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Session 309: Black Women & The Beauty Industry

The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.

Whether your beauty routine simply includes sunscreen and a scrunchie or is a bit more complex with lash extensions and lasers, Black women consumers continue to play a major role in the beauty industry. This week I’m excited to discuss Black women’s participation in beauty culture with Host & Beauty & Style Expert, Blake Newby. During our conversation, Blake and I discuss what it means to be a natural beauty in today’s beauty climate, how to vet dermatologists and estheticians for Black skin, and ways to use beauty/self-care practices to empower your mental health.

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Session 309: Black Women & The Beauty Industry

Dr. Joy: Hey y'all. Thanks so much for joining me for Session 309 of the Therapy for Black Girls Podcast. We'll get right into our conversation after a word from our sponsors.


Dr. Joy: Whether your beauty routine simply includes sunscreen and a scrunchy, or is a bit more complex with lash extensions and lasers, black women consumers continue to play a major role in the beauty industry. This week, we're honored to discuss black women's participation in beauty culture with former Beauty & Style editor Blake Newby. In our conversation, Blake and I discussed what it means to be a natural beauty in today's beauty climate, how to vet dermatologists and estheticians for black skin, and ways to use beauty and self-care practices to empower your mental health. If something resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, please share it with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession or join us over in the sister circle to talk more in depth about the episode. You can join us at Here's our conversation.

Dr. Joy: Thank you so much for joining us today, Blake.

Blake: Thank you for having me. I'm such a Therapy for Black Girls fan.

Dr. Joy: So excited to hear that. I'm excited to dig into all of the beauty news and trends with you. A little birdie told us that you have been in this beauty game for quite some time. In college, you had a business called Beat by Blake. Tell us a little bit about doing makeup in college and where you saw your career going then.

Blake: I had parents that were like, you know, your first few years of college, you don't need to work. You need to focus on your studies, etc. But I'm a girl that likes to spend money. So I was like, well, this is not gonna work, so we're gonna have to figure something out. I'd always been good at doing my own makeup, and then when I got there, I was doing like girls on the hall. And I was like, you know what, I'm kinda good at this. So it's Beat by Blake, I was doing full faces for $15. The girls would just bring their foundation. You would get a lash, you would get everything. And at the time, it never occurred to me career and beauty, that was not what I wanted to do. Beauty was just what I loved, it was what I came by honestly. My mom used to relax my own hair and trim my own hair so she was always inclined in the beauty space, but it was never something that I thought, oh, this is what my career will look like. I wanted to be a serious newscaster. I wanted to be Soledad O'Brien, that's what I tell people. But I think in hindsight, I think Beat by Blake really was foreshadowing that I didn't know was foreshadowing. But yeah, for the probates, for the big evenings that would happen at Howard, if you needed your makeup done, everybody knew go to Blake for $15.

Dr. Joy: That is hilarious that you were doing whole faces for $15.

Blake: In hindsight, I'm like so you were letting people rob you. But you know, it's okay. It all came full circle.

Dr. Joy: Right, $15 was probably about what we could afford in college anyway.

Blake: Exactly. I'm like, had I gone any higher, I probably wouldn't have had much of a clientele.

Dr. Joy: Right. Blake, you started at Essence in 2012 as an intern, and then you were back in 2021 as their Beauty & Style editor. Can you talk about some of the campaigns that you've seen throughout the years that have been really inspiring to you?

Blake: Yeah, geez, I feel like I could go on all day. When I tell people about Essence more when I was in high school and even younger, the things that I was obsessed with, you know, those covers. Remember the Essence era where we used to get excited for whatever single cover was gonna be, like the issue where all of the ladies were in colorful...

Dr. Joy: Mm-hmm, that's the first one I thought about when you started talking about the covers.

Blake: There's that one, there was the Will and Jada one, years and years and years ago. And so I think that when I went into Essence, my biggest thing was I wanted to create content and pages that made people feel the same way that I felt when I was a kid and we would be so anxious about who was gonna be on the cover of Essence. And so when I went in 2012, I went as an intern and then of course when I went back, that was one of my main priorities. One campaign I did where we highlighted beauty and fashion executives under 30, and we emulated that colorful cover. Or even if it was the Method Man shoot that I worked so closely on and that I chose the style direction on and like the Simone Biles shoot where we shot her (in my opinion) the best that she's ever been shot. And it was things like that where I just wanted the covers and the way that people looked to emulate the joy and the beauty of what we as black people truly are. And so I think when I think about some of my favorites, like I said, it was Method Man, it was Simone Biles, it was Cardi B and her family. Those covers and those spreads that just got you really excited.

Dr. Joy: Is there any particular one that you really feel like solidified your purpose or why you wanted to work in the space?

Blake: I think I would have to go back to Simone Biles. I think just like anybody else that releases something super public facing, we were glued to social media to see what the reaction was. And when I went on Twitter and there were hundreds and hundreds of tweets that were just like, we've never seen Simone shot like this, we've never seen her makeup look like this, we've never seen her hair look like this. And I think that was the moment that I was like I'm doing exactly what I want to do. Because again, what I felt my role was was making black people (the talent that we had) reflected in the most beautiful and authentic way. And even Simone, when we were talking to her, there have been covers that she's been on that did not get that reaction – where she wasn't lit properly, where she wasn't given the proper glam. And not just how it looked at the end, but the fact that I was able to cultivate safe spaces for black talent behind the scenes.

It's like when you were on a set that I was an integral part of, you knew that you didn't have to worry about if a hair stylist could do your hair properly. You knew you didn't have to worry about if a makeup artist could do your makeup properly. You knew you didn't have to worry about if you were gonna feel uncomfortable because it's black women around you rooting you on and telling you how beautiful you looked. And so I think that's how I felt for Simone. She was so excited both while we were shooting and afterwards, and I think that definitely was the one. And then, you know, special shout out to Method Man because I do think, of all the spreads that I worked on, Method Man did get the largest reaction. And for good reason.

Dr. Joy: Clearly, for a great reason. So according to McKinsey & Company, black brands make up only 2.5% of revenue in the beauty industry, yet black consumers are responsible for 11.1% of total beauty spending. Talk to us about your work with BrainTrust Founders Studio and how your work in that space really supports black beauty brands.

Blake: The thing is I know that the number one thing that is standing in the way of black founders and their brands finding success, is funding. To your point, the statistics that you just said I feel like really kind of lay it out there. And the beautiful thing about BrandTrust Founders Studio is that we only invest in black founded, black run beauty brands. And the beautiful thing about it is that not only do we give money, but there's also the studio portion, which is really an incubator that gives smaller brands that are still waiting to get to the point where they're able to scale, the opportunity to get to know other founders. To interface with names and big brand powerhouses that they wouldn't otherwise get to do. And then of course, some of them get access to the fund and to the money. And so I think that, for me, it was more of a putting my money where my mouth is. I know at Essence, the beautiful thing was that I was always able to highlight beauty brands. But I think that there's a difference from highlighting and actually kind of helping them level the playing field, because the playing field is everything but leveled.

But we look at these incredible black beauty brands that are scaling and that are beloved, we see how effective the product is, but all that they need is funding. They need improved marketing plans, they need the space to be in a place where they can grow and further scale their business and that is exactly what BrainTrust is creating, both with the fund and with the studio. So I love being able to work on both sides. With the studio in more of a capacity of talking with the founders, lending expertise, consulting, marketing, things like that. And then on the fund, what has been the most fantastic is watching these brands that I've interfaced with for years and being able to take them to the BrainTrust team and say, you know, this is a brand that I know is gonna be scaling big, or this is a brand that is already scaling big and we need to further invest. So it has been so rewarding because I feel like the playing field is not leveled and it really is not showing any signs of improving drastically. You know, people have asked, how do you feel after 2020? I think that the pendulum swung to one side, and I think that we are seeing that 90% of it was performative. And so now the onus is back on us to continue to uplift these brands and these founders.

Dr. Joy: I don't know that we always make this connection, but I'm curious to hear, how do you feel like your beauty and self-care practices support or empower your mental health?

Blake: I think it has been integral. I think the reality is, and you know better than everybody, you can't self-care yourself out of depression and you can't necessarily self-care yourself out of anxiety. But what I have learned is that routine plays a huge role in that and so part of that routine is the self-care practice. And so when I think about beauty and the things that I have been doing, it's like, Blake, even when I'm tired, I'm like we need to do our nightly skincare routine. When it's the morning, I need to do my morning skincare routine. Because what I found, especially in the past three years as my mental health had really deteriorated, was the biggest issue with my life was that it didn't have routine. And my life still very much does not have a lot of routine, my days are very unpredictable. When somebody is like, what's an average day, what does an average day in your life look like? I really can't tell them. And so that's why it was like I had to create routine in the spaces that I could. And so for me, beauty is the skincare rituals. For me, when my nails and toes are done, I feel good. If a nail is popping off, I won't leave the house. I promise you, I will not leave the house. So it's like really creating those things. I'm a huge candle and fragrance girl. I feel like aromas play an integral part in mental health, for me at least. And so I've really tried to hone in on merging the beauty and the wellness thing. When it comes to, you know, *[inaudible 0:12:24] or when it comes to meditation and those things this year, to really try to create routine in a life where I don't get much of that.

Dr. Joy: I appreciate you sharing that, cuz I do think for some people it feels like it's like this silly little thing. But it is true that a lot of times when people are struggling with things like depression, one of the first things you see go is like their daily care kinds of activities. And so being able to kind of just start your day and even just wash your face sometimes is just you getting the day started, which can really help to manage depressive symptoms.

Blake: It is. Because there was a period of time where like I wasn't, you know what I'm saying? It was like *[inaudible 0:13:05] but it was like the best I could give on some days was just getting up and just doing what I had to do professionally, and I didn't have anything else to give myself. And so now my thing is like if I am not caring for myself, then not only am I not the best Blake. Everything that I pour into my career, that won't be the best either. So it has to start with me. That is where, to your point, managing those depressive symptoms has really been— Routine has been imperative.

Dr. Joy: Professionally, you have sat in so many different spaces. You've been on the editorial side, now you're kind of dabbling more into the content creator side so I feel like you have a great perspective on this. In what ways have you seen black beauty influencers, bloggers, etc., really combat the white beauty standards?

Blake: Phew. I don't know if anybody's been tuned into TikTok right now, but we're witnessing it right now. But I think just sharing our experiences has been enough. There's been a lot of chatter, like I said, right now around some of the OG beauty influencers, black influencers that really used to call out and very much so stand firm in breaking those beauty standards. We think about the Jackie Ainas, we think about the Alyssa Ashleys, we think about the Nyma Tangs. And I think that what was so different about them was just that they talked about it. We just never spoke about it, it was something that we just assumed that we had to assimilate to, and if we couldn't, then we would be insecure, but we never spoke up about it. And what they did was they just talked about it. And I think it's the same thing when we think about therapy and things like that in the black community in general, black people have a history of just not speaking about the things that make us feel uncomfortable, make us feel sad, make us feel insecure.

And I think that the way that beauty influencers have done that is the exact same way, they've just spoken about it. When they were displeased with something, they spoke about it. When shade ranges weren't up to par, they spoke about it. When campaigns reflected only real thin black women who looked a certain way, they spoke about it, and they spoke about not feeling represented and things like that. And I think what we're seeing right now is a reckoning in once black women were allowed into the space, so many black women believed that we should just be happy to be in the space. And when I say the space, you know, on brand trips, at these high-end beauty events, etc., etc. And what has been so beautiful is that beauty influencers now are saying not only is it not enough just to be in the space, but we have to be treated well in the space. We have to feel reflected in the space. Don't invite me to your brand trip if the product that you are launching doesn't accommodate women of my skin tone. Don't invite me to a brand trip if I'm going to be the only black woman, the token black woman. And so I think that those conversations are continuing to be had, but I think that in short version, black women and black beauty influencers and black editors and black bloggers, they are just talking about it, and for the longest we were scared to talk about it.

Dr. Joy: You bring up a really good point around the difficulty that brands have had like matching shades. For the longest point, you could not go into a store, even online, order a shade depending on your melanin complexion, right? So why do you think makeup brands have continued to have such difficulty diversifying their shades?

Blake: I think in short, they just don't care. And I think it's not that difficult, brands have been able to do it. I think they just don't care. When we talk about the science of makeup, we'll just talk about foundation shades. In order to create a truly diverse foundation shade, it's not enough to just darken every shade. Scientifically, what you have to do is you have to adjust the formula of every single shade as the complexion deepens. So that takes time, that takes money, that takes real resources. And that's why when brands don't genuinely do it right, there have been brands that have launched 50 shades, and every single shade is gray. That is because that brand has not put the resources or the thought into it, into doing what they know they need to do. These brands know that you have to change the formula for every single foundation based on the shift in color, but they don't do it.

And so the thing is, you know, Jackie Aina said it once and I think it is so true. Let's stop trying to bully these brands into being inclusive if they don't want to when there are truly inclusive brands out there. When I think of Lancôme. Even before Fenty, before the Fenty effect, when everybody wanted to create 40 shades, Lancôme truly had diverse shade ranges, like truly had diverse shade ranges. NARS had a diverse shade range, and it's only gotten more diverse. So we do not have to strong-arm and try to bully and shame these brands when they just don't care. My parents have always told me, only go where you're wanted. And so I think that is also indicative for us. Like let's as a people, let's as a collective go to the brands that even if they necessarily haven't always been doing it right (like a Lancôme or a NARS), let's go to the brands who are at least putting in the work and listening to the consumer, investing the resources and the time and the care that they do in their customers and clientele that don't look like us.

Dr. Joy: You mentioned Lancôme and NARS and Fenty as kind of being some of the ones that have the most diverse shades. Are there other companies that you feel like are getting it right in that space?

