For the past month I have been heavily consuming self-care and entrepreneurial content created by women of color. Watching marginalized people fight against problems and systems they didn’t create is exhausting. I am exhausted. Daily I wrestle against hopelessness and fight for joy with the fear of becoming apathetic. To avoid is to rest in my own privilege while obsessing could compromise my mental and emotional stability. Balance is essential and right now I choose to guard my mind and spirit.
During these times, it’s cliche to hear elders in the black community, like Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown, put the onus on the oppressed to create solutions for their grievances. “We need more black attorneys, police officers, teachers, and councilmen” they say, but what if that is not what you feel called to do? What if those positions and that industry do not utilize your talents, gifts, and skills? Why do people of color have to be robbed of their agency and liberties? Those suggestions only deflect accountability away from the beneficiaries of this evil-ridden culture.
“I understand the calls for consumer boycotts, but I also want to encourage us to buy in. Buy in to the idea that we can use our careers and talents to uplift our community. Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that we are using our chosen career fields to support our community. Through the pain of recent tragedies, I found myself being so proud of bloggers, writers, poets, mothers, fashionistas, yogis, artist, nutritionists, and counselors of color who steadily shared content on solidarity and encouraged people to participate in self-care.” -Janet Asante, How to Use Your Career to Uplift Our Community
If you don’t feel moved to literally protest in the streets, that’s fine. Buy in. Everyone’s activism looks different and that needs to be respected. Support those who look like you and share similar (or worse) experiences. By now you know that Melanglow exists to educate and encourage black women to support black makers, professionals, retailers, and influencers in the beauty space. So without further ado, here is another #bgbb (black girl beauty brand, coined by Evelynfromtheinternets) you can support if you feel led.
Introduce yourself & why you do what you do.
Hello, I’m Nikki. I’m the crafty herbalist and founder of Willow & Oak Skincare.
Describe what sets Willow & Oak apart from other skin care brands.
In 2013, I found out I had uterine fibroids and sought a more holistic approach to shrink or eliminate them. Intuitively, I went to talk with the plants. I’m a huge tea drinker and enjoy the ritual of a hot morning beverage. Herbs helped to relax me when I had various episodes of discomfort. Eventually, this led me to research heavily on why these tumors manifest, causing me to have an epiphany about what I put on my skin. I was hyper aware of what I was putting in my body, so it made sense to approach this idea with plants.
I now use four different local and domestic farms and various companies that share my passion for quality. I infuse the herbs in oil to extract all the medicinal properties out and then I make healing little potions out of them. This has not only brought me a sense of joy but also a better connection to the planet that takes care of us.
Let’s talk quality standards. What “creepy ingredients” won’t you find in Willow & Oak Skincare?
This basically means no synthetic ingredients, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates, chemicals, fillers, animal testing, mineral oils, and petroleum. The “no creepy ingredients” is a sign that says all that without imposing all those fancy words on all the packaging. My line is very transparent. What you see on the label is what’s in the formula. I don’t want to impose and pander people. If they are even curious about this kind of skin care, it’s because it’s trending or they have had to learn the hard way.
What have been some of your negative experiences with skin care products?
I had really oily skin in my 20s, so I never really put anything on it, but I would get pimples and opt for something that would zap them. This left my skin dry, itchy, and super sensitive. I was always sold on a fast miracle, never really curious about the ingredients or my diet. Assuming if it’s sold at these reputable places, I must be in good caring hands. Ahhh, hello, Willow & Oak!
Why take the artisanal route vs. mass production?
The artisanal route allows my quality standards to be at its highest. Small batches allow customers to use my products at their peak potential, and if any problems arise, it’s much faster to resolve the issue.
Getting into the Mix
Facial Polish & Mask: When I hear polish I think exfoliant. What is the consistency of this product?
Yes, it’s an exfoliant with salt, sugar, pumice stone, and various herbs blended into those raw materials. I recommend storing it a cool, dry place. If you are leaving any polish in the shower, be mindful about getting water into it. Dry hands of course or use a dry spoon.
Kombucha Toner: You know we have to talk about this. Is this formulated with parts of the SCOBY?
Not the actual SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), but the vinegar that the SCOBY helps to ferment.
What do you say to those who are apprehensive about putting bacteria on their skin?
Well, vinegar is good bacteria, so I will explain the benefits. I chose to work with kombucha, because I love to drink it and had decided I wanted to brew my own to have more control since gardening is not realistic at this time in my life.
Facial Serum: What is the consistency of this serum? Are the asterisks designations for extracts or oils?
It’s a lightweight oil. The asterisks are to signify organic.
Restorative Face & Body Balm: Is this meant for spot treatment or full application?
It’s a spot treatment for the body and an all over treatment for face.
Body Polish: How do you make recommendations for each of your scrubs?
The cardamom and patchouli is great for people who have dry skin or love that extra moisture. The shea butter gives your skin a good coat of hydration. The cedarwood and sweet orange is great for depression and when you need a little motivation (think aromatherapy). It’s bright and its notes help to stimulate blood circulation.
Will there be a facial moisturizer suitable for oily skin in the making?
Not at the moment.
How do your customers inspire you?
The enthusiasm they show and their priceless feedback.
Share your skin care regimen.
What’s on your vanity and what’s in your purse?
My new lip colored shines I’m testing, sandalwood perfume oil that helps to ground me when I’m stressed, and bronzer by Mineral Fusion.
What are your best sellers and what are your favorites?
Where can we find Willow & Oak?
At the moment I am at the Bespoke in Harlem once or twice a month; it does change. If you follow me on Instagram you will know my whereabouts.
What skin care tip do you live by?
A warm and cold method when I wash and polish my face and body. Heat to open the pores, cold to close.
Anything coming soon?
Yes, I am crafting two lip colored balms to be available in August. They are called Plant Powered Pouts. I’m tripping on how cool it is to make a lip product with only food grade powders and various roots and clays. Mind blowing!
Follow Willow and Oak here: