Marissa: I Tried Three of Amika’s Hair Masks

“Try this,” read the note attached to my Amazon package. I would have been more baffled had this not become a routine. Tess, the QUILL Editor-in-Chief (and my best friend), is known to send random care packages… and beauty products for reviews to share with QUILL readers. I’m not complaining though — she knows exactly what I need when I need it. This is why I was thrilled to unbox Amika’s Soulfood, Flash, and The Kure hair masks, which would (hopefully) help my very sad strands. 

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Living on a sailboat can take a toll on your hair, from wind tangling it to the sun bleaching it. I love my life afloat, but my hair definitely needed a little extra love to keep it looking fab.

So, after I unboxed my goodies, I went straight to the shower to try out the biggest one: the Soulfood Nourishing Mask.

amika soulfood hair mask

SOULFOOD – $30

This ultra-luxurious hair mask is rich and creamy, yet doesn’t weigh hair down. It is packed with vitamins and nutrients to condition the hair making it soft, silky, and smoother than ever (thus its Soulfood name!) According to Amika’s website, Soulfood is “perfect for all hair types, especially those in need of deep hydration,” aka: me. Oh, and not only does it feel good but it smells good too! Keeping your locks smelling lovely all day long. Big win.

In addition to the Soulfood mask, Tess sent me the Flash Instant Shine Mask, which gives brilliant shine, softens, and hydrates hair in just 60 seconds… or so it says.

amika the flash instant shine hair mask

FLASH – $26

Honestly, I was more impressed with the Superfood, which definitely deeply hydrated my hair. The Flash mask was more liquid-like, and it worked better as a leave in product rather than a mask. I personally did not notice any extra “shine,” but I did appreciate another nice smelling product, especially when the wind ruffled my hair. 

I was 1 for 1 with one last mask to test: The Kure Intense Bond Repair Mask.

amika the kure bond repairing hair mask

THE KURE – $36

As mentioned, my hair dwells in a rough environment which unfortunately leads to a lot of dryness and breakage. I was really excited to give The Kure a shot, especially with Amika’s clinically proven promise to strengthen hair, reduce breakage, and prevent future damage. Made for people like me that have damaged hair due to everyday heat, environmental stressors, and chemical treatments, I was all about it!

On top of its clinically-proven benefits, it swears to be relatively fast acting. This rinse-out treatment doubles as a leave-in to strengthen your strands and repair damage in a mere 60 seconds. Multi-tasking has never been so easy, and I definitely recommend The Kure. 

My review’s bottom line: I was impressed with this product line and look forward to keeping Amika in my hair care routine, no matter where in the world I sail!

Marissa on boat with hair down


We hope my review of Amika’s hair masks with convince you to save your strands! Have you tried these masks? Did they help your hair? Sound off in the comments!


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Categories
Makeup

13 All-In-One Makeup Palettes For Easy Application

An all-in-one makeup palette is indispensable; after all, bringing five different products along with you is unrealistic, especially if they aren’t travel size. Face palettes are super popular now, but with so many options, it can be hard to find one that does everything you need. 

But no more of that searching high and low! Here at QUILL, we believe in making it easy to find all-in-one makeup products, like face palettes. So, we’ve put together a collection of 13 that will give you a glow, flush, or simply neutralize your face – whatever you need, you’ll find here!

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ONE PALETTE WONDER

BEAUTY PIE ONE PALETTE WONDER™  FACE PALETTE

This all-in-one makeup palette was made in Italy, with shades that were specifically chosen to blend in with anyone’s skin – doesn’t matter your tone. Included in the One Palette Wonder (great name!): bronzer, blush, and highlighter, so you can sculpt your face to perfection, as well as three neutral eyeshadows that will give your eyes life without overpowering your look.

BUY NOW – $45


stack the odds

stack the odds alleyoop

We love a remix of the bento box in makeup form, which is exactly what alleyoop created with their Stack the Odds three-in-one. Coming in three different shade ranges, this compact kit comes with a blush, bronzer, and highlighter for a natural, flushed look. Jojoba and sunflower seed oil to help protect and nourish, while providing adequate coverage that won’t clog pores.

BUY NOW – $38


SUSTAIN CHEEKBONE CLASSICS COLLECTION

cheekbone sustain face palette collection

We love Jenn Harper and Cheekbone, so of course we’re including their Classic Palette! The eight-pan collection features a range of shades, so everyone has options to give themselves a natural contour. There are three blushes to give your cheeks pop, whether you want a deeper, luscious red or a bright pop of neon pink on the apples.

BUY NOW – $53.42


9021-Bungalow! Eye & Cheek Palette

9021-Bungalow! Eye & Cheek Palette

As someone who lives in California, the name of this stood out to me. Then I looked at what was included, and I knew I would be sold if I didn’t have that already-there Cali glow (#humblebrag, #ilovemystate). The powders are universal – brush them on wherever for the glow you desire – with fun names, like Poolside Posh and Cabana Bae. SO California, and I love it.

BUY NOW – $25


All-Inclusive Eye, Cheek & Face Palette

All-Inclusive Eye, Cheek & Face Palette

Everything you need is included in this eye-cheek-overall-face palette, including highlighter, bronzer, two blushes, and three shadows. Ultimately, you’ll have a natural glow packed in one rectangle. The powders are buildable, so you can go from slight sheen to major intensity. It’s “Inclusive” for all skin tones, though we’d be lying if we said it’s completely acceptable to call one palette “Inclusive” in 2022 when you don’t offer a variety of shades. Come on now, Milani.

BUY NOW – $14.99


STUDIO FIX CONCEAL AND CORRECT MAKEUP PALETTE

STUDIO FIX CONCEAL AND CORRECT PALETTE

Unlike most of the face palettes on this list, MAC’s palette is filled with concealers to correct even the patchiest, zit-tiest skin out there. There are six different palettes ranging from light to extra deep, so no one has to feel resigned to a shade that kiiiiinda works with their skin tone. On top of four concealers, there are two correctors for the most even skin.

BUY NOW – $37


4-in-1 Skin-Perfecting Powders Face Palette

PUR 4-in-1 Skin-Perfecting Powders Face Palette

It wouldn’t be PÜR if it didn’t come as a 4-in-1, right? Their Perfecting Powders Face Palette comes in three four-pan palettes: fair-light, medium-tan, and dark-deep. In the palette, you’ll find bronzer, blush, highlighter, and setting powder (which doesn’t come in most palettes, as you’ll see!). Inside: PÜR’s Energy Complex, which is filled with ingredients like green tea, ginseng, and vitamin B to fight aging and give you a glow.

BUY NOW – $34


Sephora PRO Face Palette

Sephora PRO Face Palette

Sephora had to get in on a face palette for the SEPHORA COLLECTION, and they did a damn good job on it. The eight-pan palette comes with a variety of powders AND creams, so you can get the contour, evenness, and flush you’re looking for. There are two palettes: light, and dark. In each, there’s highlighter, blush, bronzer, and bronzer to give you the ultimate contour.

BUY NOW – $58


Ambient Lighting Edit Universe Unlocked Face Palette

Ambient Lighting Edit Universe Unlocked Face Palette

While most of these powders have shimmer, Hourglass’ Pro Face Palette is the grown-up edition with its smooth, creamy, satin options. It comes in five shades of the brand’s Ambient Lighting Powder, which mimics the most flattering lighting to give you a camera-ready face. Featuring a bronzer, strobing powder, two blushes, and finishing powder, prepare for a glam-yet-natural finish that captures everyone’s attention.

BUY NOW – $80


4-IN-1 MINUTE FINISH POWDER MAKEUP PALETTE

4-IN-1 MINUTE FINISH POWDER FACE PALETTE

You hear “The Lip Bar,” and you probably don’t think of a 4-in-1 face palette, right? But you’d be fooled into thinking that The Lip Bar doesn’t take care of your entire face! This four-pan palette includes face powder, highlighter, blush, and contour that’s infused with the delicious jojoba oil. The result: a flawless face that feels cared for, if not completely coddled.