Blake: I do. I think one thing that black women have been very serious about because it does impact us, is using more natural products, so that is very important. A brand that I think, for women who value a cleaner ingredient, Kosas is really doing a wonderful job. Ami Colé which is a black-owned brand is doing a fantastic job. They have a lip oil, it's not a complexion shade, but they have a lip oil that I think every black woman that is super into beauty right now is absolutely obsessed with. And it was founded by a former L’Oréal executive, so it's a black woman who truly has a deep knowledge of not just the brand side, but the corporate and the business side. I think Dior Beauty is also doing a wonderful job. Because they've listened, right, they're a luxury brand that has not always had a diverse shade range as we know, but they have done the work to push shades that truly are wonderful. So yeah, those are two others really doing it right when we speak about makeup. Like I can go on for days about skincare or hair, but when I think about makeup and when I think about those products that I absolutely cannot live without, it would be them. And then Mented as well. Mented Cosmetics, which is another black-owned brand really doing fantastic things in makeup. And when I talk to makeup artists, professional makeup artists, and I ask them what some of their favorites are, black makeup artists right now are loving Black Opal and the resurgence of Black Opal. They did a rebrand and almost every makeup artist that I know has those Black Opal foundation sticks in their kit. So, you know, the brands are coming back, and I love it for us.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, my makeup artist definitely does a lot with Black Opal.

Blake: Contouring, foundation, highlighting, you can do anything with those sticks.

Dr. Joy: More from my conversation with Blake after the break.


Dr. Joy: It does feel like the pendulum kind of swings back and forth in terms of what is on trend for beauty styles. Right now, we're hearing a lot of people talk about like soft glam and clean girl, and it kind of feels like the trend now is to have your face look as if you're not wearing any makeup, but you're actually having a whole beat. What do you think are the trends or what are your predictions for trends for the rest of this year as well as 2024?

Blake: I think that we're gonna continue to venture into that. The issue that I have with like the clean girl and the soft girl aesthetic is that I think when the clean girl aesthetic came out, it was rooted in white beauty standards. And that's when black women hopped in to kind of say we've been doing no makeup, a high gloss and a slick bun for decades. That's been our thing, and a hoop in the ear, and that's been our thing for decades. But what I do like is that as we are having conversations about people liking this clean look, we are also having conversations around, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the full glam either, and we should just let black women do what the hell they wanna do. And I think that's really important because I think that black women, with our hair, with our makeup, with everything, we have been policed since the beginning of time. And so I think that we are going to continue to see a more pared down aesthetic which (do not get me wrong) I think is absolutely lovely. Even as a girl who loves high glam, I absolutely love the super sleek, super easygoing look. It's not something that I feel I look my best in or something that I am my most comfortable in, but I absolutely love it. Especially particularly on black women. So I think black women in general are just very tired of being policed. And so I think that it used to be a lot easier to predict beauty trends for black women, but I think black women are just doing whatever they want. And because black women are so creative and we are so not a monolith, that spectrum is so broad.

So I think that, like I said, we definitely will continue to see a lot of the pared down beauty moments, but I think that we can expect to see the not pared down. You know, one thing that I talk about a lot on my social medias and I'm seeing a lot of other black women talk about, is black women and injectables. So I think that we're gonna start seeing black women are no stranger to injectables. This isn't new, but I think we're gonna start seeing more black women talking about it, which I think will continue to remove a lot of the stigma. Which will result in a lot more black women feeling more empowered to do so. So I think that we will start seeing not just in the the things that we put on top of our skin and our hair, but I think that we will start seeing a lot of trends around what we put into our skin and into our bodies.

Dr. Joy: I definitely want to go there, but I have a little game I wanna play with you before we talk a little bit more about injectables. This is called Worth the Hype or Keep it Pushing. I'm gonna read off some trends or things that people are kind of getting into, and I want you to tell me is it worth the hype or should we keep it pushing? The first one is celebrity skin & beauty lines. Should we keep it pushing or is it worth the hype?

Blake: I'm gonna say keep it pushing.

Dr. Joy: Any commentary to offer there?

Blake: Here's the thing. I think people are just jaded by it. Because I think the industry is so oversaturated, so people want to feel like whatever they are buying, there's reputability behind it. Now, what I will say is there are some beauty brands out here that truly are fantastic, skincare and makeup brands. I love Rare Beauty. I wanna make that clear. I think Rare Beauty is fantastic. Not to bring up their names in the same conversation, but when we talk about RHODE and Hailey Bieber's skincare line, that is fantastic because it is helmed by a black chemist named Ron Robinson who has his own beauty brand called BeautyStat, which in my opinion is the best vitamin C-focused skincare brand on the market. Some of these beauty brands are out there and really are fantastic, but the reality is when the celebrity is so much at the forefront, it can almost take away from the reputability that we're seeing.

