By Veronica Wells

Coconut oil is lauded as the superstar of any natural hair care regimen. And I get it, my hair loved this natural oil...until it didn't. My sister and I were in Turks and Caicos when we discovered that we could not stop scratching our scalps. For me, the itching was mild but my sister’s scalp was in crisis. Large chunks of dried skin were falling out of her head. It wasn’t long before we realized it was the coconut oil that was causing this reaction. After a couple more tries, it was with a heavy heart that we said goodbye to all of the products in our arsenal that contained coconut oil. (In theory, many of them still occupy space on our bathroom shelf.) The transition hasn’t been easy. Coconut oil is in about 80 percent of hair products for Black women. So you have to be careful.

If you find that your scalp is itchy even after you’ve washed, oiled and styled it, or you already know you have a coconut allergy, here are some products that will be lifesavers for your hair care regimen.


Queen Nefertiti’s Grow Super Long Hair, $13.00

I know this is not a very large or well known brand. But I saw this at the health food store on 125th in Harlem and decided to give it a try because--it didn’t contain coconut oil and I needed a good, heavy butter-like product to condition my scalp and penetrate my locs on wash day. This product was perfect for that. While you can feel it contains all natural oils and herbs, it still manages to go on lightly. It doesn’t leave your hair feeling weighed down and it smells delicious.

Jane Carter Solution’s Moisture Nourishing Shampoo, $8.00

From my experience most of Jane Carter’s products don’t contain coconut oil. I recommended this shampoo because, unlike so many others, it does what the bottle says it will. When you wash your hair with this product you’ll know your hair is clean without feeling like you’ve stripped your tresses of the oils they so desperately need.

Oyin’s Ginger Mint Co-Wash, $11.99

I really can’t say enough about this product. It’s my favorite on the list mostly because conditioning is so important. My locs felt INcredible after I applied this on my hair after a good shampoo. The mint stimulated my scalp, opening my pores without being too abrasive. (Some even got into my eye and it didn’t even burn.) It smells delightful and leaves your scalp feeling invigorated and your hair hydrated.

Camille Rose Naturals, Almond Jai Twisting Butter, $16.99

This is for the “free haired” naturalistas. I haven’t used this product myself but I watched as my sister used it for one of her twist outs and it produced some of the most defined, longest lasting curls I’ve seen on my sister’s head. This twisting butter features “gourmet ingredients” like almond, aloe vera and honey, among many other natural and delicious oils. And it smells like cake in the jar but isn’t as loud on your actual head.

Ancient Egyptian Anti-Breakage & Repair Antidote Oil, $17.99

If I was really taking care of my hair like I was supposed to I would set aside time to give myself hot oil treatments, especially in the winter. The cold winds can be particularly rough on our hair. This anti-breakage oil can be used as everyday moisture or for more intensive hot oil treatments. This product contains oils like Kalahari Watermelon, Baobab Seed oil, Castor and Evening Primrose. I haven't tried this one personally but I love Mane Choice's products so this one, with these fabulous and fragrant ingredients, sounds like it has the potential to be another winner.

I should also note that all of these products are created by Black women, so there’s the extra incentive of supporting our sisters to go along with this list.



Do you have any fav products that don't contain of coconut?


Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days” and the creator of the website NoSugarNoCreamMag. You can follow her on Facebook and on Instagram and Twitter @VDubShrug.

By Veronica Wells

I like to joke that my father ruined me when it comes to public declarations of romantic love. From an early age, I remember watching some romantic comedy and him, leaning over to tell me something to the effect of, "Whatever you feel about the person you're in love with, that's something for only the two of you. No one else cares."

And while I know that’s not entirely true, those words had a real impact on me. I consider myself a romantic and a lover of love, still; I often find myself rolling my eyes when people speak about their romantic partners. Not because I believe they’re lying or I’m not happy that they’ve found what we’re all searching for in one way or another. But mostly because far too often, people rely on cliches. And they make me wonder if folks are speaking from the heart or saying what they’ve been conditioned to believe is the right thing to say.

