As a Black woman, it can feel impossible to truly stop and put the world down. So much of women’s lives revolve around taking care of others, and those of us who are Black women also have the added pressure of managing how other people see us. We’re taught from a young age that we have to work twice as hard to get half as much (Beyonce at the Grammys anyone?). Even then, we’re always conscious of not being too much—too threatening, too opinionated, too big for our britches. Balancing everyone else’s opinions is a losing game. So how do we show up as our full selves, despite all this head noise?

I’ve recently been exploring this topic among friends and loved ones. When I’m with them, this pressure melts away. Why? Because I know I’m safe with them. I know that they see me as a complex, beautifully flawed person trying to navigate this world just as they are. Like any good friend group, we celebrate our ups and commiserate when we’re down. And I never take for granted that, in supportive spaces like these, I’m allowed to experience those messy, human emotions.

Featured image by Belathée Photography.

Image by Michelle Nash

5 Black Women Share Their Self Care Secrets

Expressing yourself authentically in affirming, community spaces is healing. But out in the world, we’re often operating under a friction that puts us in survival mode. Studies have shown that Black women report disproportionately high levels of psychological stress, including race and gender-related stress, that leads to a higher burden of chronic conditions associated with psychological stress.

Creative and compassionate, a diverse class of Black women in the beauty and wellness spaces are reshaping the mold.

These bright lights in the industry are advocating for Black women, Black brands, and a more inclusive approach to wellness.

I spoke to five Black women who inspire me about their own self-care rituals. From deep breathing to favorite serums, there are endless ways to take care of yourself. It’s just about finding the rituals that make you feel present and allow you to put yourself first.

Image by Belathée Photography

Megan O’Neill is a pioneering beauty editor who has been writing and championing clean beauty for over a decade. As the associate beauty director at goop, hers are some of the most instrumental hands shaping the clean beauty zeitgeist.

I love being me, Megan, a Black woman—no matter how the world might perceive my skin color.

What does “self-care” mean to you as a Black woman? How do you incorporate it into your life?

It’s a more complex thing for a Black woman—this notion of self-care. Sometimes I’m staring into space thinking about how we die at three times the rate of white women from birth-related issues, that we’re paid 40% less than white men for doing the same job, that even our hair care contains more endocrine-disrupting chemicals than hair care marketed to other demographics—and I just want to… weep. 

Usually I don’t, though. I might get up from my laptop and look up at the sky out the window. On a less hectic day, I maybe sit on my couch (perk of working from home) and meditate; I practice Transcendental Meditation (Gwyneth actually gifted employees sessions to learn how to do it back when I first started at goop over five years ago). Or I take a break to stop and make lunch—instead of stuffing something packaged down that I don’t even have time to taste—which feels fantastic. The time it takes to wash a bunch of radicchio leaves, make a 3-ingredient vinaigrette, and fry up a quick cheddar omelet reminds me that I’m a person and not just a work-robot.

I have a rule that when my almost-two-year-old comes in from daycare at 5:30 p.m. or so, I stop. You can’t answer an email or write a story on alpha hydroxy acids or bakuchiol and pay attention to your child. The child wins. Probably one of the most powerful things I do is make a point of getting out of the house all weekend. I walk and walk, I explore new bakeries I’ve read about, or go try on a cool dress at a boutique in Williamsburg. I just don’t want to be at my computer, and that feels so good.

And yoga and Pilates—as frequently as I can, which usually shakes out to two or three times a week. Love getting massages and facials at The Well, but I don’t actually do those things, ha. There’s just no time! And I remind myself, sometimes more intensely on certain days, that I love being me, Megan, a Black woman—no matter how the world might perceive my skin color.

What are your favorite self-care routines?

If I can do yoga first thing—before I look at my email, before daycare drop off—I’m on top of the world for the rest of the day. I literally bound around instead of plodding along. I also just got a new juicer—big green juice fan. Every morning before I eat breakfast (this happens after yoga, if it’s a yoga morning) I blend up kale, lemon, spinach, celery, cucumber, green apple, and parsley, and I guzzle it down.