BUY NOW – $22


THE FOLD OUT FACE® PALETTE

THE FOLD OUT FACE® PALETTE

Do you hear that “woosh” in the wind? It’s Woosh Beauty’s Fold Out Face Palette, which has… well, everything, not just your four necessities. Follow the arrows to get a full face in one fold-out container. Start out with your eyeshadows; move on to your perfectors, then contours; follow along to your blushes; then add some shimmer before blending. Like I said: you have literally everything here for the ultimate face.

BUY NOW – $45


GLAM GODDESS FACE & EYE PALETTE

GLAM GODDESS FACE & EYE PALETTE

Sensitive skin requires TLC in order to avoid rashes, break-outs, dry patches, and flaking. So, Doll10 had a doctor create this palette, formulated with ingredients you won’t find in any other option here. Examples: mango butter to soothe and protect, ceramides to nourish, and hyaluronic filling spheres to retain moisture. The result is a nine-pan palette that won’t irritate your skin in the slightest.

BUY NOW – $30


Chasing The Sun Eyeshadow and Bronzing Palette

Chasing The Sun Eyeshadow and Bronzing Palette

When you spend time in the sun, you tan, sure – but you also get this shimmering glow that screams “bronze babe.” That’s what Joah Beauty is recreating with their Eyeshadow and Bronzing Makeup Palette, thanks to five eyeshadow shades – which include glimmer shades! – two bronzers, and one highlighter. The ultimate glow has arrived.

BUY NOW – $21.99


PLAY BENTO ALL-IN-ONE MAKEUP PALETTE

KAJA PLAY BENTO

This is the perfect palette for on-the-go application, because each piece of the bento-box replica – which comes with pressed powder blush and highlighter, as well as a cream bronzer – allows for finger application. Correct: no brush necessary here. Simply throw it in your bag and give yourself touch-ups whenever necessary. We recommend carrying around wipes if you won’t be near sinks, just so you don’t rub off makeup onto everything you touch.

BUY NOW – $28

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Which all-in-one makeup palettes are best for your skin tone? Any we missed? Tell us below!


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Categories
Skin

10 Sunscreen Sticks and Roll Ons To Sun-BLOCK Out The Haters

Sunscreen, sunblock, sun tan lotion, whatever you call it… there’s a bajillion to choose from. Some sunscreens come as a spray, others in a tube of lotion, but roll on and stick form are my personal favorites.

The reason, you ask? Global warming. We love effortless spray bottles, but they contain specific chemicals that protect you from the sun — not the wild life that resides in the ocean blue.

When aerosols are used haphazardly, the chemicals will settle on the ground in a toxic cloud of pollutants that are swept into the ocean. Not only this, but it can easily get in your eyes, or worse, ingested — bleh, not the type of drink I want on a hot summer day.

To make your life simpler, I’ve compiled a list of 10 sexy, safe, and environmentally friendly sunscreen roll ons and sticks to choose from. Happy browsing!

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Glow Stick SPF 50

supergoop glow stick sunscreen stick with spf 50

This just in, the must-have sunscreen of the summer brought to you by Supergoop! Self-proclaimed experts on SPF, Supergoop! uses active ingredients avobenzone (3.0%), octisalate (5.0%), and octocrylene (10.0%) in their popular roll on sunscreen stick, all of which aid each other in protecting skin from UV rays. However, it is important to note that large quantities of these chemicals can be harmful… so they aren’t the best choice formulaically. The popularity of the product comes from its wearability, leaving a glowy hydrating finish (all while protecting you), and packed inside an easy to store twist-up case. 

BUY NOW – $25


Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Roll-On Lotion

SUN BUM mineral spf sunscreen in roll on form

What is a mineral sunscreen, you ask? Instead of using (sometimes harmful) chemicals to block those UV rays, minerals like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide have natural properties that protect your beautiful skin. Sun Bum’s Mineral Roll-On sunscreen uses the roll application method to help blend the product into skin (although you may have to rub in the excess). Topping off your look with a nourished look, this sunscreen really takes the bum–cake.

BUY NOW – $15.99


Sport Ultra Roll-On Sunscreen Lotion SPF 60+

sun bum sport spf 60+ roll on sunscreen

If you’re a sweaty human like me, the blistering heat of the summer leaves perspiration in some… interesting places (I promise, I really didn’t pee!). Which is why lathering on some good waterproof protection is always a good idea. Banana Boat’s Sport roll-on is here to save the day, made to resist the power of water and give us two hours of uninterrupted protection courtesy of acrylate copolymer, a water resistant agent. Ready, set, roll!

BUY NOW – $7.99


SPF 30 Good Sun Sport Organic Sunscreen Stick

Butterbean SPF 30 Good Sun Sport Organic Sunscreen Stick

The importance of a clean and sustainable lifestyle is not just a trend to be followed; if you’re going to call yourself an eco-friendly queen, you bes’ start acting like it. Butterbean is a good place to start, with a mission to help you invest in quality products that work to heal the planet. Made with zinc oxide, coconut oil, vitamin E, neem & sunflower oils, and beeswax, this organic sunscreen stick is bound to be your skin-mate.

BUY NOW – $14.99


Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Stick

Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Stick cetaphil

You’ve heard it from your dermatologist, Cetaphil is your affordable ticket to healthy skin. Taking skin sensitivity into account, the Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Stick moisturizes without clogging pores, leaving behind a hydrated feel instead of grease and slime. This is in part due to the lack of harsh chemicals found in some sunscreens, including avobenzone, oxybenzone, and octinoxate; minerals, unlike those controversial three chemicals, complement sensitive skin.

BUY NOW – $6.91


Clear SPF 50 Sun Stick

shiseido Clear Sunscreen Stick SPF 50+

There are few bad things about summer, but one of them may be the white cast that most lotion sunscreens leave in their wake. As a teen, there was no worse feeling than thinking you looked sexy, but really? You forgot to rub in your sunscreen. With Shiseido, this will never be a problem; the clear lotion (in an easy, breezy, portable sun stick form) uses WetForce and HeatForce technology to create an extra shield in extreme conditions.

BUY NOW – $29


Head to Toe Mineral Stick

Head To Toe SUNSCREEN stick from little hands hawaii

Impressive is an understatement when it comes to the eco-consciousness of sunscreen company Little Hands Hawaii. Not only are all products reef safe, their Head to Toe Mineral Sunscreen Stick is made of biodegradable materials to help prevent the spread of waste. On top of this, it comes in different shades apart from the standard paper white: light neutral (which has pink undertones), and medium neutral (for yellow, brown, and red undertones). The drawback to this addition of undertone specificity: a lack of shade range, excluding large percentages of the population. All people deserve blendable sunscreen — come on Little Hands!

BUY NOW – $28


Mineral Sunscreen Butter Stick SPF 50

all good SPF 50+ Sport Mineral Sunscreen Butter Stick

Life will certainly be all good if you invest in All Good’s Mineral sun stick. Silky smooth and ready to blend like butter on perfectly toasted bread, this sunblock (made with zinc oxide) sits on top of the skin so as to not clog those pesky pores. The use of natural ingredients like coconut oil, beeswax, vitamin E and jojoba oil help maintain reef and skin safety! P.S. If you apply before web surfing, your skin will be in the clear — that’s right, it protects against HEV, aka blue light. I don’t know about you, but that makes me pretty stoked!