Because people don't know that. People don't care to know that a brand like that is helmed by this fabulous chemist, they're more concerned with the celebrity aspect. I played a huge part in the beginnings of Tia Mowry’s haircare line, 4UbyTia. There's a dynamic, dynamic chemist who is also a woman of color who is leading the charge for their ingredient science and things like that. So I think that if celebrities are going to continue, I think that maybe they need to market the brands as them plus the science, to add to the reputability, because I will say the general market is over it.

Dr. Joy: Got it, appreciate that. So what about chemical peels?

Blake: Oh yes, worth the hype every single time. I think that chemical peels are particularly helpful if you can find a black esthetician to do that. You know, I think the thing that we all know is that black skin, it is more sensitive by default. Scars more easily, things like that. So when doing anything chemical related with black skin, it is important to go to someone who understands your skin. I have a fantastic black derm that I absolutely love, Dr. Ingleton. And I say absolutely but proceed with caution, do not go buying those intense pills on Amazon. I personally do not suggest. I think chemical peels guided with proper expertise, yes, absolutely all the way.

Dr. Joy: Okay. What about buccal fat removal?

Blake: Oh, buccal fat removal, we're gonna have to keep it pushing on that one. We are going to have to keep it pushing when it comes to buccal fat removal, for really a myriad of reasons. And this is coming from a girl who wanted buccal fat removal, right? Like I've always had a really round face, it's been since birth. And you know, now that I'm on camera a lot… Like recently I've been telling people my empathy has grown so much for women who we look at and we're like, what the world is wrong with their face? Because for the first time ever being in front of the camera this often, I now understand how women get severe body dysmorphia and facial dysmorphia and things like that. Because when you see yourself under lights and in cameras, you feel like you look like a completely different person. So my empathy has very much grown in that space. But every single doctor that I have gone to has refused to do it and reason being is because as you get older, you need that fat. And so what we're seeing now is a lot of people who have opted into buccal fat removal now have to inject their faces as they get older with a whole lot of filler to combat the fact that, with aging, the collagen in the face does inevitably diminish some. So we're gonna have to keep it pushing on the buccal fat removal.

Dr. Joy: Okay. What about eyelash extensions?

Blake: I say absolutely. The issue with me is I am allergic to eyelash extensions, very, very sad. So I'm allergic to the glue. And what is so interesting is I had gotten like maybe five or six sets was fine, and one day I just started losing it. I thought it was just that lash check, tried another one. Tried the non-toxic glue. I can't do lash extensions, but I love them. And I feel like we're beautiful regardless when we wake up, but what I loved about lash extensions when I had them is that I felt like I woke up cute. I felt like I didn't have to do anything. I felt like I woke up and could just go. And I'm a huge lash girl, but now I've just really perfected strip lashes for myself so I wear strip lashes religiously. So I'm all for full lashes, period.

Dr. Joy: Got it. And the last one is Gel-X.

Blake: Oh, I don't leave the house without my Gel-X on. I am a huge Gel-X girl. I think past it just being more user friendly, it's something that I think… Well, I don't do it, I have a fantastic nail tech. I think that the beautiful thing about Gel-X is that if you wanted to learn how to do it yourself, you could. But it's just it's so much healthier than acrylic. You know, I think there is a misconception that like, oh, Gel-X doesn't do any damage to your nail. I think that we do have to come to peace with the reality that anything long-term sitting on top of the nail will inevitably weaken the nail. But it weakens it far less, the chemical ramifications are far less, which I think very much matters to the nail technician who is doing the nail. And they're easier. The shape is already there, you don't even have to shape it. So I love them, I think that they're not only healthier, but I do think that they add a sleeker look to the nail bed.

Dr. Joy: Perfect. Thank you so much for playing that with us.

Blake: Of course, I like that one. Those are good ones, those are great ones.

Dr. Joy: Getting back to your comments around injectables, you've been pretty public in talking about getting fillers, Botox, and other cosmetic enhancements. Why do you think it is important for us to speak candidly about these procedures?

Blake: I think now more than ever, it's important to speak about these procedures because not speaking about it is killing black women. And I know that might sound drastic, but the realities are, in this day and age, there are women getting braces and veneers in the basements of people's homes. There are people getting body augmentations in the basements of people's homes. There are people getting injectables in nail salons. And I think that it's important to have these conversations because the reality is that black women aren't not going to do it, so we need to do it safely. And having open conversations, and sharing who we go to, sharing the proper preparation, sharing the proper post care. Sharing price breakdown so that someone understands that if you want to get this done the right way, then this is a price range that you might need to be in. And if you're seeing that wherever you go, the price is either far lower or far higher, you might need to reevaluate. So I think that it's important just to talk about it because for the safety of black women.