I’m huge on clean skin care—that’s what we do at goop, we make, talk about, and sell clean beauty. (Clean meaning products that are made without ingredients shown or suspected to harm human health.) I’m not a makeup girl, but skin care—goop Vitamin C serum, Vintner’s Daughter face oil, and the sea kale sunscreen from Mara are my morning jam right now—lights me up and makes me feel glowing. I cook dinner every night, it’s a great joy. I love eating warm, nourishing food with my family. I love that I can’t text while I’m chopping or pouring stuff, and I love knowing what I’m eating and that I used the best, least processed ingredients I could find. 

Any self-care tip you’d like to share?

Sweat a little or a lot. An ass-kicking yoga session (I love the on-demand Humming Puppy classes) followed by pressing a few drops of face oil onto damp skin equals the most awesome glow that lasts alllllll day. Limit Instagram time. Figure out how to walk in someone else’s shoes to gain a new perspective—it’s the way forward for all of us.

When she tells the story about her non-linear career journey, Maryam always says she fell into wellness by accident. From this happy accident began her work making wellness more equitable and accessible. She founded Dive In Well, an organization championing inclusivity within the industry, to create community and diversity in wellness. An energy healer and certified practitioner of Reiki and breathwork, she practices what she preaches and facilitates spaces for healing by helping individuals and corporations find tangible guidelines to elevate their well-being.

Do at least 4 deep belly breaths and you will definitely feel a difference energetically.

What does “self-care” mean to you as a Black woman? How do you incorporate it into your life?

As a Black woman, self-care to me means pouring into myself and putting my well-being first in a world that puts Black women last. I try to find little ways to care for myself daily so I don’t reach a point of burnout, but if I do, I take a giant step back and put my well-being above anything else until I come to a place of balance. 

What are your favorite self-care routines?

Just about every week I go to a local flower market and make myself a floral arrangement for my home. I am so inspired and uplifted by the beauty of the flowers and plants in the market. Then, taking the time to intentionally make an arrangement that is both peaceful and energetically uplifting is so meditative. To me this is self-care.

Any self-care tip you’d like to share?

BREATHE! Stop what you’re doing and note where you are holding your breath. Most people are breathing into their chest, which is shallow breathing. If that’s you, bring your breath down into your stomach, which is the full capacity of your lungs. Do at least four deep belly breaths and you will definitely feel a difference energetically. It’s so simple, doesn’t take much time or cost a thing, and can change the course of your day. 

After almost a decade as an esthetician helping clients achieve skin wellness through simple, personalized treatments, Lesley Thornton founded Klur to create community and connection through holistic wellness. Klur, a cult-favorite skincare brand, is known for its quality products and a conscious ethos. And her passion for holistic wellness is tangible in her work. From prioritizing minimalist regimens that deliver multiple benefits and long-term results to her belief in the power of plants and the importance of full-body nourishment, she’s a beauty founder who truly embodies the truth that beauty comes from the inside, out.

“Self-care means you don’t have to give until you are exhausted to experience growth.”

What does “self-care” mean to you as a Black woman?

Self-care is a vital part of my life. As a Black woman, it is an essential act of self-preservation. Black women are continually expected to pour from an empty cup, and few of us take time to replenish ourselves to prevent depletion. Self-care means you don’t have to give until you are exhausted to experience growth. Permit yourself to go slow and fill your vessel so that you can tend to your responsibilities with abundance instead of exhaustion. Self-care means purposefully centering my health and well-being and prioritizing self-care. [As a result,] I’ve experienced deeper fulfillment in all aspects of life. 

What are your favorite self-care routines?