BUY NOW – $17


Super Shield Mineral Fragrance Free Sun Sport Stick

Super Shield Mineral Fragrance Free Sunscreen Sport Stick SPF50

To love or not to love fragrance, that is the question. Well, for my sensitive skin (and nose) besties, the answer is, we’re just not that into you. Scented products contain synthetic chemicals that often irritate the skin and clog pores, something that many don’t want in their skin protectant. Babo Botanicals understands such concerns and uses plant based ingredients and their infamous ‘Nutri-Soothe™ Complex’ to generate healthy skin. It seems they have a crush on avocado oil, cocoa butter, jojoba seed oil, and shea butter, featuring them in many of their products.

BUY NOW – $12.99


Mineral Sunscreen Face Stick – SPF 30

Raw Elements Face Stick Certified Natural Sunscreen

Made with people in mind, Raw Elements formulates their products without common allergens like nuts, soy, or gluten. This struck me as particularly human because of the clear attention given to those who may struggle to find products that work for them. With a large list of certifications (Leaping Bunny, non GMO, all natural products, and so on) AND an easy, mess-free application, I see no reason not to run and grab this product — brb.

BUY NOW – $13.99

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Are you ready to switch to sunscreen sticks and roll ons? We are! Tell us your thoughts in the comments.


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Categories
Reviews Skin

Ghost Democracy Has Saved My Skin

When I found Ghost Democracy on Instagram – all blue, with a cute lil ghost as the logo – I knew I had to reach out to the founder, Rex. After emailing back and forth, he asked if I’d like to write a review on a Ghost Democracy product. What came, instead of the just one (1) I requested? A new skincare routine, all Ghost, all blue and beautiful.

ghost democracy product lineup for review

I was overwhelmed, and I’m going to tell you a secret that I’m ashamed of: I’ve never had a solid skincare routine.

Yes, I wash my face, throw on some moisturizer, exfoliate on occasion, maybe do a face mask here and there. But a routine? Nowhere to be found.

That was all going to change, though. I was determined, and when Rex found out, I knew I couldn’t back down from the challenge.

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When I Zoomed with Rex (for reasons I can’t divulge yet!), I admitted to the skincare brand’s founder that I didn’t have a routine. However, my new medications cause breakouts, and I was in need of one before my face became a war zone.

I cringed, ready for the shock and potential judgement. But he was thrilled instead, giving me a pep talk and walking me through each step of the routine with excitement. He was glowing, my aura was glowing, and I hoped that my dull, lifeless skin would be glowing soon, too.

The next day, I pulled out everything and committed to a one-month routine – even my ADHD self could do that, especially when I had someone indirectly holding me accountable. You know, like the founder, who gifted me a skincare routine. No big deal.

In Rex’s amazing gift box, he had sent me four products and two samples, because he is simply the greatest, period. I was ecstatic to find an exfoliating cleanser, a vitamin C serum, a hyaluronic acid serum, and a moisturizer all neatly packed in a box with the logo printed on tissue paper. Can you say adorable? 

And the best part: nothing was gendered. It was sleek, chic, chill – whatever word you want to use that indicates universal and cool. I excitedly brought the products to the bathroom, set up my camera, and caught my reactions in live time. Reel and TikTok soon to come, but first: a detailed review of my first experience with my new Ghost Democracy skincare diet routine.


Step 1: Daily Cleanser

Naturally, my first step was Ghost Democracy’s Transparent Gentle Exfoliating Daily Cleanser.

It sounds a bit like an oxymoron – an exfoliator that’s gentle? – but trust me, Rex knew what he was doing when he created these transparent products.

Speaking of which, that’s one of my favorite things about Ghost Democracy: their transparency. You won’t find any hidden ingredients or additives, nothing that will seep into your skin and poison your pores. In fact, they’re so transparent, every highly-concentrated ingredient and its percentage is listed on the product. Love that, because it gives me all the more reason to recommend the brand! Who doesn’t love honesty, especially when there isn’t anything unfortunate about it?

In the daily cleanser, the key ingredients are 4.1% glycolic acid and  , which slough away that dull skin. The magic soothing comes from its other two major players: 1.6% willow bark extract, which soothes while also balancing oil levels, and 1.3% niacinamide, which calms irritation and inflammation.