It's like non-black women were doing breast augmentations in droves in the eighties and nineties. It wasn't like black women weren't doing them too. You know, we were doing them but we weren't speaking about it. And so not speaking about it, and it goes back again like we talked about earlier with the therapy piece, as black people not speaking about things doesn't make it go away. And so we might as well talk about it and we might as well share our experiences so that we can make sure that one another is safe as we do it. Because the reality is, this is what I found. You know, even when we look at these instances when we talk about body augmentation, women are not going to stop doing it. We can preach self-love and self-care and all of these things till we're blue in the face but when I look in the mirror, if I don't love what I see, it will not change. It will not change that I would want to enhance it or I would want to fix it. But why not have the resources from women who look like you and have the community from women who look like you, so you can at least make sure that you are doing it right?

Dr. Joy: Was it a difficult decision for you, Blake, to decide to do things like fillers and Botox? Or was it something, especially because you're in the space that you thought like, oh yeah, I'm definitely gonna do this?

Blake: Oh, no. I was like, poke me up. I personally was like put the needle in my face. I would say the thing is, to your point, access made it easier. Because it's like my injectables for the most part, especially when I was in editorial, I never had to pay for it. And I had access to these wonderful doctors who do the injectables for celebrities and things like that so I always had access. But I only think the reason for being so eager was because I knew that I had access to some of the best doctors and estheticians, so it wasn't scary to me. But it also wasn't scary to me because I do think when we go into these spaces, we need to be comfortable speaking up. And I've always been comfortable speaking up and letting doctors know like, look, I don't wanna go overboard. When I tell people all of the fillers or injectables that I've gotten, they're like, you have injectables where? You have injectables where? Because I was very comfortable in speaking up and saying like, I don't want to look like this, or I do want to look like this, so please be extra conservative in how you're injecting and things like that. So I think that I was always very okay with it and very experimental. I will say now I have done enough trial and error and not liked certain things to where now there are certain injectables that I won't do. There are certain places I won't put filler because I've been able to experiment. And that is the great thing about filler, is that you can remove it.

But the thing is, like I said, I always, and I implore anyone who is looking to do filler, go conservative first. Because it is much safer and much easier to add than to take away and sometimes, as we're seeing now when we talk about black China and things like that, if you stretch the skin so much, when you choose to dissolve the filler, that can present its own set of problems in the skin that it leaves behind. So I just implore women to, number one, make sure that you are going to someone who is trained. Please do not get lip injections in your hair salon. I beg you to not do that. I know that's something that's going on a lot. Anything that is going into your body is worth a real investment, and I'm not saying you need to go to the most… You know, Botox is so easy. Neuromodulators in general are so easy to access. So when it comes to neuromodulation, that's a little different. But when it comes to filler, I implore black women to, number one, go conservative. And number two, find someone who actually knows what they are doing so you are not spending the rest of your days trying to repair what you might have overfilled.

Dr. Joy: Those are great suggestions. And what tips would you give people for how to vet dermatologists and estheticians and cosmetic surgeons, especially to make sure that they know what they're doing with black skin?

Blake: Well, social media has of course made this a lot easier. If you go onto someone's Instagram or TikTok, whatever, and their clients don't look anything like you and you see no one that looks like yourself, then you might want to reconsider. But it's also important to do your research on the doctor because there are a lot of Instagram Instagrammy doctors who people have real life stories about that aren't so positive. So social media makes it easier, but also do your own research outside of social media. Hit the Googles. There are chat rooms and there are forums that I've heard about, you know, or more on Facebook and Reddit and things like that. Reddit is a great place to find out. If somebody has a really terrible experience and they're scared to speak out publicly, a lot of people might speak out on Reddit and things like that. So just do real research, but look for someone who looks like you.

Dr. Joy: Thank you for that. I appreciate that. You've used these terms before today, Blake. Natural beauty, clean beauty, it does feel like those are a little bit of buzzwords kind of in the industry today. What does being a natural beauty mean to you, and does that mean that you don't have any cosmetic enhancements?

Blake: I think, like I said, going back to the policing thing. I think that natural beauty by definition, if we wanna go by definition, then yes, it is someone who doesn't have fillers and doesn't wear a ton of makeup and doesn't have many augmentations. By definition, yes. But if you are not a natural beauty, it doesn't mean that you are not a beauty. When I got a relaxer, people were like you don't love yourself. You wanna feed into Eurocentric. Mind you, I had been natural for 12 years at that point, it was never about that. How we like to show up matters just as much. Because if a woman has decided, you know, I'm gonna be a natural beauty, but she looks in the mirror every single day and feels like she really doesn't like what she sees, or she's not her happiest when she steps out the house, well then that's not good either, right?

It's just as bad, in my opinion, as the woman who has done far too much to augment or to change things about herself. So I think that, yes, by definition that is what natural beauty is. But I don't want women, especially in this era of clean beauty and the clean aesthetic, to think that if they do not operate within those parameters, that they are not natural beauty. But also to understand that a lot of the celebrities and these big social media personalities that you see, that you assume are natural beauty, those people too have a lot of access and a lot of augmentations. Just because it doesn't look like it… I have a lot of filler but I don't look like I have a lot of filler. Do what you want to do and don't let this natural phase make you unhappy or make you feel like you have to do things that you just simply don't want to do.

Dr. Joy: More from my conversation with Blake after the break.


Dr. Joy: And thinking about like this clean beauty and clean products, what does it mean for products to be clean? Because don't most products require some kind of chemicals to be able to sit on the shelves?

Blake: They absolutely do. It's interesting, I recently was actually talking to the founders of BrainTrust Founders Studio, and I referenced an article by The Cut. And the title of the article, it was something around how much does clean beauty actually matter? And they were talking around how much do these ingredients in products actually matter in the grand scheme of things when we are also inundated with so many other chemical things? The arguments that they made were like somebody who is adamant about not wanting certain things in their skincare, but dyes their hair every three months. Or is adamant about this, but goes and gets her nail done in the nail salon with acrylics every— So I think the reality is that we are living in a world where it is very hard to figure out what clean is. But the thing is, if that is something that you are emphatic about and you are like, I only want products that are clean, there are websites and apps out there where you can actually type in the ingredients of your products. And you can take photos of the back of your products, and they will break down the ingredients and let you know their clean levels. There are certifications, very rigid certifications. Like if a product is Leaping Bunny certified, then it truly is (and I'm saying this in quotation marks) clean. That is I think the cleanest that it gets in terms of beauty products, in terms of the way that the United States regulates.

So, yeah, if that is something that is very important to you, then there are ways to decode ingredients. But we've seen it, when I think about the scaling of Honey Pot and the way that women lost their minds when they thought that it was no longer clean. No, Honey Pot is still clean, but there are certain ingredients that have to be added to produce at certain levels or else we would not have access to it, and so therefore that is how it lost its Leaping Bunny certification. But it doesn't mean that it is not clean by most people's standards, just not by Leaping Bunny, which is very bare bones in the ingredients that they allow for. Like I said, do your own research. But I do implore people to not get so caught up in certain ingredients, like with the Honey Pot debacle, because in some instances there are some ingredients that have to exist for mass production.

Dr. Joy: Right. I'm curious, Blake, do you feel like in your experience has been a point where you have felt the need to disclose to either friends or romantic partners that you have had certain augmentations, or do you feel like that is something that is better just kind of kept personal?

Blake: Well, I will say me and my friends are like the black girls that talk about injectables and all the things. I also reveal it on social media. Here's the thing, like I said, I am in my “what Blake wants to do, Blake is going to do” era. And so if I happen to come across a romantic partner who that makes him uncomfortable, well then he's just going to have to go find someone else. Because Blake is not changing what she likes to do right now, and that would be his prerogative, right? If his standard is that he wants, as we spoke about earlier, by definition, a natural beauty, then he can go and find that. But the thing is, I do wanna be honest. I don't present as natural beauty so it's like I show up with 24 inches of weave and a full face, and lashes. A romantic partner who that might be a requirement, he probably is not even speaking to me in the first place, so we probably won't even get there. So yeah, I have no problem disclosing, but I wouldn't be disclosing for them. I'm disclosing because, to be honest, beauty is a day-to-day part of my life. I talk about it all the time. Me telling my partner that I want to get injections or I want some other form of augmentation, to be honest, is like regular dinner convos to somebody like me.

Dr. Joy: Got it. I feel like we have covered a lot of ground here, Blake, and I feel like it is easy to kind of get overwhelmed by all of the beauty stuff. If somebody who is enjoying our conversation today wants to get started on a beauty journey or learn more about makeup and skincare, where should they start?

Blake: Okay. So what I would do first. Funny enough, when I was an editor, because I had so much access to so many things, I ended up ruining my skin barrier. And so essentially what that means is the top layer of my skin, I have ruined it from using too many products with actives. And so my skincare routine is now bare bones. And so what I implore people to do is start bare bones and incorporate, and don't do too much, right? The best thing that you can do, start with a great gentle or simple cleanser. I have very acne-prone skin, so for somebody like me, a simple acne cleanser. Brands that I think that are wonderful for people that are starting off their skincare journey, Paula’s Choice is great, I think The Ordinary is wonderful. The Ordinary is wonderful because they just have one ingredient, one active in each so you're not doing too much to the skin. Start with a great cleanser, start with a great moisturizer, and start with a great SPF. I think that for black people, the perfect SPF to start with, either start with Black Girl Sunscreen or Supergoop, I think those are two that you really can't go wrong with. And they're made for our skin tones, which is very important, but you cannot forget the SPF. I think skincare, always – cleanser, moisturizer, SPF. And then as you start to incorporate or hear about, you know, let's say you want to incorporate a retinol because you heard that a retinol is fantastic for skin (which it is, I love a retinol), then just do one product with retinol. Just incorporate that to the pared down routine.

