I got a comment on my site recently that made me feel like I was in a glass case of emotions.
“I really enjoy your blog but lately it seems like it has turned into a product blog. It seems like every week some company sends you some product in exchange for you ooohing and awwwing over it and recommending that your readers try it. Donâ€™t get me wrong, I love hair stuff but it just seems like the blog has lost some of that â€œorganicâ€ straight from the hip type thing. It seems that everything you review is your new â€œbest thing ever/holy grail!â€ product. So much hair stuff is marketed to black women to â€œfixâ€ our tresses, that sometimes it gets to be too much. Of course, Iâ€™m sure most people here will disagree with me but I wanted to put it out there.”
Here are the four stages I went through upon reading that comment.
1. Shock and anger — “I think the last thing Afrobella is, is just another product blog! I work hard to make this site different from all the other beauty sites. I don’t agree with her at all!”
2. Doubt and insecurity — “OMG, what if she’s right? I have done a lot of positive reviews recently, and I’ve tried to be less mean and make my criticism a lot more constructive in recent months. And I do get sent products for review more often than I did when I first started. Good Lord, have I sold out already? My site isn’t even a year old yet, how can that be? Doesn’t selling out mean that you’re making money?”
3. A sense of urgency — “Well, I better do a negative beauty product review right away to prove her wrong! Quick, to the drawer of abandoned products!”
4. Acceptance and dismissal — “Y’know, not everyone’s going to love me 100% of the time, so whatevs. My real life has been eating away my Afrobella time these days, so I’ll just get around to this when I get around to it.”
It’s been over a week now, and just like I’ve come to terms with the conclusion of the Sopranos (click here if you feel me), I am finally ready to deal with this comment like a grown up afrobella should.
You are somewhat correct, my fellow bella, and thanks for speaking your piece. When I started Afrobella back in August of last year, I was just an assistant at my job. I had a backlog of crappy hair products I was itching to vent about, and an idealistic vision of a blogazine that was personal but about beauty products, somehow. But since I started Afrobella, I got a promotion. Now my job keeps me insanely busy. My morning routine — wake up, stretch, dream up a topic to write before I go to work — has changed completely. Now I spend my weekend doing most of my Afrobella stuff, and I pretty much plan out a week’s worth of posts in advance. Because if I don’t, I’ll wind up not writing something every day because I barely have the time right now. So the “straight-from-the-hip” feeling may have vanished because of my schedule, and sadly, there’s nothing I can do about that right now.
Also, my stock has risen in the beauty product-producing community. Whereas before I couldn’t convince someone to mail me a free sample of anything, somewhere along the line, companies started getting my address and sending me stuff. As a product junkie, of course I love that! My response has been to rave about the stuff I really really love, while also mentioning that not all of the products worked well for me. (a perfect example is my recent Elasta QP giveaway. Love the Mango Butter and the DPR-11, but if I let that Intense Conditioner touch my tresses, I come out of the shower looking like Buckwheat). Or I’ll do a very constructive negative review, as I did for Carol’s Daughter Khoret Amen, which made my hair smell funky like an old batch of collard greens. But I need to find a happy balance.
I think part of Afrobella’s unique charm is that I try to write the kinds of very honest product reviews that you don’t usually see in magazines or on other beauty blogs. But somewhere along my path, I’ve struggled to balance music and culture with beauty stuff, which is the genesis and the central focus of this site. I apologize for that. It’s time to stop being polite, and start getting real. I haven’t done a Never Again post in a long time, so I’ll rectify that now. Here are some hair moisturizing products I’ve avoided reviewing because of the high TBS factor.