Continue

By now, you’re probably wondering what I’m talking about. Remember when Jerry MaGuire was released in the nineties? At the climax of the movie, Tom Cruise interrupts Renee Zellweger’s book club meeting to tell her not only does he love her but that she completes him. It was a good line. And for years afterward, it was the go-to. The penultimate way to express your love for someone. “You complete me” showed up in all types of wedding vows, anniversary speeches, illustrations on the internet, complete with interlocking puzzle pieces. It was everywhere, for years. 

It wasn’t until Oprah, along with Dr. Robin Smith, debunked the myth of needing another person to complete us that people started to consider the fact that requiring another individual to make us whole is indeed problematic.

These days, the phrase has changed. There’s a new, acceptable way to speak about our love relationships. It’s “S/he’s my best friend.” Now, before y’all start throwing pitchforks, let me say that I know friendship is an important foundation in all relationships. And I don’t believe everyone is lying when they say their partners are their best friends. I just wonder if they really mean what they say, or they’re just repeating what they believe is the right thing to say. It’s all too common, everyone seems to be married to their best friend.

Like we’re looking for our lovers to be all things to us. Do we abandon the women and men who were our best friends when we find a new romantic interest? Does that person push everyone else into a lower class of friendship? Does it mean the relationship is not strong if he’s not my best friend? Furthermore, if sex is no longer an option, like my other friendships, what will happen to the relationship?

I think there’s value in being friends with your partner but also having relationships that fulfill our need for companionship and connection outside of romance. Platonic relationships are necessary because you’re not expecting or required to complete the same type of transactions you do in a romantic relationship. There is value in that difference.

Tamar & Vince
I knew the best friend thing had gone too far when I heard Tamar Braxton use it, recently, to describe the relationship with her estranged husband Vincent Herbert. I literally almost flipped a table. This is the man she called her best friend after she alleged that the man fathered a child with another woman, after he was arrested for spousal assault on Christmas Day, after the two have spent months basically avoiding having a serious conversation with one another. 

If you’ve watched the latest season of “Tamar and Vince,” you know that none of us would want a best friendship like what we’re seeing between these two right now. The whole season of the show can be described as Tamar inviting her friends on trips, telling them secrets and taking drastic actions instead of talking to her husband, her best friend, about what she’s feeling. And, in her defense, Vince hasn’t exactly made himself accessible or easy to talk to in the process. Whenever she broaches a subject he doesn’t like, he either talks about her attitude, tells her to “shut the f*ck up” or walks out of the room.

That’s just not friendship, not by anyone’s standards. I know Tamar and Vince are an extreme example. It’s clear that in the midst of all their dysfunction, she’s still trying to convince us that their relationship is something that it is not.

But that’s the point, Tamar is not the only one trying to sell us something. But perhaps the use of these phrases is not so cut and dry. Maybe these descriptors are so widely accepted because the feelings of love we have are often too deep and too vast, so we get lazy or overwhelmed and rely on what someone else has already said. We try to fit our relationships into someone else’s definition and then find ourselves hurt and disappointed when the label is not entirely accurate.

Do you believe your romantic partner has to be your best friend? 

Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days” and the creator of the website NoSugarNoCreamMag. You can follow her on Facebook and on Instagram and Twitter @VDubShrug.
Jenifer Lewis
By Veronica Wells

When I heard that Jenifer Lewis was writing a memoir, I was immediately intrigued. Not only has she played everybody’s momma on the big and small screens, her persona just draws you in. Whether she’s sharing sage career advice, singing about how she doesn’t want anybody f*cking with her in these streets, or speaking candidly about her mental illness, Lewis’ energy is infectious. She’s engaging. She’s fascinating. You just want to lean in and hear what the hell she has to say. So I had to get my hands on that book. And not only has it exceeded my expectations in the areas of fun-ny, the memoir also includes several life lessons.

Continue

Checking White folks
Lewis was doing laundry one day and put her basket in the elevator door while she was grabbing the last bit of her clothing. A White couple in the elevator took it upon themselves to kick the basket out of the door, spilling her newly washed clothes onto the floor. Thankfully, Lewis caught the door and proceeded to pick up each article of clothing one by one. When the couple protested, she went clean off, physically imposing herself on them to let them know she was not the one. It was everything! While this incident probably represented one of her manic episodes, still it was a lesson to me that there is nothing wrong with expressing yourself when people do something that shows a lack of human decency.