I intentionally tend to my own needs before addressing the needs of others. I say “NO” regularly without apology. My favorite act of self-care is cooking a homemade meal from scratch. Cooking can be a comforting and relaxing ritual, from prepping the ingredients and tasting the flavors along the way. Controlling what I eat and nourishing my body with wholesome ingredients from the earth that sustain me from the inside out. 

Any self-care tip you’d like to share?

One of the simplest and most immediate ways to promote self-care is to take a few deep breaths. Inhale slowly through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this process for a few minutes, focusing on the sensation of the breath moving in and out of your body. This breathing exercise can help calm the mind and reduce stress; adding an aromatic oil like Elements of Comfort can greatly enhance this practice.

If you haven’t heard of Hannah Harris, you’ve seen her hands. Hannah created Brown Girl Hands in June 2020, blending her passions for design and beauty while addressing the lack of Black/Brown hands in beauty ads and campaigns. Her solution? Photographing her own hands with her own products—after all, if not you, who? What started as an Instagram account became a movement. Now, Brown Girl Hands is an inclusive content studio working with top brands and publications to push for more diverse content in the digital world.

I’m a firm believer in joy as an act of resistance. Having joy in the midst of chaos means the world hasn’t taken all hope from you.

What does “self-care” mean to you as a Black woman? How do you incorporate it into your life?

As a Black woman, my self-care is my joy. When the state of the world feels heavy (as it so often does) we feel like having joy is out of place but I’m a firm believer in joy as an act of resistance. Having joy in the midst of chaos means the world hasn’t taken all hope from you.

In practice, I prioritize the things that fill me with joy: long phone calls, early dinners with friends, discovering home décor by Black artists, impromptu Beyonce dance parties, delicious carbs, daily movement, scrolling through Pinterest boards, giving yourself flowers.

What are your favorite self-care routines?

For 2023, I’ve been trying to start and end my day with the Five-Minute Journal as well as meditating with the Open app. My favorite routine by far is my daily movement. There’s nothing like a good workout to remind you of how strong you are (pilates), how beautiful the world is (walks/hikes), or make you feel like yourself again (The Class by Taryn Toomey). Also, let’s be honest, after a long day my favorite way to escape is reality television.

Any self-care tip you’d like to share?

When you feel yourself getting burnt out, get a long-term protective hairstyle. It’ll give you one less thing to worry about!

Tennille Murphy an interior designer turned flight attendant turned lifestyle blogger. Tennille is a clean beauty expert passionate about helping others embrace their natural beauty and find self-love. From perfecting her in-flight skincare routine to sharing about her favorite clean beauty finds, Tennille’s philosophy is that caring for herself in one area leads to caring for herself as a whole.

“A holistic approach to beauty and health changes everything.”

What does “self-care” mean to you as a Black woman? How do you incorporate it into your life? 

Self-care is about making your physical, emotional and mental well-being a priority. As someone who has been a parent my entire adult life, this didn’t come naturally to me. In fact, I didn’t start practicing self-care until well into my 30s. For me, self-care literally starts from the inside out—eating nourishing foods for my body and working out not just for my physical well-being but for my mental health. It’s also about showing myself love throughout the day—whether that’s through my skincare rituals, enjoying a lovely cup of tea, getting dressed up all for myself, or even playing with makeup. It’s all about treating myself to the simple things that bring me joy. 

What are your favorite self-care routines?

One of my favorite self-care routines is starting my day with three things I drink every day: warm water with lemon, freshly pressed beet juice or celery juice, and Athletic Greens AG1 supplement. These three things nourish my body and help me look and feel my best. 

Any self-care tip you’d like to share?

Find small moments of self-care throughout the day. Don’t overthink it. It’s easier than you think to find joy and self-care moments in ordinary things For example, if you’re a tea drinker, give yourself the 10 minutes in the day to sit down and really take in and savor every flavor. For me, the ritual of making tea brings me as much joy as drinking the tea itself. I take pleasure in creating the perfect cup of tea—in every step from steeping the tea to having a beautiful tea setting. It’s such a simple way to show myself love every day. 

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