And the same goes for hair, right? We're seeing a lot of curl specialists and hair specialists basically say that black women, we have applied too much product to our hair and that's why our hair doesn't retain water. And so it's the same thing with hair. Start bare bones and then incorporate. When it comes to makeup, I think that the things that everyone needs is a great foundation, a great mascara, a good concealer and blush. Blush adds so much dimension, particularly to black women's faces. So start there. Get a good brush set, you don't have to spend a million dollars on it. And a good beauty blender. And I feel like that is the perfect starting point for someone who is just trying to start the beauty journey. And then you incorporate. But don't do too much because we end up doing more harm than good. As you mentioned, the industry is so saturated and every single day TikTok is telling us that we need this new, incredible, wonderful product. And most of the time, yes, it is a great product, but it's not always a great product for you. So start there and then build as you can.

Dr. Joy: I would love to know some of your favorites for mascara and blushes for black girls.

Blake: NARS has a fantastic mascara, the Climax mascara. That's for if you like volume. If you're a volume girl, then I would go there. If you like more elongation, Diorshow mascara is absolutely wonderful. Some blushes that I love, NARS of course. Orgasm was one of the first blushes that I ever used. NARS has fantastic blush. Rare Beauty of course has been the blush that has been holding black girls down these days. Even her purple blush, black women are absolutely in love with it. And then I think when it comes to liquid blushes, I mentioned them earlier, Ami Colé has a new blush that is absolutely fantastic. It's like the most beautiful flush that it adds to the skin. So those are some of my personal favorites. And then, like I said, you can just continue to experiment. But every brand is creating blush these days because it is back and in demand more than ever. So yes, I'm a huge proponent. I'm almost like there's no such thing as too much blush right now. But yes, blush it up as much as you can.

Dr. Joy: What message do you have for black women who might feel a little hesitant or unsure about exploring cosmetic surgery or other beauty procedures?

Blake: If you are hesitant about it, don't force yourself to do it. Don't force yourself to do it because your friends got it, or because the girl that you love on TikTok got it, or because your favorite celebrity got it. Don't do that. But if it is something that speaks to you and it is something that you feel you truly want to explore, then like I said, number one, you need to make sure that you go to an expert. I do not believe in cutting costs in that space. And the reality is I know that it is wildly expensive, but we saw the terrible happening that happened to the black woman who went to Mexico, and we hear it every day. There are black women dying overseas. I understand that, especially in this day and age, times are more difficult financially for so many of us, but your safety, I don't think you can put a price on your health and a price on your safety.

You need to go to an expert with wonderful reviews, with very sound, sanitary, and medical practices. So yeah, I think that that is the next step. And I think with that, everything will follow. Because we talk about some women who, you know, the way that it looks now has come under fire and things like that. But what I will say is I think that if you go to a sound doctor, then you won't go to a doctor that will overfill you or will over augment you or things like that. So I think that it starts with the specialist that you go to. But do it for you. Don't do it for anybody else, don't do it for a romantic partner, don't do it for your friends, don't do it because Instagram told you so. If it is not something that you truly want to do, then do not do it. But if it is, then make sure that you go about it the right way and it might take a little longer if that means that you have to go a more expensive route. But again, we as black people, we cannot afford to put a price tag on our safety.

Dr. Joy: Thank you for that. You have shared so much great information with us, Blake. I know that the community will want to stay connected. Where can we find you online and continue to support you and stay connected to the work that you're doing? Do you have a website and any social media handles you'd like to share?

Blake: Yes, so you can find me on Instagram. It's @BlakeLawren but Lawren is spelled L-A-W-R-E-N, don't ask me, ask my mama. I'm just as confused by it too. And then my TikTok is @BlakeNewby_. I'm also launching my YouTube channel, so you'll be able to catch me there, that's just Blake Newby. So yeah, that is where you can find me. I post quite a bit on all of the platforms, so I'm not hard to find.

Dr. Joy: Perfect. We'll be sure to include all of that in the show notes. Thank you so much for spending some time with us today, Blake. I appreciate it.

Blake: Thank you so much.

Dr. Joy: I am so glad Blake was able to share her expertise with us today.

To learn more about the work she's doing or to do more research on this topic, be sure to visit And don't forget to text two of your girls and tell them to check out the episode as well. If you're looking for a therapist in your area, check out our therapist directory at

And if you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It's our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at This episode was produced by Fredia Lucas and Ellice Ellis and editing was done by Dennison Bradford. Thank y'all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all real soon. Take good care.


Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Sisterhood heals
Order Now

Looking for the UK Edition?
Order here

Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Looking for the UK Edition? Order here