The product foamed up nicely, and felt soft and smooth, despite being an exfoliator. However, I didn’t doubt that it was doing its job – after using my Foreo luna mini 2 for one minute to really get in there and deep clean, I rinsed off plenty of gross, murky water. Goodbye, skin cells! My face was red after, but not irritated; clearly, the willow bark extract and niacinamide did their job.

Next step: a good ‘ol dose of vitamin C.


Step 2: Vitamin C Serum

This was the singular Ghost product I asked to review, prior to receiving a huge box of products. The Lightbulb Vitamin C Serum is one of their bestsellers, and my skin NEEDS brightening desperately.

After learning that vitamin C goes on before hyaluronic acid despite both being gentle serums (kind of a duh, but let me reiterate: I’ve never had a skincare routine!), I took the dropper and applied liberally to my face.

I didn’t need a full face of vitamin C, but I gave myself one, and it felt… not drying. Nope, it felt good, gooey, a little runny, and oh-so-soothing. And then there’s the brightening effect, which I definitely have noticed after 14 days. Even with the every-other-night-all-nighters, I don’t look like a total zombie! (Aside from the night I accidentally fell asleep in the kitchen, but that’s another story.)

This radiance would be courtesy of its key ingredients: 18% vitamin C, which helps neutralize free radicals and even out pigmentation; 1.9% vitamin E to protect, while also acting as an anti-inflammatory; 0.5% bisabolol, which is an antimicrobial with skin-brightening properties; and 0.5% bakuchiol, a retinol-alternative that helps brighten and even out texture.

Even though my skin didn’t feel like it needed it – the goop truly was moisturizing – I opened up my hyaluronic acid after pat, pat, patting the C into my pores.


Step 3: Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Another popular product, Ghost Democracy’s Floodgate Hyaluronic Acid Serum is appropriately named, because it will flood your skin if you’re not careful. Trust me.

Rex told me to drown my face in it, so I do it each time, and I’m telling you: I wake up feeling like I’ve just put on a face mask of some sort, because my skin is so ridiculously hydrated.

No surprise, the top ingredient in the hyaluronic acid serum is… 2.1% PURE hyaluronic acid. The “pure” means its extra potent, retaining up to 1,000 times its weight in water. This is why your skin feels drenched with just one dropper – or, should I say, flooded.

Then, there’s 4.0% niacinamide, which is also extremely hydrating and helps support your skin’s moisture barrier. Add in 1.5% Linden flower extract, an anti-inflammatory with water-binding properties, and 1.3% white tea leaf extract, which helps protect skin from outside stressors, and you have a serum that will fight for you. It will literally (not literally) sit on your skin and fight anything that intends to dry out or harm your skin, and it will do it well.

I didn’t think I’d need the hyaluronic acid serum after the vitamin C serum. And I certainly didn’t think I needed the moisturizer after patting in the hyaluronic acid. But I listened to the (R)expert (I’m so sorry for that, Rex), so I moved on to the final step.


Step 4: Daily Moisturizer

Everyone should end their routine with a moisturizer, but… okay, sometimes I’m lazy and I don’t. I know, I know, but I’ll say it one more time: no skincare routine before this.

But I am a good student, so I read up on the ingredients first to see how else I’d be hydrating my skin – as if I hadn’t hydrated it enough. Inside the Lightweight Daily Face Moisturizer, there is no oil. None. So that greasy after-feeling that I hate, which is why I skip so much? Not an issue here. Knowing that, I happily read on to the main characters.

I was surprised to see 12.0% probiotics. I’ve never seen that before. Peptides, ceramides, yes. But probiotics? However, I know the skin’s microbiome needs a lil extra help when it comes to balancing itself out, so I was grateful to see that my skin would be loved on with calming, soothing TLC.

1.0% niacinamide is also there, to help the skin’s moisture barrier, pairing up with 0.5% panthenol (aka pro-vitamin B5) to keep skin moisturized and soft. Finally, 1.0% oat seed extract is an anti-inflammatory antioxidant, calming the skin down – perfect after a long day (or all nighter).

This is going to sound gross, but the formula reminded me of slime. Maybe snail slime. But don’t let that freak you out, because it goes on so. frickin’. comfortably. And a little goes a long way – I dipped my fingers in once, no scooping, and I had enough formula to cover my entire face. 

Was I supposed to pat this in? Probably, considering I was directed to do so with the serums. But I rubbed it in, because I wasn’t sure, and that’s what I’ve always done with moisturizers. Old habits die hard, right? 

And with that, I was done! … With day one. And now, I’m 14 days in. Here’s the current situation.


14 Days: I’m Already Glowing

It’s been 14 days and 14 days only, and my skin is soft, it’s clear, it’s evened out, it’s kind of worth being obsessed over. I know I’m defeating the purpose, but I can’t help but touch my face throughout the day because I can’t believe how soft my skin is! And that medication problem? Nowhere to be found on my face, now. It’s a blank canvas. A clean slate. It’s just… good.

I would absolutely recommend this skincare routine to anyone and everyone, but especially those who have never had a skincare routine before. Four steps felt like the Goldilocks of length – enough to feel mature enough for a skincare routine, but not too long where I felt afraid to do it every night. And NOTHING was uncomfortable or bothersome, which also kept me from being scared off.

Rex, thank you endlessly. I can’t wait to update you one month in – I can only imagine that I’ll be bright as the sun and smooth as marble by that point. And I. can’t. wait. Ghost Democracy review #2, let’s do this.

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Did this review of Ghost Democracy’s skincare routine convince you to try out the brand? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!


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Away You Glow-Glow: My Routine With Glow Recipe

Let’s set the scene: The date is June 20th, and it is my best friend Hannah’s golden birthday (21 BABY). As we take our seats on the luxurious Long Island Rail Road, getting ready to celebrate legally, I am distracted by the euphoric glow emanating off of my friend’s face. 

“Hannah,” I say. “Your face, it’s absolutely glowing. It looks like you have been blessed by the skin GODS.”

She smiles and blushes (brightening her already flawless skin, may I add) and bashfully admits, “This brand blew up on TikTok, it’s called Glow Recipe. 

Glow Recipe: the name even sounds dazzling. I made a mental note to conduct some research and share this magical brand with my (super cool) boss, Tess. After Hannah’s and my day in the big city, I got right to work, googling what sorcery these products contained. What I found was a gold mine. 

Instead of skin products promising perfection, Glow Recipe specializes in providing the consumer with the key to skin satisfaction. “We know that skin changes daily & we want to empower you to love and treat your skin based on its ever-changing needs. (Because that’s life!)” they state.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Glow Recipe (@glowrecipe)

By using vegan and sustainable ingredients, Glow Recipe gladly touts it is Leaping Bunny certified, aka certifiably cruelty free! This is a major win, especially for a company that has reached viral status; having an honest skin care brand capture national attention (establishing a chokehold on us Gen Z-ers) can help the environment — even if that isn’t the consumer’s main intention.  

I knew I needed to review Glow Recipe, so with Tess’ stamp of approval, I happily went shopping, looking out for the perfect three products.

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What I Looked For

First, I was on the lookout for a cleanser; specifically one with hyaluronic acid, which helps heal wounds quicker and reduce scarring. Lo and behold, I found my one true love, the Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser, ripe (see what I did there) with blueberry extract, hyaluronic acid, and hydrating suds. 

I then began to look for my second necessity, a pore-targeted toner, because those puppies are HUGE. Specifically, I was searching for one that wouldn’t be so harsh or drying on my skin. To my surprise, their signature (and only) toner promoted its pore tightening abilities by using watermelon extract. Entitled Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner, the liquid contains polyhydroxy acid (PHA) and beta hydroxy acid (BHA) which smooths skin, removes dead skin cells and decongests pores, respectively. Absolutely, add to cart. 