Ellin LaVar Textures NourishOil Intense Dry Oil Care for Hair and Scalp. I was so psyched when the Ellin Lavar display first hit store shelves at my local CVS. An entire line of high end drugstore products for naturally curly, wavy, or kinky hair? Sign me up! The ingredients even looked alright — Brazil Nut Oil, Pequi Oil, Capuacu Seed Butter, and Maracuja Passion Fruit stand among the exotic additions. The recommended use of this product also attracted me — it’s advised to use it as a nighttime leave-in. From the Ellin LaVar website, “Simply apply to any problem areas of your hair or scalp and cover in plastic wrap while you rest. When you wake, apply OptiMoist before you wet your hair, rinse and follow up with ReconstructMasque and SatinSoft. Your hair has never been softer or shinier!” Upon multiple attempts with this stuff, all it’s made softer and shinier is my pillowcase. Yes, I put on plastic wrap over my head as I slept (and of course the husband just loves that), but inevitably, sleepy tossing and turning + plastic cap + big naturally curly hair = sometime in the night, my plastic cap will slip off. And then I’m left with a pillowcase that looks like a reject from the Soul Glo commercial. Or like Billy Ocean slept over.
Saturated bed linens aside, I had other issues with this product. First of all, the way this bottle is designed leaves A LOT to be desired. I guess the intention was to give the consumer options — there’s actually a caution on the back of the bottle, “product dispenses quickly.” You can either remove the cap completely, which reveals a weird pointy tip with three available holes for this stuff to pour through. Or you can poke a hole in the cap. After spilling oil all down my neck, I opted to poke a hole in the cap. Besides all of THAT, it didn’t do what it promised. The oil just sat on the surface of my hair, but didn’t penetrate the hair itself, so my tresses were shiny, stringy, and overslick but not truly moisturized. I’m thinking this probably works great for straightened hairstyles, moreso than natural curls. At $7.99 it won’t break the bank, but I was disappointed and won’t repurchase.
Maryam’s Soap Nook Japanese Camelia Botanical Hair Oil. I notice on the website this is being called “body and bath oil,” but my bottle is labeled “hair oil.” I haven’t tried it for body oil yet, and here’s why. I just can’t get with the smell. It’s funky and a bit musty and sweet, like an old lady’s bedroom. It just lingers on my hair after I use it, and I actually had to wash it out of my hair the last time I gave this a try. It’s not like, the funk of 40,000 years, but scent is very important to me when it comes to hair products — I don’t need an unpleasant cloud following me around all day. I’ve loved many of Maryam’s other products — her soaps, body washes, and whipped shea butter are amazing. But for this stuff as hair oil, I gotta say the nay-no.
On the opposite end of the hair oil spectrum, there’s Oscar Blandi olio de jasmine. The smell is heaven sent. It’s just incredible. I love jasmine ANYTHING, so I was really expecting this to be the most incredible hair oil ever. (did I mention that it costs $35 for a teeny 1.69 oz bottle?) I came to this product with high expectations, and I was left with a lasting disappointment. This stuff is clearly meant for bellas with straightened hair, or naturally straight hair. It felt gloppy, and did nothing for my hair beyond making it smell amazing. It actually made my hair feel coarser, if that’s even possible. Didn’t like it, can’t recommend it. But if you’ve got chemically treated locks that are straight and need some glamorous shine, this could work wonders for you.
Want a bonus review? Here’s a quickie. Harlem is filled with street entrepreneurs, each hawking a remarkably similar display of products. Incense, shea butter, and a variety of natural soaps are readily available along 125th St. When I was there in March, I absolutely had to stock up on these soaps. I got the Nubian Heritage Coconut & Papaya soap with Vanilla Beans. I opened it right there on the street, and it smelled amazing! I noticed the soap was studded with what looked like natural coconut extracts, but that didn’t bother me. I enjoy a mildly exfoliating soap, and the price was right. But let me warn you — that coconut soap probably shouldn’t be used as an all-over body soap. I have never seen such big chunks of stuff in a beauty product before. I’m talking big pointy pieces of coconut bark that just scratched me, instead of gently exfoliating my skin. So if you’d rather avoid splinters in your most tender areas, avoid this soap like the plague, or use as a hand soap only. The Ivorian Cocoa Butter soap with Milk Chocolate and Hazelnuts also smells amazing, and will be less likely to hurt you in the shower.
Have you tried a product that just left you cold, bellas? Tell me all about it! And if you want to offer criticism, or give me advice on keeping it real, e mail me at email@example.com.