Not wasting your time sexually
Lewis has been very open and honest about her sex addiction, as a coping mechanism for her bipolar disorder. And while her lovers were many, she still had her standards. When one of her potential suitors dropped his pants and revealed equipment that didn’t measure up, instead of trying to appeal to his ego and waste her own time, Lewis sent him away. If a woman with a sex addiction was able to express her desires and wasn’t willing to settle, then we can do the same.


I am the biggest star in the world
Reading Lewis’ memoir there are more than a few instances when she was so close to getting a role before it was eventually given to someone else. Sometimes it’s clear that she was too loud or too big for a part. And other times it was circumstance, someone was a better fit. But there were other times when it seems like things were just unfair. Still, while there are moments when Lewis went without work, she didn’t doubt her talent or ability. She didn’t stop pushing. She didn’t stop declaring her greatness. I have to believe that her recognition and acknowledgment of her gifts is what helped so many of the other greats to recognize her star as well.


Inauguration
Who didn’t want to be in the spot when Barack Obama was inaugurated as 44th President of the United States? And while Lewis had a ticket, she was supposed to be in the back, where she would miss quite a bit of the action. But the day of the event, she arrived early and managed to finagle her way to the front. It was a real lesson in the power of determination mixed with a bit of luck.

Therapy
The theme of mental health and wellness run throughout the entire memoir. And what I most appreciate is the fact that Lewis never describes her journey toward healing as linear. After her initial acceptance of the fact that she needed professional help, there were more than a few setbacks. There was denial, missteps, prescription problems, self sabotage etc. Still, it’s abundantly clear that had Lewis not done the work to find the right therapist, been patient as she got the right prescription, and held herself accountable for her own actions, there’s no telling where she would be.


Feel the fear and do it anyway
In her therapy, Lewis learned about the importance of confronting those that have hurt you. And unlike those White people in the elevator, this was about confronting people who she trusted, people who she admired, people who were respected in her community. Her childhood pastor, who her mother revered, groped her and kissed her in his car one day as he was driving her home. When she told her mother about the incident, she didn’t believe her. After therapy, well into her adulthood, Lewis called the Pastor and confronted him, in power, about his actions. And it helped.


Writing a letter
Obviously confrontation is a theme here. And while it may seem redundant, I think it’s important for women to really reflect on this as we’re conditioned from birth to be appeasing and pleasant. But if anything, Lewis’ book teaches that not only is there a time and place for confrontation, there’s a right and a wrong way to do it. When her therapist suggests that Lewis writes a letter to her mother, whether she decides to give it to her or not, she does so. And then with a bit of trepidation, eventually decides to mail it. The letter called her mother out for a lot of dysfunction. And while she didn’t know how her mother was going to react, she learned that people are often more open than we think when it comes to hearing the truth about themselves.



In case you couldn’t tell, this is my glowing review of Lewis’ The Mother of Black Hollywood. It’s entertaining, thought-provoking, it will make you reflect on your own life. And it can certainly teach you a thing or three.

Have you read 'The Mother Of Black Hollywood?' Thoughts?
Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days” and the creator of the website NoSugarNoCreamMag. You can follow her on Facebook and on Instagram and Twitter @VDubShrug.

By Veronica Wells

A couple of months ago, I was interviewing three women about sex over the age of 50, for my website NoSugarNoCream. During the conversation, the youngest woman in the group explained that she was so thankful that when she’s not in the mood, her husband doesn’t cop an attitude. She said, “A man can be very mean when he can’t get what he wants.” For some reason, the words and the sentiment behind the words stuck with me. There were nods and grunts of agreement from the other two women, and it made me wonder, was this something other women had experienced as well?

The responses were sparse because it’s a sensitive and intimate topic, women don’t want their man to look bad, they don’t want their sex lives to become a case study. I get it. But there were a brave few who decided to share, anonymously of course.

First, I started with a friend named Yvonne. Yvonne is single at the moment but has been in more than a few non-committed or loosely defined relationships. So I asked her if the men from her past ever copped an attitude when she refused sex.

She said, one man, Peter*, used her unwillingness to have sex as a way to attack her character.
“He said I wasn’t affectionate enough and he resented the fact that I wouldn’t send him pictures of myself. He would use my lack of emotion/not being sexual with him when he demanded as an excuse for him to ignore me. He would say sh*t like ‘he’s a man” and he isn’t going to beg me to be a woman for him because other women would do it at the drop of a dime.”
I should note that while Peter made all types of requests from Yvonne, she couldn’t even get him to return a text message. She concluded that this man viewed her as a toy.