Finally, it was time to find my show-stopper, a serum that hydrates and tackles my lovable acne prone skin. I was looking for Glow Recipe’s hero product to top off this review, and I didn’t want to wait ‘til the end of the night to find it. BUT just then, I saw it, brand new and calling out to me. The Strawberry Smooth BHA + AHA Salicylic Serum popped up on my screen. It’s good for all skin types, featuring strawberry extract to reduce the production of oil, azelaic acid liposome to help enact the salicylic acid (which calms reactive skin), and my personal favorite, allantoin to moisturize and protect skin.

And with that, I was sold. Adding that final item to my bag, I thanked my bank account and checked out.


Five days later, after patiently waiting, I received the notification that it had arrived. Giddy, I ran to the mailbox.

I opened the package and took out my three items (plus my two complimentary sample products). Beautiful, the packaging was sleek and cute and of all different colors (each representing which fruit was part of the ingredients). Curious, I uncapped each bottle to smell what all the hype was about.

Let me tell you, when I say these products smell delicious… I mean, if it were a hot summer’s day and each scent were an overpriced drink, I sure as hell would buy each and slurp ’em up.

I did no such thing, but did begin using all three before I went to bed that night. 


My Nighttime Routine

First step: Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser 

Tara holding Blueberry Bounce Cleanser from Glow Recipe

Within one use, my skin felt like a clean slate, as if my entire day were washed off from one rinse and lather. Immediately, I noticed a natural shine after drying, which never happens with my usual Cetaphil. Although my face was clean, it did not feel stiff and dry, which is a direct result of the hydrating properties in the cleanser. As I continue to use the wash (now at week three), the hydrating benefits are what are most impressive. I maintain a natural glow without an oily sheen — a wonderful change for my combination skin.

Second Step: Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner

Tara holding the Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner by Glow Recipe

When I began using this toner I was a little thrown off by the consistency, a bit thicker than my typical Burt’s Bees. The smell, as I mentioned before, was wonderful, but made me question how effective it would be on my face. The combination of cactus water and watermelon extract lead me to believe this toner may irritate the acne on my face. Upon application, the product left a bit of a sticky residue, and the places where pimples were present became a bit sore and red (which eventually did subside after a few minutes). My skepticism remained, so I decided to only use the toner once a day, instead of twice. This method proved effective because at the three week mark, my ever present pores seem to be minimized after use. 

Third Step: Strawberry Smooth BHA + AHA Salicylic Serum

Tara holding Glow Recipe'sStrawberry Smooth BHA + AHA Salicylic Serum

It seemed as if my gut instinct to purchase this serum served me well. Light and magical, as soon as I pumped some of the contents on the back of my hand my spidey senses tingle (okay maybe it was really the hyaluronic acid). Rubbing the serum into my face instantly brightened my complexion, making me look awake even if I did not feel quite there yet. Putting it on before bed was another miracle, because in those 8 hours (okay maybe 6) of rest the azelaic acid liposome went to work reducing the dark marks where pimples once were. In love. 


The Verdict

Tara holding all three Glow Recipe products.

SO, is Glow Recipe really worth the hype? Honestly, yes. Not only does the aesthetically pleasing packaging match the aesthetically pleasing results, it is a company with a mission. This is especially seen through their Glow for Good pledge, which helps develop diversity and inclusion, environmental preservation, and women owned businesses. They do this by pledging to donate $1M to organizations that embody these causes in hopes to elevate organizations who fight for humanity instead of the almighty dollar. Consumers pay attention to brands who stay true to their philanthropic roots, and will support brands that not only look out for themselves, but others too.

If you didn’t gather from my review’s takeaway by now, Glow Recipe has a shining, shimmering, gleaming, yes from me. From now on, I will never underestimate the power of a TikTok sensation (maybe, don’t quote me on that).

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We hope you liked Tara’s Glow Recipe review! Have you tried this brand’s products? Do you think they’re worth the hype? Let us know down below!


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