The women of “The Real,” addressed this topic on their show one day and said that the men in their lives had been known to get a little attitude but nothing like what Yvonne described.

I’m not here to play relationship hierarchy. But the women who were in more committed, defined relationships had different experiences. One woman, Shanice, who had been with her man, the father of her children for over ten years, spoke about how her mental state affects her desire for sex for extended periods of time and how her man responds to that.
“I often put off having sex because my moods are so inconsistent. I'm bipolar manic, (and untreated because I refuse to take meds, but that's another story), so it can take the smallest thing to just turn me off and not want to have sex for long periods of time, or it can be opposite and I want it a lot. However, Kareem* has never acted out against it, or done catty things. He has a very mild temper and just goes with the flow. However, when it does begin to bother him that I won't have sex with him he speaks out on it. He just makes comments about how he has needs too. Or he’ll say something like, ‘Who knows when I'll have sex again.’ So I'll feel bad and give up the booty within 48 hours. There are also times where I promise it, and then say, ‘Oh I'm tired. Etc.’ It makes me feel like crap at times, but sometimes I don't care. He just takes his frustrations to sleep. I don't have any experience where he has been cruel, or made threats about getting it elsewhere.”
This state of sleep theme came up more than once in my little focus group. I spoke to a man, about one of his married male friends. I should note that while this man is an excellent father, he’s a serial cheater. He told our mutual friend that when his wife refuses sex, he sleeps peacefully because he knows he has options, options he’ll act on. I don’t issue that as a cautionary tale. I’m willing to bet that even if his wife never rejected him, he would still be out here. It’s just interesting to note that he’s not pressed.

Another married woman, Karen, who’s been with her husband for 13 years said that while her husband never does or says anything cruel to her, she can tell that he gets a little “crunchy.”
“If it's been a while, say like a week or two, he gets irritable. Sex in general, for us, takes off the edge. Without it, we both get crunchy. After we connect, issues seem to calm down. He's never gotten mad though if I say no, and there are definitely times when I'm just not in the mood. If I'm not, sometimes I'll go ahead anyway- because once we get started, I’m good- but I don't always give in.”
Like Shanice, Karen spoke more about the pressure women feel when they’re not in the mood...at all, but also want to satisfy their husbands.
“I have never really felt the need to have sex after having my two babies, but did because I know that he'd been waiting and he was clear about his excitement once the doctor gave us the go ahead. (The recommended time for sex after childbirth is four-six weeks.) I didn't want to make him keep waiting, and I also wondered if I'd ever 'feel' like it after a baby. I didn't want to become one of those women who has the baby and they lose their sex drive altogether. Now did he 'pressure' me? Maybe a little because he wasn't necessarily asking me how I really felt. But never has my husband acted like I have no choice, or treated me mean when I've said no."
Obviously my sample size was particularly small, still the relationships that had weathered some "life," who had experienced the real, messy, practical elements of the real world understood that life can affect their partner's sex drive. And while they weren't always happy about it, their partner's refusal didn't warrant cruelty.


Do you think men in committed relationships have more realistic expectations about how life can influence sexual desire for their partners?


Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days” and the creator of the website NoSugarNoCreamMag. You can follow her on Facebook and on Instagram and Twitter @VDubShrug.

Anita Hill
By Veronica Wells

These past few months have been consumed with talk of sexual harassment. For the rest of his life, at least in the public space, Harvey Weinstein will be this generation's poster child for sexual assault and harassment. Even though he was far from the first or last man to use his power to intimidate women, he's the one who opened up the floor for everyone else to be exposed. And since his downfall, we've seen men like Matt Lauer, Al Franken, Louis C.K., Russell Simmons (and I'm sure more to come) meet similar fates.

Most women, the group who have been the most affected and impacted by sexual assault, from the beginning of humanity, recognize that this reckoning is long overdue. Finally, the nation is having very real and uncomfortable conversations. And while I think that a majority of people understand the necessary ramifications behind sexual assault and harassment: firings, oustings, loss in income, being exposed, etc.; I've learned that not everyone gets it.

Continue